King John

King John: the worst king but the greatest legacy?

A talk by Max Keen

Thursday 30 January 2020

microsoft word poster for january 2020

“King John was an utter IDIOT”. These were the final words of a very detailed but extremely lively and good humoured exposition of the life of a king about whom little is popularly known. A much anticipated presentation by Max Keen was held on Thursday 30 August to the Vale of Evesham historical Society titled “The Worst King, the Greatest Legacy”.

Max, dressed as the great medieval warrior William Marshall, explained how the flawed King John inherited the crown despite having three older brothers but went on to sign one of the most important documents in the history, not only of this Country, but also of the world, namely the Magna Carta. Sadly King John’s character was one of immense cruelty, even for the era in which he lived: his particular predilection was for starving his prisoners to death, whether they be a mother and her son or knights captured in battle. He was jealous and mean – and completely inept – in complete contrast to his older brother Richard the Lionheart. In 20 years he managed to lose an enormous portion of France formerly controlled by England and through his cowardice, rapacity and stupidity reached a crisis where he finally gave away England and Wales to the Pope.

It cannot have been a great surprise that the powerful barons decided to become involved, given the way that John was treating his realm, and this resulted in the Magna Carta which he was forced to sign – putting in law the rights of his citizens and, importantly, limiting the monarch’s power. King John died in 1216, whether he was poisoned will never be known, and was buried in Worcester Cathedral without the inscription favoured by the speaker. Altogether another very enjoyable and lively evening.