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King John

King John 1166 - 1216

The infamous ‘bad’ King John, villain of every Robin Hood tale is most famous for sealing Magna Carta which some historians regard as the first step towards England’s constitutional monarchy.

As the fourth surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, John was never expected to become king and was destined for a career in the Church. With so many older brothers there was nothing left for him to inherit and he was given the rather humiliating epithet ‘Lackland’.

John’s early years were overshadowed by conflicts between his father and his older brothers and between his parents. Following the death of his older and much more popular brother, Richard the Lionheart. John became king in 1199. He was an unpopular monarch and the time of his death he had lost the majority of his lands in France and the English barons were in open rebellion against him.

King John seems to have been fond of Worcester and spent Christmas here in 1214. He stipulated in his Will that he wanted to be buried in Worcester Cathedral, between the shrines of St Wulfstan and St Oswald. The original Will (the oldest remaining royal will in England) is still kept in the Cathedral Library and can be seen by appointment.

King John is buried in a place of honour in front of the high altar. His tomb features the Plantaganet badge of 3 lions (or strictly leopards!), and has the oldest royal effigy in England. John’s son, Henry III visited his father’s tomb in and became an important benefactor of the Cathedral.