Black Princes, Lost Kings and Chivalric Savages? The Historical Inspirations for Rhaegar Targaryen


We are delighted to have this article is by Tom Pert, who recently completed a Masters Degree in early-modern history at the University of Birmingham (UK). Congratulations Tom! Please give him a warm welcome and show your support of him by sharing this article with your friends.

After reading a previous article on whether Daenerys Targaryen (marching under a dragon banner in command of a “mercenary” army) is a reimagining of Henry VII, I found myself pondering the question: “Does Rhaegar Targaryen have a similar real-history counterpart?”

For those readers who only watch the TV show, Rhaegar Targaryen is perhaps the most important character who you (might) never see on screen! The eldest son of the ‘Mad King’ Aerys II, Rhaegar was the elder brother of Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen and is often referenced by other characters in the show, frequently referred to as the “Last Dragon” following his death in single combat against Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident. It was Rhaegar who allegedly abducted Eddard Stark’s sister, Lyanna, after the Tourney at Harrenhal after naming her the ‘Queen of Love and Beauty’ instead of his own wife Elia Martell (the sister of Oberyn Martell who was raped and murdered by Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane during the Sack of King’s Landing). The fact that Rhaegar’s actions initiated Robert Baratheon’s rebellion (thereby setting the stage for the book and film series) shows that he is a character who deserves a closer examination (particularly as he is at the centre of many fan theories such as the R+L=J theory which suggests that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark as well as the idea that he is actually still alive!).


Robert Baratheon and Rhaegar Targaryeon fight at the Battle of the Trident. lllustration courtesy of M. Luisa Giliberti, © 2005. You can find Louisa’s illustrations at

According to other characters in the series, Rhaegar Targaryen displayed all the attributes of a perfect medieval prince: he was a skilled knight, exceedingly intelligent and an exceptionally talented musician. He was also well-loved by the people. Indeed, Cersei Lannister remembered that at the Tourney at Lannisport the smallfolk cheered considerably more for Rhaegar than her father (who himself had received twice as many cheers as King Aerys II!) He was also apparently tall and handsome, with the traditional violet eyes and silver hair of the Targaryens with a singing voice so beautiful that it could reduce women to tears!

Ultimately, many characters in the series remember the “Last Dragon” fondly and Ser Barristan Selmy, who had served three Kings, claimed that Rhaegar would have been better than any of them. Such an assertion got me thinking: has there ever been such a prince in English history? Was there ever an heir-apparent to the throne who was a skilled warrior, intelligent, talented, beloved by the people and remembered even today as a much-lamented ‘King who never was’?

Chivalry personified: “The Black Prince” & Rhaegar

One figure who immediately came to mind was Edward, the Black Prince (1330-1376). The Prince is widely held to be the personification Medieval chivalric ideals: He was the first Knight of the Garter, an exceptional military commander whose victories over the French at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) made him a legend in his own lifetime, and perhaps the most lamented ‘Lost King’ in English history as he died of suspected amoebic dysentery just one year before his father, Edward III.


Edward, the Black Prince – from the Bruges Garter Book

The Prince’s  similarities with Rhaegar also extend to their mutual devotion to jousting as well as the claims that, like the ‘Last Dragon’, the Black Prince was so-called because of the colour of his armour (although it is unlikely that Edward would have had a dragon encrusted in rubies on his breastplate!). It is true that Edward’s ‘shield for peace’ displayed three ostrich feathers on a black field. However, the only mention of this origin of the sobriquet comes from “some shadowy evidence that he was described in French as clad at the battle of Crecy “en armure noire en fer bruni” – in black armour of burnished steel”1 and it is more likely that the title came “from his dreaded acts” during his French campaign  ((Thomas Fuller, The Holy State, (Cambridge, 1642), p. 342.)) . Certainly, the Prince’s biographer David Green suspects that this is where the name originated.

A Renaissance prince: Rhaegar & Henry Stuart


Rhaegar Targaryeon was reknowned for playing his harp. lllustration courtesy of M. Luisa Giliberti, © 2005. You can find Louisa’s illustrations at


Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales

However, the descriptions of Rhaegar Targaryen as an intelligent and talented prince whose popularity exceeded that of his father also suggests an inspiration from the early-modern period: Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales (1594-1612). The eldest son of James I of England (and VI of Scotland), Henry  has been described as having shown great promise in matters of leadership and from a young age was a talented sportsman and musician (although it is unknown if, like Rhaegar, he could have made Cersei Lannister weep by singing and playing the harp!). The Prince’s popularity was evident in his lifetime and was demonstrated by the vast wealth of literature produced following his death from typhus in 1612 aged just 18. Indeed, the tributes following Henry’s death could easily have described the fictional Targaryen prince:

He is dead, who while he lived, was a perpetuall Paradise, every season that he hath shewd himselfe in a perpetuall spring, every exercise wherein he was scene a special felicity…”

