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  1. #1
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    Default The Plantagenet kings of England

    I'm a medievalist scholar, and I've studied the reigns of the early Plantagenet kings (Henry II through Edward III) quite in depth. Although they lived so long ago and inhabited a society radically different from our own, its amazing how their personalities came down to us across the centuries. In this thread, I'm going to discuss the Plantagenet kings and perhaps we will determine what some of their MBTI types were.

    I'll start with King John, as I've studied him the most.

    John was the youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and is quite famous as a cultural icon from the Robin Hood fables, in which he appears as 'Evil Prince John'. The real John was, I'll admit, a greedy, paranoid little snot. What we know of his personality we learn from contemporary and near-contemporary chroniclers, most of whom had nothing good to say of him. He was his father's favorite before he betrayed him and broke his heart, and he seems to have had some personal charm.

    Like his father and brother Richard, John inherited the famous Angevin temper. Richard of Devizes relates that John, then a prince, got so enraged at Chancellor Longchamp on one occasion that "his whole being so changed as to be unrecognizable. Rage contorted his brow, his burning eyes glittered, bluish spots discolored the pink of his cheeks, and I know not what would have become of the chancellor if in that moment of frenzy he had fallen into his hands like an apple as they sawed the air."

    He had a cruel streak a mile wide. John hanged 27 Welsh hostages in 1212 after their fathers broke their word, had Jews tortured when they refused to give him a loan, and had William de Braose and his mother bricked inside their castle and starved to death. Even by the standard of his time John was ferocious when enraged, and he very likely murdered his nephew Arthur in 1203 during one of his rages.

    He also had a rather bawdy sense of humor, such as when he held the clergy's concubines for ransom.

    His attitude toward religion was shocking for a medieval monarch; most kings tried at least to give the impression of piety, but John couldn't even be assed to do that. The pope excommunicated John for defying him, and there was even a crazy rumor related in all seriousness by Matthew Paris, that John was planning to convert to Islam and sell England to the emir of Morocco. Such a thing was unlikely in the extreme, but gives you some idea of his devotion to Christianity, that people would think that of him.

    John was paranoid and distrustful, and caused havoc by constantly changing his passwords that he would give his guards, only to forget them later. He was suspicious of his barons and trusted none of them. John was hyper-sensitive to the slightest offense and would go after people ferociously. He was also apt to take bribes (one of his barons, Robert de Vaux, bribed him with five horses in 1210 'to keep quiet about the wife of Henry Pinel').

    John had a notorious reputation as a lecher, even by the standards of his day, when a king was expected to take mistresses. He had at least twelve known illegitimate children (a record surpassed in English history only by his own great-grandfather Henry I [who fathered almost thirty] and equalled by Charles II). It's worth noting that John seems to have taken good care of his many and sundry bastards; several of his sons became knights and married wealthy heiresses, one son became a priest, one daughter an abbess, and the other two daughters married a Cornish lord and a Welsh prince. He was so uncharacteristically generous to his baron William de Forz, who's mother was a known mistress of John's, that I half-suspect William de Forz was his biological son.

    The relationships I'd like to linger on, however, were with his two Isabels: Isabel of Gloucester, his first wife, whom he divorced in order to marry Isabelle d'Angouleme, the heiress to the strategically important county of Angouleme. What's bizarre about this arrangement is that contrary to what you might expect, John didn't throw Isabel of Gloucester out of his castle, barefoot and weeping. Instead, she continued living at Winchester castle with him for several years AFTER they divorced, only leaving in 1207 when Isabelle d'Angouleme became pregnant. He supported his ex-wife with a household of staff and knights, lavished her with gifts, and gave her an annual allowance of £80 (quite impressive considering a contemporary English baron's annual income was about £200).

    His queen Isabelle was treated quite poorly, however. He allowed her no French attendants and she had no control over her dower lands, nor any income from them. John firmly kept her from having any power.

    John had a love of jewels that bordered on obsession. He kept his collection carefully inventoried and bought jewels whenever he could. John also liked reading, and hauled a library of books with him wherever he went. He bathed frequently and liked to be well-dressed; his contemporaries thought him something of a fop.

    Despite his reputation as the worst of England's kings, John was very attentive to statecraft, in marked contrast to his brother Richard. He tried to solve the many political and financial woes afflicting the realm he had inherited, and retained most of Richard's more able staff as his own. He built and maintained England's navy. His talents were wasted by his own personality faults and the awful state England was in when he became king.

    I'm thinking he was an unhealthy ISFP.

  2. #2
    Courage is immortality Valiant's Avatar
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    Good article, you really should write a book.


    So, you're saying that this unhealthy ISFP would display his shadow type and become some nightmare version of a dysfunctional ENTJ?

    Mightier than the tread of marching armies is the power of an idea whose time has come

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    It's always something... PuddleRiver's Avatar
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    Good stuff. Thanks for posting. I've always had an interest in the subject but alas, very little knowledge. Not much that sticks, anyway. I end up getting them all confused with each other.
    "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay one invincible summer."
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    Quote Originally Posted by YourLocalJesus View Post
    Good article, you really should write a book.


    So, you're saying that this unhealthy ISFP would display his shadow type and become some nightmare version of a dysfunctional ENTJ?
    Gee, thanks. There have already been several really good biographies of John though, I could never do him justice.

