The brilliantly compelling new biography of the treacherous and tyrannical King John, published to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
King John is familiar to everyone as the villain from the tales of Robin Hood — greedy, cowardly, despicable and cruel. But who was the man behind the legend? Was he truly a monster, or a capable ruler cursed by ill luck? In this book, bestselling historian Marc Morris draws on contemporary chronicles and the king's own letters to bring the real John vividly to life.
John was dynamic, inventive and relentless, but also a figure with terrible flaws. In two interwoven stories, we see how he went from being a youngest son with limited prospects to the ruler of the greatest dominion in Europe, an empire that stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. We discover how, having lost most of his lands in France, he battled for the rest of his life to win them back. His rise to power involved treachery, rebellion and murder. His reign saw oppression on an almost unprecedented scale: former friends hounded into exile and oblivion; Wales, Scotland and Ireland invaded; harsh fines and huge taxes, the greatest level of financial exploitation since the Norman Conquest. A quarrel with the pope led to the king being excommunicated and England being placed under Interdict; for six years, the church bells remained silent and the dead were buried in unconsecrated ground. John's tyrannical rule climaxed in conspiracy and revolt, and his leading subjects famously forced him to issue Magna Carta, a document binding him and his successors to behave better in future. The king's rejection of the charter led to civil war and foreign invasion, bringing his life to a disastrous close.
Authoritative and dramatic, Marc Morris's King John offers a compelling portrait of an extraordinary king, whose reign marked a momentous turning point in the history of Britain and Europe.
Contains a translation of Magna Carta: 1215