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27 Jul

First Barons’ War (1215 – 1217)

Illustration of John of England

John of England

The First Barons’ War was fought between King John of England and the rebellious barons from 1215 until his death in 1216. John’s extravagant and luxurious life, and unsuccessful foreign policy made him very unpopular. He tried to recapture the English territories on the Continent that were captured by Philip II of France and allied himself with Otto IV of Brunswick, a pretender to the Imperial throne. They were decisively defeated by the French in the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 and John lost all English possessions on the Continent except for Aquitaine.

John’s authority fell to its lowest point and when he asked for more money the barons rebelled and forced him to sign the Great Charter (Magna Carta) that greatly limited the monarchical power and established the basis for common law in 1215. John tried to evade the Charter’s provisions shortly after signing it which provoked the outbreak of a civil war known as the First Barons’ War. The rebellious barons offered the English crown to Prince Louis of France who landed in Kent to assist the rebels in 1216. The barons switched sides and attacked Louis after John’s death in 1216 and reissue of the Magna Carta by the regent of John’s successor Henry III, William Marshal. The fighting lasted for about a year resulting in the defeat of Louis of France who gave up his claims to the English throne in 1217.

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