• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Introduction
 Early history
 Contemporary literature
 Later literature: The historical...
 The romantic plays
 Final developments
 Conclusion
 Back Cover














Title: King John in fact and fiction
CITATION PDF VIEWER THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098485/00001
 Material Information
Title: King John in fact and fiction
Physical Description: 58 p. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wallerstein, Ruth C ( Ruth Coons ), 1893-1958
Publisher: E. Stern
Place of Publication: Philadelphia
Philadelphia
 Subjects
Genre: theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Pennsylvania, 1917.
Statement of Responsibility: by Ruth Wallerstein.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098485
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 11658681
lccn - 17025967

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:

PDF ( 3 MBs ) ( PDF )


Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Introduction
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Early history
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Contemporary literature
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
    Later literature: The historical plays
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
    The romantic plays
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
    Final developments
        Page 53
    Conclusion
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
    Back Cover
        Page 59
        Page 60
Full Text







UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA











KING JOHN

IN FACT AND FICTION










BY
RUTH \VA.,LE -^TFIN, -. ..


A THESIS


PRESENTED TO TIlE F.\CULTY OF TiiE C(II\D TEDLi -%T OOL IN
P.x[ITIA.L F L'LII[.LME\T 01 Till: IEQi.iIIrEMENT FORi
TIlE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHIILO-OIIY











Introductory
A LITTLE le ; than one hundred year, after tihe d.'Ilth of King.Iohn.
a Sc'ottish Prince .John i. anI e' cJ lin- rane, upn his- ;Iaee-io'n to
the throne and at the request of hii- noblle. to .avoid the ill omen
nhich darkened the name of the Engli-h king and ,f .John of France. .\
century a;d a half later. King John of Enland was presented in the fir;t
English hi.i:Iorieal play as the earliest Engli-h ;h. inpion and martyr of
that Prote-tanI religion to which h the FpeItators. hal.I ne~ly come. The
interpretation hiich tlhu depicted hlini influenced in Shalkespeare' play.
at onice thegreatest literary presentation if King John and the nurce of
much of our ciimnnmmon kno' ledge of Englih history. In, spite oi this, ihon--
ever. the idJea o.Jf.hiin niion in thie mind of' the piersn uho in no student of
history is nearer to tle coii:cptioii iipon wh~ic the old .co:tch noliles
acted. According to thii idea. John is %eaik. licentious,. and vi'iiu,,u. a
traitor. usurper and muiiirdercr. an ex:roiinllauuniica ted iani. hio. \\Van com-
pelled by his oppre;;ed barons. witl tlie Arclihicshop of C.rtcrbury at
their head. to ign Magna (Chairt. In ito'ry. he is a plotter against Iis
glorious and nma'nanimous lirother. and thie pursuer of Matilda Fitz-
walter. Maidi Malrian. Hi-tory of the -e,;onJdry sM clhol haI,. retained no
deep inmpress;on of the Frenc.h ar,~ hut has emiphasized the horror of the
excmrnmuni,:.ition and of John's alisolute is:olatiion during the time of it.
Because of this. we read into Slhakevspeare what is in our o:n minind
makiin his King Jlohn weaker and worse than iii fact he is; and Balec's
Kyige Johian seems it first an invention out of the ,hole c-loth, in it-
alp.arent turning of a universally exec:rated man into a hero.
But some e. ential geriji of truth inuit underlie even -uclh diverse
conception(. It is the object of this study. then. to examine the epic
figure of KinI: Johni from hi;- cnrlie-t appearance in lilernture,. in hi- o, n
lifetnie. do wnt to hie present Jday. and l.y comparison with the historical
figure, to -Ahoa where lie the roots of the various elements of the epic
,ha rafter. and to demionstrate that these eulemnt are not umunda niital ly
irnc:-o'nmatille. Through this ex.unination ae -i.ll. perhali. ionie to un-
derstand ihy Ml,,gnr Charta, nhihi l:ooin so large to uis. did not appearr
in the Elizal..ethian plays. even the hiitoriidal one-. ;id ho, one rn;ihi
Ibecaine at onle tine mrtyr of hale'i play, the villain of tihe torii,.' of
Riclhard (.oc'ur de Lion and of Rblin iHood, a nd the rallyin-i point of
Engli-li ,pat riotiimi. ai he appear- in Shake-pea re'i K,,ii-nlin o T Iothis.
it is nreie-ary to study nit only the v il:lev irit: lie ri;ical ciharai r, ir. ut
also tliat character as under-tood :at ditlerent tiImei in sol.er history. For
it ik only re.eintly thal .hilln'- tr.ie Atrenigth and ability lat\e leen recog-
nized. .\niong the failnre, of hiii career anIl the -ullletie of a mindi in
sonie re-ipe lbest of tile coniteiiiporarvy chroniclr i ,r, and to other-, i~rer ol.i-ciirel d Iy
prejudiC:e. '1 lie I( o tulil. c. iii-toric:al an:I epic.. a.nn.-t I e inaintliinc. i
iridellendl.nllyt Ithe delineation-, of Joh in .iilnt'niil. iry lileriature in-
Ilueni:ed tllioe of later hi-tory ain[ their t, in turn re; t.ed iiupo tihe litcrni-
lure contemporary i th iai hi-tcory.



40 5







King John in Fact and Fiction

The lirst rmaterial to. he -.,niridered i .ill he tie conltnmporary chronicler.e,
and historiainls t.- wholm ill follioers muiist turn. hotnweicr myth diiij hias
inaiv alter tile interlmrelation. They h.,ve int thlie .u.lant;ag. of pierspec-
tivc. an..l they have, nm1sl ol tlhemi. n'arni I'felings en.l.iged in the event-
they are Idecrihing. so that r en there, jiudmiient :,f John manrife..sts the
trend it will ltke- in later history. Thi;i hbeoinme even clearer in th.- hiis-
torian-. still originalal of a little later date liwhom we aret next to, tudv.
and in the ;-arly comupilers. L:>ide;J thee, "ve have the I:begiiining, of a
literary tradition in a number of short Latin, French and Provengal
poems on current events, and in the exaggerated presentations of char-
acter and events found in the Norman-French Historie de Guillaume le
Marechal, in the long Latin poem of William the Breton, the Philippidos,
and in the old French prose Histoire des Dues de Normandie et des Rois
d'Angleterre. Then after a long period during which nothing is recorded
except a brief mention in the Romance of Richard the Lion-Hearted and
the Ballad of King John and the Bishop, the figure of our study becomes
prominent again in the work of Bale.
Bishop Bale's Kynge Johan, bringing an English King upon the stage
for the first time, as the hero of a morality play, marks a great step in
English drama; it is, at the same time, indicative of a renewed interest
in English history, of which the Bishop himself was one of the chief
promoters. Historians at that time went back to original sources, and
Holinshed and Stow, breaking partly with tradition, give us history re-
vivified and enlightened by independent examination. To them the
dramatists turned, and also, in the case of the romantic plays, to literary
story and legend. There are six Elizabethan plays in which King John
figures, of which the first two, the Troublesome Raigne in two parts, and
Shakespeare's King John are historical plays in Bale's tradition, treating
the history of John from his accession to his death. The romantic plays
are, The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington by Munday, the Death
of Robert Earl of Huntington by Munday and Chettle, Looke About You,
and Davenport's King John and Matilda. The first of these treats of the
events in England during Richard's Crusade and imprisonment, center-
ing about the romantic story of Robin Hood and Marian, and John's
love for the latter; the second depicts Robin's death, John's passion for
Matilda Fitzwalter (Marian) and the barons' war growing from it, with
which is interwoven the story of the unhappy Matilda de Breuse; the
third dramatizes a period preceding the death of Henry II, picturing
Robert, Earl of Huntington, as a young ward of Prince Richard's, who
has not yet known distress or exile; and the last play, beginning after the
death of Robin Hood, follows Munday and Chettle in presenting the
stories of Matilda Fitzwalter and of Lady Breuse.
The consideration of the Robin Hood plays has led to a subsidiary
study..Besides the fact that four out of six plays treat John in connection
with this hero and his love Marian, the popularity of the theme is attested
in Drayton's celebration of the story of John and Matilda. Moreover, in
later literature, with the exception of Ivanhoe, this romantic aspect of
John, combined with his treachery to Richard, has been the sole subject
of portrayal; and in quasi-literature, where he is not always the pursuer
of Marian, he is, even more than the Sheriff of Nottingham, the villain






King John in Fact and Fiction


of the Sherwood idyll. lhroughl the Robin Ho l Saga. therefore. seemed
one of the nio-t1 natural methlod(s of tracing King John. But. surprising
as it may seem, in view of tile streintli of this connection, John doe' not
appear in any of the Robin Hood Ballads; Marian herself, as the hero's
conipanion, appears only in a few late one; aind Rohin', titlE- of nohility
is also late. IlHow ianie the story to be so Firmly e-.taIlisheJ ? Major, in his
ni.story .f Britain,k is the first recorded narrator to put Rrolin ill ood defi-
nitely in Rlichard'-. (iime. The growth of the firmly e'ta hli'hed ,conlction
with John seem-n impossible to trace witl certainly; but the estanllishnlent
once granted, nome tentrative siui cstions may be madi e a, to how tlii
'tory wa.s wo\ven into the storyy of Matildla Fitzwalter. and that in turn,
brought into relation with the story of the Breuses wit uh uh elfrective
dramatic' result-.
Into the later appiearances- of Kiii Jo'hn it has not seemed necessary
to examine with isuh detail. The character had. lhy Dav\enport'< time.
pretty well taken its form, and the further developments are easily 11n-
d,.rstood. A few word, may cover, for the purposes of this, essay. the
verio-ns of Colley Cil.er and Duci, the work of Pleacock, Scott and AMr.
Alfred Noyes; and there would be little profit in studying minutely the
wealth of popular versions, with slight pretence to literature, of Robin
Hood.












1. Earlf Hisloryn
If Ie would under-land the Jo.hn oir literary tradition we mu-t fir;t
eII iui ag the real J.lihn e pperd he pe.re to tirian- of hii owrn time and
later. '1 ljti'uTh they niay I..e l:i.i.ed. they pire.,:-it hi life .,d character as
fact. rino a; fiction 'Ihe'echloinicler, and ainnalit-. fall into, three groups:
thlioe who, record event- a- they happened: thoe,:- u Iio write loIg enough
after the events they real t i.ave p.lined a perIt-pective b.ut hi.i mi.y II.ve
livid thru h ru the e'ent ald ho u at certainly Ihae l0nuih origini.il in-
fTurnmati:uo froui \i rlou_ .i' L'urc : :11ld nla tly. c.' ,l lpileir.- wh vhi.ile rar(-ly
indcepende t or inli' iildiial. Iiia y give mIa ;i -s,..I a ,1 liroadler view iii.:- they
represent tIhe- hody -,f Ifact ;. "*irre:ritll aceeiit-.d.' The i.oncr.epticin of
.ohn arrived at from thii tudy afflrdi n .tandard to whii.h ie ,ian refer
the severall literary preeiitationc iOf lii figure iand character aud thereby
urnder-.taild their % ide di'vergen'.-e.
Ill>ger of Hio\teiidcun ,wa, frm hi co.rine(.tiin with the norl'r in a posi-
lio:n t:o ihe.r flel, dileetly aind to jiliudge themllu .- nilan of the world. His
C('hrou;,.l is wholly original in thei p1.u tion :'cv rinl the years 1192-1201.
Following Benedict of Pueerborough as a source for the earlier ytars it
touches briefly upon Henry's efforts to secure a rich inheritance for John.
attributing the failure of John's Irish Expedition to his avarice, and pic-
tures the grief of Henry at John's desertion. Through the early years of
Richard's reign Hovenden's sympathy is with John as a focus of Englih
sentiment against the chancellor, who "scorns in all things the Eriinl;
people;" but he distrusts John's temper, and when the news of Richard''s
capture comes adjudges him guilty of basest ingratitude-"Breakling the
bond of brotherhood, he entered into a bond with death and a pact itth
Hell!" In this, and the events that follow however, John does not plan
his villainy independently, but appears as a weakling at Philip of Fra nce'
beck and call, and something of a sneak. Hovenden accepts the opinion
of him reported to have been expressed by Richard at the news .,f Iii
brother's treachery, the words of which he cites; "Johannes frater nim.l.-
non est homo qui sibi vi terrain subjiciat si fuerit qui vim ejus vi <.l tent
tenui repellat."
After doing homage to Philip, John tries to persuade the Engli-h thai
Richard is dead, but fails of belief and is prevented from bringing i ver
foreign mercenaries. While both sides are hesitating comes Philip'> nl.ord
that the devil is unchained, and John flees to Normandy, there I: Culn-
tinue plotting. Richard's re-establishment of his power on his return
centres about the siege and capture of Nottingham from John's adherent ;.
after which he sets out to see Clipston and the Forest of Sherwood. Iich
he had never seen, and which pleased him much. At a council \N here.
among others, David Earl of Huntington is present, Richard condemn,
'I have not included in this survey every historian of the reign of John, but all, I tbink.
who are important in understanding the man as he was and as he was conceived.
2Roger was a confidential clerk of Henry II, with him in France in 1174, employ? :.I a:.
messenger to Fergus of Galloway in that year. In 1189 he was Justice in Itinere for f,, url
of Northumberland, Cumberland and Yorkshire.
3Ed. Hewlett. Rolls Series, Vol. 51.







King John in Fact and Fiction


Jolin; later however. through the Queen Mother. lie ibeconme reconciled
toi o him and on hi; deathbed slily males hiini hi heir.
Philip. :;iagrv l; hle says beci:auie .lohn had taken Norman.l'y without
asking him. fivors Artlir'S cV.laimr. hut a peace i; effected in '12:)00 with
the marriage of IBlanche and Lewik: and Arthur with Philip'; consten
doe. homage tr. John-on 1hih li' follo:,w thi. clriroul-. fetenice: "'Sed
Arturuis trai'Iti'i,n rtli.s .AInylirF rem:insit in custodiat re'i-i Fraliciae."
The Chronicle ends in 12l11 ith the -ceiie laid Ir .Jihn's war ,itli the
Luiiiinarn<. hut with peace Itetneen him arid 'hiilip.
Thus Roger .of II:vCen n ilI conclulde- just where the great event; of
Jolhii' life begin. The true .i..nifiearnc e of Philip's :ittitie toward
Arthlir :li.l cof the great striugl'- ailout Ihimi hld n:t ye:t revealed it .elf;
Arthur s.ee-ln uniimint ortant. Joliii' .IIc -.'.iui-iin ui\ er.:all y .ic'O'.lptell.
Neither i. the fort.e of John'-, mind and iper-sofllity yet felt. He is seen
ai. had. cruel. hut wleak. i.untienaceiol;. inllclpantle of large plan.: lii;
treanhc-ry t. Richliard Is made gratuitoil;, the reillt of a cliar:icter nialle-
able in the lhaiids of Philip. For Hovenden. like others, f:il; to, take
aecou'nt of a motive for Jr.Iin'- action at thi; time. which. while it doJes
not lessen hii .iin. at le.it e\Cii'e- him from the char ,_e of wanton ?tupid-
ily iln rIo r-h:i.te to r',:ign. Arthur had been named a.n Ricllird'; heir. and
since .JolI night and it seem. really did I-elieve at fir-t that Itichard
would not return. lii elfflrt,. wcre to secure the S.iieessio'i to, himself
against lhi.. Iel1hew". not. prillmarily, to spplant liki indulgent hrother.
But Ilo\end.len is pai ticularly interesting a: iiviing ,I view of .IJhn' early
character un,.-olour, d by the Illlt of later event.
Hovenlden. under the year 11'1,. following benedict of Petertlorou'lh.
give; the .,o-called: "Here Prophecy." which Ipurlport' to have been just
.f.,run, ibut which wv: as lH.iles' hoa\s. invented at thi. time. \hen a
certain event take. pIl.ce. the Eiigli.l people h.ll I.be divided in three-
one part going to Irtland,. ut t.-uo lite. the secoiid to Italy. the third
part dwelliinr, in nmi-ery at lihinle. 'The fir-t part ha. been referred to
John'-. relation to Irel.ind. but i .;till blind.
Gtrv ise of Canterbury. living and writing at Canterbury dJuring the
reign' of Henry. Richard and part rcf that of Jolhn. was in the direct path
of travel for knowledge .indm go sip. The Getfl Rf.r'jtit: whlicll I*ear- hi;
name i- certainly his down to thle year 11 I'i. almost certainly tlirough
1210. The conitiniuator, wh, r: ert- to 1207 i p.osil.y rorigin:il for the
period 121)7-1217.
Of John's rebellion. Gervasc. says only that lie moved untimely cedi-
tion. despairing of Riehard'l return. Hurrying; o\v-r the period from
Richard'- death to thle marriniei of Blarnche .ind Lew is. lie descrilme;. John
after that as every here enerui-tic in 4ulduiitg rel.,l-.. In -pile of the
generally felt c':ontcempt. this chirniicler realized John''s true calilbre:
COlllnt'- p.-,rilllnt teini i 0co ia:liv\oli pfiiilv. jil ,nilelim i et.item et
corporis parvitatei et illnia iridc ntiati :i n.iLi; '1ii. iii. i |Ii l l I I:I Cem top-
tilnci .t lhiciqltE. "' lllhCIl .e luilII'" Ci111 i ali\oli Id tr:ctor,':. : I i vidli deri-
L.1 ald( -m . \ '..1 ..0 r .' 0*
'E.. Stubl.. R[..i S':rie., \'ol 72.:.
'The t l. -i i-.an t. i I 9 I is rn Il.r.l '. ..4rt i f Gier't e l.iri. r r..rk Th.re i ao l.ro?.A
after 1211'.1 in "l ,.lih .,e ir cJert..-e r.r.. 1il. l. .11 I. an. the cli ntlln di..r s lit., at 1217 )
thb t the. ye.irs 12-07-12.'1 .re c'. e're'l 1t, A-







King John in Fact and Fiction

sores vocabanlt. Sed proce-su tempiris mullitie. ill:, in t:rintllinl crudelita-
tenl \-rs;i c-t ulit nulli pralclihcc -orunll sIiorulin i-o:l;ieq; uar; vIleret.'
\\ith the outbreak of war. John is described agaiini a energetic and
trilinphant. fe.iring Philip le-. and le- heeause the prisoners taken with
Arthur are in lEngland andl Arthur .-ut up in cloe prikon-r-hI,,,.'i. it IaI
spread abroad through various countries that he had killed him is ;th h it. ou'n
hand. John's seeming inconsistency at this time in his appe.iring now
vigorous, now unwarlike and feeble, Gervase explains by saying that he
had scarcely a servant whom he could trust. Blaming him for the refusal
to accept Langton, for the expulsion of the monks and for the persecu'1tion,
Gervase ascribes these acts, however, to the influence of evil councillors.
John's barons refuse to go against the King of Scots because of the Inter-
dict. So far Gervase. The continuator describes hurriedly the submission,
the barons'war, the Charter, the coming of Lewis and the death of John.
Gervase had no grasp of foreign affairs and was not interested in them.
He pictures a John strong in England, a vigorous and efficient adminis-
trator of that realm, conqueror of Scotland and Wales. Though he finds
him unqualifiedly wrong in the fight with Langton, he is on the whole
sympathetic and feels an honest insular pride in an English king, who is,
in himself, a better soldier than the French king.
Ralph of Coggeshall's Chronicon Anglicanum,2 is the work of a devout
Benedictine of the Abbey of Coggeshall who judges events entirely by
their effect on the Cistercians. At the time of Richard's captivity that
king is to Ralph as to all others the great hero, and the historian inveighs
against the Austrians with great feeling. But at the time of his death, he
is characterized as a wordly man who will not be brought to God, one
who took more money than any other king, however long he reigned.
John's rebellion and accession to the throne with the transactions up
to the peace are passed over quickly, as in Gervase. At the time of the
treaty in 1200, John seemed, says the chronicler, a lover of peace and
resolved to live in peace. Then follows a long story, humanly told, of
John's quarrel with the Cistercians of York over his pecuniary demands.
An interesting glimpse of the king's personality is given when John re-
fuses himself to tell them of his forgiveness, but bids the Archbishop of
Canterbury speak for him. In 1202 the chronicle tells of the new war
with the counts of March and Eu about Isabel of Angouleme, of Arthur's
union with them, and of John's capture of all at Mirabel, by the will of
God; of the defection of William de Roches and the nobles of Brittany
when John refuses them the custody of Arthur. Then follows the version
of the story of Arthur that is most important in literature and that has
won general belief, also, in history:
Certain councillors of John's, seeing that there will never be peace
while the Britons have a hope of establishing Arthur, advise John to have
Arthur blinded, and being rendered thus unfit to reign, sent back to
Brittany. John orders three servants to perform this opus detestabile; of
whom two flee, the third coming to Falaise, where Arthur is in Hubert de
Burgh's charge in triple chains. The soldiers riot, and Hubert, moved to
pity by Arthur's tears and prayers for vengeance on this, the last man
'Stubbs. Vol. II, p. 92.
'Ed. J. Stevenson. Rolls Series, Vol. 66. The MS. is in Ralph's own hand.
8







King John in Fact and Fiction


he shall .ee, -ends the: follow away. lie rnsolve-:. to keep Artllir sa'e till
John. who lie believe; has n te.l in sudden temper, reperint., but lie sprceals
a story that the outrage i- committed and .Arthur ,dead of si.rerirn. At
this the Bretwnsr make such an outcry thlat lul ert reveals the truth.
which John is not displeased to hear. and Arthur i? sent to Roiueni undi.er
the charge of Rol.,ert de e\'ypont. Philip invades NormanlJy when John
refuses to give him up in 121ii4, making iiiiposr;ble demands I)beiau-e lie
doe-n't really want peace. He then confes-es ignorance a, to v. whether
Arthuir is still alive. but h.iving heard that he wa. drowJned in the Seine
is resolved on ~;ar to a finish.
Under 121.7. .ifter Laniitoin's on-seci:ration by hlie Pope. John's e\pul-
sion of the C'onvent at Caterl.ury and later I,'; ;,,acL'ery to ill thlielergy,
exhil.iited etpe li-.lld, the Interdli(t, is described at length.
Finally in 1213 with Philip ready to invade Ergland Jlohn ili bmits to
Pandilldph and others his kingdoun to the see of Rome. Nic-holan o l'Tu :-u-
luni, the papal legite. partly I.e~:iiue lie is too u fra oral.le to John, :fais
to settle the quarrel with the I.bar:ii "ho. dleiiiadinig their old rghtit and
the ol.servan'e of the laws, have entered London. From day to day, says
IL.lplh, :ill the ba.ron5, but n few "'in exercitiin De i trazineruit." At nlal
compelled to meet them and sign Magna Charta, John again eludes them
from day to day, falsely accusing Langton at Rome. The Barons summon
Lewis, at whose approach John marches hither and thither, ignomini-
ously fleeing. At length through gluttony he contracts dysentery and so
dies amid many portents.
Ralph of Coggeshall is primarily interested in the church. He approves
of John in the early French wars as fighting for English rights against
France. But after the issue of the Interdict he has nothing good to say
of him, characterizing him as a cruel exactor and godforsaken man. The
historian's moral indignation coloured his judgment, and he makes John
a poltroon as well, failing to realize the extraordinary ability that almost
saved Normandy against great odds and that so nearly overcame the
united barons.'
The meagre annals of the monastery of Margan in Glamorganshire'
are interesting for their attitude toward Arthur and their unique account
of his death, and for theirstory of the Breuses. The few entries concerning
John are entirely hostile to him owing no doubt to his harrying and high-
handI'ed conquest of Wales. His assumption of the crown is pronounced
a usurp,. tioi because Arthur was living and because John had been con-
drletinud at Nottingham after Richard's return from the Crusade. William
de llrC.iiie and the other flatterers who took part in the coronation all
sinned and were heavily punished, especially William de Breuse, who
most olferded. At Corf John slew twenty-two of the two hundred knights
captured] at Mirabel. At Rouen, in 1204, about five days after Easter in
the afternoon. drunk and full of the devil, John killed Arthur with his own
hand and Ilri i' his body with a stone into the Seine. A fisherman finding
aind recognizing the body, buried it secretly for fear of the king. Philip
'It is remarkable. that none of the English historians seem to know of the very brilliant
plan to relici\t G(illjar that failed by such a narrow margin.
'F1d Luard., Roll, Sries. Vol. 36: The monastery was founded by the Earl of Gloucester
in 117-1.







