Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chevauchee - King John's Medieval Winter Campaign

The pressures and problems which led to the signing of Magna Carta were years in the making. England had already been heavily taxed under Richard 1st, with both the Saladin tithe to pay for the 3rd crusade and then the money needed to pay the ransom when Richard was captured on his way home from Palestine.

King John (grandson of Matilda) carried on using the tax system ( as it then was) to pay for expensive failures such as occurred at the Battle of Bouvines. However, with the First Barons War open hostility broke out in England. Leaving half his army under William Longsword to subdue the south he set off with the remaining army to confront the rebellion in the North of England.

His progress was swift and by 8 January he had reached Durham and then on hearing that Alexander II of Scotland has set Newcastle alight he burned and destroyed Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Reading the accounts from these times it is evident that this was an expedition to raise money as well as destroying the opposition. John was known for employing mercenaries and some of the stories of brutality are shocking. However, did this actually bring any long term benefits? It is debatable as some of his enemies simply fled over the border into Scotland. In the south the City of London held firm against him and in quick succession Magna Carta was signed, John died and Louis of France who was seen as a potential replacement saw his support die after the Battle of Lincoln.

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