From 1213 to 1214, John seemed to have got his problems more under control, and had built an alliance that looked to be capable of taking on Philip. There was trouble in the background caused by the tyranny of his rule and relationship with his barons, but his reconciliation with the Papacy and his international alliance held it at bay. But his hopes died on the field of Bouvines.
Reconciliation with Rome
In 1213 John was worried; he had discovered a plot led by Robert FitzWalter and Eustace de Vesci, and had to delay his attack on Wales tyo deal with it; there was a religious madman going around saying John would not live out the year, and the rumours were that the Pope was going to declare him deposed.
So he met the Papal legate. And not only did he agree to take Stephen Langton as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he agreed to pay back 100,000 marks to the church, and to pay homage to the Pope for his lands – so England was now a papal fief. He was also later to take the cross. All of this gave John the ethusiastic support both to allow him to build an anti-French coalition, and in the coming struggle against the barons.
John was truly incompetent where it really mattered – in managing his barons. All he wanted was to rule like his father and brother, but he was incapable of building trust with his barons. Here's brief list of why so many barons had grown to hate John's rule:
- he kept trying to drag them off into wars they didn't care about in France
- he taxed them mercilessly – 11 scutages for example
- He was predatory – he charged high 'reliefs' (the charge to take over your inheritance) , he fined them at the drop of a hat (you had to pay to marry who you wanted to, you had to grease the king's palm to get his 'goodwill')
- He didn't trust the barons – he surrounded himself with foreign household knights rather than relying on the magnates for advice
Bouvines and the campaign of 1214
John invaded Poitou in south west France and did well – but in Anjou his Poitevin barons would go no further, and not attack the king of France; John was forced to retreat back to the coast.
Meanwhile on July 27th, Phillip Augustus with 15,000 men was facing the allied army in northern France at Bouvines. The allied army was in the order of 25,000 men, though the French were probably stronger in cavalry.
The traditional 3 battles of the allies were held by Renaud of Boulogne on the right, Otto in the centre, and Count Ferrand of Flanders on the allied left. Against them Philip unfurled the oriflamme, the symbol of the French king at war.
The battle started with a confused struggle of Cavalry, but on the allied left, the Flemings were defeated and put to flight, and Ferrand captured. In the centre the best infantry of Europe, the Brabanters, were pushing the French centre back. Philip counter attacked with his cavalry, only to be met by Otto and his cavalry, and in the melee Phillip himself was unhorsed. The situation was saved for France by the returning cavalry from the right wing; it was now Otto’s turn to be unhorsed, and he was barely able to escape with a few attendants to run back to Germany. The battle wasn’t over; Renaud of Boulogne organised a stand of 700 Pikemen, in the organisation that would cause the English so many problems at Bannockburn. From behind the group he and a group of knights made continuous cavalry charges, while the French cavalry were unable to break the screen of defending mercenaries. Eventually, 3,000 men at arms simply overwhelmed, and Renaud and the king’s bastard son William of Salisbury were captured
John signed a 5 year truce with Phillip, and in October 1214 returned to England to face rebellion and the road to Runnymede.