King John in Fact and Fiction


sumnirmned John to trial, Ilut he fled In 121i1. invading Irelhnd, John
tool: prisoners Wi'illimn dle Breu;e junior anid his i ife( and children n and
mother. William the elder fled to Fraince and Joln killed his wife and
son in priMun by tar\-,ltion. driving Walter de La>-y, hi4 son-in-law, into
exile.
The annals "f IlMargan are intcreU-tirng)a illui.itrative of the hate of Juhn.
and the inventio,ns to whihl it led; for the are not, I think, o be trusted.
If de Breii-e n.is instrumental in the coronationn it doe, not appear ele-
where, and the story of the knight- killed at C.'rf i. alumo t certainly
falke, directly contrary to all other evidence. The re:t of' t hi BreOse story
app.>ars mI many places. and hecanic popular in (he Elizabethan Rolbin
Hoodt ilay,'.
Four other brief Anir.ials, tho-e of Tewnkesbhry,' Biirton,' and Dun-
stable,' and of Melrose2 in Scotland give an interesting glimpse into the
general consciousness of the struggle of John's reign; though it must be
remembered that the monks were even more remote than the common
people, unless in the special way of learning events. The most remarkable
fact is that none of them says a word of Arthur's death, their only re-
flection of that strife being that John through carelessness lost Normandy;
though, to offset this loss, his complete triumph over Wales and Ireland
is noted. Two only, Burton and Melrose, mention Magna Charta, and
only as an article of temporary peace. Naturally they are all fullest in
their account of the Interdict and its attendant miseries, though not all
accurate in their knowledge of the events which led up to it. Burton has
a long report of the interview between John and Pandulph in which John
offered to do anything except receive Stephen Langton.
One sentence in these Annals of Burton stands out in interest for a hint
of the Robin Hood story. The annalist adds to his account of the siege
of Nottingham3 that those who were defending it for John resisted even
after Richard was come until they knew he was there in person. The
Chronicle of Melrose tells of Peter of Pomfret's bold prophecies to John,
of one in particular that the son of a good woman would reign after John,
"which we think was said of Master Philip, son of Holy Mother Church."
This Chronicle has also a rather lengthy account of the barons' war,
opening in verse:
"Nam praesse capiti corpus concupivit
Regem suum regere populus quaesivit"4
Its interest in this subject is explained by the part which Alexander, king
of Scotland, took in the war.
On the other side of the story are two French chroniclers, to whom
John's struggle for Normandy is the important subject. To Rigord, who
wrote a history of Philips to the year 1207, John is only a side issue, the
'Ed. Luard, Rolls Series, Vol. 36.
'Ed. Stevenson, Bannatyne Club, Vol. 49.
3Taken from Hovenden.
4The whole of perhaps twenty lines seems to be in ,ers libre!
sOeuvres de Rigord et de Guillaume le Breton publi6es pour la society de 1'Histoire de
France par H. Francois Delaborde, 1882, Vol. 2.
Rigord, born about 1145-1150 was a doctor of medicine who in 1189 entered the Abbe)
of Saint-Dennis.







SKinz John in Fact and Fiction


object of Philip's gracious courtesy in 1201 which he repays with in-
gratitude the next year. John'r military proves is belittled, his capture
of Arthur being attributed to \a-stly -.upcrior forces. but no attempt is
made to defame him. so that eten if the author had heard s[.,ries of
Arthur. lie might not have mentioned them at this time. One rti'ry that
he tells under 1187. in his Grst mention of John, o.iundl; strangely of our
subject. One of a group of dicer;- bla-phemed the Virgin and broke off
the arm of a statue of the Infant Christ. which tled. John, called Sine
Terra. who happened to come by ju-t then. picked up (lie bleeding arm
and carried it :way with great reverence and honour.
More important is the aork of WVilliam thie IBrcton.' a fiery partisan of
Philip and Arthur against John. Of his tiwo works--the Chronrel and
the i'hilippidou-t-lie I 'lhroinilt concerns us here. It is original from 1207.
up to w hirch year it follows Ripord with a few additions and omir.ionii ,
the chief differences beinp that \\illiani makes more of Arthur's inexpe-
rience and describe; John's cowLardly but unsucce:ssful attempt to relieve
Chateau Gaillard by night. In 1213 Philip prepares to attack England
in order to restore the exiled Bishops, to renew divine service, and to
make John, as his name signified, really landless, because he had killed his
nepheii .A rthurs3.and hanged hostages, and committed other crimes, but
ik prevented by John's submission. John is described as himself living in
luxury while he urges Otto to attack Philip. The result is the defeat at
Bovines after which Philip, who then had such a force that he could
easily have taken England in a few days, with his usual magnanimity,
consents to make a five years' peace with John! Lewis, in spite of his
father's strong disapproval and in spite of the Pope's command, went to
England when the barons' war was renewed, John fleeing before him till
God ended his evil.
The Editor claims for William the Breton that he never altered facts,
only suppressed a few, yet the chronicler puts all John's defeats down to
the score of cowardice and his successes to that of overwhelming odds;
he makes Philip a lover of peace and the most disinterested of men, John
a provoker of broils. It is to be noted that there is no mention of Arthur's
death till 1218. In this work however, William was content with a state-
ment of facts as he saw them. His great powers of vituperation and of
dramatic incrimination were reserved for his poem, of which we shall
speak later.
A different kind of source is the Magna Vita S. !lugonis,* by the Black
Monk Adam. It touches John only where his life comes into contact
with that of the great Bishop of Lincoln, but gives some interesting
material not found elsewhere, for the Bishop was with John on the
journey from Chinon to England after Richard's death.5 The author, it
'Born in Brittany between 1159 and 1169, William studied at Nantes and at the University
of Paris, and was later attached to Philip's court as clerk or chaplain. lHe was with Philip
in 1204 at the siege of Gaillard and later at Bovines and was the tutor of his son Chariot.
'O.:u'-rr de Rigord et de Guillaume le Breton.
ISp-.aking of dleltIrltion of Elinor of Brittany later in the same year, William says: "For
he (John.) lhat:d :ll of his blood and had killed with his own hand his nephew Arthur who
ould l -,l I e L.e. n kIng."
'Ed. Dmo'., lt(,ll- Series, Vol. 37.
Hllu'h ul a a ",.r popular saint and his life widespread.







King John in Fact and Fiction


nmuslt be remenimr ered in every thin, he rsay.s i.f lohn. wai for ,:ome years
in the hoijcehold of Hugh. tIo nVhomni John leaked in reverence. annd was
more:.ver in exile during the Interdict.
At the time of Richiard't d.eith John. leaving Arthur. i:'mni to the
Norman tre.,i ury at Chi,,ion. where h r.'joiced lhc ,ce Hugh Hulgh douhtq
ev\en tIll( n Joihnh 's wvv. s Io preserve the legitiniate elitcustom and1 just laws
of hi- land. and reopCle inviolate, and 'when .Jhn holv.n hiim a cert.iin
animlet, an heirlloiio. bhilch he expect> will keep hi. inheritance safe. bids
him I ru't rather in Christ the liviin. 'tone. A.t tihe church at Forntevrauilt
he shos Jlih n tlie ci r\ in; s.ilu Ii (: porc h. r:iyp,;ten ting tlie La t Judgmnent,
andi exhl.rt, hini to. h If ot' the ri.hteou. Turninig it to he other ;idle of the
po rch. where n ere depicted tlFe i:h,,s-en.n John salid tlliat the Bisho:p should
rather have shown him that.'
For a few days John put on great humility and generosity, but his
conduct on Easter day opened people's eyes. For, after being rude and
impatient for dinner during Hugh's long sermon, he would not stay the
sacrament, nor did he do so at his coronation on Ascension day, and it was
said that he never had performed this rite since he reached years of dis-
cretion. At his investiture with the Duchy of Normandy, when the
Archbishop of Rouen was putting into his hand the lance bearing the
vexilla, some silly youths behind him laughing, John turned to join the
sport and so let fall the lance. This was taken by all as a bad omen, later
fulfilled.
On the other side, is related Arthur's insolent and scornful reception of
Hugh of Lincoln when the Bishop urges him to cherish peace and love
toward his uncle.
During his last illness (1200) Hugh tells Adam, the author, that evils
are coming upon the English church and that the French king will take
vengeance on the false and shameless Eleanor's issue. because she left
Lewis and joined Henry. "Therefore the Gallic Philip will wipe out the
royal stock of the English as an ox plucks up grass by the roots. Three
have been already rased by the French, two kings and a bishop, and the
fourth will have short peace from them." We can see in this particular
account something put in by the writer from a knowledge of later events,
but the idea of a race doomed for the sins of their mother is persistent,
appearing markedly in our next author, Gerald of Wales.
Gerald, is in some ways the most interesting of all these writers be-
cause of his close connection with John in the early years, and because
in him, since his works spread over many years, we can study at first hand
the change of opinion about John. Gerald, a descendant of the famous
Lady Nesta, kin of the early conquerors of Ireland, a favorite of Henry
II, was sent with John on the expedition for the conquest of Ireland. The
impressions of this expedition are recorded in two works, the Topo-
graphia Hibernica, and the Expugnatio Hiberniae.
The first work for us to notice is the Topographia 1188 and 1189. It
'At the recollection of this scene the author breaks into an apostrophe. "Would that
John, who even in this day (1212-1213) when the fourteenth year is slipping by since
these things were said and done, seems to have given to oblivion all that on that day he
saw, heard, promised and said, would that he would remember now though late what he
then said and did."
'Ed. Warner. Rolls Series, Vol. 21.






'King John in Fact and Fiction


contains only one item of interest for ul. hut tlihat of the greatest ine-r et,
the *oinparison of John and GeToffrt- repeate-d in the De lnstrnti,.nc:
Dign;s Iqul.e Itrli' trumlin sequellium I:udIer- Arnmorina Ilrittaniii et
Hibernion reglin Iro'elalnant \ Ambo hi Alaturar nloiliene. I)uloque
meiliocri piis; piizillae: et fornima' pro qi.iantit;ti ; captu .itis idMoneae.
Ilorinm igiter alter, virtltihus. insignis, tituli-squelj jniu -unisuf i ; et ;Ilter
erit. Ille miilitiiritlus niegotii- plene in iltriitus, liie in.truendJi s: ille in
spica. hii' nie i in herl.;a: ille in re m.agnui.s, ic in spie ni gi iti .irnd'-s.
Ille. stirpe ill. in':lita noii degener, lno ili-iin r,,, fratre v irtilt pro % iribu<
acqui,:,ravi\it : huiic al. utroque parietc virtu origin:aliter insenrta. ,uo in
tempore deg ner.'re non poterit.
Ille vir eloqiienz et aututii--
Ilie vro fliux.ie fe-rve'ntique jllenta.ie ta l I.i l.ucie- illectu,. quuin
,tinim lis irretitj:-
"CI'erou in vitium flecti, nionitorili ailper."

tenipori 4e conlrormanin. ,t nature niottilbu- non repu.i-.nanl. Ratione
aiquidein aetati. n Alitii- haotenriu ni.agis !i quain duritii.. \Veneri quam virtuti: [jiivenili qliplre magi ad:lhu,- hv\itati.
qu:;m virili qu:, non'Jui' altigit niaturitatij. Ilia plhriniumi n e er:-ititn<
militia. qua militat omnis amans; per quam et bonae indolis adolescents
ad arnintirnl plerumque militia animari solent, et a Cupidinis castris ad
Pallalis arces et artes sublimari. Sicut ergo viridis juventae propria,
sic et sequentium aetatum jura sequetur. Unde et quoniam
"Non lusisse pudet sed non incidere ludum,"
juvenilis excusabilis est levitas, cum laudabilis fuerit ipsa maturitas:
"Tune prima est inculpabilis aetas,
Cum ludis ponunt tempora metas."
Ille, arbor in radicem ramos convertens, radices altas facere nequivit.
Ultimus hic fratrum, et utinam futurus virtute non ultimus, utrique
parent fere semper obtemperans, longaevus in terris [et felix] esse
promeruit [Cujus etiam description vulgatum illud Merlini Ambrosii
vaticinium, de illo qui Hibernae moenia subvertet dictum, utinam sic
vere consonet sicut et verisimiliter consonare videtur:
"Principium," inquit, "ejus vago affectui succumbet, et finis ad
sliperori convolabit."]'
The second of Gerald's works, the Expugnatio Iliberniae, written before
Henry's death in 1189, was the most popular in later times. There have
conie down to us two early fifteenth century translations or resumes of
the work, and the editor of Holinshed's Ireland, noting that all who wrote
of that early conquest borrowed from Gerald, Sylvester Giraldus Cam-
brensis, as he calls him, yet thinks his book so worthy that he cannot do
better than give it entire. We must agree with him for, though Gerald's
Latin is somewhat crabbed, in the fluent translation of John Hooker the
'Di,tirctio III. Cap. LII. The passages in brackets are omitted from the De In-
sarlnlcone.






King John in Fact and Fiction


book rises clearly out of t he realm of mere history and ci einomen literature '
The first edition is dedlicatedl to Rihard. the second. in 120('.. "'To his
most reverend Lord and l'elo ed in Chri-t. John. the nrrile and worthy
king of England, Lord of Irleliad. Duke of Nornmandy. .,nnd of .\ .quitaine
and Earl of Anjou." Tihe Epl.ile IDedicatory i.- very remarkable au in-
dicating that even at thi date Gerald did not fully realize the portentous
nature of the quarrel wtilli Rome. and 1till hoped for the blest. It is per-
haps written in that spirit iti hicl the au the well-favoured time. to propitiate it and di.-uade it fr>im doing its
worst. After an exhortation to .John not to lo:,e Ireland. and a very t rung
hint to beware of household enemies "allwvays workingg o.f wiles and wait-
ing for an advantage." Gerald legs John to p.-y the Peter'- l'ence nhii:h
his father had promi-ed the Pope, as it is 1ik failure to do this that had
caused his ill-success.
The first book tells of the early war and Henry's own expedition. Book
Second opening with a relation of the Pope's permission for the conquest
on condition of the payment of Peter's Pence, leads up to Henry's deter-
mination to send John.2 John, though he would have preferred to go with
Heracleius to Jerusalem, sets out under the shadow of a prophecy by
Merlin: "And of this fire (Henry) shall arise a sparkle, for fear of which
all the inhabitors of the land shall tremble and be afraid; and yet he that
is absent shall be more esteemed than he that is present, and better shall
be the success of the first than that of the second." John's expedition
failed first because Henry had refused to help the Holy Land, secondly,
because "our new men and Normans" mocked and abused the faithful
chieftans, and these told the leaders of the rebellion how ill they had been
used, "and how that a young man was come thither, guarded with young
men, in whom there was no stay, no sobriety, no steadfastness, no as-
suredness, whereby they and their country might be assured of any
safety." John's enemies made a great league against him, while his sol-
diers gave themselves up to debauchery, waste and destruction. Gerald
in all humility admits that they got only what they deserved for their
pride, but it must be remembered that he is Welsh and resents the inter-
ference of Normans to take the land. He blames the failure of the expe-
dition not so much on John's "young and tender years as unto the evil
counsels and directions of such as were about him and had charge thereof."3
In the De Rebus Gestis Gerald tells that in 1192 John boasted to him
that he had been absolved from his oath not to enter England, whither
he had returned for the sake of English luxuries. Gerald, reproaching
him for laziness and cowardice urged him to conquer Ireland, to which
John replied pithily that he did not love Ireland as well as the Arch-
deacon did, because he had not so many relatives there.
In the Life of Geoffrey of York, Gerald laments that even John, for whom
Henry had all his trouble, deserted him in the end; this theme is, however,
I2 have used the translation of Hooker, which while it is not verbally accurate, not so
much so as the medieval translators where they are full, gives admirably the sense, at
the same time giving the style an English quality and making it poignantly human.
'Hooker by a mistake makes John at this time only twelve years old, and the medieval
translators, twenty-two. He was, as Gerald says, eighteen.
3Gerald says: "Tot igitur excessus et tanti licet ubique plurimum plus tamen pravis
consiliis quam puerilibus annis sunt imputandi."







'King John in Fact and Fiction


more poi.gnalntly touclhedi LIup.i in, the D1) Iiflrtc'ti,ie Princip, in. \\ which
Gerald finished in 1217. ithen a man of VivInty When lie write;. thi-. he
has lived through John', reign, ha;i been gravely ahiu.e l.' ha. seen the
church and chiircihmnrie heavily o[ripressedl Ii.it in the endi triimnpharit.
Perhlap- also he is inow le0 afraid to i nrite He oideiin- the whlol..
Angevin r:n'e. not, exieptiig RliIard whom he had earlier prirais-d., aii
especially Johiii. mo.s tyranni..il of all tyrani In :l very pr.thctia
pa-.;age. to a.ccintulate John'. wikednez. andi ingratitudle, hi tell. of
Henry's desp.-ir at finding John's name (,n the li;t of" hi; erieie.. "I-
it true that Jo:hn. my heart, i horn mnorc than all my children I 1.ed. and
for wvho-e adv.in,_ement I .iave endtlur'e. all thlle- evil. lias left neI"
Finding it true lie turn.J'l hi. fa.c. toI the \wall. -aying w-ith d.<-cp groan;.
" .Let all the rest go a- it n.ay. I ..are nothing more lor nimyelf. nor any-
thing aliout the world. "
In lhi- work Gerald tell of a in ,,.i:' viionin that all Henry's ,ons are to,
lieoverthroiwn 1-y tI he -on of Philip. .and] .v no, Ithe fourth is weakening.
Many vi-ion.- foretell the ilmoni of Henry' rait: and I plirope.\Y at his
,'oronation proirisring wo. to the island 'oon after lii dJeath is fulfilled in
John:
Quo(n quiidJell ad temIp.us Joli.inni i(:lui lon:e atM;r: :iii. -aetEtri; tyranni.
(iiibiiil-. la in n -a.erdJotimiiini iunai re'-umni Ariglic.inunm luii iriiariir,:
jlicl.u et deliac:ihari. fIns omine ni:-fasilue o:.nflinlen,-lo. plei tilili tenieri-
tale i'raes.iin ip;il.referri potest. Dictus enim Johannes (cujus utinam vita
no>mini, interpretation concordasset) quatinus hic vel in paucis antici-
patio fiat, quoniam fratres egregios atque parents in bonis acquiparare
non -potnit. piuta. ;icut annis inferior, sic animis amaris et activus prabis
lone deterio.r existens, non solum ipsos in malis, verum etiam in vitiis
enorrinilus \itios-o vincere cunctos et maxime tyrannos onnes, quos vel
praesens aetas vel longaevac memorial recolere potuit antiquitas, de-
testandis pravae tyrannidis activus totis transcendere nisibus elaboravit.2
A prophecy that John would destroy the realm by a double net was
fulfilled in the Interdict and the oppressions of the church. The barons
of England were saved from destruction only by the French, the virtue
of whose kings is compared to the villainy of the English sovereigns. The
w ork ends with a prayer for light dawning on troublous times, for peace,
uand for the union of England and France as the means to this.
So..h is the note on which closes the work of Gerald of Wales, who in
1188. not ignoring his faults, had such high hopes of John; in 1189 dedi-
cated his Expugnatio, in glowing terms, to Richard and extenuated John's
error; in the Iri'h expedition; who, finally, in 1209 could still speak of
John a. the "'.ri-lle and worthy King of England." We have already
asuggesld e Ihal Gerald spoke of John at that time as he wished him to be.
li. eonild not. in thlI years 1188 and 1189, have any idea that John was
'.\ft.r hli r.:lurr fr...r Irel.an. Gerald had become interested in the Welsh Church,
.[ ',c..il, t, Iih. -:: of '"r. DU. i.Js. f.r which he strove to secure independence from Cnnter-
lI,,ir I nl .If l'., t. I 1.. t h shi : on the eve of Richard's deatl, he was at first promised
helt- in i:uriig hi: nlpl. ndp. n. nie by John, but kept dangling for years and finally deserted
.11nJ lI J.:lcti..n .i.lshcdJ. In rpii of this. John tried to persuade him to renew his quarrel
wrlj C.rii:rl.jry, ..o h. c i,. a.ft, r the election of Langton; but Gerald cared more for the
, l1. ,ILhir,:h ill n f.,r SI D.I' li. saw it oppressed and made a saint of Langton.
;UL tincr:t,. Ill C:I. X\\\ III







King John in Fact and Fiction

toL Icinme king. and nhe faile:l. like Hovrndlen. to- rei.ilize in IllIt early
cl;racttr f the if ail in e te ilk.n sirt. NeihiHr. i, h:";r lea he left
out f L acc urnt. IBut Ie find the true key I ',r li- tIotal ,hliange -f lttit ud'
in hii- tp.o1itio n a. a hu Iuluir.l' : Steiphen Lan itin i a. ir hiis ey"., only
secourLI t, lIe:ket -t a *':feindl'ir of tlhe ilhur,:h. und he rejoice'd that epis-
cop.il iel.'.-li'on loin -il.je:ct to tlhe- kine.' will "in i:lanu.s nd tyr. a nie-."
haid under Innoeernt III Ieen fre-,:d Hi- ow In peronu.ill *.disappointiment
nmid:, hiin feel tle C triiggle more keenly. AlMIroeor. Gerald wa a \celkh-
mani of the \\'elh :ind it is ni, v,,nder th:it he beiniame vindictive a. lie
witness-l the _ruelties vitlh liii _h Johln trirniphed ii er hid country.
F'erhap.i in ti'.: c.lose of the Lh I..:triili'jue he 1a iilht wish to, greet the
ri-in'_ ~uni. .a he th-uli _ig liint him n r:.- lik:.-ly he sin,:'.'r>ly nelh:omdii in any
formui trinnph i never the last ol ilte hn iu that lainld ul..Ju -l \\ile-.
Ro.-r i,> \\,i nd, I er wrotI- h Chrli nicle' in tie t ye'ari 12.3;1-12.35 at
St. Allian,. A diligent w ,rker. lie was his oiwn iompiler from I ISS to
1201 and after that an original source, for though far enough away to
view John's reign in perspective, he was still close enough to have real
facts. He is rather opposed to the prelates as enemies of the convents.
In the early war he sympathizes with John. Philip made demands for
Arthur which John neither would nor ought to yield. Arthur, in prison
at Falaise, answered John's overtures to friendship, stilto usus consilio,
with wrath and threats and demands for his kingdom. Philip, by whose
advice the marriage with Isabel of Angoulme was contracted, was re-
sponsible for the renewed war in which John's march to Mirabel and bold
fight is described with admiration and joy. Roger's version of .Arthulr'
death is this: Arthur was sent from Falaise to Rouen and < lo-ely guarded.
but not long afterward he suddenly vanished. John hada ;sc-'ond cirnn-
tion. Then the idea that Arthur was dead spread so persistently that
John was suspected by all of having killed him with his -,ni hand.-. and
many thereafter hated John with a black hatred.
The tenor of John's answer to the Pope in the quarrel with Romr. is
that Langton was unknown to him and known to the Frenlch. :and that
he would stand for the freedom of his crown till death. Hik resilulti,,n to
submit in 1213 is determined by four reasons: fear for his soul; fear of the
invasion of Philip; fear of the desertion of his nobles whom he had
alienated by the oppression of their wives and daughters, by exactions,
and by the exiling of their friends; fear of Peter of Pomfret's prophecy.
The Breuse story appears in the fullest version we have yet had. When
in 1208, fearing the treachery of his nobles John sends for hostages, his
messengers come among others to the home of William de Breuse. In his
absence his wife Matilda replies to them: "I will not give my children to
your king John because he shamefully slew Arthur his nephew whm he
ought honourably to have guarded." In 1210 John takes prisoner
Matilda and her son William and has them starved to death at W\\iinu.lr.
When the barons after the meeting at St. Edmund's Bury demand their
rights of John, he signs the Charter to gain time. He calls in spiritual
aid, they summon Lewis who comes in spite of the Pope's refutation of
his charges and prohibition. The Barons warned by the dying Mhilun -f
Lewis' treachery return to John, but too late. Thrown into fever by
'Ed. Hewlett. Rolls Series, Vol. 84.







