The messed up truth of King John

If you've seen Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, you may have come away thinking that King John wasn't such an awful guy. After all, as noted by George Washington University Law School's Burns Brief blog, John's reign gave rise to the Robin Hood legend, and any ruler who had the magical Alan Rickman as their Sheriff of Nottingham can't be all bad, right? Well, sometimes the truth hurts. And for all you King John apologists out there, the truth will cut your heart out like a spoon.

Indecency, dissent, and dysentery

John Gillingham, described by the CBC as "one of the great historians of medieval England," was quoted as saying, "King John was a sh*t." A notorious extortionist who married a child when he was 33, John was the loathed brother of the beloved King Richard the Lionhearted. History remembers Richard as "a superstar," per the BBC, whereas historian WL Warren writes that "by comparison with Richard, then, John has been seen as a weedy little tick."

John ticked off his brother so much that Richard banned him from England for three years. When Richard went off to wage the Third Crusade, he allowed his lousy brother to return, whereupon John plotted to usurp the throne. Toward the end of his life, Richard again forgave John and gave him the kingdom he once tried to steal. John took the reins in 1199 and apparently did his darnedest to be every bit as likable as Joffrey Baratheon. He held the sons Welsh rebels hostage and hanged them. He imprisoned and starved a family to death. According to the BBC, John also had "a reputation" for violating the wives and daughters of nobles.

In addition to ignoble acts, John taxed the crap out of people. He was such an unbearable despot that Pope Innocent III excommunicated him, causing all hell to break loose. Civil war ensued, and soon the king's pissed-off subjects drafted the Magna Carta to try to check the king's powers. Ultimately, John was checkmated by dysentery, a violent diarrhea that can end in death. It was a fitting end for a crappy king.