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 Post subject: The Phony King of England
PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 11:53 am 
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I re-watched Robin Hood not so long ago. It was a movie I very much loved as a child but I hadn't seen it as an adult leaving a gap of around 20 or so years.

I wanted to talk about the villain in "Robin Hood" - Prince John described as "The Phony King of England". The real Prince John does of course feature as a key character in most of the Robin Hood stories (it is said that the character we know as "Robin Hood" was actually an accumulation of various stories, characters and events told by the lower classes of Medieval England). He is labelled the bad guy for good reason - he was never to be the King that England wanted. He famously lost the lands held by England in France which later resulted in the "Hundred Years War" where Robin Hood's weapon of choice - the longbow, would become infamous.

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From 1066 onwards into the medieval period, the English monarchs were effectively French. Their heritage was a result of the Noman Invasion when William the Conqueror famously defeated Harrold at the Battle of Hastings. From that point on most of the nobility in England was instantly uprooted and Norman Lords were put in their place. By the time you get to John's time (born 1166), French was still the dominant language for anyone of worth and English was the language of the poor and general workers. Medieval society is very much split into 3 main categories - those who fight (the noble classes), those who prey (the church which incidentally is the richest part of society) and those who work (everyone else). Those who pray spiritually protect those who fight, while those who fight protect and uphold the rules of chivalry by doing so protect and fulfil the wishes of those who prey. Those who work keep the country functioning on a day to day basis with no true rights or protection - this society creates a true "us and them" mentality and there is no wonder the regular working class of England disliked their Norman rulers especially as they didn't even bother speaking the same language.

Going back to the Robin Hood tails with the facts in mind it becomes apparent why an underdog (or fox) story would make such great folklawe to the English working classes. Tails of an outlaw besting a noble, being a thorn in the side to a king and giving charitably to those in need. In some versions the character is actually a noble who has either been removed from power or abandoned his wealth to lead a simple off the grid lifestyle, disgusted by the way his peers treat the poor, he becomes their hero.

John was the King who, following the Baron Uprising in 1214 (a result of the France issue) was forced to sign the Magna-Carta in 1215 (801 years ago) - a document that would lay the very foundation of our modern justice system. A massive step forward but also a complete failure. John ripped up the first copy within days and then personally hunted every Baron down who was involved. Once they had surrendered to John he had them dispatched in true gory Medieval fashion. John's tyrannical reign came to an end in 1216 after his Baron's declared war on him and while on campaign he died from dysentery and was succeeded by Ricchard III.

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However despite all of this in the various Robin Hood tails John does in my opinion receive a rather undeserved reputation when compared to his older brother and King; Richard the Lion Heart. I'm talking about taxes.

Richard who was born in Oxford, England became King in 1189. He was nicknamed the "Lion Heart" due to his bravery and ferocity in battle and like the Kings before him, and as previously mentioned, his primary language was French. He is documented as truly disliking having to speak English and rarely did - only when he truly had to. Further to this he barely ever set foot in England and spent most of his reign either in France or fighting in the Holy Wars aka the Crusades. This lifestyle and war comes at a significant price - a price that the English had to pay for. While the stories suggest that John was taxing the poor to starvation for his own greed, the reality of it was that he was placed in charge of raising the funds that Richard required to continue on his holy quest. The population of England was paying for something that they received nothing back for and to make matters worse, in 1192 Richard was captured. Back then war was worth money and the nobility never expected to die, instead a ransom of more than twice the annual revenue of England was issued for Richard's release - the people of England were taxed once again and in 1192 that ransom was finally paid.

In reality John did try to seize the throne from Richard which is where our hero steps in, loyal to Richard all the way. In the stories Richard returns triumphantly and put's John back in his place, apparently unbeknown to the good people of England, it was Richard all a long who had forced their taxes to rise. Richard died just 2 years later but not before naming John as his heir.

