King John Loses Crown Jewels


History on 12th October

King John Loses Crown Jewels

Wisbech, Cambridgeshire The 12th of October 1216 AD

The idea of King John losing the crown jewels in The Wash may now prompt the question what cycle was he using, but for him it was not amusing. Wealth meant power. It is probable the disaster was a factor in his death less than a week later at Newark .
King John was on thin ice. He was at war with the barons, alienated by his loss of Normandy, high taxation, and frequent seduction of noblewomen at court. The Pope was his enemy. Louis of France had (at the invitation of the barons) invaded the South of England, taken Rochester and besieged Dover . London was no longer in the King’s hands. Some of his senior supporters had defected to Prince Louis. In the North the young Alexander II of Scotland had invaded the previous year, and though stung by John’s brutal reaction – Berwick inevitably bearing the brunt – remained a threat.
Moving his forces away from danger in the South, John at Bishop’s (now King’s) Lynn faced the barrier of The Wash . He either decided to take the longer route around its edge or was able to ford a river that shortened his journey; but the lumbering baggage train had a longer route across the mudflats (possibly near Wisbech , though Long Sutton, Tydd Gote and Fosdyke are also candidates).
There was evidently a miscalculation, as the wagons or pack-horses sent across at low tide were swept away when the waters rushed back in. John was devastated at his losses – it is not actually certain his crown and regalia were among them, but his jewellery, plate and other valuables were. He fell ill with dysentery, and on October 19 with his spirit broken he died.

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