“…his body was so faire and strong that a soule might have been pleased to live in an age in it…virtue and valor, beauty and chastity, armes and arts, met and kist in him, and his goodnesse lent so much mintage to other Princes…” ((Albert Smith (ed.), John Donne: The Critical Heritage, (1995), p. 37. ))

Just as Rhaegar was idolised by his younger brother Viserys, who would ultimately succeed their father (albeit as the ‘Beggar King’ in exile), Henry was idolised by his brother Charles who succeeded him as Prince of Wales and ultimately became King, reigning for over twenty years before his defeat in the English Civil War led to his trial and execution by the victorious Parliamentarians in 1649. Indeed, just as Targaryen loyalists viewed Rhaegar’s death as the greatest tragedy for Westeros, Henry’s early demise was widely regarded as a disaster for Britain as, according to Charles Carlton, “Few heirs to the English throne have been as widely and deeply mourned as Prince Henry”.


Viserys being choked after his violent confrontation with Daenerys. © HBO.

However, although both the Black Prince and Henry certainly share traits and certain elements of their histories with Rhaegar Targaryen, after close examination of the ‘Last Dragon’s’ background and talents as well as his death and its impact on the Seven Kingdoms, there is one historical figure whose story bears striking similarity to that of Rhaegar: Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales.

The supposedly savage Edward of Westminster as Rhaegar?

An imagined depiction of Edward of Westminster by Sylvester Harding, 1793.

An imagined depiction of Edward of Westminster by Sylvester Harding, 1793.

Edward of Westminster (1453-71), also known as Edward of Lancaster, was the only son of Henry VI of England and his consort, the formidable Margaret of Anjou. Born in the midst of the internal strife plaguing England in the mid-15th Century, Edward would become the only heir-apparent in English history to die in Battle, being slain at the Battle of Tewkesbury (the last decisive battle of the War of the Roses prior to Bosworth Field) on 4th May 1471. Despite also being the son of a ‘Mad King’ and meeting a similar fate to Rhaegar, several writers have attempted instead to liken Edward to Joffrey Baratheon, citing Edward’s allegedly cruel behaviour and the rumours surrounding his legitimacy. There were certainly rumours that Edward was the result of an affair between his mother and either Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset or James Butler, earl of Wiltshire. However, there is no firm evidence to support such claims and Henry himself never doubted the boy’s legitimacy and publicly acknowledged his paternity.


Edward of Westminster’s father, Henry VI (1421-71). Although a ‘Mad King,’ he was more like Baelor the Blessed than Aerys II!


Baelor the Blessed. Illustration by Roman Papsuev (also known as Amok. See his website for more great images.)

Edward’s reputedly bloodthirsty nature is heavily based on a description written in February 1467 by Giovanni Pietro Panicharolla, the Milanese Ambassador in France (where Edward was in exile). The Ambassador reported that the 13 year old Prince “already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle”. However, it is important to note that Panicharolla had “no love for the Angevins (referring to the House of Plantagenet)” and therefore his account would undoubtedly be hostile towards the ‘rightful’ heir to the English throne. Also, as a teenager who had seen his feeble-minded father humiliated, defeated and deposed by the ‘usurpers’ from the House of York, it is somewhat understandable that Edward sought vengeance on the ‘traitors’ who had betrayed Henry VI.


One of Joffrey’s crueler moments: at his name day tourney when he nearly orders his knights to force Ser Dontos to “drink his fill.” © HBO.

Edward’s brutal reputation was also based on the fact that, following the Lancastrian victory in the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461, he ordered the beheading of William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriell (two Yorkist knights who had abandoned the captive Henry VI on the battlefield despite being charged to protect him). However, this decision must be viewed in context. Firstly, in Lancastrian eyes, the two knights were enemies of the ‘rightful’ King of England, making them traitors. Secondly, they had forsaken their duty to ensure the King’s safety – a dereliction of duty which even the honourable Eddard Stark may well have passed sentence and swung the sword for! Finally, Margaret of Anjou had already determined that the two knights should die and she asked her seven-year old son to choose their method of execution. If Cersei Lannister presented kind-hearted Tommen with such an ultimatum, would he be able refuse? Furthermore, if Edward was truly as malicious as Joffrey, beheading seems a rather ‘merciful’ punishment for enemies of the crown.


The battle of Tewkesbury.

Upon closer inspection, there are far more similarities between Edward and Rhaegar Targaryen than have previously been acknowledged. For example both were very talented warriors, with Rhaegar being knighted at age 17 and becoming a skilled and capable fighter (culminating in his victory at the Tourney at Harrenhal)2. Similarly, John Fortescue (the Chief Justice who encountered Edward and his mother in exile) described the Prince of Wales as having “[given] himself over entirely to martial exercises” and wrote of how he was able to command “fierce and half-tamed steeds” and how

“he often delighted in attacking and assaulting the young companions attending him, sometimes with a lance, sometimes with a sword, sometimes with other weapons, in a warlike manner and in accordance with the rules of military discipline”.

