The Magna Carta might have been made during his reign, but King John of England was as far from good as any king in the world. Known to eschew chivalrous sparing of prisoners by capturing them instead of killing them, King John would go so far as to dispose of them “by grisly means.”
One story recounts how the king ordered the 22 captured knights to be starved in Corfe Castle. Another tells the story of how he even starved his former friend William de Braose’s wife and son, and how he even plotted for the death of his own nephew, Arthur of Brittany, because he was in line for the throne.
King John was also painfully uncouth and inappropriate towards the wives and daughters of other nobles in his court, as most of these nobles would decry his actions and threaten to “take up arms against him.”
|King John's Portrait / Photo by: Clare Kendall via The Telegraph|
So, how did the Magna Carta come to be made during his reign?
Well, simply, his whole kingdom eventually became so exasperated with their king that they had taken it upon themselves to hold him accountable for his brash and unpredictable actions. You see, the king was only as cruel as he was incompetent.
At a time when having more land to govern meant more power, King John started off with a lot of this kind of power. According to Telegraph Culture, a website bringing relevant news, reviews, pictures, and videos on culture, at the beginning of his rule, King John had such great dominion over the lands of Europe.
He inherited England, large parts of Wales, Ireland, the whole western half of France including Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, and Aquitaine. But only five years later, he lost almost all of these territories. Additionally, he was also highly duplicitous and ambitious to an embarrassing fault. But one of his most selfish acts began to slowly shift the tide for good -- for once, the rich and poor were on the same page.
|King John's tomb replica / Photo by: Clare Kendall via The Telegraph|
To fund a re-conquest bid, he had taxed the rich and asked them to pay up such huge fines as royals of the land. He also seized Churches and imprisoned Jews until they agreed to pay. It had been the final straw.
Even as the king thought the money that he could gather from these efforts would miraculously put him on the forefront of a fearsome army, it was not. Long insulted for having a “soft and cowardly” heart, King John also fled from battle, causing his continental campaign of 1214 to fall apart just as easily as he had struck the idea.
After that, an open rebellion was mounted against him. The rebels held his capital against him, forcing him to negotiate with them. The people also gathered and made the Magna Carta, “a charge-sheet aimed squarely at King John and his many acts of misgovernment.” He only signed it out of a need to formulate some sort of escape plan, which came in the form of a discussion with the pope.
King John claimed that he had only signed it under duress and pleaded for the pope to declare it invalid. He did. Although eventually, he fell ill and died of dysentery in October 1216, and after that, the Magna Carta was brought back with a few amendments, but a big part of it remained.
|Magna Carta signed by the King / Photo by: bridgemanimages.com via The Telegraph|