John was born on Christmas Eve, the youngest son of Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. As a child, John tended to be overshadowed by is older brother Richard. Like his father, John developed a reputation for violent rages which lead to him foaming at the mouth. Henry left no land to John when he died so John was given the nick-name John Lackland. In 1189, all of Henry's territory went to his oldest son, Richard I, better known as Richard the Lionheart.
In 1191, Richard left England to embark on the Third Crusade. He left John in charge of the country. John's reputation as a leader had been severely dented as far back as 1185 when Henry II sent him to Ireland to rule. John proved to be a disaster and within six months he was sent home.
In 1192, Richard was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria as he returned from the Crusades. John tried to seize the crown from his brother but failed. In 1194, when Richard finally returned to England, John was forgiven by his brother.
In 1199, Richard was killed in France and John became the king of England. His reign started in an unfortunate way. In 1202, John's nephew, Arthur of Brittany, was murdered. Many in Brittany believed that John was responsible for his murder and they rebelled against John. In 1204, John's army was defeated in Brittany and John had no choice but to retreat. His military standing among the nobles fell and he was given a new nickname - John Softsword. The defeat in north France was a major blow for John and a costly one. To pay for the defeat, John increased taxes which was not popular with anybody other than John and his treasurers.
John also succeeded in falling out with the pope in 1207. John quarreled with the pope over who should be Archbishop of Canterbury. The pope...