Lionheart and Lackland: King Richard, King John and the Wars of Conquest

Death of King John
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Anyone who has seen The Lion in Winter will remember the vicious, compelling world of the Plantagenets and readers of the romance of Robin Hood will be familiar with the typecasting of Good King Richard, defending Christendom in the Holy Land, and Bad King John who usurps the kingdom in his absence. But do these popular stereotypes correspond with reality? In this sweeping narrative, celebrated historian Frank McLynn turns the tables on modern revisionist historians and shows these larger-than-life characters as they really were - crusading, fighting vicious wars in France, negotiating with the papacy, engaging in ruthless dynastic intrigue, often against each other: in Richard's case, even holding the kingdom together when fighting in the Holy Land; and in John's, losing Normandy, catastrophically agonising the barons over Magna Carta and losing the Crown Jewels in the Wash.

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John had not the slightest intention of keeping to Magna Carta and his opponents remained justifiably suspicious. Aged 48 or 49, the king died at Newark Castle on 19 October This, she must have known, could only be achieved through the removal of her husband from the political scene. In return, he would become heir to England, Normandy and Anjou. The nephew never returned, and John Lackland now became the King of England in his own right. McLynn argues that, although Richard spent little of his reign in England, he governed it competently, with major administrative problems during his absence being caused by his brother John. More from The Telegraph.

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King John "Lackland" (1167-1216)

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Free In-store Pickup. McLynn notes that, while the taxes and levies for this ransom money were burdensome, Richard has received less criticism for these than has John for the taxes the latter king imposed during his reign. Indeed, McLynn contrasts John with Richard. Richard competently fought and played off a number of rivals, from the time in his early adulthood when he supported a rebellion against his father, Henry II, until his death, notwithstanding the period of his captivity by the Holy Roman Emperor, which gave his rivals the advantage.

John, by contrast, through military mismanagement and poor strategy and leadership, lost Normandy, one of the prize possessions of the Angevins, in This saw England placed under interdict. The various taxes and measures John introduced served only to undermine his command over the barons who revolted and forced him to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in Although the intended beneficiaries of the concessions in this document were by and large the barons, numerous clauses would be identified by later legal experts as the basis for various rights and liberties benefiting the rest of the population.