After one of England's great heroes in the person of Richard the Lionheart, this time we cover one of its most famous villains - Bad King John. He's often reputed to be England's worst king - cowardly, incompetent and evil! - but is this bad reputation deserved? He certainly loses lots of territory and is morally questionable on more than one occasion, but he came to the throne in difficult circumstances in 1199 and also has some successes. With his place in history assured by signing the Magna Carta (however reluctantly), could he produce a shock result or will he remain a failure in the eyes of history?
In 1189, one of England's legendary kings takes the throne. Richard I (nicknamed the Lionheart for his courage in battle) has become an English folk hero, most famously in the story of Robin Hood, but he spent surprisingly little time in England. For Richard, the supreme priority was taking back Jerusalem from the great Muslim leader Saladin in the Third Crusade. As if this was not challenging enough, Phillip II of France starts to encroach on his continental Angevin territories and his younger brother John seeks to move against him. Richard is fortunate to have the unfailing support of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, but when we pass our judgement will his performance stand up to the legend?
Stephen's death in 1154 puts an end to the civil war, and with the accession of Henry II England enjoys something of a change in fortune. Henry is one of the great characters of the medieval period and the first of the Angevins (or the Plantagenets) and oversees a large empire as well as making significant improvements to the English legal system. However, his reign is not without its challenges. His conflict with his Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, scandalises the age while his rebellious sons prove to be a constant thorn in his side. As if this were not enough, his sons are encouraged by Henry's estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most remarkable figures of the period and a stand-out personality in English history. Will Henry II be up to the task?