Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Books. 2015.
Genre: Nonfiction. British history.
Audience: Readers of British history and the British monarchy.
Rating: Very good.
Goodreads page for Marc Morris.
Marc Morris’ webpage. Has not been updated since 2016.
Sixteen illustrations in color.
Included is a translation of the Magna Carta.
I had this book in a TBR stack since 2015.
Royal house of Plantagenet in England. This house ruled 1154 to 1485.
John was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. John had four older brothers and was not expected to become a king.
Henry II ruled 1154-1189.
Richard I Lionheart ruled 1189-1199. Richard did not have legitimate heirs.
John ruled 1199-1216.
John’s older brothers: William, Henry, Richard I, and Geoffrey all died leaving John as the heir to the throne.
Chapter one begins by explaining John is the ruler of a large domain. He is king of England and most of south Wales. He is lord of Ireland. Duke of Normandy. Count of Anjou. Duke of Aquitaine. He had only been king for a couple of years, but his foe is King Philip II of France. Philip had been king 23 years. In 1203, John’s large domain is threatened by Philip.
Chapter two backs up to the lineage of his family, childhood, parents marriage crisis, and John’s older brothers and their struggles with Henry II.
Chapter three is “the siege of Chateau Gaillard” in 1203-04.
Chapter four goes back to 1189 when Henry II died. Richard’s reign, his activity during the crusade, Geoffrey’s death, and John became Richard’s successor. While Richard is away John made his move to be in charge.
The rest of the book is in chronological order of the events in John’s reign.
John has a bad reputation. I must admit I’m not fond of him. However, my interest has been peaked from previous books I’ve read about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and British royal history.
A few things I learned:
1. During King John‘s reign, records or documents were kept unlike previous royals before him.
2. A book written about William Marshall tells about John’s reign. Marc Morris points out it was Marshall’s family who produced the book. The book is favorably slanted to Marshall and not John.
3. John’s buried body was found in the 18th century.
What I dislike about the book is jumping in time during the first part of the book. I prefer a nonfiction book be chronological in events.
King John is not dry. It is an entertaining read.
The story of King John is told in about 300 pages. This is an easy to digest biography.
There are 45 pages with lists of the notes and sources for the study of King John.
I feel this is a thorough examination of King John. Morris illustrates John’s life and show him to be a man who was harsh, vindictive, a liar, oppressive, and a sexual predator. However, John is known in at least one positive light because of the Magna Carta.