King John in Fact and Fiction


grief at hi -, los-e' inl the \\'a-h. Johni hab in(cre.til hii illrncs, I.,y ,gluttony
an'] dlied at Nct.arl-:. Tlhi epitlph is N ritclii 'or him:
Hoc in isa.rh.igo seplililur regi s inm.tgo.
QII lirienS; nillturn sedJ.iL it in urbe (ntrulluni.
Hain- mnla I'ot iiior'te' linor f-I t le fltt.l .Wqu:(Iatull r
QuIi legi; h.ie:. imetui-n- dumi *:-crii-is t' me:.ritururu
D)i,.-ite quid reruin part tili meta die'rui..
Roger % rite -itlout ju.dgii'ent n a-iiit John. [ith a surplrie-in:Iv .i-
r..'ionalc z .l for the true I'ncKt. He -ee'. Jrliln ,r[ tlli head of anl Eliilih
strug-lt.- a;:l-il,-t Fraln:''. and realiz lii' intite riine ui:.n hlii Frencli
doniaiunl till Ie i? fti,'ally hIinderedl Iy the lhir'ni'" revolt. liut thliougjl lihe
gives him full credit for his energy of purpose, he reprobates John's
luxurious life and idleness during 1204, and illustrates his proud indiffer-
elnci 1y citing his reply to the reports of Philip's gains. "Let him go on,
I will re:,over in a day all that he can win in a year." In the quarrel with
thI P.l-ie the chronicler is inclined to excuse John as only a tool. The
btar.,nl' revolt he thinks lamentable, but justified by John's actions. In
hlii gl:liral view, Roger is an Englishman first of all, though he can be
fair to the French because they failed to take England.
Matthew Paris,' who was also a monk of St. Albans a little later than
TR:oper. embodied the latter's work in his own two books, the Chronica
.llMij.'r and the Iistoria Anglorum, rewriting only after the year 1213.
But though he takes so much from his predecessor, the temper of his
work is entirely different. He is not, like the other, detached in his view,
but is imbued with the most violent hatred of John. Richard is made a
hero and pardoned by Matthew for extortion and other wrong acts, while
John's levies are dwelt on with strongest disapproval. The claim of a
tax from the barons who would not go with him to France, for example, is
designated in the margin as "Vulpina fraus," a foxy trick.
Of Arthur's death, Matthew adds to Roger, in the Chronica Majora'
that he disappeared though the method of his vanishing was unknown
to all, "utinam non, ut fama refert, invida;" which is as much as to say
that he can believe the worst.3
Matthew tells the story of the capture of the Breuses with more ac-
curate detail than Roger, adding to the account of their death that it
was sad enough to make even tyrants weep. He adds also a number of
stories not in Roger; as, John's employment of brutal Faukes de Breaut6
and his marriage to him of Margaret of Rives-described in an epigram as
"lex exlex;" and quotes John's words on the death of Geoffery Fitz Peter:
"When he gets to hell, let him greet Hubert the Archbishop whom doubt-
less he will find there. By God's feet now for the first time am I lord and
'Maltlen" I'.ris was one of the most popular historians; his Chronica Majora was pub-
hli d 1 .- lI.rk.-r in 1571 and again in 1640.
,Ed. Luard, Rolls Series, Vol. 57.
3One very interesting addition is the quotation in full of Innocent's letter in answer to
Joh.ln', rclu:il to accept Langton. It is a masterpiece of diplomatic skill and subtlety, re-
'ealing ni,:.re clearly than any account that by custom and precedent John was right, and
Inii,., .r.lt :c.king to extend papal power in new ways. But Innocent III was the most
a.lut, anu- aim of politicians and John, by his savage impatient temper and cruel retalia-
Ii..nl thr,. his cause away.







King John in Fact and Fiction

king of England." While denouncing the Pope's greed ;and anili.nii he
insists upo-,n .John'u. unc tion at tli? dea lli of. deer: Io- hb.,ppil'y hi li ''Id.ye:t never hTarda nima'"
and in h i, world nfa 'tr the cdlt :l at I.,i inlls: "Since I h:avIe been recontiled
to God an.dl have -%llbnntted myself and ny realm il l! t t.o h? ..hurch of
Rome, n,.thin:- ro-om out well. hut all ihinc~ c.-,ntrarv.r"
John is an ii -ed .f -pitefully hating all the het mnien of hi; kinlgdom,
such as Sa.her de Qjiiiniy .nrid R Hilert Fitzl.alter anil l.anghnn. and i- so
little sen il-le of En-l. nd'- "vcal that he oilTr: tlie realm Io the Emir ,:f
Morocco % Iho. rel'u-ing it, r k n for and i: given thlii-. tlir.~rler of John, ,by
one of his messengers:
He is rather a tyrant than a king, an anarch than a governor, an op-
pressor of his own men, a flatterer of others, a lion to his subjects, a
lamb to foreigners and rebels-who through his laziness has lost
Normandy and other lands, and would lose or overthrow England; an
extorter of money, an invader and destroyer of natural possessions; he
has few children and none strong, not taking after their father. His wife
hates him and is incestuous, he himself corrupts the wives and daughters
of his nobles and even of his relatives. He is not firm in the Christian
faith.
Picturing John as almost frenzied during the barons' revolt, Matthew
says that he died in great bitterness of mind, and hopes that his few good
deeds will plead with him before Christ. To Roger's epitaph he adds
this other:
Anglia sicut adhuc sordet foltore Johannis.
Sordida foedatur foedante, Johanne gehenna,
and closes by saying that it is not safe to tell what he really thinks of
John!
The Historia Anglorum' is an abridgement of the Chronica; but for
some reason, perhaps because threats had justified the fear expressed in
the earlier work, he softens all that he there said of John, omitting much,
as the account of the embassy to Morocco. The most important change
is in the account of Arthur's death: He disappeared from Rouen. Some
say that trying to escape secretly he was drowned in the Seine; others
that for rancor of heart he pined away. The French indeed say-but they
are our enemies and should not be believed-that John killed him or had
him killed. But at Rouen afterward John became so feeble and peaceful
and luxurious that even his friends affirmed that on account of some
bloody crime his wonted grace had departed from him-and so the story
of homicide crept more and more into belief.
John is made to die in repentance and forgiveness of his enemies, with
his last breath urging Henry to love his own men, be with them, follow
them.
Matthew Paris's original hate of John springs from his sincere Chris-
tianity aroused by the persecution of the monasteries. But stronger than
this is his hatred of papal authority and methods; and his hatred, as a
monk, of John's submission to Rome can only be surpassed by his bitter-
ness of spirit, as an Englishman, at the giving away of England. "Illa
'Ed. Madden, Rolls Series, Vol. 4.






King John in Fact and Fiction


non formosa i'ed falin:osa charta!" lie cries. Inqpirel I y thc:,r fe, I ng: lie
make Jo-hn cruel. greedil. blanpheinm..ui. licentious, lbut does not d(ny
him. %n hen he nill exerl it. energy and ability in \\nr.
The 'Chroiiilc of \\'nilter '.if C'o~ intry' hii.h Lel;and disci,\ red in 1.'53S
is p irticul.irly inltcr'e tinlg I Chronicle propl.r is precedod- by a1 lricf rcsinum- of the king's. in \\hic-h
Join is nilccld as followv-:
Slippery John ruled for seventeen and ra lfl e.rs. He killed .Arthur
his nlphev, \h:enc Ex hoc transgresso Normannia proditur Anglis
Istius culpa fuit interdictio facta
Sexannis durans centumque diebus et una
Hine ex hoc regno capit annua Rome tribute.
The second part,2 however, is entirely favorable to John, and Arthur's
disappearance is characterized as a just judgment of God. Under the
year 1211 the chronicler says that in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, there
was no one who did not obey the king of England's nod, which could be
said of none of his predecessors. And he would have been happy but for
his losses across the sea and the excommunication. At his death he is
described as a prince great but not fortunate, munificent to foreigners,
a despoiler of his own men, trusting more to foreigners, wherefore he was
forsaken in the end by his own subjects and very sad.
The lesser monastic annals of this time are unimportant. They
all record the Interdict and the story of the Breuses. The majority
do not tell of Arthur's death, yet they sympathize with the barons
and reprobate John's employment of mercenaries. The Bermond-
sey Annals,3 which are particularly scanty, assume importance be-
cause they seem to contain the first notice of a version of John's
death afterward almost universally accepted, recording that John died
at Newark, or as some say poisoned by a black monk, at Winchester.
One exception to the usual colorless tone is a single entry under the
year 1216, in the Chronicle of Dunmowe, an abbey under the patron-
age of the Fitzwalters:
A strife arose between John and the barons on account of Matilda,
daughter of Robert Fitzwalter, whom John desired, but whose father
would not consent to give her to him. War broke out; the barons went
to London, the king destroyed Baynard's Castle. Fitzwalter and others
fled, Matilda going to Dunmowe where the king's messenger came to her
under the name of love and poisoned her. After her death Fitzwalter
became finally reconciled to John and was thereafter faithful.4
As the Dunmowe Chronicle continued till 1501 and is all in a single MS.
of that time, we cannot tell when the story was first set down.
The Chronicle of Lanercost,s of the North of England, is for the reigns
'Ed. Stubbs, Rolls Series, Vol. 58.
'None of Walter's Chronicle, which dates about 1293, is original, though it contains some
nanl.:rial not otherwise known to us.
E.l. Luard, Rolls Series, Vol. 36.
4Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, Vol. VI, Part I.
sEd. Stevenson, Bannatyne Club, Vol. 65. It was appended to IIovenden.








King John in Fact airn Fiction


oif .Johln arid I lenry a corl'*i-,ed cornpilatio n.' l.ut is undiler 121.3, when
Ptlil. ii ai.0l.ut to enter Ei land thei following iuniqii entry: Philip ha'd
given Arthur iin Li -i-hter into 1John'1 c11-tody, ho .eeiing Lihe boy
eighteen h.linds.-oinec upright, propil.ir and with .a better laini th-in him-
sell', resolved to remove him. At dinner oie day. .c:-irdingly, le tried
to thlrow him hint, the fire! [he o.y e:e.ip;ld tint time half burned, but
Inter .J'iohn had 'illiamni d Velypont and ilMlater \estnmecr take him in a
boat and kill hiiin.
W\'hence c:o1ne, t hi. -t range myth?.' Perhapn.S the iimplest explin:atitiln is
that the lhro,-,vin_ or the 1,,y\ irnt,1: the fire i- the reflect tion that reached
that remote northern mi-.:-.lttry of the -tttempt to l.,lind him v. it hlot iront.
The cliroiii cle how-. I think. and i1 impirtan.t for thi oniily, how quii.kly
'a i:h1ra.i.ter te-ndcid lto bhio.,me 'ced :, a all :niid -,r all 1badl.
Another im yth maiker, WIalter of H-elninigbhlurh, i, niore important he-
iaul.e hi-i mythl n"on great bel;el, and hi_ De I,. 'i, R?.5 n Aq-Inlia.,,' to
judge frorn l[he nunilier ol' iIiiniui-.rijilo, -.eew o lI.i have been very jpopul.ar.
The John of his work is a proud and haughty villain who has Arthur killed
even before his own first coronation and boasts of dishonoring his barons.
The direct cause of their war with him was this:
Eustace de Vesci had a wife beautiful and chaste whom John desired
but could not win. He seized a ring from Eustace, sent it to her as
though from her husband who was dying, bidding her come to London.
As she 'came, her husband met her by chance, they discovered the
truth and sent a courtesan in her dress to the king. When John after-
wards boasted Eustace told him the truth, and fleeing, drew the barons
to a head.s
A little later John's death "by the just judgment of God" is thus de-
scribed:
When John went to Swinstead he heard that the abbot had a Ibeautiful
sister, a prioress, whom he ordered brought to him. A monk learnIinl the
cause of the abbot's distress offered to kill John if the abbolt vwouild ,r.ay
for him. He took John some poisoned pears. John bid him t.ise himnielf.
but unable to wait for the effect after the monk had eaten two, t he gre-edy
monarch seized the third and died that same night.
Some elements of both of these stories were used in the drain,,.
The so-called Robert of Gloucester6 written in its final form s-,ion after
1265 is interesting as the first English metrical chronicle, and ill min tin n;
for our purpose as giving the concept of John formed at this time by a
serious and disinterested historian. Stow at one time possessed the inanu-
'The Chronicle of Melrose is frequently copied verbally by this chronicle. as in the
accounts of the Interdict and barons' war. The prophecy of Peter of Pomfret is c,,&i.1
exactly except that for "Philip" in the solution is substituted "the Pope."
'In some confused entries under 1201-03 the Chronicle had accused John '-f hircelf
drowning Arthur in the sea.
5He lived in the time of the Edwards. His chronicle for the early years is a cmnpilati.in
from many sources.
4Ed. H. C. Hamilton, London 1848.
sA continuator of William of Newburgh, writing 1270-98, had said under 1215 that
John in the North laid waste all men's land, especially that of Eustace Fitzji.hn hecausj
he had put in the king's bed a certain common woman in place of his wife, wh...; tringer he
broke, thinking her to be Eustace's wife.
6Ed. William A. Wright, Rolls Scries, Vol. 86.






King John in Fact and Fiction


script. Robert rnikes Artlhur tile rightfii heir wvhoii ev.-n in Richard'.
time John lhai. tried to -uppplant. So Arthur attnia-ked IJohn, "va. taken at
NMir.hbel and kill'-i. Hecause of this Philip attacked Jolhn, "inning Nor-
mrndy and Aquitaine. Then came the Interdict. John departed from
church andj Irove other- out:
& pitoslich.: Ion ulie a wende out ratle Iste -
& the .loren after horn wepinde loke vaste i
At Plnd-hlphl's co iinn lihe re'ignedl the cro"n,
& thus pleiJe tle king Ion to him a.nd] alle hii
\'rst to le e Norimiandie siuththe to paye this
The 1,aron'. chiefly becrlise of .4labue of their vi e.. revolt, whi.:-b wa.
a piteous thing with l.ithers andJ ons o)ppo'ed. John ied;ied at NeCwark.
"uf eni itian other to help God it him v'or.ive
V'or he a,'lle er this lon.i to imuch wretchede idrive
Peter of L,-ng.ltoft' Flen:l, ver.eC Chronicle.s written in the reign of
E.lv:ar. I, is inlereAltinIg hieeniuie of an ''xtreine p.:,pularity which led to
its being almost immediately translated into English verse by Robert of
Brunne. Briefly outlining the events of John's reign, Peter disclaims
knowledge of whether or not John killed Arthur, but says it was certainly
by Athur's death that he got the throne. He blames the barons' war on
John's abuse of women, and makes the king die of poison at Swinstead.
Knighton,6 writing about 1363, is important only as the perpetuator
of the myths of Walter of Hemingburgh, from whom he copies the story
of Vesci's wife and of John's death at Swinstead.
Taking the chronicles as a whole, the judgment of John seems to fall
into these main lines: He is judged as an English king against Philip, or
on the other side as a usurper against whom Philip waged a just war; as
I h- opponent of the Pope; and here the bitterness varies according to the
clo.-ene.s with which the writer is touched, as in the case of Gerald of
\\',lcs; as the oppressor of the lesser clergy; finally, markedly in the case
of thlo-e Vwho ,lo not know him outside of England, there are suggestions
of ha tre.l of himi as the deuteragonist of the glorified Richard story. The
Interd;ct i. prominent because the writers are universally churchmen.
In all the contemporary writers there is a tendency to hope well of him
at first. lit a great and terrible change is noted after the time of Arthur's
di;lip.i.aranc;:. Those who know only his early life, deceived by his
mlianllers. think him in all things weak. Later writers recognize his
Strength in deC.ling with his own island-though any admiration is over-
whclmr-d by hi- passion, meanness and bestiality; but the earlier tradi-
tion is carried ,on by annalists removed from quick knowledge, who un-
derstand dniothing of the French struggle, upon which John's whole intent
'Thi.r,. .re t i.., t rions of the chronicle after the reigns of Henry I; one very brief. The
I..r.icer veri.n thII.. one by Robert. This is also the one which Stow knew.


ri.1 \Vrchl. R.II., S..ris, V-. 47.
"'E.. Lunly. Ioll. S.:ri.., Vol 92.







King John in Fact and Fiction


centered. except that England lo.t territory;' nor of home affairs except
that they wc-re asked lor money and that John died in defeat. The one
fact of his career that seems to have penetrated everywhere is the btory
of the De Breu.es. They were perhaps in the wro-ng' hut John by Inis
cruelty Im.ie them martyrs, and as such they were universally known.
Magnap Charta seems to have been rather widely regarded a- a temporary
Ieace iunL rument: ,nd as the intricate politics came to he les understood.
lte more roinilltic element came to the fore in the story of the barous'
war, leading ti the elaboration of the stories of De \'esci and Fitzwalter.
Robert of Gloucester's chronicle may be taken. I think, as a fair represen-
tative of the general historical view of John about ffty year. after his
death. Obliviou- of the French struaale, but moved with the pity of
Arth our's diisappear-ince, it make him ve-ik and viciou-. This conception
of hi. clhracter persisted undisputed till the healthy Elizabethan imlagin-
ation, set on its way by Bale, went back tio original -ources: and this con-
cepti-or in spite of the dramatists' vision of him, has come through almost
to the pre-ecnt.




























'It is remarkable that no English writer seems to have known of the attempt for the
relief of Gaillard which, though it failed, was probably John's greatest military plan.
'John's published account of their defaulting was attested by men of the highest honour.












II. Contemporary Literature
The material to be coiiidured under this head consslts of a number of
songs satiric or laudatory in celebration o.f contemporary events: and of
three long pieces, tlhe IPhilpputip:,. the Hi.stlire de Guillahmne le MIarrhal;
and the Ililtaire de-s )nse. '/e' N',riiandie. For the collecting of the minor
political poems I am niuch indebted to Mr. Livingston Corson's Finding,
List.' Trhe first song that we have is a Sirtenle in iJohn" in Proveniial
written hy tlie younger Bertrand de Born I?) to Savary de Mauleon,
1204-120,5. urging him to le.iae John. The' author announce his inltn-
lion to be bitter I.ecause or.Iohin's slothlfulrness: HeI lets Poitou and Tou-
raine -o-nRichard would liave delrndcd Guienrne and is lamented by it."
With -plendid vigor lie urcs. Sav\ry to depart. enforcing his exhortation
with tlie exariiipl of \\illiam of Orange, to make .lohn more a hamed. A
digression in praise of the poet's lady gives added effect to the last stanza
because of the sting with which it comes back to politics: "John loses his
people because he succors them not near or far off. He loves better fishing
and hunting, pointers, greyhounds, and hawks-and repose."
Far less effective is a Song on the Siege of Thouars,3 written apparently
when Thouars was in danger during Philip's incursion into Poitou in
1206; calling on the Earls and the Old Man of Bouaing, Savary de
Mauleon, not to desert.
The next song,4 162 lines of Latin, is directed against the three bishops,
Norwich, Bath and Winchester, who adhered to John during the quarrel
with Langton. Praising the faithful bishops, it bids Kent lament for the
delay of Stephen-its second Thomas-and turns to rebuke the evil three
for their extortion:
Hi tres insatiabiles,
Sanguisugis persimiles,
"Affer," dicunt, "non sufficit."
The reverse of this picture is seen in a bitter but not very eloquent Song
on the Times,s an Invectio contra avaritiam, said to have been written
during the Interdict. It is against the extraordinary greed and venality
of Rome. The allegory of it is explained by marginal notes on the MS.
(of the reign of Henry III) which Wright thinks may have been written
by Bale-which say that the lion of the poem designates John and the
asses, the bishops-and in the end, Jupiter represents John to the Pope's
Pluto.
In the year 1213-14 the Abbot John of Saint Albans made a learned
couplet6 in blame of the inexorable exactor Richard de Marisco and his
'. F.ndinc Lidt ...f P'..h.li.I [I.:m-n referring to English Affairs the XIII and XIV Cen-
tur .. L'n.i.'.: ly .,r Pl':nn_;l l .n.j Dtoctor's Thesis, 1916.
'\Wrirht, I'l. ,ti:l S..ni- of F.ngil;ndl from the Reign of John to that of Edward IT.
Cami l.:n :.,:> et.. VOl,. VI. F.
\\'ircght. P.nIlil al Si ni: p I
W rilghl, P..Inlin'I Song.. p i'
irichl. IP..Iti-il S.nom ;. [, 14
'Itoll S.-ries, V.,. .3, I'.rl I. p 2 .'L







King John in F1ct and Fiction


kin'. "Aliinierleclih ill not have rezt while Snul ik king. nor firni pearc till
Do) The verse.- on the Marria'.. o.f M;irgaret oil Rive- i,' h.lae l.,.Aken .f in
treating thie ( 'r).,n'lo .la,y-ri or Mattivt.w Patri-.
Ain anonyn,.i-u krelrii;e7l' written peihlir>; in 121-1 urir; Pliili1 and
Otto, .nd .Iohli to t nialI:e pc;r:e and r .ie thle h ,lly land:
To Kin,- Pliilip ind. L.rl Oto
And I,: King .*hlin likewiv.e
I a:lid e tllHat they n.make an a. reenrleit
Between tlieni an]d rfllo' tIle [jardo.in.
And ;erve IHoly Mry.:
The tw,, Ele id(. pireii1' live been ;.:l;fren _' in connection n itli Roger
of Wenmil.:ver and Matthlie 'Pari' .
A p.,oern that ik in nre.inv \u the m,.,-t reni;rkalle :i o all these is one
of triinuh li i.'n the Takii-' o.i Liuj.olr' Iy thli -iiupjitrt:-ers or Henry III i't
1217, thalt i.r no lie '.Jinitv rind real lire tlhalt :anl (crit.ily suppj.rt
it dactlic hi\;ini'iter. IThe peri t openr, with a l itio:nf le lch:-in*'
year ofi .J.:lri'u reign. .A friir' ,I ra, e liijneil Eiin.lan the hit riage
(the bl-arn' virn i;,s ,:-i.onunle d y it; owvn pride: tlie ec.nil lruit the
French. the third the S.._._ti, the 'lIurthi the \'el-b. d..J plerrnitled the
rage lIr a hill that lie: niilt .h:i:t:en. EnginJ \as l.. cde.lIt tliheanger
of the divine judge and feared to serve the proud tyrant.
Non tulit ulterius regem regnare furentem
Vindicis ira Dei; cecidit percussus ab illo
Cujus templa, domos, combusserat igne minaci.
Summus honos mors illa fuit, culhnenque decoris
Attulit, in nullo quod erit superatus ab hoste
Et tot erant hostes; victus victor superno,
Invictusque suos hostes moriendo momordit.
The rage ceased, and widowed England mourned for John.
The last of these poems is a Sirvente on Rome,s written 1226-1220 'by
Guillaume Figuieres, a tavern poet who composed his own music a-nI hliin-
self sang his verses. He is primarily an erotic poet, but this, his principal.
piece, is a diatribe against the clergy, a Sirvente "on the clever deceptions
of Rome, head of the decadence," composed in Italy under the pr.,teii.-
tion of the Ghibelines. The author makes all the accusations aninin-t
Rome that even Bale could, giving among his examples the follow in.':
Roma enganairitz,
Qu'etz de totz mals guitz
E sims e razitz
Lo bon reys D'Anglaterra
Fon per vos trahitz.
'Die Lieder Peires von Auvergne, kritisch herausgegeben-von Rudolph Zenker " "
Erlangen, 1900, p. 147.
I1 am indebted for the translations of this and a following Provengal song to Dr. J P. W'.
Crawford.
3Chronica Majora, Rolls Series, Vol. 57, Part 2, p. 669.
4Wright, Political Songs, p. 19.
5Raynouard, Choix des Pocsie, Vol. IV, p. 309.
24






