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History Illustrations: King John’s Broken Coronet

King John's disastrous reign

The last illustration in my book Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John is a broken coronet, signifying the disaster of King John’s reign.
broken coronetThe book tells the story of the Lord of Gower, William de Braose, who was a close companion of King John.  Then he fell out of favour and the way he was treated by the king was the final straw that led to Magna Carta.
John was never meant to be King. He had three older brothers who all died before him and he did away with his nephew, the only other contender for the throne. It was this fact that the Lady of Gower revealed which turned John against them.
Experts now think that John may have been autistic or bipolar which would go a long way to explain his strange behaviour and sudden rages. During John’s reign he lost almost all his lands in France, earning him the nickname Lackland.
King John in Richard's shadowAt the end of his life he was taken ill with dysentery (made worse by eating peaches in new cider) and was crossing the Wash in Lincolnshire. Because the baggage train was slow moving he sent them straight across, since the tide was out, while he made the longer journey around the edge. Unfortunately the tide came in and the whole baggage train was lost. So he ended up not only Lackland but lack everything!
When he died the next day his servants left him and stole his clothes and bedding and whatever loot they could carry. It was left to William Marshal, appointed regent to John’s son Henry, to see that his body was treated with some dignity.
You can read more about King John in my previous posts King John Research and Fascinating Facts about King John.

Head shot Ann Marie ThomasAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Intruders, Alien Secrets, and Crisis of Conscience are out now. Follow her at