John, King of England - John As King - Personal Life

Personal Life

John's personal life impacted heavily on his reign. Contemporary chroniclers state that John was sinfully lustful and lacking in piety. It was common for kings and nobles of the period to keep mistresses, but chroniclers complained that John's mistresses were married noblewomen, which was considered unacceptable. John had at least five children with mistresses during his first marriage to Isabelle of Gloucester, and two of those mistresses are known to have been noblewomen. John's behaviour after his second marriage to Isabella of Angoulême is less clear, however. None of John's known illegitimate children were born after he remarried, and there is no actual documentary proof of adultery after that point, although John certainly had female friends amongst the court throughout the period. The specific accusations made against John during the baronial revolts are now generally considered to have been invented for the purposes of justifying the revolt; nonetheless, most of John's contemporaries seem to have held a poor opinion of his sexual behaviour.

The character of John's relationship with his second wife, Isabella of Angoulême, is unclear. John married Isabella whilst she was relatively young – her exact date of birth is uncertain, and estimates place her between at most 15 and more probably towards nine years old at the time of her marriage. Even by the standards of the time, Isabella was married whilst very young. John did not provide a great deal of money for his wife's household and did not pass on much of the revenue from her lands, to the extent that historian Nicholas Vincent has described him as being "downright mean" towards Isabella. Vincent concluded that the marriage was not a particularly "amicable" one. Other aspects of their marriage suggest a closer, more positive relationship. Chroniclers recorded that John had a "mad infatuation" with Isabella, and certainly John had conjugal relationships with Isabella between at least 1207 and 1215; they had five children. In contrast to Vincent, historian William Chester Jordan concludes that the pair were a "companionable couple" who had a successful marriage by the standards of the day.

John's lack of religious conviction has been noted by contemporary chroniclers and later historians, with some suspecting that John was at best impious, or even atheistic, a very serious issue at the time. Contemporary chroniclers catalogued his various anti-religious habits at length, including his failure to take communion, his blasphemous remarks, and his witty but scandalous jokes about church doctrine, including jokes about the implausibility of the Resurrection. They commented on the paucity of John's charitable donations to the church. Historian Frank McLynn argues that John's early years at Fontevrault, combined with his relatively advanced education, may have turned him against the church. Other historians have been more cautious in interpreting this material, noting that chroniclers also reported John's personal interest in the life of St Wulfstan of Worcester and his friendships with several senior clerics, most especially with Hugh of Lincoln, who was later declared a saint. Financial records show a normal royal household engaged in the usual feasts and pious observances – albeit with many records showing John's offerings to the poor to atone for routinely breaking church rules and guidance.

Read more about this topic:  John, King Of England, John As King

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