King John in Fact and Fiction

Drcei viiig Riomi.
\\'|1: art guide if all ill;
And.\ tlhe s-.'txd .nlI t rotil:
Thli good_.I 1i. o:,f i-' laund
\\1 he.r'lr-iy-d l.y you
Thli.'"- po,':ml r'-pre' 'nt iimo t o,_f the :altitjude.- tlal.n tow rd.i .I.John in th-.
(Chr.nii:'l. '1 hler-r i nuric' on M ,itrni l C(l rta. ,as Ir. Cir;..in nolit ith
Ulirl|i .iti blut i I 111111 n1ttti i-i. aij li. ,- h,, ;lrt.idI *.t rl., ,-t, nieJ th n iI
(only a lir nutr a r- thu'r,. yii.v on h. inior[,, rruiii.ntic their of J.ulil'. tr-:eichelry Wlo
Rich;lrd. Hie .ipip 'ar- ;i the i opprec.or of thl- church and an their oip-
I[r-."-':.l of ti<. churcli, a theine which h ila l t Nilli] l I' fl ,:,-1 -r only many
ear- Inatr iin Iale ,. :i t hli- I aI pre--or ol' hi pe'-it ;le. as r[oltro.:m, and
tinially. :nl the Enli-i king for EngiilI. h1, eoi.r l. The <-.r', .'ary in
literary %,orth ,,-. i>dcly as in ;i i :i I-i.tt IJ tltt.'r. .' ..) inr % worthli ;-.s r,tiitt.
otliE r hatvi ig a i hillnt t li rint. lhe tn i\,.) ai:l t.ir l :, Ilon iriin ,rt int. an.
particul.irly. it -* in- ti iin,. i alit on th* to kiec IIg .f Li l n. Tlhe tillithr.
tliuIlgh 11 h.a- literari p, i w.r, i e no it io ini orti an for our iilj ect. Thin-
p.o-nM, wliile it fully re-:liztze .lohn' crime; and jIitiie thle jAron,' re-
volt, yet sees in him the champion of England against French, Welsh and
Scotch invaders, and, now that all fear of his tyranny is removed, re-
joices that he fell a victim to none of his enemies. The exultant spirit of
a united England, expressed with the intensity of true poetry, signalizes
that universal return to her cause which marks John's closing days, therein
foreshadowing the mood in which Shakespeare was to write his King John.
The three long pieces which are next to be our study, though they are
among the most valuable historical sources for the reign of John, take
their places primarily as literature rather than as history, because of the
purpose and spirit of their authors, outwardly manifested in two of them
in the verse form, the third being, though in prose, in the vernacular.
The Philippidos, of William the Breton is a long poem in Latin hexa-
meters, written to sing the glory and praises of Philip of France. It covers
the same ground as the author's prose work, but with such additions,
omissions and exaggerations as the poet felt to be suited to a work of
art and adapted to bring out in the light he wished the characters of
Philip and of his enemy John2. The outline follows the prose work except
where indicated, but is a little simpler in the plan, which may be thus
stated: If Philip is an angel, John must be a devil.
Having revealed his proper character at his first appearance (Book III,
742) where he is the wanton cause of his father's death, during Richard's
captivity the wicked John persuaded the French to war on Richard, upon
whose return he fled to Philip, who, though unwilfingly, received him.
In 1199 Richard died lamented for his iety and love 6f hie chiirch!
Succedit ei, quo pejor ;n orbe .
Non fuit, omnirmoxqd vacuusjpietate Johannes.3
'Ocuvres de Rigord et de Gusllaurme le Breton. '* '
'It is t. be remembered that the poem appeared duringg ,thqc'-fatire df'Philip-the
l-epinnig .jf Book III was completed before 1215-and is dedicated to nis son Chariot.
Thc a.e.:'.jnt of Philip's death was added in 1225.
43.,..k V\, 621-2.







King John in Fact and Fiction


in Ipite of Arthur's riglhi. Immne liately after hi- coro:,nation. L-rrifiedl into
making peace, hie fl'eredl nmuchl gold and, ;ilver for hi; inheritamne. and
stril:irn- w while the ir"on wa; hot. ever arr.angcdl for Lewi; to marry Blanclie.
But treachery was his familiar. and peace left one not worthy :of her:
lHuolcs .'x pr:ropIris min-er. igniiru-.lue futuri.
Divino sil.,i jIu.diCi- o prociirat atll'i s;
Colligit et virga. quiibu- olimn vapilet ipr-.'
lie stole the pronmied w ife o:f IHu'h I Birun. :ind' Philip.' after urging him
nith intinite pitien-ce to inakel re-titultion. noa .oimnllledJ to war. Feeling
tlh:- sice of Nlir:il.,el and it rerull-. to ib the ce-ntr.l ini,.i.knt of John's
careere. Willing ex:rt:d all hi; po.er- upon it. Arth'r will a fe:w men
ets ouit lor Poi,:ou. .lo:inedl l:y the TI.ignan-. High le Brun and the
Poite\in-. in ,:,iiht whether he is tr,-n.- eniouzh to risk the attack, the
young prince con ult; his chief' in a simplee anl ingenious nddress of
sixty-three line .
No i nre .lnantini patriin men- onldrit, et vo'
Qiuani ;it crudeli ; itien; qunnim anL ;.iii; et iqnamn
Seriat in cuncht'- quo' cau, ,uhicit illi.
Et inodo nil curt quid ei rex auterat, ut qui
Me soluni querit. re-,na in me:la sola protervit.
Ihe. quonilni rebi fa\co. .-emperquie favcl.'o;
Me, quia sceptra peto mihi debita jure paterno
Me, quia germanam repeto, quam carcere clausam
Ipse tenet metuens amittere regna per ipsam."3
The Poitevins in an answering speech inspire courage into the noble I.:iy.
and the attack is made. John, however, realizes as strongly as Arthur t he
importance of the situation, and resolves therefore to conquer by a trick k,
for though so vastly superior in numbers he dares not approach by day.
He in turn addressed his soldiers. Right is sure to triumph on the part
of a son fighting to save his mother, so they need fear nothing. God will
give them the victory:
Tutius esse tamen illos invadere nocte
Arbitror, oppressos somno, vinoque gravatos,
Dum sibi nil metuunt, dum, post mera, postque laborem.
Per diverse quies loca sparsim detinet illos.
Hac igitur bene nocte, precor, sit quisque paratus,
Ut sine conflict jam vinctum vinciat hostem,
Hospitio dum quisque suo dormitat inermis.4
After John's speech. William de Roches asks a promise from him to kill
no captives nor take ahy:nqrtih o, he, Loire, but to settle their fate in coun -
cil,s and John promises, cailing,5wi' dreadful imprecations upon hi:nmelf
if he fail. After they have attacked arid defeated an enemy at every poin t.
'Book VI, 97-99.
PPhilip iri fact, as y~,lear n'',&evhcre, had urged John's marriage.
3Book VI, !1. 325-331,' "
4Book, VI, 404-410.
sThis pact with William de Roches was made a considerable time before this, bill th
author puts it in this place to secure dramatic effect and to emphasize John's wickeldnec
26






King John in Fact and Fiction


:is they hai. pl:ianed. at a diad.uvantage. he imine'li.ttely Ijrc.iks l hi oath.
andil \\illi:i iie iRoh e the .\nge in.s. and all to hoim John .a_ before
dcjr. l kill lii, ao -ecretl;y a, to escape notice. W\hn the offer of a rev.iard hlI,
failed t., to nipt any of his cervanl- t)o .1'. tih: deed,l Iie .ends A\rthur to
Roiien. \'illiani Jle Ilreuze. hi: custdoli;in, refii ing longer to Lwuard Artlhur.
"I l.inv not."i hie -:iid. "-what fo rturne 'ill lring hini. lit I leave hin satfe
in ie and linil." ..Jolhn ;teai o.tT in a .k1itT in the middlerd' the night. of the
fourth day. .-ail- to Hn.:iicen. to a door of the >_i-tle that i i:,ien,'ri only iV* We
a: delay. at low tide. .\At thi' inten.-e nonite t. \\ il!i,oii lrcaik olf ;nt- n -
fr.rty-five line dis(iiisition on the ni.irvel :tf the litlde-Joiihn. st:,iiling
high in the ship. order- Arthir to i.e lrro ught to liiin. and taking him
alo.ard. go .- off. \\ordl do: notl l'ail the ,t retcheJd hoy:
"Patrue, clamabat, parvi miserere nepotis,
Patrue, parce tuo, bone patrue, parce nepoti;
Parce tuo generi, fraterne parcito proli,"'
But his cries are vain. Relentlessly seizing him by the hair, John stabs
him again and again, and going on about three miles, throws his body
into the river; a deed worthy of a new Judas, a new Herod. Thus the
Jews resolved to sacrifice Christ, fearing to lose their race and home, and
by the crucifixion lost all; so may it befall thee, O John, for Arthur's
death; thy father did not misname thee Lackland; now is thy fatal hour
corning. nor is it far off, when hated by all for that death, thou shalt long
be landless, and at last deprived of life. Many crimes hast thou been guilty
of, that thou mightest be more worthy of eternal burning and no grace
found for thee.
In Book VII Philip, resolving war on John to avenge Arthur's death,
attack, Gaillard. Here again John is afraid to try anything in the day-
light. ,o he plans a night attack for the relief of the fortress. Not daring
to go himself even at night, he sends his chiefs, but the attempt fails.
In Book VIII (1208) John, finding himself unable to triumph over the
French, even through the Albigenses, whom he aids, turns his fury against
Christ and his servants. He despoils the churches and the clergy and his
own subjects and tortures them. Those whom he cannot despoil he kills
with the sword, or starves with slow torture.2 IHe drives out the prelates
-:, that he can more easily seize their goods. He suspends the services; the
ricee of the clergy is silent through all England, and there is no Sacra-
ment nor any office of the church for seven years!
'Ihis certainly will seem the limit of what malice could say of John!
To inake the ,iirrder o, Arthur horrid with circumstance, to declare John
,i c:oi\ard,. to I,..llit hlis tyranny in lurid colours, might perhaps be justi-
.fialle in the ciur:,t hlitoil : in of Philip. But to make John himself the vol-
untary m atl-ir of thalt -tuien:sion of church rites which the issue of the
In t.rd.liit tn I'or ce,1. rig,: .it which was responsible largely for the oppres-
-io.n of tl clrerg'. i, iiilee, I to fail of giving the devil his duc. But the
ilatteriig ilJa:.liz r of P'llip. if lie wished to lavish his efforts in depicting
the liorrrors of thlt tihal. did well to keep silence as to the Interdict; for
Sll..... \ 11. 1 -,.i!.-. ,e,.
*II. -*,; Ii I'hii. l : i m" l, hp. a r rr.:nce-though put too early-to Matiklda de liBreusc.







King John in Fact and Fiction


he kI-new well. what we are in diani:,i r iof forgetting, that Fr iance itself iha-
been i ulijecr to interdiction iarn his hern, tbo e'xomoninlniit-.i.:,n
In Book IX Philip mnikcs every ;npri-p.aratiion I. avenige the I:hurc-h's
lo ..-ls: hut lI.i: ulpowel of fear i\'r.i\ c1 e L'reaten'r tiha. iii- Divine Lo.,.. John
preti.',.-n :i.iitr;tin, :e.s. trying out that Ihe will re-torc. aIll i.i t i'h. :.Lhurc:h;
he- is uint wirth tio rcign ri ad will I.e Peler'; soldier. The? P'ropi p. ept- hii
sulbnini.in wvilh the c:ron n .ind tribute:
Hr,- r.-nlimnr i .-\nglornin t or.l it lionore .I,:,hann,;..
H4ie c-eneri Ipred:ilie uol de,_u, .Adidiit.'
I.:..:.ks X. XI and1 tlIe early part o:f X II. tre-l iof the further icontinie-ntal
war:. .Andl no". in the fourth Year .alter Do ine:. after s. o ina.nl\ -in.:.
John Iao di-eprived of life .iim1 reialni. lergy m.a lp-l le ole desi:'rt-e him who,
hai li -hen the death of Iis l- Ilj:r. the t:trayer ol hi, Irorht-r. the murderer
ol hi rnielpico. .\ And i....Ju liAn JiJ, au..:irdinll_ .l tht.- prophliecy of hic name.
ut terlv laiiJli.-s -
\i.l- h ni.- .ilrherly h''iin \hit Va: p the ptrfo-e i hi- author. iHe tke?
oni l thle orSt helemir'it f 'J.lhi', clit ria ct *:r a:i! llnik'l;i I ho '.. i.crt-atin g.
hou ': 'r, Iporlr it ino irnlor:- riilicnmiioiiu in its 1i ckne. tl:haiii i. th virgin
white one oi Philip. Yet in the very Ii;tlerlne- of hic vitlup-erltiion -of
Johnl's i:. an.i- jiie .ii, .l ie,.ikiiei'-c \ne cai read I.et lW ell tihe liine i c-onlte_-
Si'-l'i if l he re;liz;ltiion of Jol l'L' ij. 'v- .ns o\\;ir :Iccordini- to Ihe role- t.i._i
a bold battering of castles, a large extension of the rules of individual
combat, with graceful amenities like those between Richard and Saladin.
John, fighting to win, used a more widely planned and subtler strategy.
And William the Breton, dimly realizing a greater intellect in John, how-
ever obscured by temper and hastiness, hated him more for the brilliant
victory at Mirabel, and the almost success at Chateau Gaillard, than for
his worst crimes. The absurdly weak speech fashioned for him at Miralb. I
gives the measure of a real superiority felt. William knew, too, in hovw
large a measure Philip was responsible for Arthur's fate. Finally, th.?r,.
is no true poetry in the epic, and mere rhetoric tends to extravagant
praise and vituperation.
Far finer than the poem of William the Breton is the Norman-Frenchl
Histoire de Guillaume le Mardchal.4 This Chanson de Geste was composed
by a certain Johan at the request of the oldest son of William the Marsh, I,
from material supplied by the hero's squire John D'Erlee. This Johan v.a
not, however, as the editor thinks, the squire, but a professional trouv&re
It is a series of episodes told in chronological order, and lacking artistic:
transitions, but the episodes themselves are told with directness and vig-
our. The trouvire is of course interested in tournaments, descriptions of
which form some of the finest passages, but besides this decorative intert- t
he has a keen sense of truly dramatic incidents and tells them in such ai
'Book IX, 11. 342-3.
2William says here that the people wished to chose Lewis for king but his father, -n-
willing to offend the Supreme Pontiff, would not permit it.
3Book XII, 294 ff.
sWilliam died in 1219 and the poem was probably finished in 1226. John D'Erlee, wh.)i;
memoirs furnished its material, was in the Marshal's confidence and with him almost c..n-
tinually.






King John in Fact andm Fiction


way a tc reaite iconic te-nrt eh,- rc.1ltr' Thi pui ha1i0 nI t the- unity ofi plit,
of the ,l/ i llp ,...'. lec.au.c W illiam tli, M arlial i th.e p-erFect fcid.lil
knighit..m l hi,: inlc:rel-t hliif't-. ai In I, re.lty it ,,.c inom F. di,: ii turn I.t H-nry.
H iclard :nr l .J'Io n ; ut II hic e clhar .eter .i ve a c-rtcaiii ri nein l, the v. h-,le.
ITEl- anitill.r. a Noiriman. of co rq,.ire yiip Ia:thi/es ith thhi En, giy.l kin-'., his.
liro's ma tr;I ., cari,;t the Fit-rechi lie do:s no glosan, v r Johih (rin .,
luit lie .-e tlhi.- richt in lii polsitioin ti.i'. lThe ch.irmne r o:f the hero. t hl.uii
rtrfecrt i a not irk'. orn he i. tIrong. ol.re Jint, but i t inr li hi- j lt leinim.:
anl lid .i l.lor i .n ia,: by the c:'on:iios'i -' of trI I r ot l'r ii h: arti ic
Ide-'rad.ltiican .if flck Rimcn ar tiery, Iir tihe- Mardh.il really %1 a,. t. : juJg: l..y
olier te,.tiniony, .a p.giul mah.'
Philiip i lhe .irch-eoi tri er f' Ii liih w":-. It i l he iwh.,. arfrr lthe
yodinrg kig' leanth. lipl- Ri hardJ to' wair on lii f':tllher, with nliom. as
the M arhail v.:', then lighiti.g lo.r himi li, : l :'i ii''. ,il.,-i ul.ely. The
stiry. of hi' *J.ii llh i. linir thinc iic Ger":iI I \\il.:s. lirlly l.ci.ta -e it i-
Writ lcn in i nI ry'- ow*) l c ngkage .Johlcn'c; Iamcc i iv,:n lirst on thIe lilt.
HI-earing that lihe being whom most he loved had betrayed him, Henry
said not a word but "Asez en avez dit," and so turned to the wall.
England has not had so good a master since his death, says the trouv&re.
In the next years, the interest centres in England, the Marshal being
there. Though the chancellor is blamed as proud and ambitious, the
author realizes to the full John's treachery, but passes lightly over it,
because anything having to do with John is then only incidental. On
Richard's return, John flees to Philip who now, breaking his word, turns
a cold shoulder upon him. The reconciliation of the brothers is fully and
dramatically recited. Richard staying at the house of John D'Alencon,
guesses from his host's manner that he has seen John; he sends for him,
bidding him not fear, being his brother:
"Johan, n'i aiez garden,
Enfes estes; en mal garden,
Remainsistes, mal le penserent
Cil qui mal conseil vos donerent!
Levez de ci, alez mangier."2
A passage a little further o is very i important as an illustration of the
feeling towards Rome. Philip wished to send to Rome:
He called a clerk and gave him relics, without which one can't succeed
at Rome, for one must always join palms there. The relics of Saint Rufin
and Saint Albin (gold and silver) are very valuable there, they are good
martyrs of Rome; without them, all that lawor lawyer can says worthless.
He who has not such relics has a hard time entering the door.
In 1199 lfiicir., the best prince in the world, died. Pregnant with
tragedy and big events is the ensuing scene between the Marshal and the
Archbishop, a scene to which our author does full justice. Hearing the
Idc-w- i tlihe night, William dressed hastily and went to the Archbishop,
i hcir iL' out upon seeing him, "Ah, the king is dead, what hope have we
'I li filelIt3 to John, through all the troubles, though later literature confounding him
Sith his son, joined him to the rebel barous, is universally attested.
ll. 10409 ff.
Ill. 11358-11372.






King John in Fact and Fiction

inov.- there- i- llt, 1mie t, d-tl'.iil Eii. l;,ajit o lil i -t tlihe Frenih." \\'i liart
pointed ,oit lthat they IlmlI itin.di.-li tely I ~.. -'. : l hi- -uc ..-'ir. The Arch-
I.Ii-.., uL ,ue-teil Arthur. "'.\lh ire." anin cred thle ilir-hil. "'that .woull
be I;ad. He lia- evil ,-uiiellr-. i- h.iaghty :ind pir'd. -I,: will talk or
our lniuic-. ilr he l,%e-. nit the Eni.li-h i.:-el lde t,'rr.i.
1i-- %cftz le conte .Joihani:
Ma i-ir-nl''' & n:,in [:in;ir
I., nie nli-tre al jp-l lr'o .:1'icn cir
Qui -eit tie l.a terre ,mn pire-
& atutre-i te I. -..ii fIri're."
Li :r-'.'(:ve-que: re'apinli.
MI;r. V:z le 1( ,- i?
Oil. -ire. ,iier *''e-t rai-.'mn.
Qur pli pri ; e't ;:inz ;a.-bljii.-.,j
Le til/ dt:- I., terre In rI.r,'
Qu.: li nite-: dreiz e-t ii'il i Ire-r"
-A-M r. re il cir i-i:
Mi:- ilat % a c.'inlt & ,di
Q i" dc1i' ,i ri',-i: u: \ ,.-- f'i '-t*.,
.A ltreta0 lit k,. \,". r,- ?l|li t,: .
Et li A.l r. di- : "M .-i,:i:
To, li, b, -.e qi'il ~eif eizi'
Tie: poentIc.i pu)t Ipo)il:l-aiitly ai'j t.leaI;rly tih: li.rd I hc-.i 'ji t i< lii EniuilAi d
hiaid to: niake yt -lhi h li lid mnak uine'equivi''iully ii -.lJhii, ltir.
01 [hie iii.irria.L e with I-ile :Il i .\liL';aiti l '. ..aut'c lol i the ti e- '.0 -Mur
autlh-r any- that the (C'iiuLt March a;ind1 lii ouiiic-ll.:,r- kno,' v.cll tlh.it
-Ol~- .It the Fren:-lh -ourt wr*e c-'ari< erlne iii tl he hirlt. Flor tlhi r ,ellneed
vn:r alter the mn.,rriaa, .I Bl.Linlee ; nu lI.i \i-. Ih tih.''- the -,iitire llaime
t l, Philip anai l hi- inii. li--il.k l Je: iim eljj : .,I-u ft'r the l t l:ili .' eel .\rlliur. S. i
pr':.etl Jv:a... oI:ln'- \ ciottery nil that .Jay th.it ll h11 lt ar n'\.,uld lh.t \ lI,:c
th i-lied it .Iliii lind no.t Iei.l ill-la.tt',.l -o.Il !ii Irbc l ,.l n,:it ,.ri\t c hlin
d,,in. He Ir,'ike Iii- iord t, \\ illiai d1. r h .ih lii- ri ridlc liMilitl Ih;i.
a di i, hie lo-t m11.1y 11 eller-. PlI lip ,ir-el I1 n the trile thu- cr:',t'-J.
At thi- lime. thei poetI, -t I al.iiir'- *ill l'- -rr iegy. Im.ut -11 .r11 inrltere-ti;i,
.teor '.I ii-. ruI e t Lt a\ a;s' c\vin Irotm lii *oI. i menI. t it liim. Iy %h:Ia
deri:..ie tllil Iee-,Ir :e1 I reichoiry lit: -c.- liiiipcrt.l.
IJr nacirratirii the Itrv 'I \\Willinam It h Mirlil. thev writer ,-he il mni-li
li'lit on the whc-ele intri ate -iti:ti' ni cit thii time. I'li: Ein.li- i h.:,r,-ni
jIei--'e -ed ail- I.ir-e I.aiin'k tlie cntiientl. wili.Il, .IIlhi -till c: litmed,. hut
.t \vlhii h PIliilip \: ; aI tu.I l ii.i-ter .ind Ic ir .'lii.li li e \.- ,detr J ,llin,-
lihriu(..-. 'The le, renii.n put it il' 'lr l i year. .. d 'iIthi in thrit (ini -i.eiid' ,:f
ili Cii l 'it ei ormni-e l' Iron -J'liii. \ i.' ,li'Jllt't i i-l t'.. -CI t[le li,:l- -.I I eI n-
tireliy -nut .I Iii iniifi'-n.e, t., d.l fte-lly' t., Philifp. A '.1 c Iridl Ieen i ..ile.
biut it- V-iicI:'l siiii a.. t intorleai. 1 iri ly tihe .\t 'lili-hel, i i ( '.i ierluiry:
w itl re-newi el v. ar in Ir>'i-e'el. the M .Ir-h.il ':,- .lie -seel lih .I-I e cil'y eit
ha\ ir.i-, I'tr t fi;it t f'i>r I'lhili| I I. e l'ii .l tlii-. 1.iIt ., uld t .:r eitherr
fi.hIt ig ,in1 t Phili nieo hi% Iczt- lI.r lth: IFrec I Ii ,ti J -. .Jo niit r',eiiVI i.el i g i
hii- e i Criit. plotted r(\ ri'.", .o Lalit-t \\illia In. Ak comIili hlin.-1 ii l leeIhi. ,
*II l I .2 l ,"i Se .







