Dr Paul Webster
‘The Military Orders at the Court of King John’
King John was frequently at odds with the church, and so it might be expected that the military religious orders kept their distance from the royal court. Yet this was not the case. The military orders, in particular the knights of the Temple, played a key role in support of the king during some of the most significant crises of the reign, for example the interdict and its resolution, and the negotiations that led up to the agreement of Magna Carta. This article argues that members of the Military Orders were clearly amongst King John’s closest confidants. This was surely a two-way arrangement: they must have had enough faith in John to continue to serve him, and have reckoned that the benefits of royal protection and support outweighed the lack of major benefactions received in return.
Paul Webster, ‘The Military Orders at the Court of King John’, in The Military Orders. Volume 5: Politics and Power, ed. by Peter W. Edbury (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2012), pp. 209-18.
‘Crown, Cathedral, and Conflict: King John and Canterbury’
Whilst the seminal religious events of the reign of King John – the disputed election of Stephen Langton, the papal interdict, and the excommunication of the king – are well known, this article explores two other important aspects of John’s relationship with Canterbury. First, it considers Canterbury Cathedral as a centre of royal pilgrimage between John’s accession in 1199 and the death of Archbishop Hubert Walter in 1205. In this period, devotion to the saints was an important aspect of royal religious practice, and it is argued that John venerated the cults at Canterbury, St Edmunds, and perhaps Westminster, in combination. Royal patronage of the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury calls into question the view (first put forward by J.C. Russell) that this so-called ‘anti-royal’ cult was an obstacle to royal devotion. After brief consideration of the influence on John of Archbishop Hubert Walter, the paper then addresses its second main theme, that of the relationship between the king and the Canterbury Cathedral monks in the years 1205 to 1213. The history of this period is usually considered in terms of the struggle between King John and Pope Innocent III over the election of Stephen Langton as archbishop. The papal victory tends to obscure an important question: how was John able to justify the standpoint he took? Here, the behaviour of the cathedral community was the crucial factor in shaping the king’s reaction. John came to believe that the Canterbury monks had deceived him, and as a result he treated the monks as traitors. Evidence for this can be found in sources directly relevant to the dispute, and also in the wider corpus of contemporary narrative accounts. These works, more traditionally seen as creating the prevailing image of John as an irreligious tyrant, are briefly discussed.
Paul Webster, ‘Crown, Cathedral, and Conflict: King John and Canterbury’, in Cathedrals, Communities and Conflict in the Anglo-Norman World, ed. by Paul Dalton, Charles Insley, and Louise J. Wilkinson (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2011), pp. 203-19.
‘King John and Rouen: Royal itineration, kingship, and the Norman ‘capital’, c.1199-c.1204’
King John is alleged to have treated his inauguration as duke of Normandy in 1199 with irreverence, and to have been unconcerned with the duchy he would go on to lose in 1204. The article questions this image, using the royal itinerary to show the importance of Normandy as the hub of John’s inheritance. Rouen, Normandy’s ‘capital’, was of particular importance: the single location where the king was most frequently to be found. The article explores John’s interaction with Rouen’s merchants and citizens to reveal the dynamics of Angevin government, the roles officials might be required to fulfil, and the potential risks and rewards of royal service. Meanwhile, the king sought to strengthen his bond with the city through largesse to its churches, in particular Rouen Cathedral. This is likely to have promoted the goodwill of churchmen and citizens, and demonstrates the interrelationship between Angevin government and royal piety.
Paul Webster, ‘King John and Rouen: Royal itineration, kingship, and the Norman ‘capital’, c.1199-c.1204’, Cardiff Historical Papers, 2008/3,
A revised version will appear in Society and Culture in a Medieval City: Rouen 989-1300, ed. by Elma H.O. Brenner and Leonie V. Hicks (Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming)