Civil War & Invasion

King Richard I, the Lionheart, died in 1199 from an injury sustained while besieging a castle, on his deathbed he designated William Marshall who was in Normandy at the time, as the custodian of Rouen and the Royal Treasury. With no legitimate heir, the choice of King was between his brother, Geoffrey’s son Arthur, Duke of Brittany, and Richard’s youngest brother, Prince John.

William Marshall and many English and Norman barons preferred John, against Arthur, who was 12 years old and was influenced by King Philip of France. King John I, ‘John Lackland’, took the throne on 6th April 1199, the youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

In 1202, John mounted a rescue of his mother who was besieged at Mirebeau by Arthur. He captured Arthur and it is rumoured that he had him murdered.
William Marshall and John friendship ended when William paid homage to King Philip of France, for his lands in Normandy, he was estranged from King John’s court, until he was summoned back in 1213, when John had been falling out with many of the barons and earls. William Marshall remained loyal to King John during the First Baron’s War which ended with John being forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in June 1215.

In signing the Magna Carta, John was forced to hand back the custody of Rochester castle to Stephen Langton archbishop of Canterbury, and the rebel barons set troops to occupy the castle. On 11th October 1215 when John marched from Dover to London, he found that Rochester in his way and began besieging the castle. The rebels expected reinforcements from London to arrive but John sent fire ships to burn their route in, also set about burning Rochester Bridge, but Robert Fitzwalter held out. Conscious of the weakness of his position Fitzwalter sought to negotiate and received a ‘safe conduct’, for a conference in London on 9th November, but nothing came of it and the beleaguered garrison at Rochester were forced to surrender the next day. On 16th December 1215 the barons including Robert Fitzwalter were excommunicated and sought refuge in France. Rochester castle did not stay in King John’s hands for long as it was captured by French Prince Louis in 1216,

King John had engaged the services of Eustace, the younger son of Baudoin Busket, a Lord of the county of Boulogne. Eustace had been a Benedictine monk at St. Samer Abbey, near Calais, whom it was said had studied black magic, later he turned his hand to becoming a pirate mercenary with the command of nearly thirty ships. The services of which King John and called upon between the years of 1205 to 1212, now and again, for raiding the Normandy coast. Eustace the Monk had bases in the Channel Islands which he taken. King John had a falling out and outlawed Eustace the pirate Monk, when he stated raiding the English coastal villages, but afterwards issued a pardon when he needed his services. In 1212 John fell out a final time with Eustace, and John sent English troops to seize Eustace’s Channel Islands bases. So Eustace, switched sides and raided Folkestone. When civil war broke out in England in 1215 Eustace supported the rebel barons and ferried Prince Louis of France across the channel to help them in 1216.

Louis of France aim was the seizing of the key to conquering England, Dover castle, but the castle’s constable Hubert de Burgh, had his castle ready to be defended. On 19th July 1216 the siege began with Louis taking the high ground to the north of the castle, After three months had past besieging the castle, and with a large part of his forces diverted by the siege, Louis called a truce on 14th October 1216 and returned to London.

Folkestone was King John’s headquarters for twelve days in May 1216, when Louis of France came across the channel with six hundred and eighty ships, his army landing unopposed on the Isle of Thanet on 21st May 1216. John took fight for Winchester as he saw the fleet approaching, leaving the Folkestone to its fate. On 14th June 1216, Louis captured Winchester, but John had already left. Louis had control over half of the English kingdom, but on the death of King John in Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire on 18th October 1216 many of the rebellious barons deserted Louis, for John’s nine year old son, Henry III.

In August 1217, while ferrying reinforcements for Louis, Eustace met with the English Fleet sailing out of Dover under command of Hubert de Burgh, which resulted in the ensuing ‘Battle of Dover’. Eustace seemed to be winning the battle, until the English blinded the French with powered lime, and boarded Eustace’s ships and defeated his men. Eustace escarped in his ship, but was surrounded on 24th August 1217 in the ‘Battle of Sandwich’, Eustace was found hiding in the ship’s bilges and was beheaded.
Louis started a second siege of Dover Castle when Louis landed at Sandwich and marched to Dover where he began his second siege on 12 May 1217 However the new siege diverted much of Louis forced that William Marshal was able to attack and defeat pro-Louis barons at Lincoln Castle a few days later on 20th May after which Louis gave up his claim to the English throne.
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