King John in Fact and Fiction


he pretendedcl forgiveness. l.ul took Willi.anl'r son ia hoet:age. The Mar-
shal then as:ied permi..-i'ni to vi.it his IinJ_- in Ireland. Tihe ensuing
story I.iiiag- hulien tIo us v.itlh tierrihble vi idnes. John'f personal chra.c-
Ier. .John cl;alls bnck the lanrclhlnl lho hai hir.lly L-Cot to Irelanrl andi will
not let hini rgo again though Meiler Fitzhenry iz waiting his llinds. John
D'Erlee and Steplhen 1D'\evreulJ delend theiii with grealtet succbs, but
John and William the iarshial in England, because of adverse winds,
kno:. nothing of what is happening. John, who will scarcely speak to
\illiam. at last asks whether he has had any good news from Ireland.
" I know nothing." John, smilingly, tells him that his wife is taken and
all li men defeated. Later the Marshal hears the real news but pretends
t hat he is still ignorant; and John, telling him the truth this time, shows
him favor thereafter; even forgiving him for harboring William de
Breu'e.,
The quarrel with Rome is passed over almost in a word, because the
hero had no part in it. Of the barons' war, too, our author has little to
say, being afraid to tell all. Early in the poem2 he had praised Fitzwalter,
and says now that those who first allied themselves against John had
cause, the rest only following their example. But not so William who even
at the end, when John was poor and deserted, never left him; and John
on his deathbed repenting of his distrust and abuse recognized this stir-
ling character by entrusting his son to the Marshal's care.
In spite of the many important phases of John's career barely touched
on, the Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal gives the best comprehensive
ilnprension of the king's character, and for all its blame conveys the
'trorg6e sense of his power, however marred by passion and aimless
malevolence. In the stirring conversation between the Marshal and the
Archbishop, the obscure trouvere Johan, with better insight than he
perhaps knew, gives the very essence of the situation of John and Arthur,
a situation the truth of which the dying Richard and his barons grasped
when they choose John at whatever risk as an English king to combat
Philip. Philip's character, too, is subtly realized. It may perhaps seem
that the author is unjust to him in not mentioning the excuse for his
actions that lay in Arthur's murder, but in this he prefigures what later
history has established. Arthur was only the pawn, taken up or dropped
by Philip as policy dictated, recklessly risked at Mirabel, the most vul-
nerable spot in his uncle's armor.
One more long work remains which might perhaps-have been treated
\illt the histories, but which takes such manifest delight in anecdote and
picturesque detail, and seems so informal and warm in its intent, that it
de(ii:lind a ,[laci' iii literature-the anonymous Histoire des Dues de
Nirma,,ndl' et d:-. P is D'Angleterre.3 Moreover it is, though in prose, in
the c ri,l:,ll:lr. Internal evidence points very strongly to the author's
having been a Fleming; less certainly, but still with a high degree of
'roauliliiy. to hisi having been in John's mercenary Flemish army during
'Tle MNrshli inl 1210 harbored the Breuscs on their way to William de Lacy. Though
tLhh MNarshal .. e prot.:. tIon to them and is fully excused on that account, the poet seems
lt frc(l l1I i tLhey rere .It this time in the wrong and fleeing from just debts.
*L.. P d l S. d F 1
'l.l. Fr i.:i.-. M. I.hl. Publications de la Societe del'Histoire de France, 1840, Vol. I.







King John in Fact and Fiction


the lir,:.n" "' relielliojn HI- i ; a.-'rin t th,' Iar,.n-r and theit Frenchi: andi
Reob-lrt t Fizv. ltl.'r i hi= pIet vill.iin. liut hI, I_ not I..r John. Ti'vwn r.l.
him lie ha< the true- nitrceti.nary' pi,:int ,:.f view. priia irs.. hi-- military
gl"ry,. quite rea.iy hi damin hinl hlor the relt.
Knol, ing of the %,ill .:1i Rii.liard. lihat iiiost aliant if i1en. nid ofl the
bari.ni.-' oilli. tui-, hi.tori:li. hi.ni:--, i l. a iinl .i ru;r.[.i- o',r> -u r John'i -
s .:,:,._ssii:,n. |,'a:- > ii h h il, and:l ,:l,.ti t,-,r:,,,- i. m rtal :, Ia., l.h-1) L l of .\ln-
goiiliiie Tliin c'i re. Ithe ; pe ol Mlirali.l, at iii:h .\rthur in th ,..ure
of a conventionn "ith his rnriidnmlither. oiteri tr let her uo a ilt Ir :r.oo,_d.
whi-re she v ll. lor lie does not wilh in hii- heart -to hurl hI; prnmui:Ithii.r.
She re'pliti tlint lie Illillt llnd Iullih-r ,_stle- t[: lesi.-,.- than tli:it in vhiih
shle is! \\illiiin d Ro..iis.h ? I it.]i-- tle [ lainer th ,- tr.ite y .' nd1 the
leadi-r of thlic -s.r-J'is' y 1 ii..h A.rtli r is lak .i-n. ohn J ,o es ti, oluen v1 iti
hi-. )rir-.on:lt-r. ani:l .Ier:- I ut Arlth.ir i .i ri n ill ;t1 a nt> er. r i i m ,,ru.
W illiam leave- hrhn then .an.: jo in- l'iilip. lHe s idii ., [ie erouirl lor tlii-
de'l tiihii, lth- Norm.n l.irons n :c.l: aon.l irnll tle I li-sh Iid cai, s.i- of
RolBert Fil. alter's ain] Sahbr iJ- Quini' t In early siirrentdr -tl \nuiireil:
andi the Eir.lih l l n on tlie olher hi id .aret- illel with li7giiu t t:,o -e'
th l ir Fr ,.'i: i lai .nd OI ,_.
T h I. hli-torifni tell_ ,o .oh, l,.i:,[ii ,.l.l r lt vr. a11, l..:o itti=i i ,i., ol the
nol blesi- mid lsi tleir i; h trend i l of i t. 1 a vo ol i-? opf. en h,:.u-e I -,nI i 'n i: ir-
osity i' giv in,; roles' .iXpropie of tli=. hlie t:-ll; a \ toiy ol .Joit b :i -nl
Ar.l+ilohlop 1-hilert W .ilter. too .-od, a n.;ile.:-tioin .hohn'< fer.on-
ality to lie liere, ruiitte[ l. Jealous i oJ I llu ert's l.i.avi. neI -..lIohni iunwillini ly
at.: ptls ar i ln itationi to pe-[lren ChriIniiis i t (Cainterljiuy. AXt the endi of
his \iait. h aaskd v, lither theArchbiohop l.ne \ why be had ataycd u long.
"Why, unless to do me honor?" "By God's teeth," said the king, "not
so. But you are so generous and valiant that I couldn't touch you. You
wanted to attract all the best men to you. Now, thank God, you won't
have more than enough to eat." Hubert demanded to know where John
would be at Easter. "What business of yours?" asked the king. "By
Saint Julian," the primate answered, "you cannot conceal it from nii:.
but I will find out and go there, and I will keep bigger court and morn: o-,: in
house, and give more gifts and make more knights than you: and do the
same at Pentecost, se jou vif adont; et encore aura Hubiers Gaitieri
h mangier!"3
Another glimpse of the personal side of John is given in a scrap of versation with the queen. At the news of a defeat he turns to her, "'-1,:II
Madame, all this have I lost for you." To which she immediately r>-j'lii.-.
"Sire, I also have lost the best knight in the world for you."4
After new defeats in France John turned to reducing the follower- of
his own court. He made himself so feared in his land that all men Ihlir,.
witness that since the time of Arthur there had been no Enji-ls
king who was so feared in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland, :- lie
'Down to Richard Coeur-de-Lion the author copies William of Jumieges; from ItL .i, .n
is original.
'The character given him by some of the English chroniclers, "generous to for, .'. r"
will be remembered here.
sMichel, p. 105-6. Matthew Paris speaks also of John's jealousy of Hubert 1. Itlr z
wealth; and elsewhere of his having spent a Christmas with the Archbishop.
4Michel, p. 104.






King John in Fact andl Fiction

a..' i"Tih- i i(d icait had iichi pea:','." the narr.itor gioe nn."thlt tlihy
W'n lit about a. qui tly a; ,heep." .\ curious 'J.-,'rilt:iiin of Johln' fore-, t

\Aftel Hllu ert \\'nlter'~. dei.Lth, Jo.1hn acked to h.-ve i v i.e Ii, i the elec-
tioi if the : nei rc.1 l-ii.il.p Ireean e of the priniate's poi lioni in ti.h: e, i n-
cil. The iminiks planed the king very f.ille in re- peel> this m:nttlr.
T1 1 ritl, tell tie t:-ry of tllh- De lrh'u ;, :it 'i n' : length. dle- rib,:,
LI.t Iloro:, i tir n.itiirec Ma'Ir id .i ,Je IBre'u~u il, igll t l I li..rn:irJ i.le :iint
'Valery. iher wa.r on the Welsh, her present to the queen at one time of
three lilired cows and one bull, all white except for their red ears, her
iboist tlihat hi. had twelve thousand milch cows and enough cheeses to
deliend i'onel hundred Englishmen in her castle for a month. Hearing of
Johin'is ecI'nin she and her husband flee, she with her son to Ireland,
thlirnc'e t:, M in and Galway, where they are taken and afterward im-
plri onedl iiy John in Corf.2 In a dungeon there they are given only a
[,.iLket of o:;t' and a raw ham. "On the eleventh day the mother was
found dead between her son's legs, setting upright, except that she leaned
a little against her son, like a dead woman. The boy, who was also dead,
sat upright except that he leaned against the wall like a dead man, and
the mother in despair had eaten all his cheeks."3
The account of Fitzwalter appears in this work as nowhere else. His
son-in-law Geoffrey de Mandeville, husband of his daughter Matilda,
having killed one of John's men, flees to him for protection. John would
hang him, but Fitzwalter begs for a trial. To this however he accom-
panies his son-in-law with men-at-arms. John puts off the trial; the same
thing happens again. The king, indignant, orders Baynard's castle de-
stroyed; Fitzwalter flees. Joining the king of France, whom he finds pre-
puring to invade England in obedience to a dream, he gives the following
re;: illo for his exile: "John wished by force to lie with my daughter, the
a ife :,f Geoffrey de Mandeville. Because I would not suffer it, he has
destroyed me and driven me from my land." In the meanwhile, John,
':1re.l by Peter of Pomfrct, is composing his quarrel with Rome. So
H:,li ,rt, goes to Pandulph and tells him that he had fled because John was
excommunicated. Pandulph agrees to make his peace and get him back
his lands.4
"Who so wishes to hear the occasion of the war on account of which
King John died disinherited of most of England can indeed hear it in this
a ritini At a conference at Staines, this writer says, John made a peace
(M.gn i C.rt'ai ith,:ouit .:i.i:uilting his Flemings! They were very angry
to hIear .:,f thii ,:.,r, n inlly p.eace, but nevertheless went with him to Mal-
I:-oroiijgi. while hle wa guilty .:,f the worst deed of his career. He had a
large s;t.re (' :, tre.i lite rerviioeid from the tower to his chamber and gave
Ith l Iureqrs none. A..\fter th. t .illainy they left him.
In .-sit Iil hi iinji'tli. LI thIlie Flemings, John is judged entirely in the
riglit .g.-inl ItI' .:1ron,. i. i .ant him to keep his promises to them, but
,>:.n't kI:'c.l their ti thLeir inferiors; and insult John personally, refusing
lM iC ..el, p Il.i .
'It I .iull Ic \\'in.JIor I
Iidh.l.l. Ip. 11-12-14- 5
-.M1 h I, p. 115 LT.







Kintg Jo)ln n Fact and Fiction


toI.,.iilie .t, hiim wh.n e ik troI' ill tI go( Ii themn. The King finally dies fr.im
the eOfe,:-l upon his fi:vvr or Lrief a and. th:ri at d'.lfi:alt. There remains
for iI; to notice only that our author s(-.\ ral times' spe.iks the is[elunt
o1' Meliin a in Lewi.s' army. and serving. hirn. waterr .John's de. lth.
The Ipin t of vir, ,f thle Fleminii writer ir not, we cee. purely disinter-
esteld nor ,doe,. h h.aie an alhsolutely ;a, Iurate iim lei-'uIe; hi e is. ln o -
e\er, intcrestinrg ainl %ell inf,'riletl cif due allovatci-e isu nialel on the
events -.f the rebelliemo and Ibe. au.: (of hi?- lIcn .1I ; r- i'._ ti.,'-ni. tlu'.-, ;tilnd his
,.,.-ilv intlere l-t lI.u.h,- .J..i.n's !.,ersJ. ;lil.y very sul ,;estively. I i i <.,rk
lira- ; i., .-.tliiLr irirp,.rtainci e trom tl I 'r.' t:t lliat tlh:itizh it now ,i'o sts in l .ily
lithrr'- Frencli IMSS.. it nrc al. I holip' l, .s-h ,n. not i nil)probai:lly the "an ony-
nwims, history ipuilie.l at l.ion''" ot Holinrched'' En.ail'nJ.-
Of these e ii r we orl.s. tie- Ii'tl,i r:" i, ( i iii G',ct M1rt'.'hI al ea-ily takes
first rank.' It lias. if I inii-talke nii,. -mon.ideralile alsolute value. The
charnilers aree il.ct.eied c ilth thi: ortit'.- la r-.i: imnp.irtiailty aired are
tiiltlt.llil*'J l' iiolil'es .J'riv,.,i Ifr.lIm no f-rehr teriinination to ihn:l then goo,
ir had. .ut ul Iro a sincere anrd I. oeti'. renaiing i:,o life. They are revealed
tiroquglih neti'on that le-oies life: they taie niocre iand more distitn.t outline
throi.gh a. series of incidents. lIein_' every'v here, ain istent. Besides these
fundiiament al eleinents o t r tn es. a rugliness of perfolrmance i- easily
fnor.ivaleI.. The PI.ippii.h.-, in c.'ontra il tL thi.. has certainn ease of
manner. I ut is ..encei\ve in in ail.)Oslilutely. partisan spliril that makes
steadily sra-iinst litl:-rariy truth. Tihe only ei'ptli of feeling respo:ncil!e for
it- crea.tionii is a strong desire to flatter the hero. The .lohn of this p, em i?
an example .'I the-uInfortun,'ely i-popularly aI_.epted lbiJure: thiou''h
thie :other misc onceptions. were. I I elieve. nimre sin.ere. The Ili.:lUr, d/.?
Dir- e N''.,rimri;tH is le;s serious ng rk than either af the s-e. -. It gssipy
character would be a reason for its popularity; a soldier has come back
equipped with knowledge to write a history, and with a store of good
stories. He has no real ill-nature and his artless and faithful reporting
comprehends much informing material. His style is a pleasant one. The
three so different characters of King John all painted by men of lii.- owin
time illustrate the complexity of his character and life and point tlie n ay.
if they are understood, toward the clearingup of theepic figurethro ugh: oIut
literature.










'pp. 185-188-198.
'Edition London, 1807, Vol. 2, p. 301.
3For the popularity of this poem in England we can only note that the sole MS. in a hich
it now exists is English, and that an old catalogue of the library of St. Augustine at C-nlt"r-
bury mentions a "Liber Guill. le March. in Gallico."











111. Latcr Literaltur-The H i.loricil Pi.ays
The Inext a:-I:'-Ir;aIt Ilhcirtrl. written at thi. en.I ufr thin 13thl ceniitry. "'fr,n the French."'
The p em.i "p-.:ii v. ith fliH inry II'f -iNr-;ir f',r i.:; :,;i his iiarrriage, to
<_';il-'d,>.>riIe. daughter of the king of Antioch. In fifteen years they have
three i.hildJren, Richard, John and a daughter Topyas. During this time
their qcucen has never waited for the sacrament in church and the barons,
wi;th lienry's consent, resolve at last to compel her. She seizes her daugh-
ter iln ile land and John in the other, and flies through the roof. But,
"Johan fell from her in that stoundc
And brak his thygh on the grounde"
She and her daughter disappear forever.
The Romance tells with many changes and embellishments the story
of Richard's Crusade, towards the end of which he is called home by
news of the treachery of John,
"That was the fendes fflesh and bon,"
Richard cannot believe that John would dare rebel while he was living
and hearty, but renewed messages that John intends to be crowned and
that Philip is in Normandy convince him. These are the only notices of
Prince John in the poem.
The legend of the Demon Countess is an old romantic one as M.
Gaston Paris has pointed out2 appearing in the story of Melusine, where
the heroine, the foundress of the house of Lusignan, flies off in the shape
of a dragon. But the direct source for it here is in Gerald of Wales's De
Instructione Principum:
One of the counts of Anjou had a wife from no one knew where, who
came seldom to church and was irreverent and never stayed the sacra-
ment. When one day they attempted to force her to stay, dropping the
cloak by which she was held, she whirled out through the window, with
two of her children-leaving two-and never was seen more.
King Richard often referred to this, saying it was not wonderful, if
they were of such a race, that the sons never ceased to attack the parents
and the brothers to turn against each other; for they had all come from
the devil and to the devil, he said, would all go.3
This does not add much to John's character in literature, but it is very
significant as an indication that he was becoming a figure in folk story4
to whom all kinds of evil legends might become attached. The same
interest belongs to the Ballad of King John & the Bishop; or Abbot.s
'Ed. Karl Brunner Wciner Beitraege zur Engliscihen Philologic. Wein und Leipzig, 1913.
Th. r-: is no complete MS. till the fifteenth century, though several fragmentary MSS.
II. Ipoem was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1509 and again in 152S.
Rfomania XXVI, 357-387.
,Li itmn1 II:, III, Caput 27.
'C.,u:tl. iI the Gentleman's Magazine, March, 1793, speaks of stones named for John,
*I: f.."- l ii.., Hood or King Arthur.
slnild, Ballads, Vol. 1, p. 4103.







Kiing Johin in Fact and Fiction


Kitt, .1.l.hn. je.-Ail.,u of the hi. .ip ,: f C(anterl'urv's hiusetleepinri and
good' clicer threatens to kill him and take his Iliir uiilesv hie can
answer three questions. The bishop's shepherd hiall-:,rother -*o:cs il
his place and answers successfully. The motive of th i alluil appriar-
in many forms, in Scotland and on the continent; it ik interesting tI.
find John established as the chief figure of it in Enil'!ialJ ilot:ting
against a churchman. He is characterized in rough Iall.id fashion ;i a
"notable prince."
"He did much wrong and maintained little' right."
These two poems are our only guide to literary tradition frr a period of
three hundred years though doubtless the character w.1; familiar in un-
recorded literature.
Bale's Kynge Johan,' represents an independent estimate .:,f John's
character. Bale had studied many of the original hlbt.iriaS.: whJli.i he
condemned for having more Romish blasphemy that odliies:. as well
as the later writers, such as John Major, Hector lBhi:- and I',olyldnre
Vergil.
There had been numerous controversial moralities on both ;idie of the
religious question before this, but Bale was original in introducing the-
concrete figure of John for the Protestant martyr. Further bi-torical
figures are Langton, who is Sedition; the Pope, Us'urped P':lwr. and
Symon of Swinsett, Dissimulation. The plot is a sketch :11o John'r r'"r,-
lution to reform the church at the instigation of the window Enu-land.
whose husband, God, is kept out by clergy; his fr-'traition a.nd death
through the machinations of Rome; the weakness of N,:Iilit;,. a.n the
ignorance of Commonalty; England's subjection for three- hundred year-
and final freedom. John's quarrel with the Pope and lilnal sulbnii-siont i.
accurately outlined according to the historians, but the inoti ltion is
Bale's own. John wishes to give England a true and disinter(-.ted rli.i',n.
dependent directly upon the Gospels; the Pope wishes to achieve wealtb
and civil dominion. All the rites and dogmas of the Catholic chur.:h are
explained as means towards that end, and their efficacy ho:nu in the
subjection of Nobility through fear of the after life, and of Coloni on.Ilty
through blindness. Sedition, who is the Pope's instrument. ,:;..'1ss that
through his master's aid he can subdue both King and Kaisrr. England.
who is often Bale's direct mouthpiece, answers:
"Truly of the devil they are that do anything
To the subduing of any Christian king;
For be he good or bad, his is of God's appointing
The good for the good, the bad is for ill doing;"
and right finally triumphs when this principle is established nI the p,-rs.'ii
of Henry VIII.
John's character alone stands out in sturdy lines. His language, virile
'Ed. Collier, Camden Society, Vol. II-1838-the date of this play is in.'ertain. ,onme
commentators putting it as early as 1538, others not till near 1552. Later rf-,renc.!- are
interpolated.
'Some of the MSS. have notes in his hand.






