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‘Throughout his reign John’s overriding objective was to rule his inheritance in peace:

to be able to ride, like his father, from the Cheviots to the Pyrenees, wearing his crown

in undisputed majesty, receiving the homage of his vassals, doing justice. ‘Greatest of

earthly princes’, Richard fitzNigel had called Henry II. His father’s position appeared to

John not so much a challenge as a birthright…. From the moment he [John] began to

rule, rivals and traitors conspired to cheat him of his inheritance. His reaction was a

display of ruthless determination: anyone who impeded him ruling as his father had

done was his enemy, be he baron, king of France, or pope; but as he wrestled with one,

more foes sprang upon his back…. It could have been an epic struggle, but the story is

marred by flaws in the character of the protagonist’.