However, despite the prowess displayed by Edward and Rhaegar in military exercises and tournaments, both were killed in their first actual battle. Whereas Rhaegar was slain by his rival, Robert Baratheon, in single combat on the Trident while the battle raged around them, many scholars agree that Edward of Westminster was executed after his defeat at Tewkesbury. Paul Murray Kendall, a biographer of Richard III, claims that following the rout of the Lancastrian forces the Prince was found by a small contingent of men loyal to the Duke of Clarence who immediately beheaded him on a makeshift block3. However, three Tudor sources: Polydore Vergil, Edward Hall and The Grand Chronicle of London all provided an alternative version of events which was dramatized in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part III. In this interpretation, Edward survives the battle and is taken before the victorious Edward IV; Richard, Duke of Gloucester; George, Duke of Clarence and William, Lord Hastings and defiantly claims that he took up arms to “recover my father’s heritage” before being struck by the King and murdered by his attendants.


“Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.” – Jorah Mormont. Robert Baratheon kills Rhaegar Targaryeon at the Battle of the Trident. Illustration courtesy of M. Luisa Giliberti © 2005. For more fantastic illustrations, see

Also, the relative sizes and competencies of the two armies at Tewkesbury mirror those at the fictional Battle of the Trident. For example, like Rhaegar, Edward of Westminster led a larger ‘loyalist’ Lancastrian army (numbering 6,000 men4 against a more experienced and battle-hardened ‘rebel’ Yorkist force of 3,500 men under Edward IV56. However, in terms of sheer numbers and its location on the River Trident, the fictional engagement more closely resembles the Battle of Towton in March 1461 which resulted in an estimated 28,000 deaths, causing the nearby streams to run red with blood for several days afterwards.


Battle of Towton (29 March 1461) by Richard Woodville. From Hutchinson’s Story of the British Nation 1 (13). London, United Kingdom: Hutchinson and Company 1922. This work is in the public domain in the USA and the EU due to its copyright date.

Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident 7


Aerys, the Mad King. Illustration courtesy of (and copyright) Amok. See his website for more great GoT art.

The similarities between the two princes also extends to the impact of their deaths on the fortunes of their families and nations as a whole. For example, while Rhaegar is often described by other characters as ‘The Last Dragon’, with his death heralding the downfall of the Targaryen Royal Dynasty, Edward of Westminster was effectively the last hope for the Lancastrian cause in the Wars of the Roses. Indeed, in both cases the death of the Royal Heir was swiftly followed by the murder of their father, bringing about the end of their respective royal dynasties. However, whereas Aerys II was murdered by Jaime Lannister to prevent the destruction of King’s Landing, Henry VI was already imprisoned by the Yorkists and murdered two weeks after the Battle of Tewkesbury as the death of Edward robbed the House of Lancaster of a more formidable leader in the event of Henry’s death. As there was now no need to keep Henry alive, his enemies could safely dispose of him and extinguish the Lancastrian Royal Dynasty. Although Henry Tudor would ultimately emerge in 1485 as the saviour of the House of Lancaster (albeit as a VERY distant relation and in his own right as head of the House of Tudor) there was no indication in 1471 that he would seriously challenge the Yorkist grip on the throne. Parallels can therefore be seen between Daenerys Targaryen and Henry Tudor in the 1470s (although only George RR Martin knows whether she will win the Iron Throne!).


Henry VII was associated with dragons, as in this painting, “The Family of Henry VII with St George and the Dragon”


Daenerys is also strongly associated with dragons.  © HBO.

The decisive Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury ushered in a period of political stability under Edward IV until his untimely death at the age of 40 in 1483. Following his death, however, the House of York was torn apart by a succession crisis in which the late King’s younger brother contested the legitimacy of his nephews, Edward and Richard, denounced them as bastards and seized the crown for himself as Richard III. Sound familiar? Robert Baratheon’s fourteen-year reign following his victory at the Trident could easily be based on that of Edward IV and the succession crisis following his death in a hunting accident and the War of the Five Kings is a clear reimagining of the troubles that plagued England between 1483-85. However, that is another topic for another time.

It is clear that (as with many of George RR Martin’s creations) Rhaegar Targaryen is a composite of various historical figures. He has the chivalric reputation, military skill, popularity and (supposedly) black armour of the “Black Prince” combined with the scholarly achievements and musical talents of Prince Henry Stuart. However, when you look at his fate and the impact that it had on the war of the rebellion, his Royal House and Westeros as a whole, it is impossible to ignore the parallels with Edward of Westminster.