King John in Fact and Fiction


and stern. biut not cruel, is vivid aind the many albtr.actiun- In his
loneliet st;at lie is dignified:
"Nobility
Is v:irnilhed aiay: as it \w',re a winter mi-.t.
All they arc froin me: I aiin now left alone,
And Gid wot! know nut to xli:iom lo make my nilan."
T:. hi.- iiwn people lie he mild amit] merciful. while tinh 'legy re riOlve
in cheerip' nothing,; toward the emniV-arie:- of the Pop, he is vig'orou:,
an- wering defiance \ ith defi:linc(.
c,-ould iin. miItre :and ye' ..inire fromni thle devil of hell
Than ye go abi:uit lie-r ti:, ork Iby y-,ir wi,:koe cnijrjiel.
I- think the ch.irity .:r th.a ye .ill thr Church?
(i0'1 grant (i'hri-tian inen not after our xay*v to vo.rk,"
he cries in ;anil\-' r to tlie exionilni tinica.tion:
"It Iheconies not itee God'e a.'crert work (t. de-nil
Get the.': hence, or ..-Ile 4\e -l:ill leih thee to.) ba-lienime."
That the church iiinay lIave Iiull I-lame. Nohility is imale tinii.l and guile-
lr--c. At fir't r.itllfij to.l.,hn, he knows rio better religion th.n the d.gnari ,,
of Ronme Ind l a o is ld I by -'lergy a.nid Sedition. Civil Order i. delightfl'ully
Sivulgar and uninaginiative.: rather talke-n al.ack l.y the Iitrulictl, l.iul a-i-
[ie.iseIJ I.y ;a r'ro nii- of a.il.,olil.ion.
There are I'ior apologies to be made during the course of the play.
Firt. John'" uni ersally bad character has to be accounted for. This is
v(r3- ea ily done by the explanation put in Nobility's mouth, that as the
ichurclh ichroni, lers are the historians, John will fair badly in record-
" King .,,irhn is like to rue it sore For vexing of the clergy." Next, Bale
seelned to fI',el the odium attached to John because of the hanging of
Peter ..,f Puijifret. Some of the lesser chroniclers quote as Peter's proph-
ecy that .Joln shall reign only fourteen years. Using this in combination
Sitlh the :-tlher, Bale makes the Prophet change to Ascension Day when
the Iprophecy of fourteen years has failed; and for this with other wrongs,
says the play, he deserved hanging. Third, the loss of the French lands;
but this is declared of slight weight in comparison with his victories in
Wales and Scotland. Finally there is the surrender of the crown and
kingdom to Rome. The subjection is made in answerto Rome's command.'
S-ei-ng all the enein-icz; a--enliled against England and thinking of the
horrors .:,f %war,
"DEfiling of maid;, and -ihdding of Christian blood!"
.olihn rTesol',v,. to ic'ld, in fpit,. of England's prayers:
Engl.,nll. Enlclaln,. show iow thyself a mother,
Thy pri'.:,le will el-c I.e I-l'in without number.
.\ God -hall jillc iII,,. I io: not this of cowardness,
Blit of conpla-i;on in thi extremee heaviness."
ItI In hlin noted a- reni.irk:ille that none of the historical plays on
.1ohn nlimnt iioni M:agia Cll:rta. TIh: reason is very obvious in Bale's case.
'11 t.. r..ill. Ilunti.iry C:n -iJhrin pit, b tll several historians have mistakenly made
tiLe ubjl....li'.n ,n ,i. i.l... .If Ih,: PI'.i,,' dJein:mi.h, and Bale used those that fit his purpose.







King John in Fact and Fiction


The Cha.rter Qa- signed Iy .hln Oatter thile suhmini-o.n. wihen lie v.a ask-
;g iRme', :)a;ji a.aint the baron,. and ,l i alealed ti, thl' Piope Ito annul
the (.'h:irtir. Thli great d.i'.unint o. r.iiL to doi:trinee.
.gave Iunju-t ri;ll ilt tio tle i:liLur :l- ;nd oi, tllhat .?'Iore ihn'J vei r unI illi nIg
-ign.itire tni'l-,i t 11ha:1( beeon -., n'i .iit thc.e privilege. .ere iznierit at
the i tii a ti;ti ln lof I.ngtln lien lie wa.- vliii I:ing a-.in l Rone'- wi- s.
IT e i .ii-rois in tile play anle lim relielli ,i-. oInly at Ile rIllr-'li'r cinm-
mi.utl. i t.hait tj,:ir ate.r "%ar halin th e as.ij u\er in silen,_e.' Th.- faIct
tlint nlmii\ i t h: e:i roa:iiia e rsl I I ai ttuI,.lc iii, U lo thI C'l rtlr ,-- li ihtly. or
Cev,:n n,:It menti,-ned( it. ierlc the ie n-, ,-1.:,!n I:, -Itr.
In F.rite I.e1,.iz nI' Fr. >,e 1 d1 [I:t ll\ enofUfr.r..i* g riimii l:nindi | i ,, |1,i lrfn .hlhn.
Tlie l litter in the pfer-.on l Sii'.nr : inl ai Sl ~wini-ett. lire. .in pail.,nc
drink lo.r .J hn. luonrlntl 1,. Ic lta. ecr tliaJ Ii;e lI.)eiau e lie kiin ,as. t the
miunkls waaill l.rait loir hi t hi-s t:, r;.' n :r i : all that i- dern..gatory t
J-:ohn. I- esla:r:ale rt in the 0 oun1 of hi death. ,oI LnI in \\allr ,-f
HlenliinlgFioghi ianid hlniightal
Hiw far \'.i Pa;ile ju-titiiel Iy fac't- in thii- re\,oluction of John'i s chliirac-
ter? The pinra. --- y .]wich lie ru-.ia les thii iiitrprrut.'tion i- tihe reverse
oAl that w ;h ii u.i lly alley, I ..ur siulijeit. A.; tie hal e C een, lie i i uiju:lly
made thoroughly bad, because he is the contrasting figure in the story of
some one good. In this instance, Bale's first interest is the church of
Rome and the Pope. The Pope being Antichrist, John must become, as
Christ's representative, nearly perfect. Historically so far as precedent
could establish right, John should have had the nomination of the
Archbishop. Innocent was extending his powers and demanding pre-
rogatives that no Popee before him had had. That John could have been
blamed unjustly by some of his historians in that quarrel does not answer
the charges of ruthless cruelty and licentious living. But it explains h:
his character might be whitewashed to such an extent that a story Itol
to his disparagement in the version of his death would be altered It
accuse his enemies by the author in whose judgment Henry VIII,
"A strong David, at the voice of Verity,
Great Golie the Pope (he) struck down with his sling;
Restoring again to a Christian liberty
His land and people, like a most victorious king.",
Between Bale's Kynge Johan and the writing of the next ily ontl John,i
the ampler and more original outlook of the historians on v. hoin le Ilai.ed
his morality had become generally accessible in the work ol I .linl ied :and
Stow. Stow takes a romantic view of history, and is th,:- oiurn'e of tihe
authors of the romantic plays. Holinshed is the chief soilice 1Il the lhi-
torical plays. Of his Chronicle History of England, Scotlain'! ,id la,:.il.
published in 1578, the history of England is his own work. Hi, nirr:iti'. e
'Bale even makes John reject Gualo's aid, Collier, pp. 79-80.
'Bale draws much of his denunciation of the clergy, though not its a irAl-ri ..- fr..m li-.
works of Wyclife. For example, compare John's "The sentence of cr:.'- lih.i ,':rq.ture-
doth not direct-Shall be of no effect" in this play, with Wyclife's for-l.ir.h.' .f g...lI:h
judgment-"and priests judging of men to heaven or hell-for they kn.,r ni.-i- r--..-.h
judgment." Of Dominion. For Wyclife's influence on English Protes,.nii-aa in g,.ner.il
see Trevelyan's England in the Age of Wyclife.






King Johln in Fact anl' Fiction

of thlie vents of .iJhn's life is strongly influencced liy Bl;le'ls 'ersiin:
though he does not deny grave fanilts to the king. He IthinLks tlice charge
of rebellion against Henry 1I was invented by Richard .ind Philip and
blames Ely for the dissension during Richaril' absence, thiligh admit ting
that John j.ineid lPhilip. Hie tells of Richard'ls will and maintains the
justice of John'., right whii,_h Eleanor. he says, e-,pecially fostered hleauise
of her jealovy o.f Constance. For [lhe Arthlir ;lory, lie tell.. of John's
interview and the report of hi. orders to Hiubert to Ilind .\Arlhir. a given
in C,,ggesliall. One nmotive of Hubert's mercy i- his belief that Johln had
spoken in a ternirer and ilwould be glad to haie his orders di-olheyed. "Next
year Artlmur was taken to Rouen ;and never seen alive. Sonie say that
atItlempting to escape e va ws dro nied in tlie Seine. others that lie died of
grief. ll hers. that ie "as killed by Jo-hn's orders." The caue of the barons'
war, as of the clergy's hatred of John was his taxes, which he was unwise
in levying. Some say the cause of the strife was the exile of Chester, some
cruelty and avarice. "But these seem to be conjectures of such writers
as were evil affected towards the king's cause." Holinshed agrees with
Bale in ascribing the quarrel with the Pope to Innocent's desire of wordly
power; "That beast whose horns were pricking at every Christian prince
that he might set himself on the seat of supremacy above all principali-
ties;" in making the Pope demand the crown; and in justifying the death
of Peter of Pomfret. He gives the several versions of John's death, fav-
oring none. The lesson drawn from his reign is the danger of civil strife;
and the final estimate of his character is as follows:
"He was comily of stature, but of look and countenance displeasant
and angry, somewhat cruel of nature, as by the writers of his time he is
noted, and not so hardy as doubtful in time of peril and danger. But this
seemeth to be an envious report uttered by those who were given to
speak no good of him whom they inwardly hated .... Verily, whosoever
shall consider the course of the history written of this prince, he shall
find that he hath been little beholden to the writers of that time in which
he lived, for scarcely can they afford him a good word, except when the
truth enforceth them to come out with it against their wills. The occasion
whereof (as some think) was, for that he was no great friend to the clergy.
[An account of King John's foundation follows this.]
"Divers of his enemies . interpret all his doing and sayings to the
worst, as may appear to those that advisedly read the works of them that
writ the order of his life, which may seem rather an invective than a true
history; nevertheless, sith we cannot come by the truth of things through
the malice of writers, we must content ourselves with this unfriendly
description of his time. Certainly it should seem the man had a princely
heart in him, and wanted nothing but faithful subjects to have assisted him
in rtcr'rjin';: such wrongs as were done and offered by the French king and
others.
"I By exactions John angered the barons and incurred their hatred.]
Which when he perceived,-he discovered now and then in his rage his
imnmoderate displeasure, as one not able to bridle his affection, a thing
very hard in a stout stomach, and thereby missed now and then to com-
p;is that w which otherwise lie might very well have brought to pass."
Stov. on the other hand, whose Annals were published two years later,







King John in Fa

makes .John a u-urper and illain In hi% enurn.rat.'in -..f Ihlnrv'r issue
he wr;ttes:
"And JolJii that alftr thi? death of hi., Ir.,ther Richard. took on him
th,: kinmIdom, diinlcriting hi i'.-nel:'ws Arthur and Eliaunr the true
h irs."
At tie time of his .h:',..,s:ii.i the l:ing is desi:c rded :la .1 per-.in of in different
stature Ibut of ielia n.hen lv iiomlI-lo. (Great strms arc Jde..rii.d as
taking i.'lneIe ,t thin tinie ol .\rthlur's c.iptulre. then he is Iroighlit Irom
Ftl-is,. to Rouen. iri thin .ir': .iof R,lobert de Veypont \\'hWlre 4hortli after
he was de-.itpt._hd ul hii i'. life,ne o an iv Ihe hinjdsor his Uriri'- ohn."
TheI disgui..t o'f te nollem is reaordd iind ep.-'p:.iaIlly of Johnli Cour,: rho
dec,_IIu'.:,:.a John's "murderous %il' ii ii;nd, .. wrdlin'?.5.. traittlrou-. condi-
tiont and tyranniin.l govern rient."'
t ithoit dle-feinding -pap.,l p[..'l'er at all. ISto:\w l.inme Jhii, wholly for
the quarrel with lun:uient. \ I'i, re--.l\e' tI, di-inherit John at thIe earnest
representations by the Archbishop and Bishops of the enormous deeds
he had done with great contumacy against God and His holy church. John
turns now against one noble, now against another, "calling them jealous
whose beds (as he bragged) he had defiled and deflowered their daughters."
The chief cause of their war against him was his efforts against Maud or
Matilda Fitzwalter and her poisoning.3 Fitzwalter becomes the barons'
champion.
After the submission to Rome and the absolution, the barons demand
the renewal of the Charter of Henry I and war breaks out again. John's
death is attributed to grief or over-eating, the story of poisoning being
told for the sake of completeness.
Richard is Stow's hero, described personally as the opposite of John;
of cheery countenance and tireless energy. For John, ignoring the work
of Bale and Holinshed and his own research, he accepts the traditional
historical character that had maintained almost from his own time to
Stow's writing. He skims lightly over the murder of the Breuses, whereas
Holinshed feeling the deeper tragedy did not palliate the crime, because
he was seeking a philosophical interpretation of John's character that
should include the bad and the good, the strong as well as the weak. But
Stow was content with the simple method of relegating John to the
wholly black.
Holinshed's Chronicle is the chief source of the two plays of the Trouble-
some Raigne of King John.4 The influence of Bale's Kynge Johan is very
strong in directing the emphasis; in which current events-the play was
written probably in 1589 or 1590-also shared. John is still in this play
predominantly the Protestant martyr; the war with France and with the
barons is subservient to this motive; the Catholic Church is lewdly
handled; and much made of John's poisoning. The French war is felt
'He even makes him participate in the war against his father in 1173 at which time Ihe
was in reality only four years old!
'The story of Courcy is told in Holinshed's Ireland, but without the vituperation.
iThe story is substantially that of the Dunmowe chronicle, which is cited in St..,v'
Surrey of London (1598-1603) where the story is repeated.
4It does not belong to this paper to discuss the authorship of this play. I believe v ith
Fleay, that Greene, Lodge and Peele are probable names and that it certainly was n.:.
written by Shakespeare.






King John in Fact and Fiction


Litlerly ;s one of (Ihe cau-es that f'lrced John'% .tiinl.isiion to the Pope.
.an Enlish L.ing yilding to nn Italian priest. Contemporary Listory wans
a1 -trong incentive ti. the authors to carry on Djle's tradition; Catholic
Spain had jiut been ciidreiatel and the Popc was uting agairn- Elizal.eth
th:i terrilile generjI sentence e jf condemnation i hlich h.ia succeeded I in
ov\rcolingi .ohn. Fk-.iy pointed out the moral in th. last line of the play.
"If England's peers and pwuplk join in one.
Nor Pope. nor France nor S,'apl'lr can do then n wrong "
Tr'hr piny dloe; not ho ever. make John ;n angel. He i. guilty .f
.Arhur' idle;thl. Ile ha' order'.. HIuert to l.liid him; promises the Inrons
t., parire liik life. hut r.tr..it thel promii-.e iinmediilly. .ind is glad of
liult rrt'- rlierc?. only Iti(.a se oU f its politi,'.a' effe t. One cannot trnut ili
furthlir intentioinr Further, Jlohn i. cruel in hanging Peter of IPonfret
:adii unn',. ri-,lrly vindictive in hik n.ir again-: the Church of lRon..
.\After tlhu excomin'nnicalion Philip. "ith hardly a murnlur. yi(thl: to
'inidulph-
John: Obey the Pope, and break your oath to God?
Giv'st thou thy sword unto a prelate's hand?
Pandulph, where I of Abbots, Monks and Friars
Have taken somewhat to maintain my wars,
Now will I take no more but all they have-

For the rest
That will not follow John in this attempt,
Confusion light upon their damned souls."'
He is his own accuser in the moment of his realization of Rome's triumph
io'er England:
"Thy sins are far too great to be the man
T' abolish Pope and popery from thy Realm.
.A\n in hi- dying speech he sums up a life replete with all the guilt the
chronicler! had charged him with.
"Methinks I see a catalogue of sin
Wrote by a fiend in marble characters,
The least enough to lose my part in Heaven.

How have I liv'd but by another loss?
\\hat have I lov'd, but wrack of others weal?
Where have I vow'd and not infringed mine oath?

Shameless my life and shamefully it ends
Scorned 1,y n-y foes. disd:ined by my friends."
The play has so many motive- that it is difficult to estimate John's
Iichr.i.ler. Besides their fear orf the church, the barons declare the death
of Arthur and tli. lI.,annisb ient of Clie ter to be motives of their rebellion;
Ile scene of their Ime.lling at St. Edmunds Bury is presented, and their
'1.1 King b .hn. Lundon and Glbgow,'r I1,.5, p. 32.







Kini J.olin in Fa: t and Fiction


''ot- It Le\wi, also tlie Freinch :oinr.ira:y I,..I Ivy LU.-is and Melun.
Arthur. Mhl. is not ,l iiil:. :1 conv 'i Aioiii :i.har: 1 ct. r: h,:wi v.'r. ,.ive- s nome
justiG:cati iri tLi ..1 ihn I'. hiii tull-i., r niiii -. .\ I e'n;,thy .scrne is reiquiirel I fir
I:.t:illIli -lini'nt of F:al inli rill- asI King lii-lIari r 's s,,n. He i- primarily the
comfort na..II ,elpf I,.Jolin. anad in that expresieL the- auth,,r's p'oiint 'f view.
hut .l, ii.i' hIto supply the oimi.dy iof the piece in lii' -cenes with the
mnu nki .' .and the l or-i e ,of these lie n tivc i? ,e l.-. :urci e I., y 1 h,1'- Iy'i'.ler>>u.3
natur- of hi pursuit ofil .\utrizi anl I1 y i intedl iintriu. wv.ith Blanl:he. All
t111i':-e tlnintsll elt. it mInui-t 1 :I re'.-i-n l:rT ,I -rd, te onIv ( -econdary to, John's
-lltriL..,lc a ilit Roinli Chli ,tanity.
It lha l.en .iid tli.t tlihee replay in -,illowing Bale's traditiiin pervert
hliist iy. It i. trl (hCe \\:l r i ii.IlJ.1 t.I i i.lC'II J i .ni l.-. I I i (i\'-'i c E.II iIu IIi: iu.ill i ll [llh J1.>1 lih !
uli11111 0-1i, iL i- pUt. :ltl'r Lci .'_-. il\i -i',n 1B tI in Ihe l' I.i|ad o line, tlhe
.Irnnal l i .ts ate IlitlhlIl. .Joll is o:Vlrc' n:l e 1t. Frenclih : Inl Papal enmity
ce.illlinie.l.. a1inl. \\hion lie is pl:liing lhe.e ip:girnit eac h other. Iy tlie Jefe,'-
ltion ,if thl- IharuiT i I tlhinll w 'e iany rather s:i thaint lhit.'ry wias t- ,i,:Ii.Cly
foll. e ril. Thi.' a;utlhor \ C, :%lrai; l I., m ke Arthur \x h-lly. inl.-:eilt ; PIut
t)oo itu: i chl ull i lI : ?i-: >, i I .ir, ii, il i.i. l., (: i :n ijll Ii.t.ry iti .lei liii(:h
io it. o(n 'iltse..l thl-' pJi:iilt ,u it-.iue w th the lila on.-. and finally give ni
dlranii.tic pr<-renitation of .hlin's hliara.lter bercajie theLl hall nn .lefinite
c,.i.,l.:p]tiLoln .of1 it. .Ili.n 1Ey the evelntt iEf the pl.a i a Priote[trant martyr
anil . uE hli e- ,tiini'il,:: luilt in ti,:, in.Il sjeeih.es. lis'% :urin l this pirc.'int:i-
lioll. lie wez1 iC sC) hlil.1l,''111 ,f ;- It li..nI li-t ol' criim e.,. l.i lly unr'l,-,Ite.l I tl.he
plot; and his cliharacLer was as little understood and as little fused into a
comprehensible whole as it had been in the contemporary chroniclers.
It remained for Shakespeare to give to this enigmatic character an in-
terpretation that included all the important traits and events in a single
point of view, and to create an understandable John who was both victim
and criminal.2
Shakespeare derived his plot for King John almost entirely from the
Troublesome Raigne, welding the two early plays into a single drama,
purged of everything unessential. The philosophy is his own, though the
seeds of it are in Bale and Holinshed, and is developed from a more clear-
visioned patriotism than his predecessors'. Ignorant of the nature of John's
feeling for the Norman inheritance, and of the intricate relations to the
two countries which divided the barons, Shakespeare yet rightly read
John's career as a struggle against France, to which every other considera-
tion was subordinate. The theme is sounded on the opening line of the I 'l' y:
"Now, say, Chatillon, what would France with us?"
The political instead of the religious side of the Pope's interference is
emphasized, and it is made clear that the excommunication affects John
'The lewd scene of the discovery of the nun in the monk's chest, and ,. ..n. i' nwo in m ntl.
out of the whole cloth. One of the most frequent complaints in th- br..rll.:le- i t[b-l
John took away the priests' wives and mistresses and exacted ransom. It rnuli1 It. rnmer.-
bered-as the authors of the play did not know, or chose not to r.'rn.-rnl,.:r-thit lb.-
quarrel over celibacy was even then going on, and celibacy was net .,,-l l..'uli,-d in
England in spite of many decrees.
'In the comparison of Shakespeare's play with the Troublesome ili.rt:. a" nd .ith th.:
later historical plays, I wish to express my gratitude to Mr. Horace HI..-v ir.I FrIu-rn ..Ir.,
for a very helpful bibliography and for the generous use of his library .
42






Kin; .Jolh in Fact and Fiction


,nly I:.y it: influence on the Fr:.neli wa;r. lle learn, II: s.-n .i-.dl ro., olvc-
io JIrirngi tli- p.o\'.er hO lii- .sid, : H< rilih ,I irn l y.ieltds hi- cr':. n ii nirnc
di.atly excl.liilingy t,., ]Pan: dll rh"
""Nown kee, your lioly word:; mieel the Frinclh."
Every ca.ingte fruri hii' ,oiurfce Ithai Shi,' e:Lre indle ias fora greinter
dr.iminati effect and tin(ri draniati truth of .:hir. ler. Th'lre ITr hlc.,,at
lIinile giv.- .John the right u te ti throne by Iitlhrd'.J xill. Shlket.p.e;re.
letting Eliinor qu,,lte tl e., v. ill. makei- lir .y pria .itely tFlit sii lt. not
right. j at hlake. lie rea.iz(s-. o lJu; the I uI. ire (i.l.. itia in, ul ,l t rc/
lhad iput -I 0 ividly. tlhat it wn: not a (IfeA.tion tec(hnie liti;. lbut of a
h:ie: I-etecl ;,r, Elnli-,h king: hosiever I.ae. andl ,a king under French
iri-fine.inie. Tha i, enipalized the wranglint ,Elinor a;in C(ontn< e.
The tragedy arise be.- e,iuus tdhe I,.ron do not realize it. and Ie(caiim-e
Joliu'- renlizniion i olmi'. llred Iy p:r-'n, I aiiil..it on. (r.:sd.J lear under-
niinc, his better judgiilent .ind l I..icons.- iJilly ,. a tr i'e tiat dt.l'..h s-
its own end. lie di--s in ,.o y Il.rit liiei tlIc ( .i.iu holje:'l: ly ilo-. The
l!ia tard Faltconilri.g.: liho nlon,: <,*: tlhe: i. ':;ir tlron ho.uit who
remains true to John as the representative of a principle, even in his
horror at the murder of Arthur-for he with the others doubts Hubert's
word-in the end proclaims the triumph of a united England.
In the Troublesome Raigne the importance of Arthur's confinement and
death-which from the time of the Philippidos has been marked as the
pivot of John's career-is obscured by the multiplicity and confusion of
motives. Shakespeareie in making it the focus of the action at once creates
a great dramatic plot, and does not do violence to a larger historical truth.
The invention of the device of Arthur's fall and the barons' finding of his
dead body which belongs to the older dramatists, is a masterly method
of representing dramatically the spreading of belief in John's guilt, in
spite of his technical innocence. Shakespeare enhanced the effect of this,
as of the whole plot, by his power to create Arthur really a child, and by
his making him absolutely innocent. Surely the sacrifice of historic ac-
curacy is of no account here. Philip is made better than he was when he
yields to Pandulph because his weaker intellect is convinced, not because
he is fickle, and Lewis, who is important because of his invasion, is made
the real leader of the French. The play gains immensely in dignity by the
omission of the lewd abuse of the Catholic clergy, while the patriotic
feelings of the audience were satisfied when Pandulph was shown a sophis-
ter and schemer ready to sacrifice Arthur and Lewis in turn to his master's
ambition. There is dramatic justice in the triumph of England after
John's death, because Lewis and Pandulph are in a way as guilty of
Arthur's death as John is.
Mr. Masefield says of the character of King John in the play: "He has
a bigger intellect than any one about him. His brain is full of gusts and
flaws that blow him beyond his age, and then let him sink below it.'" His
intellect is shown in his military genius, in his moral vision of a free
Engimnd and a pure religion that so easily transcends Pandulph's
sophistry, in his large plan of kingship. But all this is marred by selfish-
ness. If lie had not been selfishly afraid he would have seen the better
'Shakespeare-Home University Library Series, p. 7S.






