John of England

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John (24 December 1167[1] – 19 October 1216[2]) was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death.

John was the youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, and was their second surviving son to ascend the throne; thus, he continued the line of Plantagenet or Angevin Kings of England. Prior to his accession, he was Earl of Cornwall and Gloucester, but this title merged into the Crown when he became King.

John's oldest surviving brother, Richard, became king upon the death of their father in 1189, and John was made Count of Mortain (France). When Richard refused to honour their father's wishes and surrender Aquitaine to him as well, John staged a rebellion. The rebellion failed, and John lost all potential claims to lands in France. John acceded to the throne as the younger brother of King Richard I, who died without issue.

During his lifetime John acquired two epithets. One was "Lackland" (French: Sans Terre), which he gained for three different reasons: (1.) Because as his father's youngest son, he did not inherit land out of his family's holdings, (2.) because as King he lost significant territory to France, and (3.) because he voluntarily handed over all of England to the church.[3] The other was "Softsword" signifying his supposed lack of prowess in battle.[4]

Apart from entering popular legend as the enemy of Robin Hood, he is perhaps best-known for having acquiesced—to the barons of English nobility—to seal the Magna Carta, a document which limited kingly power in England and which is popularly thought of as an early step in the evolution of limited government.


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