Year 7

King John and the causes of Magna Carta

I can explain why many consider John to be the model of a bad king.

Year 7

King John and the causes of Magna Carta

I can explain why many consider John to be the model of a bad king.

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Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. Many consider John to be the model of a bad king with a reputation for untrustworthiness and greed.
  2. King John raised unpopular taxes which caused anger amongst the English barons.
  3. King John had a reputation for avoiding battle and was known as 'Softsword'.
  4. King John was said to have killed his nephew.
  5. King John lost a third of his lands, including his family’s ancestral homelands.

Common misconception

King John only ruled England.

King John inherited the Angevin Empire which stretched across England and France.


  • Crusade - a crusade is a military mission against a group considered by the Pope to be an enemy of the Church

  • Tax - tax is a compulsory payment to the government to cover various costs

  • Scutage - scutage was a tax paid by the barons when they were unable to send enough knights to fight for the king

  • Tallage - tallage was a tax charged by Norman and Angevin kings on their lands and towns

  • Ancestral - ancestral means relating to members of your family from the past

The depictions of King John in the stories of Robin Hood are a popular example of John’s reputation for untrustworthiness and greed. Ask students to compare the legend with the historical narrative.
Teacher tip

Content guidance

  • Contains conflict or violence.


Adult supervision suggested.


This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).



6 Questions

Which definition best describes what a baron is?
Correct answer: a great lord or landholder in the kingdom
a ruler of the kingdom
a skilled farmer tied to the land
a traveling minstrel and storyteller
What is a "succession crisis"?
a failed attempt to conquer a neighbouring kingdom
a period of extreme weather conditions and crop failures
Correct answer: a situation in which there is no clear heir to the throne
Which definition best describes what an empire is?
Correct answer: a group of countries ruled from the centre by one person or a group
a powerful group of knights sworn to protect the king
a religious organisation headed by the Pope
Write the missing word. A __________ is a military mission against a group considered by the Pope to be an enemy of the Church.
Correct Answer: crusade, Crusade
Write the missing word. The __________ is the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Correct Answer: Pope, pope, papacy
Which term best describes an early Norman fortress used to station troops?
Concentric castle
Moat and Billy fortress
Correct answer: Motte and Bailey castle

6 Questions

What did King John have a reputation for being?
a charismatic and fearless leader
a wise and just ruler
Correct answer: an untrustworthy and greedy ruler
Which two countries did King John's empire stretch across?
Correct answer: England
Correct answer: France
Why were the scutage and tallage taxes resented by the barons?
because the amount was fixed and not likely to change
Correct answer: because the amount was not fixed and caused heavy taxation
because they were too low and didn't contribute to the defence of the realm
Why were many barons angry with King John after he agreed to give up some of his French lands?
they believed it was a wise diplomatic decision
Correct answer: they held land in France and had paid taxes to raise his army
they thought John was being too aggressive in France
they were pleased with the reduced tax burden
What did King John do when he and his soldiers captured Arthur of Brittany?
held him for ransom
Correct answer: imprisoned him
released him without any conditions
How much land had King John lost by 1204?
one ninth
one sixth
Correct answer: one third

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