Young Folks' History of England HTML version

13. John, Lackland, A.D. 1199—1216
As a kind of joke, John, King Henry's youngest son, had been called Lackland,
because he had nothing when his brothers each had some great dukedom.
The name suited him only too well before the end of his life. The English
made him king at once. They always did take a grown-up man for their king,
if the last king's son was but a child. Richard had never had any children, but
his brother Geoffrey, who was older than John, had left a son named Arthur,
who was about twelve years old, and who was rightly the Duke of Normandy
and Count of Anjou. King Philip, who was always glad to vex whoever was
king of England, took Arthur under his protection, and promised to get
Normandy out of John's hands. However, John had a meeting with him and
persuaded him to desert Arthur, and marry his son Louis to John's own niece,
Blanche, who had a chance of being queen of part of Spain. Still Arthur lived
at the French King's court, and when he was sixteen years old, Philip helped
him to raise an army and go to try his fortune against his uncle. He laid siege
to Mirabeau, a town where his grandmother, Queen Eleanor, was living. John,
who was then in Normandy, hurried to her rescue, beat Arthur's army, made
him prisoner and carried him off, first to Rouen, and then to the strong castle
of Falaise. Nobody quite knows what was done to him there. The governor,
Hubert de Burgh, once found him fighting hard, though with no weapon but a
stool, to defend himself from some ruffians who had been sent to put out his
eyes. Hubert saved him from these men, but shortly after this good man was
sent elsewhere by the king, and John came himself to Falaise. Arthur was
never seen alive again, and it is believed that John took him out in a boat in
the river at night, stabbed him with his own hand, and threw his body into
the river. There was, any way, no doubt that John was guilty of his nephew's
death, and he was fully known to be one of the most selfish and cruel men
who ever lived; and so lazy, that he let Philip take Normandy from him,
without stirring a finger to save the grand old dukedom of his forefathers; so
that nothing is left of it to us now but the four little islands, Guernsey, Jersey,
Alderney, and Sark.
Matters became much worse in England, when he quarreled with the Pope,
whose name was Innocent, about who should be archbishop of Canterbury.
The Pope wanted a man named Stephen Langton to be archbishop, but the
king swore he should never come into the kingdom. Then the Pope punished
the kingdom, by forbidding all church services in all parish churches. The was
termed putting the kingdom under an interdict. John was not much distressed
by this, though his people were; but when he found that Innocent was
stirring up the King of France to come to attack him, he thought it time to
make his peace with the Pope. So he not only consented to receive Stephen
Langton, but he even knelt down before the Pope's legate, or messenger, and
took off his crown, giving it up to the legate, in token that he only held the
kingdom from the Pope. It was two or three days before it was given back to