JOHN, KING OF ENGLAND; born in Oxford in 1166, was the youngest son of Henry II. by Eleanor of Guienne. Ireland being intended for him, he was sent over, in 1185, to complete its con quest, but such was his imprudence that it was found necessary to recall him; and on the death of his father he was left without any provision, which procured for him the name of Sans Terre, or Lackland. His brother Richard, on com ing to the throne, conferred on him the Earldom of Mortaigne, in Normandy, and various large possessions in England, and married him to the rich heiress of the Duke of Gloucester. Notwithstand ing this kindness, he had the ingratitude to form intrigues against Richard, in conjunction with the King of France, during his absence in Palestine; but Richard magnanimously pardoned him, and at his death left him his kingdom in preference to Arthur of Brittany, the son of his elder brother, Geoffrey. Some of the French provinces, however, re volted in favor of Arthur; but John ulti mately recovered them, and his nephew was captured, and confined in the castle of Falaise, whence he was subsequently removed to Rouen, and never heard of more. Being suspected of the murder of Arthur, the states of Brittany summoned John to answer the charge before his liege lord, King Philip; and upon his refusal to appear, the latter assumed the execution of the sentence of forfeiture against him; and thus, after its aliena tion from the French crown for three centuries, the whole of Normandy was recovered. A quarrel with the Pope In nocent III., who had nominated Stephen Langton to the see of Canterbury, added to the perplexity of the king, whom the Pope excommunicated, and whose sub jects he formally absolved from their allegiance. At length John was induced not only to receive Langton as Arch bishop of Canterbury, but to resign his kingdom to the holy see, in order to re ceive it again as its vassal. John had by
this time rendered himself the object of such universal contempt and hatred, that his nobles determined, if possible, to limit his power, and establish their privileges; the barons assembled in arms at Stam ford, and immediately proceeded to war like operations. They were received with out opposition in London, met the king at Runnymead, and forced him to consent to their terms. Thus was obtained (June 15, 1215) that basis of English constitutional freedom known as "Magna Charta," which not only protected the nobles against the crown, but secured important privileges to every class of freemen. But while the monarch ap peared to be all-complying and passive, he was secretly purposing to annul the charter. The Pope pronounced a sen tence of excommunication on all who should attempt to enforce it; and John, having collected an army of mercenaries, carried war and devastation throughout the kingdom. The barons, taken by sur prise, now sent a deputation to Philip of France, offering the crown of England to the dauphin Louis; who speedily, with 600 vessels, landed at Sandwich, and pro ceeded to London, where he was received as lawful sovereign. John was immedi ately deserted by all his foreign troops, and most of his English adherents; but the report of a scheme of Louis for the extermination of the English nobility arrested his progress, and induced many to return to their allegiance. While the king's affairs were beginning to assume a better aspect, he was taken ill, and died in Newark, in 1216.