ohn was born on Christmas Eve 1167 and was the last child to be born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. With three brothers who were older than him including Richard (the Lionheart), it seemed clear in his early years that John would have no lands of his own and would probably go into a position in the Church. 'Lackland' was a term given to him because of his lack of prospects of gaining any land. John's childhood took place away from his mother and father and his education was administered by Ranulf Glanvil who was his father's Chief Justiciar. John's prospects of becoming king became slightly better when his eldest brother Henry (the 'Young King') rebelled against their father and John became the King's favourite. In 1183 the Young King died and John was offered the lands of Aquitaine. Richard (the Lionheart) opposed this and so John was then offered control of Ireland instead.
In April 1185 John was knighted and travelled to Ireland to take control. The expedition was a disaster as the Prince was too young and inexperienced. He had taken friends of a similar age with him who treated the Irish chieftains with contempt. The soldiers John took with him could not operate effectively against Irish in their terrain and so by the end of the year John and his followers returned in England. Instead it was left to William Marshal to take control in Ireland.
In 1186 Henry's next son died in a tournament. Now there was only Richard and John left, with Richard as heir to the throne. Both Richard and John were angry with their father Henry II as he would not give them any power of their own and would not let them go on Crusade. In 1187 Jerusalem had fallen to the Turks with the loss of many Crusader Knights. Philippe II of France used the conflict between the King of England and his two remaining sons for his own aims and managed to get both Richard and John to conspire against their father. In July 1189, abandoned by his own sons, Henry II died.
Richard became King and the first thing he did was go on Crusade. Richard was aware that John was pleased to see him go to the middle East where he could get killed and leave John to inherit his domains. To try to prevent John from claiming the English throne while he was away, Richard gave him several titles including the Count of Mortain and Lord of Ireland. Richard also ordered John to stay away from England for three years. Richard also nominated his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, as heir to the English throne even though the boy was only four years old. Another problem for Richard arose with the appointment of William Longchamp whose job it was to administer the country while Richard was away. Longchamp was an unpopular administrator with the Barons and John became popular in his opposition. Richard became aware of John's ambitions and the threat of civil war and sent Walter de Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen to sort out the problems. This Walter did this by taking Longchamp's place. At this point John sought help from the French king Philippe II who was eager to obtain lands that Richard owned in Normandy.
Richard returns from the Crusades
Richard had been captured returning through Europe from the middle east and was held captive until a ransom was paid. In March 1194 the King returned to England to take control. Richard punished his younger brother's betrayal by stripping him of all his castles and titles apart from Lord of Ireland. John stayed loyal to his brother Richard's from that point on and fought at his side.
As Richard was dying of an arrow wound in April 1199 he nominated John as the heir to the English throne. John was crowned King in May 1199 at Westminster. In 1200 John had his marriage to Isabella of Gloucester annulled and he then married Isabella of Angouleme. Unfortunately Isabella of Angouleme was engaged to Hugh of Lusignan who complained to John. John ignored his protests and so Hugh went to Philippe II. Philippe summonsed John to his court to attempt to mediate between John and Hugh but John refused to attend and as a result, in 1202, Philippe confiscated John's French lands and gave them to Arthur of Brittany. Although John captured Arthur and several of his supporters by 1205 Normandy and Anjou had fallen to the French. John attempted to invade France and Philippe attempted to invade England but in October 1206 a truce was agreed.
John clashed with the Pope, Innocent III over the election of the Archbishop of Canterbury which led to the excommunication of John and the suspension of all church services in England and Wales. John decided to comply with the Pope's wishes when the Pope gave the French King the authority to remove John by force.
In 1214 John invaded France, but his campaign failed and he returned to a hostile England. The Barons were unhappy with the amounts of money John had spent on his failed wars with France and they had decided to confront the king. John met the rebel barons in January of 1215 but the king delayed an answer to their demands while he attempted to get support. He gained support from the Pope by promising to go on a Crusade, but in May when he ordered that the rebels' estates should be confiscated, the rebels took control of London and invited Philippe II to England. In June the king met the rebels at Runnymede and he signed the Magna Carta agreeing to their terms. John did not take the agreement seriously and the rebels elected Philippe's son Louis as their king and in 1216 Louis arrived in London. John died in October of the same year leaving the country in a state of civil war.