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On this day, 800 years ago, October 19, 1216 King John of England dies at Newark-on-Trent and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry III. King John has gone down in English history as one of England’s ineffective kings. Jim Bradbury, British historian specializing in the military history of the Middle Ages, states that the current consensus among historians was that John was a “hard-working administrator, an able man, an able general”, albeit,  with “distasteful, even dangerous personality traits”, including pettiness, spitefulness and cruelty.”

His cause of death at the age of 49 after a reign plagued with numerous battles was dysentery. A condition highly curable today but often fatal in the Middle Ages. Shortly after his death rumors began circulating that he had been killed by poisoned ale, poisoned plums or a “surfeit of peaches”.His body was buried in Worcester Cathedral in front of the altar of St Wulfstan.  A new sarcophagus with an effigy was made for him  in 1232 in which his remains now rest.

An interesting factoid is that during the reign of King John the title of the monarch officially changed from “King of the English” to “King of England.” The standard title for all monarchs from Æthelstan (924-927) until the time of King John was Rex Anglorum (King of the English). Canute II the Great, King of Denmark, was the first king to call himself “King of England”. In the Norman period Rex Anglorum (King of the English) remained standard, with occasional use of Rex Anglie (King of England).  From the time of King John onward all other titles were eschewed in favor of Rex or Regina Anglie .(King of England).

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