King John and Religion

June 2015
7 line illustrations
269 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in the History of Medieval Religion
ISBN: 9781783270293
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, HIS015000, REL033000

King John and Religion

Paul Webster

A study of the personal religion of King John, presenting a more complex picture of his actions and attitude.
King John has been perceived as one of England's most notorious monarchs. Medieval writers and later historians condemn him as a tyrant, seeing his long-running dispute with the church as evidence of a king who showed little regard for his faith. This book takes issue with orthodox opinion, arguing that in matters of religion, the critique obscures the evidence for a ruler who realized that outward manifestations of faith were an important part of kingship. It demonstrates that John maintained chapels and chaplains, prayed at shrines of the saints, kept his own collection of holy relics, endowed masses, founded and supported religious houses, and fed the poor - providing for his soul and emphasising his aura of authority. In these areas, he ranks alongside many other medieval rulers.
The book also presents a major reassessment of the king's dispute with the church, when England was subject to a general interdict, and the king was excommunicate, the severest sanctions the medieval church could impose. It reveals the lasting damage to the king's reputation, but also shows how royal religious activity continued whilst king and pope were at loggerheads. Furthermore, despite his vilification since his death, there were those prepared to honour John's memory, during the medieval period and beyond.

Dr Paul Webster is a Teaching Associate at Cardiff University, in the Cardiff School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

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Table of Contents

The Mass
The Saints
Powerhouses of Prayer
Charity and Almsgiving
Religion, Politics, and Reputation: The Interdict and King John's Excommunication
Peace with the Pope: Diplomacy, Personal Religion, and Civil War
King John's Deathbed and Beyond


When one digs deeper the caricature of John the Monster dissolves into a much more nuanced picture of John the human. HISTORY

This is an excellent book. It makes an important contribution to a dynamic field of research and is both scholarly and accessible. Happily, the book is also well written and readable, and is to be thoroughly recommended. NOTTINGHAM MEDIEVAL STUDIES

Will indeed prove useful to those studying the Angevin kings. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Webster's thorough, judicious, and carefully argued study does a fine job of looking past the intensely negative spin of John's contemporaries and showing us a man who, whatever his unknowable internal beliefs may have been, conformed far more closely than previously appreciated to the expected religious practices of his day. PARERGON

Webster's book is likely to be the definitive work on King John's religion or irreligion for many years. His bibliography testifies to his knowledge of both primary and secondary sources, and his impressive notes refer to every charitable act of John. Anyone working on aspects of John's relations with the church will turn first to this book. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

Never before has the evidence for John's relationship with the church and religion been so comprehensively mined, and the case for his defence so extensively put. SEHEPUNKTE

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