Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Monday, April 19, 2010

King John of England. Our 24th Great Grandfather (Williamson Line)

King John, our 24th Great Grandfather on the Williamson Line, through
Margaret Ann Willis, wife of George Matthew Williamson

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

A Royal Dispatch!
Tonight, after much searching I'd like to introduce you to our 24th Great Grandfather (for my generation).

You’ve heard the tales of Robin Hood. You know that Robin Hood’s enemy was King John of England. King John was King of England from April 6, 1199 until his death. He was the younger brother of King Richard I. He was the youngest of five sons of King Henry II and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine.

During his lifetime John acquired two epithets. One was "Lackland" because, as his father's youngest son, he did not inherit land out of his family's holdings, and because as King he lost significant territory to France. The other was "Softsword" signifying his supposed lack of prowess in battle. Not much of a warrior I guess.

Of course he is best know for his signature on the Magna Carta (think back to your history class). Our 24th Great Grandfather signed the document that first limited the power of English Kings. It was the one of the earliest steps in the evolution of limited government

The Magna Carta not only changed England, but also affected us today. America’s constitution is based off the idea of the Magna Carta. Each clause protects the right of the English people. The U.S constitution is made up of amendments to give legal rights to the people of America. The people today would not have those rights, without the idea of the Magna Carta; a document to be signed for the people
John's family life was tumultuous, as his older brothers all became involved in rebellions against his father, King Henry. His mother, Eleanor, was imprisoned by Henry in 1173, when John was about five years old.

Not the Nicest Man
Before his accession, John had already acquired a reputation for treachery, having conspired sometimes with and sometimes against his elder brothers, Henry, Richard and Geoffrey. In 1184, John and Richard both claimed that they were the rightful heir to Aquitaine, one of many unfriendly encounters between the two. In 1185, John became the ruler of Ireland, whose people grew to despise him, causing John to leave after only eight months.

During Richard's absence on the Third Crusade from 1190 to 1194, John attempted to overthrow William Longchamp, his father's Prime Minister so to speak, and the Bishop of Ely and Richard's designated justice. This was one of the events that inspired later writers to cast John as the villain in their reworking of the legend of Robin Hood.

In October 1191 the leading citizens of London opened the gates to him. John promised the city the right to govern itself as a commune in return for recognition as his father's heir. While returning from the Crusade, Richard was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, and handed over to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who held him for ransom. Meanwhile, John had joined forces with Philip Augustus, King of France, and they sent a letter to Henry asking him to keep Richard away from England for as long as possible, offering payment to keep Richard imprisoned. Henry declined their offer, and once Richard's ransom was paid by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (who had to pawn the Crown Jewels of England to do so), he was set free.

Of course John threw himself on the mercy of his father and pleaded for forgiveness from Richard, who granted it and named him heir to the throne.

So, there you have it. You've got royal blood in those Williamson veins! Now walk a bit taller tomorrow on your way to work but don't get too carried away. Asking your coworkers and friends to kiss your ring would be a bit 'over the top'.


King John's Tomb