King John in Fact and Fiction

safety in generosity to Arthur. His selfishues' tries to blame lubert for
Arthur's death; his very -elishness after the baron; have left him clears
his vision so that he sees himself ns he is, damned. Hlis guilty conscience
hampers all his later efforts. lie is broken from that moment. The true
tragedy of the play is in the contemplation ,f a great mind, a spirit meant
to do great things, helplesly limited by the effects of its own sinfulness
and passion.











I'. The Romantic Play/.s
\Ve he already noticed ., tenderity I. I llImken John's character in
contrast wt ith Rich: rd'.-. 'Thoulh the lterary record of the development
is melgre. Joultle.- iich ia-, *aid and .inrlg before the motive reached
it. clIn.ix in l.'S(5 in the Robin H:ood pl.riy. of MNnday and Chettle. These
tw o plays. T'he D)n' tfall n. Rbt rt. Eairl f Hlt itii,,ton, by Munday, and
The DI)etth ,"i RyIe'lert. Earl ot II H I,,,ltin iton. I'y MIund.a and Chettle, combine
fI.,ur themes: First. the exploits o.f Robin Iood; secondly, John's strife
with Ely and plot to ec Ure te throne during 1it hard's absence; thirdly,
John'l love for Maltilda Fitzw;lter and the resulting war; finally John's
At rife with [the Brem-.e.. .A third p lay on Ki. h rd' I-l'eath is lost. The theme
of Jo.hn'- love for Matilda had: been treated in 1506 by Drayton in his
Le,'gnd f Matilda; and the clerical Epi'tl'tl in the next year contained
a letter from John to Matilda. and h.'r anuser. The former poem is a
lderoraiive ai.coint 1.3y Mbtildla If the king's ivoo'ing. and her own stead-
fastness ;and poisoning: neither o:f the ,_ hlr,(. ter has any distinct individ-
uality: they might be ai'y ho.t I-,ver and, alny ch.aute maid. John's letter
to her in the Hlc'ruricl Ep. /ll,'.1 i the u-iial love-,ick stuff, lacking colour,
urging her to yield and bring back her father and friends whom grief of
love, not hate. iha b:,aniihed. Her reply i- more vigorous. Several verbal
pFarallel; ;how" that the drlanm.ti.t knewc tlie-e two works.
The fir,- play open- with the pronoii:lrneninrt of a sentence of banish-
ment against Robert. Earl ot Huntington. on the eve of his bethrothal
feast to iMarian, dIaughter of Lacy. In spite of the machinations of John,
who loves Marian, and of Elinor, who loves the Earl, the two escape to
the woods, where they form an outlaw band. It is in the articles of the
band that Robert shall be called only Robin Hood, and his love-who
somehow has become Matilda, daughter of Fitzwalter-Maid Marian,
in token of her chaste life. To them in the greenwood come old Fitzwalter,
compelled to flee because he will not help John win his daughter, and the
Chancellor Ely, who has been driven out when John, with his mother's
help, assumes the throne. Finally when Leicester and Richmond an-
nounce Richard's return, John himself, having no other avenue of escape,
goes disguised to Sherwood, where he is recognized and magnanimously
treated by Robin and Marian. Through Robin's mediation, Richard is
brought to forgive John, the outlaws being restored to their places.
Robin Hood was one of the favorite subjects of the early drama, and
several fragments of early plays about him remain, in which, however,
he is the simple outlaw at war with the Sheriff of Nottingham, and be-
longs to no particular reign. This is true of all the old ballads likewise,
those in which he is an Earl and follower of Richard being taken appar-
ently from this play. The authors felt that they were archaizing in pre-
senting this subject and so they represented it as a rehearsal for a per-
formance before Henry VIII of a play written by Skelton and Sir John
Eltham, who act Friar Tuck and Little John. Their recognition that they
were also doing something wholly new with the subject impressed upon
them the advisability of apologizing to the audience. At the end of the







King JohnI in Fact and Fiction


fourth iat .acc':ordilugly, after Ely ha Iheeii received andl conm forted by
Rol.iin. Skelton and Sir John l ;t.:-p out ol their li;rts Inr the following
dialogue.
Lit. John. Skelton. a \o:rd o. r In:o I.,c.ide the pl.y.
Friar. Now. Sir John Eltlani. vlihat i. it you oniihl ay?
Lai. John. Methi il;,. I ee no -e.i;'( ol R.bii Hlood.
No nierry iuorri-._. ol Friar Tuik.
No ple.ianit ,kipplilln' up and downii the %woo.d.
No Uliitilt -,oi;g. no110 :onriulg oI the blh : k.
Pray God this play of ours may have good luck,
And the king's majesty mislike it not.
Friar. And if he do, what can we do to that?
I promised him a play of Robin Hood,
His honourable life in merry Sherwood.
His majesty himself surveyed the plot,
And bad me boldly write it, it was good.
For merry jests, they have been shown before,
As how the friar fell into the well
For love of Jenny, that fair bonny belle;
How Greenleaf robb'd the Shrieve of Nottingham,
And other mirthful matter full of game.
Our play expresses noble Robert's wrong;
His mild forgetting treacherous injury;
The abbot's malice, rak'd in cinders long,
Breaks out at last with Robin's tragedy.
If these, that hear the history rehears'd,
Condemn my play, when it begins to spring,
I'll let it wither, while it is a bud,
And never show the flower to the king."'

John in this play, appearing as the betrayer at once of the two popular
heroes Richard and Robin Hood, is a character of unrelieved evil. His
licentiousness is portrayed in his effort to use even her father as pander
in his pursuit of Matilda; his rude and fierce temper in his reviling of
Elinor and brutality to Ely's messenger after Marian's escape, and in
his dismissal of Warman for Ely's escape; his ruthless cruelty in the
passionate stabbing of Hugh Lacy. On the other side, his cowardliness in
the splendid scene in which Leicester comes to demand Richard's ran-
some and tells the story of his victories and Richmond proclaims the
king's return, presents dramatically the character for weakness and lack
of tenacity in the face of strong opposition, which many of the early
historians represented as his. This scene, which is the climax of the play,
gleams with the beauty of the combined dramatic imagination and crea-
tive power that amid much dross seem never wholly to have deserted the
Elizabethan playwright. It presents vividly concentrated the contrast
which forms the background of the play as Leicester gives a recital of
Richard's exploits which the audience must have thrilled to hear and
'Act IV, sc. 2.







King John i F:act and Fiction

John. so bol, in villainy agnir5t his inferiors. links off with hardly a word
S John's c(hairacter iir the ply., although so hall. i, iiiiterectirlg hbcauea it is
drawn i\ith energy ian drama tie truth to its 'conception Of lie shift of
.11Marian's pos1itlion .ad the dropping of the La-v theme wve shall speak
later.
In tlt se4Iquel to this play. thie )Deth u.(Rot. r, farlof luntinglon., Hltry
Chettle collalerated J iLt Mullay and thie cih.nge is marked in the spirit
and coip.aclnes of Lthe play. Act I i really a pl.iy Iby itlf, little and
lovely, which describes the treacherous poisoning of Robin Hood by two
men to whom he had shown the greatest generosity. Much poetry graces
it. Robin I is lhe Christian hero and gentleman. John, who after his recent
reconciliantion to Richard plays the hale-fellow-well-met, sincerely prom-
i-es thie dying Earl never more to pursue Matilda. The Act is followed by
an induction recalling John's promise to Robert and marking the passage
of time ove r Richard's death and John's establishment, closing with three
vision. In the first of these, John puts aside Ambition who is offering
him the realm of Aiistria, and holds fast England only. In the second, he
easily overthrow Constance and Arthur though they are aided by In-
surrection. led by the French king, and Hugh le Brun. The third shows
him oblivious if the appeal of the queen and their two children, starting
up in pur:iit of Mlatilda.
The play beginning with Act II is as follows:
John in spite of his betterresolutionsdetermines ton inl Matilda. Know-
inc, however, that his pursuit of her will unite the barons against him, he
decides to tak, hIotages from them. In accordance with this determina-
tion lie send& his queen, who is passionately jealous of Matilda, to Guil-
ford. to demand the younger son of Lady Bruce. Being also moved by
greed for the posse'sions of Bruce's high-minded wife, who has sent the
1qu'een a cift of "Ifour hundred white milch kine and ten like-coloured
lnls." lie Fend Hlubert after to seize her castle. She refuses to give her
,nn to the king who had murdered Arthur, but the boy is found, and they
are taken to \\indsor. John meanwhile has seized Matilda. Young Bruce
eager in her rescue Iecause he is the nephew of Fitzwalter, with the help
of his equally ardent father, succeeds in taking her, but Old Bruce is slain.
\\'hen ih hhe.-irs of her loss, John, vowing vengeance on the Bruces, orders
Lady Bruce .andl her son to be locked in a dungeon without food. Fitz-
walt'er takes the field against John. Matilda being again captured by
Hubert, persu.adi him in the name of his mercy to Arthur to let her go
to Dunumowt. Fa;illng to tempt her there through the wiles of a monk and
an abllcess, .John banishes Fitzwalter and sends Brand-the jailor of the
Bruce--to poison her. Young Bruce takes Windsor, where lie finds his
Iiomther aind brother dead. Matilda's body is brought there. The barons
moved by these things are about to summon Lewis, but are persuaded
that as -a FreInl.hmnini he can never mean them well. John after trying to
naccu.se the Bruc-s of starving themselves, is moved to true repentance
t lhen at last a.ll hope of Matilda is gone, lamenting that his executioner
hadl been Ioo quick for the mercy lie intended in each case. These arc the
esential outline.- of the story, though there are interwoven references to
:I pre\-;ous rebellir.n of the barons under Fitzwalter, and intricate political
coit plit~; tiolls.







King John in Fact and Fiction


The influence of the1L hi-tnricial plays ik 4trorng in this work.' To lin.-i
rioay he aiLtriluited the vi-ior of .XitLri. arnd Arthur and the emphai..,
a.t th I.t.rid. ':, th French anid En.lihi Ijueqtionl: the weak attempt of I.lolhn
to fa-ten lii- guilt on lBrand rcllie-t li l pai"ioni.t,: .i,.iu-:ition of llHubert
in, K';i/.l: .ir. In ti"e new rnomarnic elmentrit Jolhn'i rh albar.oinmellt to love
and MAltildi' spirited conduct -it her de.tlh follo'i tII. oi.lini. of: D)ray-
ton's Ley, iJ ..f Malild,i. To thlie-e -<.u rce~ t lie au thlior re lt ed d differently,
.aid nrie cai, trace the % ork .-of two hatind' in ithe creatiuin orf Johli's charac-
t,:r in t it itc.lon-i-; l.'tei For hi -:<.-iii in one .'.art of the plaay truly moved
to l:t:ller ilihojj-hit- ini re Ilv, d.l to r.t'irn hI Qiieen I.ljl- \I hoi-ejealohnu
abhui- olf MNatillla. together ith Matilda'' :inge:lic p alic:-iice, Itke- up a
lar..e part of tlhe pl.y-: it .-nolter only a di--enil ler a.nd inredeemaible
vill.iin. The deepei t pler-istent inrpre- blinded by thle pj. --on %..f lo.ve. The autlhior' aire ni. at ron': a- to aletlher
l. i a .1il1 of I|I)I i: l i iJ IU l ilot tlo tIroltig. -incierely dut Ula.1 a il III ly
truj.glin :is a aiin't tlhIt I'orce. or l' hither lie i- t 'horougihly bad,. in liii- in-
-tarice" only adding ,ne iimore to, lany exa liiies of riIt le- -elf-ii]dulgeti.e.
The Lacys, as we noted, disappeared after the second act of the earlier
play. Walter de Lacy2 was in fact the son-in-law of William de Breuse.
So that the relationship between Marian and theBreuses was real, though
not just that of the play. The plot was probably originally outlined in
that way. But at some time, perhaps at the beginning of the work upon
the second play, the author, or authors, conceived the idea of linking the
two stories more closely by making the Matilda Fitzwalter of the barons'
war and the Marian of the Robin Hood story one. Stow in his Survey of
London gives Fitzwalter's descent thus: Robert of Clare, to whom H1-nry
II gave Dunmow and Baynard's Castle had a son Walter who married
Matilda, daughter and co-heir of Richard de Lucy. The Robert of our
story was their son. Thus the similarity of names of Fitzwalter's mother
and the Lacys made the confusion easy; and Marian's relationship to the
Breuses, which knits the themes together so effectively, was preserved.
The story of Lady Bruce's death depends chiefly on Holinshed. Young
Bruce in the play thus describes it:
Where sits my mother, martyr'd by herself,
Hoping to save her child from martyrdom?
Where stands my brother, martyr'd by himself,
Because he would not taste his mother's blood?
For thus I gather this: my mother's teeth and chin
Are bloody with the savage cookery
Which her soft heart, through pity of her son
Respectless made her practice on herself;

My little brother's lips and chin alone
Are tainted with the blood; but his even teeth
Like orient pearl or snow-white ivory,
Have not one touch of blood, one little spot.

'Probably we should not have had the repulsive scene in which the abbess and tIh pri Ir
try to tempt Matilda, had it not been for the Troublesome Raigne.
'In the Histoire des Dues de Normandie, Hugh.






King John in Fact and Fiction


It scem'd lie did not cry.
I'ew te,:-.ar l standd o ii check. imootl ik each eye;
Ilut \\ hen he aw Illy molJthr lbent to die
Ile died with her.'
IHlinshed' tells her story thus: "We read in an old liilory of Flanders,
written by one whose name is not knLnwn. b_1t printed at Lions by Guil-
I:urne Rouille in the year 1562"-that MIatild:a had cent 1he qUeen a gift
of four kine and one bull, white except for their red cars-"To''rucling the
dea:lh of the said lady, lie saitl that within eleven day- after she was
committed to prison here in England, she was found dead, iltt ing belwixt
her son's legs up against a wall of the chamber, wherein they \i'ern: kept
with hard pittance."
From the very close resemblance of this description it seems likely that
then anonymous Flemish history was the Histoire de Dues de Normandie
elt Is Rois d'Angleterre.3 The description in the play of the torn check
and chin tempts one to believe that the dramatists also knew this work
independently of Holinshed.
Looke About You, 1600, has an earlier position in the cycle than the
Monday and Chettle plays. It takes place during the reign of Henry II
and portrays Robin Hood, Earl of Huntington, as the ward, chamberlain
and bed-fellow of Richard. Two main themes run through it; the rebel-
liion of Henry's sons under the young king, and Richard's unsuccessful
purn-it of Lady Falconbridge, with which are intermingled a great deal
of comic intrigue and farce. Richard is the hero, noble in his conduct to
his father, magnanimous to John, honestly relinquishing his designs on
Lady Falconbridge in the end. John is greedy of power, hot-tempered,
cruel, revengeful, insolent to the barons and to his father, lustful. To
Richard who tries to restrain him his conduct is particularly rude and his
tone mocking. The closing scene suggests what his conduct will be, and
how his mother will help him, when Richard is king. The play is inco-
herent, mingling true dignity in some scenes with the greatest coarseness
and impossible farce in others. The fact that John is given a rather large
part, though he helps the progress of the plot very little, demonstrates
how generally interesting his character was, and at the same time shows
how completely the villainous conception of it had triumphed in spite of
the work of Bale, and the historical plays which followed him.4
Robert Davenport's King John and Matilda, written about 1623, used
for its avowed source The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntington. It is a
more correct play than its precursor, and has far more historical accuracy,
but infinitely less of life. The play opens with the barons, with Fitzwalter
at their head, in revolt against John, "IIe being at Rome put from his
kingly office." The attack upon the Bruces is determined upon from
political motives, John's love for Matilda being only secondary. The
barons upbraid John for headstrong conduct in respect to his continental
losses, and Fitzwalter adjures him to stand by the Charter given June 17,
'Act V. sc. 2.
'Ed. London 1807, Vol. 2, p. 301.
3Edition London, 1807, Vol 2, p. 301.
'It would be tremendously interesting in this connection to have the lost Hlitorie of
Lord Faulconbridge, S. 1. Nov. 29, 1014, of which a 101G copy was seen by Malone.







King JoJhn in Fact and Fiction


1215. John y1, the advice of Hiil.,-rt -ninlits to:i Pandiulph. ai.nd the l'aronl
seeing tlltnlcl've, tra'pedi. \void send fi.,r Philip. Iut are per-uaided lby
Fitz\\ll ter Lt. unnlllliill Lewi instead. Brand. thercustodian of the liruce,,
i- made by l.)avenport entirely rep',n'ilhle f',r their murder naid John
actually lend, a messenger t .. -top hin tronI killing Matilda. though too
late. Younrig Bruce kill Brand and tine :baIons seeJohn ... truly repentant
that they unite to e,\rpe Le wis.
By ne device of the plot it i .twalter drJops a Av'l I.e which' HuIIert pirk,
ip. yand ii .e t, ei, t lrap Matilda iito .JIhrin' pi, t er: I ie of a ti(d. n under
falke pret.eniire: lihiel, ii.-i,. tlo 1 'e nri iml )[prohn.l.;,'o Ilo ha\e bleen suggested
by tIhe nlory o:r .Jlihn aind Ellt,;ii:. : VI.e--:. ife ii \W;alter of IHerninlurgh
and Ki ihtlon.
The attempt tk, rehaliilitate J:,lin', carliacr.ter Fy vh iteniling hii- pIart in
the ttor'ies of M.latild.i a ndl .:f the Brir'-es is not sircrees'ifl Davenport
does not er-ure oilr interest arid yillpathy a;l tlie fery and energetic
C'hettle and Niunday rould. ch:lietly Ibei:aine he lac-k iniagin.tive power
to create the 6gure he Iihas. <(*r:eiv'il.. .Joi-. i, .i.h-ieril.bed by young Bruce
ao eagcr in lis pal-.iorm oit love andJ a.irungr. l'i except at the end. in the
actual delineatli,.n lite never rises bley.,ind c:onriceitinrg. Thin Iligge-t pa-.ion
of which he is capatlle o:> hearing the news of the Io:," of Mlatilda in one
of the chan-ces of war is thus expressed:
"\\'hat are our ope-,.!
Like Garlands p).,n allliit ion's f',.rc:head worn,
Ki.-,cd in (lie morning and at evening torn:
and his .oliiliu'ijoy after lie ia. ordered her death speaks for itself:
".All my -hlood tlurn-l. she i- noi ,,I pas ll reov.ery.
Oh day. draw in thy light . .
Oh let no chaste maid
iRemerill'ring It-, MNtilda a,- bel-,tr:ayedl
W\itlh litter tears urse the too, r-rlel Kinc:
No .itvyr d.tanie this day. no s-aett hlird sing.
But let tile H.'. cn aniii the Sre:h-(.) l cry-
Maildi,. [lie :'lia-te maid. luust tlii day dJi."
M ajor'*' Ili- i,,',' M ai.,ri-,' I'riltani,i.'. piillishr-,I at P'ari, in 1.521. is the
first Jdo.cuinerit tI. put Rolin llood in the rein .:,f flih.-rd'-in a state-
inent liiiited by "'iut aiguror." Stow quoted him in fIll. Holinm-bed iu
hi' En l,gind referred to him ini a sin-le s.enennce:- Grafton in hi+ CIr.:,'nicl.
l.69. after giving the gist .f Mamjor. add-. "'In an old rand aucient. pam-
phlet I find this written oif the said Hol:,i:t Hood. Thii. man i-aith he)
des.C:endeJd ol'a noble puirent:l e. or :rather being iI'a la-e stoir k and lineage
was for his- iman.ili.lol and .luivalry advanced to the noile dignity of ari
Earl. But after,.ards lie .,.o pro:dignilly exteeded in charges anIl expenses
that he fell into g t iela t .... . o that by order he na. ou.,tlawed." He
a,.;s never eauSght. lint ~ a libtrayed and lbled to: death by the prieoress of
Bridl.lii:-..
( .. 1 l : ,\ t.h.]t j...r l.r,...,bl I ,.l l, .-f...r.. Id ., l,all..l .. l{ .l.in II..,...l and R i.hard .


'G r.,tr..n-- Eil.u.i L...rn-l I '.I. \ l. I, 2-'.






King John in Fict and Fiction

These so f.r aUs we know are lihe .only S.ur'ces for the nobility of Robin
Hood and the strife "i ith John. a.i they appear in the plays. The Glif uf
IR,.in ltt .. thldl of lie strife %..ill tIhe Sheiriff of Nottingham, ,of a \ visit
played by the king lii digin;u.e'i t ShcerwoJ. arid of hi. taking li:hiu
HI:ood into his favor Marian does not appear in thi or :any early liallad in
connection ith IlMbln. She seeins early to iha\ e leni ai man in lwomian'.
drc re-, ho, like Friar l'u,-k. attended tine M.,rris d.ancer. Hotuin io iI of
tihe li.ul.,d might Ie a.tt,ti.hclJ to: the king irn ho,,-e reign thie ballad ans
t\ ritll:n or to ,.- y kilg ho ipleas.c] the writ[ir.. Tihe forest law, ,:if I hllry II,
Richard and John were particularly grievous, and John is noted for
encour.lging the sheriffs to overstep even their enormous rights. Richard's
re-eltabli]hmeint on his return from the Crusade centred about Notting-
ham, from which place, according to Hovenden, who is quoted by IIolin-
shed, he rode out to visit the forest of Sherwood and Clipstone'; and the
ohicure annalist of Burton says that Richard was not at first known to be
in irprson :A the seige of Nottingham. These hints would, it seems to me,
'.e enough to confirm a version that put Robin at this period, particularly
as Ri hard was such a popular hero, and the magnanimity of the king of
tie Gest a quality peculiarly fitted to him. Moreover, when the knight
in the Gest is asked what he will do if he loses all his money:
"Hastely I wol me buske," sayd the knight,
"Over the salt see.
And se w[h]ere Criste was quyke and dede,
On the mount of Calveri."
So great was the Richard myth in later times that I believe any pilgrim-
age to the Holy Land would tend to attach itself to his reign.
Whatever the reasons, when the Elizabethan dramatists came to work
upon the theme, Robin Hood was definitely established in Richard's
reign. The prominence of Nottingham in both the historic and the ro-
mantic stories would suggest the introduction of John as a factor. An-
other factor, not so easily explained, is the title of nobility, for the reso-
lution of which the question immediately suggests itself, who was in fact
Earl of Huntington at this time? When in 1184 Simon of Huntington
died, Henry II gave the Earldom to William of Scotland, who conferred
it upon his brother David. This David having been active in his brother's
war against Henry in 1174 was for a brief period a hostage at the English
court for the fulfillment of the terms of peace. In virtue of his Earldom,
he was after 1184 active in English affairs, and was chief of the forces
besieging Nottingham on Richard's behalf when the king returned; and
one of the doubtful barons at John's accession to the throne. His wife
was Matilda, sister of Randolph, Earl of Chester. He died in the reign
of Henry III-so far history. There are also indications, tantalizingly
slight, that he was a popular hero of song and story. Hector Boece tells
a story about him that is credited and retold in detail in Holinshed's
Scotland; David, Earl of Huntington went with Richard to the Holy
Land, and took the city of Acon. On the way home lie was shipwrecked,
'The Sloane MS If.: I.s ti h T P..l.il, inhabited Sherwood or Clopton. Ritson makes
this a mistake fr I'loniplyn- nhilh .ult.-r later writers give as one of his haunts. If it be
so, the change was p.trhap' inoll'ne.l I.% the Clipstonc of Ilovenden and IIolinshed.






