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King John had indulged in precisely that sort of unjust behaviour, and his subjects had called him to account for it.This is how the “bad king” ended up leaving us something so good.With his capital held against him, the king was forced to negotiate, and obliged to make concessions when he met his critics the following month at Runnymede.Such is the general background that led to Magna Carta, a charge-sheet aimed squarely at King John and his many acts of misgovernment.John, true to form, shied away from battle when challenged by French forces, and his allies in the north were defeated in a decisive clash with Philip Augustus.

• What is the Magna Carta, and why is it important? What we now celebrate is the famous sentiment in the middle of the charter, which declares that a free man shall not be imprisoned, exiled, deprived of his property or otherwise destroyed simply because it is the king’s will.

Is it the case, some historians have asked, that we have King John all wrong?

That he was actually not as bad as legend makes out? ” John was one of the worst kings – arguably the worst king – ever to sit on England’s throne.

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The lands of the Church were seized, and the Jews were imprisoned and tortured until they agreed to pay up.

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