King John and the Magna Carta

John was the first English King to be confined to England. His predecessors controlled vast holdings in France and thus never bothered the English barons for more than a few months of the year; mostly providing the raw materials to finance the king’s French holdings. But in the reign of John I those French holdings were removed from his control and the king had to live among his English lords without an outlet in France.  In the podcast from Melvyn Bragg’s show In Our Time, Professor Nicholas Vincent states “Most villains in the past, they are sort of found by modern historians to be good in parts and not good in others.  John really was an absolute rotter through and through. The worst king in English history, possibly “(Bragg “The Magna Carta”). The professor had few kind words for the king who lost Normandy to the French. The barons disliked their king almost as much as the professor belittled him.  It is because of the constancy of the king’s presence in England that the barons took up arms against him.

One other key player in the Magna Carta negotiations was a member of the clergy, the archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton.  He was able to bring the idea of God’s universal law into the charter though the idea of binding the king to the law of the land.  Langton was an authority on reconciling various books in the Bible with each other and knew how to bring the barons’ ideas in corroboration with what the king would be willing to surrender.  Money and justice had to be reconciled in the creation of the Magna Carta. King John was subjected to the law and was held responsible to its statutes, but he did not remain compliant for long.

The lasting influence of the document can be attributed to his successor Henry III, who reinstated the charter to gain support for the juvenile’s ascension to the English throne. The reinstatement of the charter by later kings ensured the Magna Carta’s preeminence as a noteworthy document in English law.

Bragg, Melvyn, host.”The Magna Carta.”In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (MP3 podcast). BBC. 25 September 2014.

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