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King John married Isabella of Gloucester

Updated: Mar 1

On This Day In History 29 August 1189

On 28 September 1176, King Henry II betrothed Isabella to his youngest son, John Lackland.

John & Isabella were half-second cousins as great-grandchildren of Henry I, & thus within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity

But in the marriage agreement, the King agreed to find the best husband possible for Isabella should the Pope refuse to grant a dispensation for the marriage. Henry also declared Isabella the sole heir to Gloucester, disinheriting her two sisters.

On 29 August 1189, John & Isabella were married at Marlborough Castle in Wiltshire, & John assumed the Earldom of Gloucester in her right. Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the marriage null by reason of consanguinity & placed their lands under interdict. The interdict was lifted by Pope Clement III. The Pope granted a dispensation to marry but forbade the couple from having sexual relations.

Shortly after John acceded to the throne in 1199, & before the end of August, he obtained an annulment of the marriage. The annulment was granted on the grounds of consanguinity, by the bishops of Lisieux, Bayeux, & Avranches, sitting in Normandy. John, however, kept her lands, & Isabella did not contest the annulment

About King John;

John was born on 24 December 1166, he was also known as John Lackland.

He was King of England from 1199 until his death in 1216. John lost the Duchy of Normandy & most of his other French lands to King Philip II of France, resulting in the collapse of the Angevin Empire & contributing to the subsequent growth in power of the French Capetian dynasty during the 13th century. The baronial revolt at the end of John's reign led to the sealing of Magna Carta, a document sometimes considered an early step in the evolution of the constitution of the United Kingdom.

John, the youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England & Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine, was at first not expected to inherit significant lands. Following the failed rebellion of his elder brothers between 1173 & 1174, however, John became Henry's favourite child. He was appointed the Lord of Ireland in 1177 & given lands in England & on the continent.

British Library [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

John's elder brothers William, Henry & Geoffrey died young; by the time Richard I became king in 1189, John was a potential heir to the throne. John unsuccessfully attempted a rebellion against Richard's royal administrators whilst his brother was participating in the Third Crusade. Despite this, after Richard died in 1199, John was proclaimed King of England, & came to an agreement with Philip II of France to recognise John's possession of the continental Angevin lands at the peace treaty of Le Goulet in 1200.

War with France broke out again in 1202, & John achieved some early victories, but shortages of military resources & his treatment of Norman, Breton, & Anjou nobles resulted in the collapse of his empire in northern France in 1204. John the majority of the next decade attempting to regain these lands, raising huge revenues, reforming his armed forces & rebuilding continental alliances. John's judicial reforms had a lasting impact on the English common law system, as well as providing an additional source of revenue. An argument with Pope Innocent III led to John's excommunication in 1209, a dispute finally settled by the king in 1213. John's attempt to defeat Philip in 1214 failed due to the French victory over John's allies at the battle of Bouvines.

By Anonymous ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
King John granting the Magna Carta - after a painting by Ernest Normand - from Cassell's History of England, Vol. I

When he returned to England, John faced a rebellion by many of his barons, who were unhappy with his fiscal policies & his treatment of many of England's most powerful nobles. Although both John and the barons agreed to the Magna Carta peace treaty in 1215, neither side complied with its conditions. Civil war broke out shortly afterwards, with the barons aided by Louis of France. It soon descended into a stalemate. John died of dysentery contracted whilst on campaign in eastern England during late 1216; supporters of his son Henry III went on to achieve victory over Louis and the rebel barons the following year.

The kings negative qualities provided extensive material for fiction writers in the Victorian era, & John remains a recurring character within Western popular culture, primarily as a villain in films & stories depicting the Robin Hood legends.

John had five legitimate children, all by Isabella. His eldest son, Henry III, ruled as King of England for the majority of the 13th century. Richard became a noted European leader and ultimately the King of the Romans in the Holy Roman Empire. Joan became Queen of Scotland on her marriage to Alexander II. Isabella was Holy Roman Empress as the wife of Frederick II. His youngest daughter, Eleanor, married William Marshal's son, also called William,

John had various mistresses. By them he had eight, possibly nine, sons, Richard, Oliver, John, Geoffrey, Henry, Osbert Gifford, Eudes, Bartholomew & probably Philip, & two or three daughters, Joan, Maud & probably Isabel. Of these, Joan became the most famous, marrying Prince Llywelyn the Great of Wales.

By Greenshed at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
King John's tomb at Worcester Cathedral

About Isabella;

Isabella, Countess of Gloucester (c. 1173 – 14 October 1217), was an English noblewoman who was married to King John prior to his accession.

Isabella was the daughter of William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester, & his wife Hawise. Her paternal grandfather, Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, was the illegitimate son of King Henry I. Her father died in 1183, at which time she became Countess of Gloucester suo jure.

Isabel later married Geoffrey FitzGeoffrey de Mandeville, 2nd Earl of Essex, on 20 January 1214. He died in 1216. A year after Essex's demise, she married Hubert de Burgh (later Earl of Kent), later the justiciar of England, in September 1217. Isabella died just a month after her third marriage, probably at Keynsham Abbey in Somerset, which was founded by her father, and was interred in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum [CC BY-SA 2.0  (], via Wikimedia Commons
King John penny


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