In 1215, King John of England, having met with rebellious barons who objected to what they perceived as his abuse of his powers as their feudal lord and who had confronted him with armed force to demand that he sign a charter guaranteeing them various rights and limiting the authority of the crown over the feudal aristocracy and the church, arranged for the barons to be set upon and slain at the meeting at which the King was supposed to have signed the charter.
Magna CarterThe result was disaster. Already at the point of civil war, England exploded as news of the barons' slaughter by the king, with Prince Louis of France offering aid to the rebel forces. In May 1216, as England descended into anarchy, Louis's forces landed unopposed in Kent and marched for London.
John desperately struggled to marshal forces to fight off the revolutionaries and their French allies, but ironically his slaying of the barons at Runnymede had wiped out too much of the feudal authority structure under which levies could have been called forth in his name, and alienated the remainder. Adding to his troubles, in September 1216, while at the port town of King's Lynn, John developed persistent dysentery. On October 18 of that year, he would die of the disease.
A new story by Eric LippsThe barons' charter would disappear into the mists of history. Prince Louis, already in line to become King Louis VIII of France, would be crowned Louis I of England in March of 1217, inaugurating a century of renewed French domination of the British Isles which would be marked by frequent outbreaks of rebellion. Finally, in 1347, Louis IV, the last French king of England, would be dethroned by rebels. His attempt to regain his English possessions would be cut short gruesomely by the arrival, in 1348, of the Black Death, which would rage until the 1360s and kill an estimated one-quarter of the entire population of Europe.
Ironically, it would be that horror which would revive interest in a charter of rights in England. The shortage of manpower after the mass death meant that laborers were in a better position than previously to press for improved conditions, while the aristocracy wanted legal protection against the looting of their estates by the king, which had happened repeatedly as a monarchy impoverished by disease, famine and disorder among its subjects sought to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. In May of 1366, a conference of nobles, military officers and representatives of the newly powerful craft guilds presented a charter of rights to King Edward III, who reluctantly signed it. He had no alternative. The delegation had come with an army at its back; there would be no repetition of the massacre at Runnymede.