Was King John really such a terrible king?

King John reigned from 1199 to 1216.  He is often pictured as a bad king but was he really a bad king?

John enforced heavy taxes. This, however, was because Richard 1 left the treasury empty.  This made John unpopular with the peasants and barons.  one baron said ‘We have to pay for his wars with heavy taxes.’   He was fighting a losing war with France.  If he hadn’t thought it, he would lose the land but because he did fight it he had a chance of retaining the land.  Also, if he had decided not to fight this would make him look like a bad king as well.  He wasn’t greedy, he was just trying to refill the treasury for his country’s good.

John quarreled with the Pope and consequently got excommunicated for 5 years.  This made lots of people angry again, as the church was very important to people in the middle ages.  A monk said ‘He was a tyrant… He lost Normandy and many other territories.’  This monk was biased because he was angry about being excommunicated.  I think he was wrong because a tyrant has aboslute control but John had hardly any control.

John was forced by his barons to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.  This ‘Great Charter’ sets out the rights of English freemen.  A modified version is the law now. A while later, John claimed he was forced to sign it.  This is the sign of a weak King.  This shows John was greedy and was trying to get the maximum power.  I think John was a weak leader for this events. 

Amongst these failures, John won battles against the Scottish and the Welsh.  The Irish accepted as thier overlord.  ‘He gave England a well organised navy and he enforced laws strongly and justly,’ one historian writes.  Although he was writing 900 years into the future, he looked at a number of sources.

I won’t say whether I think  King John was good or bad but I will post a poll for other people to say what they think. 


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