ScholarWorks > Arts & Sciences > Medieval Institute Publications > medpros > Vol. 37 (2023) > Iss. 1
King John was not unusual among medieval English monarchs for siring illegitimate offspring, among them three sons and a daughter born of aristocratic ladies. Chroniclers and moralists’ charges that John’s sexual predations extended to his barons' wives and daughters became a significant factor in baronial alienation that resulted in the 1215 rebellion. A search of royal records from John’s reign yields names of seven: six sons and one daughter, all acknowledged by him. Records from the reign of his son Henry III reveal three more, two sons and one daughter, a total of ten, a number far smaller than that of hs great-grandfather Henry I, famous for siring over twenty illegitimate children. John’s father Henry II fathered only four or five bastards, one of whom became an earl and another an archbishop. Before the Church won power to regulate marriages by the early thirteenth century, sons of kings, princes, and aristocrats born outside formal marriage experienced little stigma. Possibly due to changing attitudes, John’s bastards never rose in prominence as did earlier monarch’s illegitimate offspring, some of whom played major parts in England’s history. None of John’s illicit sons rose to an earldom or bishopric, although entered the baronial ranks and a daughter married the Welsh prince, Llywelyn. Most of John’s illegitimate sons had military careers, serving their father and their brother as royal household knights. Two sought careers in the Church, but neither rose to high rank.
Turner, Ralph V.
"The Illegitimate Offspring of King John of England Identified from the Rolls,"
Medieval People: Vol. 37:
1, Article 8.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol37/iss1/8