The Fair of Lin­coln

This year is the 800th an­niver­sary of a bat­tle that changed the course of English his­tory. Some of its events can still be lo­cated in the streets of Lin­coln, as John Goodall ex­plains

Country Life Every Week - - A Walking Life - Pho­to­graphs by Paul High­nam

IN the early hours of Oc­to­ber 18, 1216, as a great storm blew por­ten­tously, King John died at Ne­wark Cas­tle. He left Eng­land in chaos. The po­lit­i­cal cri­sis that had forced him to en­dorse Magna Carta two years pre­vi­ously had ma­tured into full­blown civil war. It was pros­e­cuted on both sides with men and re­sources from the Con­ti­nent. John him­self had called on the ser­vices of mer­ce­nar­ies from Flan­ders and placed the king­dom un­der the pro­tec­tion of the Pa­pacy. In­deed, from May 1216, a Le­gate, Guala, had per­son­ally rep­re­sented the Pope in Eng­land. He worked en­er­get­i­cally in John’s sup­port and ex­com­mu­ni­cated his op­po­nents.

Mean­while, the rebel barons of­fered the crown of Eng­land to the son of the French king, Prince Louis. The Prince’s army, car­ried on the same wind that brought Guala, landed in a fleet of 800 ships at Thanet on May 21, 1216. Louis’s cause ini­tially en­joyed enor­mous suc­cess and, within two weeks, he had se­cured Can­ter­bury, Rochester and Lon­don. Winch­ester, the se­cond city of the king­dom, fell soon af­ter­wards.

His chief prob­lem was to man­age the ten­sions be­tween his English fol­low­ers, who ex­pected sup­port in their ex­ist­ing in­ter­ests, and his French fol­low­ers, for whom the ex­pe­di­tion was an ad­ven­ture with rich po­ten­tial prizes.

When King John died, his son and heir—a po­lit­i­cally in­of­fen­sive nine-year-old boy—was im­me­di­ately

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