John was the youngest son of Henry II, he was also his favourite but he had not been entrusted with any lands and was mockingly nicknamed John Lackland.
John’s cruelty are just too many to number or list. In the first place, he was treacherous: when his older brother, Richard the Lionheart, was on crusade, John tried to seize the throne by conniving with the king of France, Philip Augustus.
He unsuccessfully tried to take power while his brother Richard I was away fighting and was sent into exile upon Richard’s return prompting many to label him as “a mad-headed youth” and “nature’s enemy”.
He was also lecherous: several nobles are reported to have taken up arms against him because he had forced himself on their wives and daughters.
John was shockingly cruel. In a chivalrous age, when aristocrats spared their enemies, capturing them rather than killing them, John preferred to do away with people by grisly means.
On one occasion, for example, he ordered 22 captive knights to be taken to Corfe Castle in Dorset and starved to death. Another time he starved to death the wife and son of his former friend, William de Briouze. In 1203 he arranged the murder of his own nephew and rival for power, Arthur of Brittany
On his accession John had his own nephew Arthur murdered, fearing Arthur might pursue his own, much better, claim to the throne, and he embarked on a disastrous war with King Philippe-Auguste of France in which he lost the whole of Normandy.
His act of incompetence deprived the barons of an important part of their power base, and he alienated them further with arbitrary demands for money and even by forcing himself on their wives.
Out of option, they forced him to accept Magna Carta; no sooner had he sealed it, however, than he then turned back on his word and plunged the country into a maelstrom of war and French invasion