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Last edited by Acanis on Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Phony King of England
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:59 pm 
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It's a good analysis, Acanis, but remember the details of history versus romantic or adventurous literature and, most especially, modern movies, are two very, very different things. Which I know you're aware of, of course.


(Also, it's worth pointing out that, whenever you write a long essay, it's good to break it up with an occasional illustration, whether yours or someone else's...and of relevance. I was thrown that suggestion early on when I was posting in the forum for The Secret of NIMH Source. I guess younger readers have a tough time with sifting through pure prose, and need visual points to refocus their easily-distracted minds. I know, I know...I generally react the way I suspect you would upon hearing that: Image But better that than seeing someone throw out the very discourteous and rude "tl/dr", or else just ignore the post altogether, while the post fades into obscurity. Right?)







Well anyhoo, if I may offer a few thoughts after having read through your post:


Most people tend to look at historical and literary figures (and those in movies and television shows) through a very selective and rose-colored lens. Either they love them for the popular imagery, or they hate them for it. They almost never take the time to consider the facts behind the real living, breathing people often represented (usually with a great deal of dramatic or poetic license) in entertainment media.


In the Disney Robin Hood movie (and other Robin Hood movies and in literature), King Richard is presented as a brave, stalwart and heroic figure. How often people forget, or refuse to even see, that the man was capable of manipulating, scheming and treachery. This bio paints things in a more accurate light:





As to his younger brother, John Lackland ("King John"), this was also a man of many facets, and both good and bad qualities. But he is certainly considered to have been one of the worst kings that England ever had:










So little is documented, beyond a reasonable doubt, as to the "dark ages" period of the British Isles, from the departure of the Roman forces through the beginnings of the medieval period, that many British citizens (as well as many French citizens) seem to forget that a lot of their ancestral blood comes very easily as much from the Scandinavians as it does from the Germans...rather than just the ancient Britons, Irish and Picts. Even the Normans weren't actually French in the ancient Gallic sense, but were originally invaders from Scandinavia:





Those same Normans were not all that dissimilar, in terms of their origins, to the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes who had consistently invaded, pillaged and raped the Britons when they set their eyes upon the British isles during the dark ages:













Technically, the best we can interpret out of history is that, given the plethora of incursions and invasions by the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples during the dark ages, and even the relentless invasion and conquering of the Roman Empire before those times is that, by the middle ages, the people of the British isles were a hodge podge of various ethnicities: Roman (and certain other subjugated peoples who served in the Roman forces while occupying the British isles, including the horse peoples of the near-Asian steppes), Scandinavians (mostly from the regions now identified as Norway, Sweden and Denmark...the so-called "Vikings", "Norsemen"--later "Normans", Saxons, Jutes and Angles), and then the tribal peoples who had lived on the islands long before those centuries of incursions, occupations and slaughter: the Celts (which would include the various Britons, the Irish/Scots, and the Welsh) and the Picts who, as I understand it, were not considered Celts for some strange reason.


And then, in spite of all that rich and varied history, and the efforts to present it and have a passion for it (as you and I do), it is an unfortunate reality that most people who visit Animation Source probably don't even care, and wouldn't bother to look into it. A shame, really.

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 Post subject: Re: The Phony King of England
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:18 am 
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I always thought Prince John was a spoiled brat. He was his father's favorite in the history book.


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 Post subject: Re: The Phony King of England
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:23 am 
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I have edited the original post to include pictures for people as suggested.

I purposely chose to forgo speaking of the ancestry of each populous prior to 1066 simply because I didn't feel it that relevant to the immediate history around the Robin Hood story. Of course every society tends to be a mix of people descending from who ever conquered them last but how far back do we want to go? Africa seems the common theory of where the Human race originated. This was purely about Prince John (and Richard) as a comparison between the historical figure and the Robin Hood story.

If I thought people would be interested I had intended to write a piece about Robin's longbow. I'm not sure how well received it would be though

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