King John, the Barons and the Magna Carta
King John was not very popular. His brother King Richard I was a great warrior, but he had spent a lot of the country’s money on fighting the crusades against the Islamic Empire and was hardly ever in England. While Richard was doing this John tried to become King; he wasn’t being very nice to his brother but no one else was running the country. King Richard came back and sorted things out but then died leaving John as King (for real this time!). John had three big problems;
1) He had no money and had to raise taxes a lot.
2) He had to fight a war against France and lost the lands of Normandy to them.
3) Everyone hated him because he was horrible (except perhaps his wife)!
The Lords were really fed up with him and things that were going wrong in England; they didn’t like being bossed around by someone who wasn’t very good at anything. So they got together and decided to make King John sign a contract giving them more rights; if he didn’t sign it they were going to kill him.
In 1215, King John looked at his options, death or signing the contract, and decided that death was not the best choice. The Lords wrote the contract, calling it the Magna Carta (Great Charter) and made it sound like King John was being a nice, good guy by giving his people more rights and that he really wanted to do it!