It’s 800 years since King John was forced to sign Magna Carta by the barons of England. The British Library has an exhibition on until September where you can see an original version of Magna Carta and learn about the surrounding history. I thoroughly recommend.
As I’ve blogged previously, King John was no enemy of the Knights Templar. Quite the contrary. He regarded the Templar preceptories as safe bolt-holes to head for when he was in trouble – which was quite often. This of course contradicts other fictional accounts of the king’s relations with the Templars – in particular the glaringly inaccurate movie Ironclad.
Reading about King John and the events leading up to his capitulation to the barons, you get the image of a man running between the Tower of London to the east of the capital and then over to the Templars in Holborn, to the west. While with the Templars he was advised by them on how to handle a precarious situation having fallen out with both the English aristocracy and the pope, who had excommunicated the hapless monarch.
In 1213, King John had his excommunication limited in return for a gold Mark – which he borrowed from the Templars. In early 1215, his fraught negotiations with the barons were largely conducted from the Temple in London. He spent Easter there and then in May, granted the City of London the right to freely elect its own mayor. Unfortunately, any goodwill this may have accrued from the citizenry was cancelled out when the barons seized the city.
In June, he agreed to sign Magna Carta. Just to look a bit grander for the occasion, he borrowed the imperial regalia of this grandmother the Empress Matilda – which the Templars had under lock and key in the preceptory. With Brother Aymeric, the English grand master of the Templars, King John then went and signed the historic document at Runnymede.