    Yes, that's my suspicion. I thought ISFP because of his moodiness, his sensitivity to any slight, and his habit of holding onto grudges. I can't buy John as an Extrovert, he seems to have had a VERY small inner circle on which he lavished whatever generosity and caring he possessed, and this circle seemed to include only his children, his ex-wife, one or two faithful cronies, and possibly a few of his lovers. He even stabbed his father in the back at the first opportunity, and Henry II adored him.

    At the same time, its obvious he possessed some intelligence, talent, and a love for ostentatious finery and pleasure. He had an unstable childhood and was tossed into the ongoing wars between his father and his brothers; it's no wonder he became insecure, wretched, and paranoid.

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    Now we'll move onto Richard I, aka Richard the Lion-hearted, or as I like to call him, Dicky Lionboy.

    Richard, like all his brethren, was at once a much darker and much more interesting character than his portrayal in the Robin Hood myths, et al, would have you think.

    Unlike his brother John, Richard was genuinely respected and feared by his contemporaries. He had a forceful personality, and knew how to make a grand entrance. English chroniclers were ecstatic when he became king, even though he had basically hounded his father into an early grave. Their delight was tempered somewhat when Richard turned out to be interested in England mostly as a source of income -- "I'd sell London if I could find a buyer!" was the famous quote William of Newburgh attributed to Richard.

    Richard's sometimes-friend, troubadour Bertran de Born, stated in one of his songs that Richard "desires honor more than any man, Christian or infidel. He seeks honor and success so intently that his reputation constantly grows and improves."

    Richard earned his reputation as a fierce and mighty warrior, and on that front he cannot be faulted. Gerald de Barri likened him to a lion, and described him as a man happy to take up arms and wade through bloodshed in his ceaseless quest for justice. Gerald also notes that had Richard put pride aside and given humble thanks to God, that he would've been among the most distinguished of rulers.

    His pride was one of Richard's defining traits. In his 1196 letter to the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich VI, he makes his famous statement that "I have been born of a rank as to give an account of my actions to none but God", and then goes onto lambast everyone involved in the Second Crusade (in fact, almost the only person he has a good word is Saladin, his ENEMY).

    His pride got him into trouble sometimes. While in Italy, on his way to the Holy Land, Richard tried to take a hunting hawk from a villager, believing that only noblemen deserved to possess such a bird (this story is told in the Gesta of Richard I). The irate villagers attacked him with sticks, and when Richard hit one man with the flat of his sword the blade snapped, leaving him scrambling to pelt anything at hand at them so that he could escape.

    Richard was proud of his military prowess and liked to boast. Baha al-Din reports that Richard said to Abu Bakr (the chamberlain to al-Adil, Saladin's brother), "This sultan is mighty, and there is none mightier than him in the land of Islam. Why then did he run away as soon as I appeared? By God, I was not even properly armed for a fight. See, I am still wearing my sea boots." Baha al-Din's report is fascinating on two levels: it shows that Richard was willing and eager to meet with his enemies personally, and that he took such a jesting, mocking tone with them.

    As for Richard's sexuality, I won't dwell on it much here, as its the subject of much debate and fervor. I will say that, based on my research, I believe Richard was what we'd today consider functionally bisexual, perhaps with an emotional preference for men. He seems to have had very little regard for women who were not his immediate blood relatives. Possibly one of the most disturbing stories about Richard comes to us from Roger of Hoveden, who reported:

    He was evil to all men, to his own men worse, and to himself worst of all; he carried off the wives, daughters, and kinswomen of his freemen by force and made them his concubines; and when he had sated his lust on them he handed them over to his knights for whoring.

    Richard's sadistic side also appears in his humor. The Continuation of William of Tyre gives us this story, which occured shortly after the crusading armies led by Richard I of England and Philippe II of France arrived at Acre (Akko). Philippe, who had lost his wife and their twins in childbirth shortly before departing on Crusade, had left behind in France his only son and heir, three-year-old Louis. When he became desperately ill, Richard (who was at this time Philippe's friend), came to see him:

    As soon as [Richard] arrived he inquired after [Philippe's] illness and how he was. The king replied that he was at God's mercy and felt himself severely afflicted by his illness. Then King Richard said to him, "And as for Louis your son, how are you to be comforted?" The king of France asked him, "What about Louis my son that I should be comforted?" "It is for this," said the king of England, "that I have come to comfort you, for he is dead."

    In fact, the child, the future King Louis VIII, WAS ill but not dead. The chroniclers seem to have felt that Richard knew very well that little Louis was not dead, but that he told Philippe that either to kill him with shock and grief, or as some sort of cruel joke.

    Although much concerned with honor, Richard was a bit of a literal genie. When he captured Isaakios Komnenos, the lord of Cyprus, Isaakios begged him not to be placed in chains of iron, to which Richard magnanimously agreed. He then had Isaakios clapped in golden chains.

    When it came to his family, Richard seemed to be closest to his mother Eleanor, his youngest sister Joan, and his brother John. In fact, he lavished so much attention on John that William of Newburgh wrote an entire chapter, entitled 'The King's Love For His Brother', complaining about it in his chronicle. Richard gave John so many gifts and so much money that William of Newburgh griped that John already owned one-third of the kingdom. Even Richard of Devizes, a staunch supporter of Richard, didn't like his relationship with John because John's "lust for power might lead him to drive his brother from the throne." He also appointed John his heir, bypassing his nephew Arthur, who had a genealogically stronger claim.

    My feeling is that Richard was an ESTP. His need for strength and power, his love of pageantry, and his ability to command a room and an army seem very ESTP-ish to me.

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