Today I learned a lot about the kings of England in the Middle Ages and the Magna Carta.
The first king I learned about was William the Conqueror. At the time when William the Conqueror was king, the English barons did not mistreat the common people because William the Conqueror did not let that happen. But once William the Conqueror died, the kings after him were weak and did not stop the barons from mistreating the common people. After William the Conqueror died, the common people had to do whatever the English barons wanted them to do. If they didn’t do it they would be punished or even put to death.
This happened until 1154 when another strong king called King Henry II saw how miserable the common people were. He told the barons that they must tear down the castles they built without permission. If they refused the King would lead an army against the barons. Doing things like this the king was telling the barons that he, not the barons, was in charge of the common people.
Another thing the new king did was change the judging system. Before this was changed their were two ways the judging took place. One of the ways was called, “by ordeal.” What that means is that if you’re an accused person you would be forced to hold a piece of hot iron in your hand or put your hand into boiling water. If your hand healed quickly, that means that God provided your innocence, and you were not punished. If your wounds were not healed quickly, you were considered guilty. Crazy!
Another way was called “trial by combat” or battle. The two people were armed and made to fight each other. It was believed that God would give victory only to the one that was right. What the judges were doing was judging unfairly.
The new way the king changed this was called “trial by jury.” Trial by jury was a new way of judging that for the first time meant that someone could have a fair trail.
King Richard the first replaced King Henry II when he died. King Richard spent most of his time away from England and did little to help his people. When he returned from the third Crusade, King Richard was killed by an arrow while attacking a castle in France. King Richard was then replaced by King John.
King John was one of the worst kings England ever had. He was lazy and mistreated the people and only cared about himself. Shortly after he became king, he realized that the people didn’t like him and he became worried. He feared that the people would replace him with his little nephew. So the king locked his nephew in a tower. The king then told someone to take hot irons and burn the king’s nephew’s eyes. But when the person saw how small and scared the king’s nephew was, he refused to do this. Eventually the king found someone else to put his nephew to death. This shows how mean the kings could get by mistreating people.
The people had enough. They finally decided that they would make King John sign the Magna Carta or they fight with the king. The people were very excited once the king signed the Magna Carta. This now meant that the king could not throw people in prison perhaps for years without giving people a change to prove their innocence. This meant that the king could not make the people pay him money unless without consent of the nobles and bishops. This is very important document because it meant the king had to obey the law. You can learn more about the Magna Carta here.
You can also learn more about the kings of England and the Middle Ages here.