Explain why John Lost Control of Normandy by 1204
Explain why John lost control of Normandy by 1204?
A Weak Beginning
1199: As soon as he heard of Richard’s death in April, Philip of France invaded Normandy. John's nephew, Arthur of Brittany swore homage to Philip. Philip’s army was pushed back to Le Mans, and he opted for a tactical retreat.
In May 1200, Philip and John signed the peace Treaty of Le Goulet.
- Philip recognised John’s rights as ruler of Richard’s lands in France.
- Arthur could hold Brittany, but with John as his overlord.
- Philip gained some Norman land in the Vexin region, though John kept Chateau Gaillard.
- John agreed to pay Philip 20,000 marks. Neither Henry II nor Richard I had ever done so.
- John allowed the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne to do homage to Philip, so the alliances Richard had created ended.
Losing Friends and Alienating People
John ended his marriage to Isabella of Gloucester, and married Isabella of Angouleme, helping him secure control of Poitou and bringing him the ally of the Count of Angouleme. Unfortunately, it lost him Hugh of Lusignan (Isabella’s former fiancé, to whom John failed to pay any compensation).
Philip was looking for an opportunity to break John’s hold on Normandy and Hugh of Lusignan’s appeal for help was the perfect excuse. By July 1202, Philip captured Gournay by cleverly bursting a dam that lay up river; the resulting flood destroyed the town walls. Philip took homage from Arthur, and gave the lad 200 knights with which to attack Poitou and Anjou.
Just at the worst moment, John’s new father-in-law, the Count of Angouleme died, and the Count of Flanders left to join the Fourth Crusade, leaving him to face Arthur and Lusignan without allies! Richard’s old allies, the Counts of Boulogne and Toulouse, felt no friendship to John and switched to Philip’s side.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was directing the fight against Arthur from Mirebeau Castle in Poitiers. Arthur had her surrounded, but John defeated Arthur and Lusignan, taking them prisoner. Much of the success was due to the excellent military prowess of William de Roches, however, John gave him no credit or thanks and he too soon switched sides to Philip.
Philip Enjoyed Military Success
During 1203, Philip took Anjou, Maine, Conches, and Vaudreuil. However, John’s power in Normandy was by no means lost – the governor of the capital, Rouen, was loyal to him. Philip moved to attack Chateau Gaillard at Andely Island. Although William Marshall’s land troops defeated Philip at first, John’s fleet, which had been planned to attack the opposite bank, were delayed by strong currents, so Philip won the land at the foot of the castle and began to undermine the walls.
John Gave Up
John left for England, allegedly to recruit reinforcements, but he never returned, leaving Roger de Lacy to valiantly hold the castle for 6 months with 180 men, until he was finally defeated.