King John in Fact and Fiction


made a slave in Algiers. finally escaped to Venice and so to Flanders and
at last Ii..Iled at Dundee. while e he %was in jeopardy at sea he \owed a
lihurch to the Virgin if lie were s~r vcd, in rulfillnmeit .,f which vow he huilt
the church of \hile:' Cross at )undee. He ind his brother Ilien rode to
London to welcome Richard when the latter returned from th e Crusade
and captivity.' If we consider in connection with these facts the Robin
Hood legend "e find that the earliest mention to Robin Hood anywhere
is in a line I'rnim Pier.' Pl-'.,, ,i where Sloth says that lie knows "ryimes
of Robyn Hood and Randolf, Erie of Chestre." The hallad. of Randolph
Earl of Chester are lost, but Child comments on this reference. "Either
Randle, the second, earl from 1128 to 1153, or Randle the third. earl from
1181 and for fifty years, would be likely to be the sul'jett :of' hallads, but
especially the latter."2 If David Earl of HuntinLton w 'as a popular hero.
he might easily after some time become connected with ballads of Ran-
dolph Earl of Chester, whether that hero had originally been his Ilsr.,ther-
in-law or only bore the same name. And thus possibly le n would lie.ome
confused with the other and greater ballad hero, Robin Hood The HBllad
of the Noble Fisherman or Robin Hood's Prefermear'. in which Robin takes
a French ship and dedicates the treasure to the founding of house for the
poor, together with Robin's devotion to the Virgin. may le c.'inpared
with the story of David's return from the crusade. For R lberi Earl of
Huntington's betrothal to Marian we may call to mind that MNeres, in
his Palladis Tamia, called Anthony Munday "our best plotter These
suggestions are too meagre and the connections too slight to establish
anything, but they do, I think, offer an interesting glimpse at probable
explanations of Robin's development in dignity and cuaniet ion n ith tbe
court and John.


















'Stewart's metrical translation of Hector Boece L 44010 tT. Frnm the hint oif Ib;, story
Scott made David the romantic hero of his crusade novel, Tin Talisir'ri.
'Ballads. III. 40 n.
3Child III. 211.










1'. Final Developments
In 173.". ~h ln Ihere, wcre, s,:.m fears of an invai,,n by the Pretender
and .f a rt-.tration :-f Itonl.n Ca.tholicm, CllCy Cibber, thinl:il.g that
Here \%as ~ arre anything ii, the hitu.riial il1ay.; tlih. might Ietter have
engaged Sh.ikke-peare's gerniiu than "the fl'iming onti .t Ilelieenl his
in-olenl Ilioneiss aind King .John." and being ,urilri:- d that "ouir Sh:l.-,-
I'eare shouldd have taken no inor'r fire :at it." resolved to "'-nspirit his King
.John % ith a resentment that juijtly might l.,eeoiri an Engli;li ninarlh,
and to paint the intoxicated tyranny of Rome in its proper colours." He
endeavored incidentally to make Papal Tyranny more like a play than
Shakespeare's work. John is very fiery and spirited indeed and the Pope
very worldly. Pandulph in a soliloquoy admits Falconbridge's assertion
that John's submission is accepted for the sake of temporal power, John
being needed as a check against France. In the last act, Arthur's bier, fol-
lo ,ed by Constance, crosses the stage. John is brought in dying, but the
baron' grief is assuaged because he has had enough sense to ratify their
(Cha rter. Constance, hearing that he did not really murder Arthur, forgives
a n d pray s for him! Cibber's attempt is chiefly interesting because by the in-
dignation it aroused it brought Shakespeare's King John back on the stage.
Ducis produced in Paris in 1791, Jean Sans-Terre, ol La Mort D'Arthur,
Tragedie en trois actes. He explained that he made the prince perish by
his uncle's hand because in fact the perfidious and barbarous king stabbed
him himself and it was impossible to belie history in a fact so well known.
"But," he says, "I thought I ought to punish him in some way in having
his sad and terrible death announced by Hubert. I have followed Shakes-
peare in the manner of his death." Ducis had Hubert spare Arthur but a
second executioner blind him. Constance in the disguise of a Breton
woman has access to the blind boy, who recognizes her voice in a scene
meant to have been very powerfully pathetic. In the strife to which
the Bretons are roused, John (off stage) kills both Arthur and Constance.
John appears very little in the play, whose second title better describes
it. Where he does enter he is the melodramatic villain triumphant.
John was too dark a figure to do more than hover about the farthest
outskirts of Peacock's exquisite idyll of youth and the forests. He is a
bogie that casts a momentary shadow, but is happily suppressed. Scott's
portrait of him in Ivanhoe presents with animation the true historic
figure though he does not introduce the question of its being Arthur rather
than Richard himself whom John wishes to supplant, in extenuation of his
treachery. The personality, the psychology, what intimations of power
the early years gave, are there faithfully represented.
Mr. Noyes in Sherwood dramatizes once more the story of John and
Robin Hood and Matilda. Adding fairy elements, he makes it an alle-
gory of the return of the Great King, Christ, to restore the world. John
who represents the spirit of evil, does not carry conviction, because his
psychology is too puerile both in love and crime. Most of the other char-
acters have the indefiniteness to which so marked an allegorical tendency
leads. The play holds our interest rather because of the poetryby the way,
particularly in several lyrics, than because of any revelation of life or man.











Conclusion
John was a cha racter in tholm certain clearly marked external aspects
obscured the subtle Com:inplilite i. of a powerlil mind. He wv:a a military
genius and a politician of in.'ight. but al the i tiam e e ;imeaholuitly un-
controlled in his :pa.ionn ; of greed. anger. liist. He -'eenm not only to have
been ruthlessly r rel, but to have dellihted in the wanaton inillilin of
suffering. Not even the exigencie ocf hit large rurpoce could re-train the
immediate expression o.f hii temper, thiughu his hatred never Ilinded his
judgment of men. He lsiowed a sava;e joy at tlie deatli f Hulbert \\alter.
Archbishop of Canterblury. yet during hii life u.ed him Ibel.aiusc. he knew
him valuable; so likewise in thie c. -e of Stlephenl u Lanltoiti At thle time of
Magna Charta. \Vhen he ha1d abu,,rd \Willizia tlie Mlar'l.hl for letirmate
transactions with Philip and no le- legitimate protectiont. of Ithe lreises
he risked a loyalty invaluable to hiin b his urinlirnc-; in all that con-
cerned Ireland and then goaded the Marshal to desperation by his cruel
lies; and yet, when he was in the greatest need, though his eyes had seemed
blinded by hate, he knew that he could trust him, and did. The historians
saw him ravaging the country instead of facing the barons and. nut
recognizing a new and more advanced method of warfare, called it
cowardice and mere savagery. They saw him leading a life of ease, while
Philip was taking Normandy-what wonder then if they failed to under-
stand a deeply tenacious purpose beneath his apparent indifference, >in,-e
they also failed to recognize the true nature of the struggle and its real
difficulties. Under John many elements of strife that had been at work
in the reigns of his predecessors came to a head as the result of fi.rce-
largely independent of his control. His exactions were no greater than
those of Henry and Richard, but they were the last straw, and he n a-
blamed. He demanded no prerogatives in church matters that his pred-
ecessors had not had, but Innocent, reaching oLut lor inew power.. caw
John vulnerable; and John was perhaps the only iman lI his time behidel
the Pope who realized the true nature of that strife He wa; even more
bent than Richard on the Norman and Angevin in hleritnane. Ihut R i. l ".rl'
failure to recognize the importance of England in tie- stri-ggle had let
grow to unsurmountable proportions the weakness of barons interested
in both countries, a weakness which Philip was quick to use. John wa~
more oppressive to the barons only because more clever in finding nvys
of oppression. But their opportunity was given them in the other atta,.ks
upon John.
Thus it is clear that the many aspects of John's character and career
lent themselves to widely different interpretations. Historians of hii o4n nI
time whose knowledge covered only a portion of his reign, or w;ho had
not the facts of his career in all its phases-as none had-who, exer-
cised unbiased judgment, arrived at such varied estimates as are found
in Hovenden, Gervase of Canterbury, Roger of Wendover, Walter ol
Coventry. To the first of these, who hardly know him as King, he i wxea k.
cruel and self-indulgent; to the second, who knows him only as king in
England and before the barons' rebellion or the submission, he is, iin .pilte






King .John in Fact and Fiction

of the fight with Langton. a good king: Rocer of \endover. the third,
had. of these chroniclers, the truest conception. I.ut Ihoiugh he respected
Johii for his stand against the French. he did not know the facts or the
conditions clear rly., and aIpplyling the weak judgment formed of hini in that
war to donle-tic atiairs. denied Johnl the blaine and tlie credit of the
vigorouis .clhenes put into effect in England: Walter of Coventry. touch-
ing only the English side and that I rictly. sees in him a strong English
king who somehow can e to grief hy quarreling wit h his own men. These
are the conceptions of iien whose judgment is free. Even wider diver-
gencies are found in men hose interest in particular aspects of John's
reign colours their opinions. On the cihurchi side. Ralph of Coggeshall.
being a pious Cistercian and] seeing the menlbers of his order sufTer
through John. was r-ady to Ililev and set down any other villainy he
hcird of lie king. Matthen Paris. of a more vigorousi teinper. though lie
followed tlih dispassionate Roger of We\'ndover. spurred by his threefold
wrath as a churchlini n to see the church sl.oiled, as ai monk to see tlie
Pope Iriiunplianl, and a; an Englishmnan to cc the land] h,'jiiliated. gave
to every fact its most damning interpretation and to every trait its dark-
est c,,olour. The author of the Magna,,, I'ita S. HU,'l.'i.' halted John for the
sake of his hero and for hi nisell who was e ;led during the Interdic t. Gerald
of \'ales, finally. as a chilrchmnan uas a disappointed courtier, and a- a
Welshman, failing at first to understand him came in the end to hate him
most bitterly. Of Rigord and William the Breton writing as Frenchmen
the former is indifferent to John, the later sacrifices his reputation to
Philip's. For the minor chroniclers remote through distance or time what
Bale contented is true, the Interdict is the outstanding fact of the reign
to these churchmen and John will fare ill with them. Besides this, they
know of the continental losses, though not of the effort to resist them, and
of the Breuses' fate-not of any claim of Arthur's to the throne or of his
murder, generally, and not of Magna Charta as a great political docu-
ment. Since these actual facts are easier to grasp then subtle traits of
character, John will be judged wholly worthless. To this estimate will be
added the special animus of such chronicles as Margan and Dunmowe;
and a man of romantic tendency like Walter of Hemingburgh will find
newly invented stories to illustrate the evil character. Robert of Glouces-
ter, a soberly inquisitive historian, shows but one change in the estimate
of the lesser annalists; the touching fate of Arthur became universally
credited as murder and the pity of it established a belief in his just claim
to the crown.
Contemporary literature manifests the same grounds of judgment of
John as the Chronicles, but from a more world point of view. Of the
short poems two stand out, one in Provengal, by a most ardent anti-
churchman listing John for the first time as a Protestant martyr; the
other in Latin, written in England after John's death, judging him clearly
hut % ;th charity, a hymn of a united England in the very spirit of Shakes-
peare alnr st four hundred years later. William the Breton, doubtless
thinking he had done John sinfliient justice in his Chronicle, felt free to
use in the epic I'lilipphl. ~ all the falsification of story and vituperation
of char.,cter that eulogy of i is arch enemy and William's patron seemed
to reqijire. He gives the m ost evil account of Arthur's murder, the most







King Jolhn in F

evil irf the ,-ppre4i-ii'h -f the church. [lithe iiost evil ,.f lJohn' p.er nriial
cow-ardi.-e and "eaklne --. The iii.1I.d li ,.ire i. Gillini e lI Mlurchal.
w lich i- an indilC'IJen.et liLhtiri'ar-l Cestimatlt of John's- re'Ien a- well
as a -iplendid po-em, mo- Iruly Inliler.it .lii J i n'-. .aiilne-. an-I
-tr.ntgtli. anl crrr., t[lie nino4 trul v1% ii ilIhar.icter. The a iltor ki. I n.l -
e.'slnl iii thii Ieii au-iiU. hlii- Ir.'.'- -liar-. iln Johir'C- life certred i, lihe French
,triig le. %hii h \",:i the real (e_ tre of the lift. t -I.. .-i e e had ;ll [he facts
of th;ial trjggle to aid hi- intelligence: anid lbec.iuse he ,as- real po.,t.
Thie a thor o 1 I he Hi- i s tr,' ..,, Di i, .\ Irin l al dic ft e IN '.. d'. 1uI l' terre.
wvn,-t1 hm ery proFtal.I le p-.itinn i, d. Flenii-ih nierL-en:ary ives i n- Ihe key to
hi- jiudgnent. ol .l olihn .a ...I Fitz ialter .i ] tihe l.ari.to in hi ]Ji< iursive
arnd ineidoLal narrative C.-hedi nmuth ig hit .i J,.iin'. unl,..velyp Ier.,lily.
\'ith '.tily I' i. l.,rief notiti .e- *-hio' uiniL Johln a I .itpo larly accepted
villai iterrveniin r, litral.t re junip' Iro- m these e wi ,rk_ k. Itisholp liale's
Kinijg J,,hatn A Priveni;al prtet had already put Johin :.rn .iard a ai mn.ar-
tyr I.t Papil tyranny and arintlier had praised the ih-a lop v. whor to-lo by
Joh.in,. hale. x hoi w.os a dilient sti.dent of the -..ld] chronicier4, foiinid in
thlern aminple evidneiice that provei.d John froum tLhe luident's r-cently con-
%'rteed oinit of ivie t, 111 n ,\aliet.l aind hns]nely /Jele.nier t.f [trui? C(riit-.tu-
ity. Since he was right on this cardinal point, it was not unnatural to
make him quite virtuous; and not difficult when all the other events of
his reign included in the play were made details of his quarrel with Rome.
The signing of Magna Charta was nothing pertinent to that quarrel, and
the events following it showed John's submission in a light very discredit-
able to a single-minded defender of Protestantism, so Bale omitted it.
Both of the historians who studied old sources at this time were in-
fluenced by Bale's interpretation, more especially Holinshed. He saw
John's reign in its entirety in a way not possible to any of the contempo-
raries and strove to comprehend the personality behind the seemingly
contradictory manifestations. Viewing the quarrel with Romet nuch a-
Bale had viewed it, he did not blind himself however to John'% faijlt- of.
temper and of policy. With Roger of Wendover, he saw that the French
War was the central effort of John's career, but with a larger field of
vision he realized the real impediments to success. In this his 4-pirit i- at
one with that of the author of the Histoire de Guillaume le Mar& hal. St ow
taking a more romantic view of history, accepts the story of Mlatildn
Fitzwalter, andwith it the most unfavorable estimate of John's chara. ter
in all that pertains to the story of Arthur and to the barons' war.
The two plays of the Troublesome Raigne of King John follow Holin-hed
in outline and Bale in spirit. Treating John's reign from his :ncer.-ion to
his death, they emphasize unduly the importance of political nn itil e- ~ul
Rome's part in the church quarrel, while making John's mot iL e- ill purely
religious; and of this quarrel in determining other events. The cour-e of
events is greatly contracted as is necessary to a play and sonw i,- a I altered
in sequence. The only invention is the finding of Arthur's l. .dv. n which is
a good dramatic way of representing beliefs important in their intlut-i,-e
upon later events. Magna Charta, even if Bale had not set the example
of omitting it, had no place in this piece. It marked no distinct tpoch in
John's career, events went on after it, after a brief respite, in a ,cnt in iiuos
train with those before. The great fault of this play is that the autihor-






Kiing John in Fiact anti Fiction


vere .Ir. id of hiltori y .ii I rove:t ,a ii. k.ie.i e-c- l .l i,'ll- i:liir i<.t r ic:.ii] ::.
they air( Irile, iltI.-ll t I.-ii.g .ill I ti, rel.ite I llhern I t.lh. pIl:t. Tor makl e llhteli
di.r,til.tic:,lly deI e-nrll.
ShiakeC pea'ir le .rotel tI h-i-c pl.,y. iiito .1 -inle i .I i,'y ili in- ,'li lla,-: of
n:tion except llthat hl Wlore n:otl m :.int.ii .J hn'in, h i-'i. [ li i t ,- I,-: tlirorn,.
and that l 1 iii:-' thli< su- lii l o.n iOilnt.ily ]l r Ie -lS it'[ S lie ut p a-.i
r.Oijipll t't.ly. I,' '. polit iI..I e hinii. ,;i i on thl Flnn-clih \,ir, iil -. ith :nl 1
entirely dilffeirelt ilihil.-l.-,,i y lh t- ri .ili I- iii H olillle l., It,? 'ain il l;e
it e gl i d i and : i l i i 1 n .' oiill- < :I'I i L' i. r t.'r .la llu ]ly iiin. i :l ntl o tlhe
n .c ii- n. \\'ilth t e.- l .ilnc: I-l trill..li(. .l;ri I f i.l, :I lill! i i tea l the i li or I .,f l.- I .'
|IOeif n -i t h l .i k ii :ng l' Ir I.iCi lntI i. t : I l(::ii ih n iI, I' li ran' lic r ,.:tr .l a
snl.lhli.r ltril, ili I iotin i.iy ii I II rliii. (C\l-irrnall l t iil, ,:l'.lo l n'; ,'l.r-
:ile.i ind. ni t. i lII ,i \ l.t ;ri-e.i l it [ l i,". ii. tn :I M!a h :lly vi. m ,m In h l i ile
piiiipo e l 0l l Iii, lile ;itIil Ihe ri it.l '. l e dl i t ii l'l .i l .
T'1h .i ii.ll r-,l I til rulin n li ri- 1 .1 I' ll,-, I ,,.l) lhI o hi.er ]ii :Ii i .ll:- tr;uli-
lihin T'heir fit iir( i. thie' .1olill V I,., rb.i! t,; b ijr[i rt, i,:, ai-r '- Ihroli t..iL ,,l
1ii11 i l l ily i iu .l l i-.t il ,. uII ll l h' o Ln a i li i IIi Ii l I- i. ii.n, i i- : i l l l.
1f;11111 (Li..1C:.1 i.1111c -( tIfli'ne m n tllohtls oli s Ill modelil .. IasfCIor.Ic
M inliy's. did ii !lol t .i\ e Johl n a; Inii l l illi til l, i iin St .lel..bia .-- It li. re -li, e lie
ir,.: ,.l i-.l I r Ii. li l. y illt. .Inii h.:. r 'rei' ied ,a \.Ciy i ..r.l.ill ] iiott i l hi .llr'
fro.!ll hi: l ('hi el l Ic i- n ii l hi .ei .1' tlt r- I i.-n l iplf \ /, '. ath ...f c ..A rt ,
rF trl 'f l-I ; .11 ,,i, elin n! Ilt'el lie I le l ler tr.il I i, 1.4l't it -till. ra nin Iih.-
.illy tnii,. 1 lic e it va ; l i e: i ri -. Im rl .it ini cr lirilt urI..
ieii-.iiui- y I l i i!\ elilt iyrllill lyl joliIh -ll.iTr iri Ihe R iili H o:i .l or .,
n.iri tlie V tiA lt\ ,f M .i li' J' Fit .\.ii a ..r Pid M said M .iriapln. The toilliln,: :oi
the rlufil se ~OTV et .nt 1iil :i : .oil:'li t i.ll '. ,l[I tlhe lornier tlhev Iillitl r(..il1,
to haliIn .. L ". .. 1: i }. i ..lt i.v l:I .s :. i hn w..iii it knllo n .om iie to.
lo ,i11 a hit I d oc.: n ii t e N o p]ro i .e I ill I]o -. .uci l ,.- iea i- I, ns ,Ter ile
.Io t"ml ]i:t onily I, \ii:- s Per il- t \l wa t litho',ul : lnd till e n .-.r
-olil Itrail. : i ( il i li. (Il'lt iri' :d dii, \'I i l lo 'I I-iIrell. s.tand t Jn if nt o a,
liO le .ire ili\erlit ik :i tuLi lly ,ppoli,-l y lln.Illy lr I, ,i'e I-:- 1Di[ofrl,
i.oo in.- Tl,, lhD h .f r1 4...I.. .- in 11- l'n ; J ,ul, ,I,/ M atl,,i u ed to i, k.:'
up in l ii-tori.: trlitl of .lil I :lor h lit t it. I. .'ket ill dlr. n-.i ti, : l ,, .l'r. If.I
enlrilr2-. _s to 4:o:i r-:1 -- Ille fine human touches of his model, as, for ex-
'r1ml,. tihe in lI. l1 LI.ay Bruce's boy in the basket, and weakens the
.tr.l-natii ..i: illi:. l, y I'-,'ning those results of guilty emotions which his
pred.,'eor-, "are -inot :ilr,-iid to face squarely. And he cannot create the
|..,ii,-\,,,,v'd .lieII nj Ie ingIlines.
Coflly C'ill.er ii, Pal'il 'yranny, having never apparently heard of
Blh'." pIlay. >:i..,: ,on.dl, ,,a time when current events suggested it, to
mial. I.l' ike-pr.,i,'- ItJ, J ,ohn a better Protestant play. The Pope
tllio'lI i lit .:ne lil.ey lI'ndi u is nccet de a thorough villain steeped in
lpoliti. Tl', eiildai- of tIle love story of Lewis and Blanche completes
t ile-i 1-r ln lion I,, Ih po'.. r of thie original. Ducis in Jean Sans-Terre,
I',ttin_ -nit ver.(r llIi liiut .Arthur's struggle with John and fall, invents
horrid ;aldili,,in- to the .Ilr,.ady dreadful story, and turns John into a
1:0o: pl<,,?i? pi.t i l-hi riller vill:in.
'I l,:. a- L,:,e l',"-c,:,, 1; iLn.dc tlhe story of Robert and M arian Fitzwal-
ter Ihi o enl.i, ,l ,, li,-,ly rl.,turc idyll in which John, whose character is
hni-ever Iarely l>o. lihd on. is accepted as the villain of the Downrfall of
l,,'i,.'-rt. i',imr! ".'" 1 /,, in ",t LAt about the same time Scott in Iranhoc, in







King, Johl in Fact and Fiction

which Rolin IHood als ,-,ppeared as the old blIilladl outlaw. wa.- m,.king
an1 ecntirely independent -tud.y ,of Jlhn. and creating of ll the literary
pricseltatiob. hly fir thli moincl hiitoriiallyk .iiX:urate personality. Mr. Al-
fred Noyi.- in .Sh, rn ll allegorized tlie R[.lin Hood-Mlarian-King .John
part. f the ChelI hr.nd .Minmlay plays. Kin .John is as thoroughly neak,
cruel and vicinusl in conception na ia Ithe iurie ihf i pop.iula r story and history
today. Imlu in performance is not convininig. This i h, last of Ih1I series
Of fictional po'rtraiits of John "hlich end in conct-ptions so wide apart yet
no one ot nl hiilih is pure invelnion: all of u which have developed Iozirally
from c:-onlt'mpiorarry historical cstiniates of a complex and diffliult charac:-
ter, and find tirst tenlativc exprei.>ion in ..'utemp.orary literature.




University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs