Representations of King John

Timeline: King John – on screen, in plays and in print


1851 – A Child’s History of England (Volume 1)  – England from the Ancient Times, to the death of King John (A total of three volumes were published between 1851 to 1853, one per year with each being released in December. Amazingly these books formed part of the curricula well into the middle of the 20th century.

1905 – Our Island Story – by H. Marshall. This book has increased in popularity and exposure over recent years due to Michael Gove and his aspirations of the curriculum.

1930 – 1066 and All That (a parody of English History by Sellar and Yeatman in which the episode of the sealing of Magna Carta is described as ‘Magna Charter was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England, and thus a Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People)”.

1969 – King John and the Magna Carta – A Ladybird ‘Adventure from History’ book


1623 – Shakespeare’s King John (believed to have been written in the mid 1590’s but not publishes until 1623 in the First Folio. Performed on stage many times. 1899, the famous Victorian actor Herbert Beerbohm was involved in the first known Shakespeare film. Interestingly, no actual mention of Magna Carta.

1962 – A Durable fire: a play (written by Patrick Dickinson and performed as part of the 1965 anniversary celebrations at Tonynbee Hall by a Special Drama Group of London County Council)

1965 – Left Handed Liberty (A play commissioned by The City of London Corporation. Written by John Arden and performed for one week at the Mermaid Theatre, London)

1986 – Song of the New Age – an Opera based on the life of Stephen Langton (performed at Runnymede by the Portable Theatre Company)


1950 – Rogues of Sherwood Forrest (a film in which King John seals Magna Carta using a giant cider press)

1959 – Hancock’s Half Hour (Magna Carta, did she die in vain?)

1973 – Robin Hood (Disney animated)

1983 – The Life and Death of King John (TV Movie – a silent adaptation of Shakespeare’s King John)

1983 – Doctor Who – The King’s Demon (The Doctor discovers that what appears to be the King is in fact a shape-changing android called Kamelion whom the Master found on Xeriphas. The Master has disguised himself as the King’s Champion, Sir Gilles Estram, and is using Kamelion in a plot to discredit the King and prevent the signing of the Magna Carta, thereby changing the course of history)

1993 – Robin Hood – Men in Tights (a spoof of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves)

2010 – Robin Hood (directed Ridley Scott and featuring Russell Crowe

2011 – Ironclad (a deranged King John played by Paul Giamatti lays siege to Rochester Castle. He fails in his attempt due to the intervention of the Knights Templar)


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