The featured image of Rhaegar Targaryeon and Lyanna Stark was created by M. Luisa Giliberti, copyright 2005.

  1. John Harvey, The Black Prince and his Age, (London, 1976), p. 176. []
  2. A Storm of Swords Chapter 42 (Dany) []
  3. P. Murray Kendall, Richard the Third, (1956), pp. 118, 528-9. []
  4. P. Warner, British Battlefields, The South, (1972), p. 96.) []
  5. A Game of Thrones Chapter 36 (Dany) []
  6. A. Weir, The Wars of the Roses, (1996), p. 406. []
  7. A Game of Thrones Chapter 28 (Dany) []
Tom Pert

Tom Pert is working on a PhD in medieval history at the University of Oxford. He recently completed a Masters Degree in Renaissance, Reformation and Early Modern Studies at the University of Birmingham (UK) focusing on 16th-17th Century Court Politics and the English Civil War. He has sworn a secret allegiance to House Lannister.


  • Reply October 2, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    Like many other of the guest-posts on this blog this has been an intriguing read. I suppose to the French folk he was fighting the Black Prince could have seemed a “bad hat” though the English praised him – that might mirror Robert Baratheon seeing Rhaegar as the rogue who stole his betrothed (allegedly) whilst Barristan sees him (Rhaegar) as a really noble person.

    The bardic aspect of Rhaegar makes me think of the traditional ballad “Jack Orion” – I don’t know whether GRRM is familiar with British folk music though.

    I can’t help wondering whether if Prince Henry Stuart had lived he might have proved more astute than his brother, Charles I. We’ll never know of course. Charles’ son, another Charles (II) was certainly more astute than his younger brother who became James II (and lost his throne in three years).

    The observations regarding Edward of Canaerfon are interesting because the perceived wisdom, at least when I was at school, was that he had a weak character. Maybe I should consider a less extreme view.

    • Reply October 2, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      Hey Watcher, the name Black Prince is mysterious or controversial. Some say he was named the Black Prince because of the color of his armor others because of his black deeds (e.g., from a French perspective like you say). At least in the books I’ve read, I don’t think anyone really knows the source of his name.
      I personally feel he is a Black Prince — as in a prince with a dark legacy. He frequently used the chevauchée (destroying peasant villages, kill peasants) tactic on the French peasants — even though he spent held court in Aquitaine. My impression is that anyone without a title didn’t matter to him – English or French. I can’t remember more off the top of my head — I read a couple of books a while back. But, I remember thinking that he was of the same ilk as his father (Edward III) and financial motives were far too closely intertwined with destroying the dehumanized peasants.
      Sorry I lapsed into rant mode. (I hate the prosecutors of the Hundred Years War. 🙂 I’m holding a grudge over six hundred years later. 😉 ) But, you’re right the conflict in opinion does mirror the take on Rhaegar — rogue vs. noble.

    • Tom Pert
      Reply October 3, 2014

      Tom Pert

      Hi Watcher!
      It is certainly interesting to speculate about what may have unfolded had Henry Stuart lived – personally I believe that he would have been less likely to isolate Parliament on religious grounds than Charles (Henry’s Calvinist-style Anglicanism would certainly have been more palatable than Charles’s Laudianism). However, it is interesting that more historians now are expressing the view that James I left his successor a nest of vipers which could well have erupted in Civil War regardless of who was on the throne (due to his attitude towards parliament, belief in the Divine Right of Kings, corruption at court, his scandalous favourites and his unwillingness to intervene militarily in the Thirty Years War in defence of Protestantism and his own sister (Elizabeth of Bohemia) etc.). Indeed, recent works have shown that Charles actually worked hard (and successfully) to resolve some troubling issues inherited from his father.
      Although it was not inevitable that Charles I would be executed (until his actions after the First Civil War – which even his apologists agree sealed his fate), I personally believe that conflict of some kind would have arisen between the monarch and Parliament regardless of who was King.

      Also, as far as I am aware, Edward of Caernarvon (later Edward II) still is regarded as a weak character who was easily swayed by his male favourites but I am not sure if Edward of Westminster could be viewed in the same way (although it is highly likely that his forceful mother Margaret of Anjou would have played a large role in his actions)!

      I hope these comments are interesting/helpful 🙂


      • Reply October 3, 2014

        Watcher on the Couch

        Ooh, did I get my Edwards confused. Naughty me. I studied history up to “A” level [Charles II to the 1832 Reform Act] and although I had learned about Charles I earlier (in the years up to “O” level) any history knowledge I have has been acquired through background reading. Oh yes, Edward of Caernarvon married Isabella of France. Some people think he has been unfavourably reported on over the years (as do some people about Richard III).

        Thanks for responding to my original comment. As I’ve said previously on this blog, there are articles which have furnished me with a “reading list”. Time as ever is the enemy – one still has to find time for the boring (and the not so boring) everyday life things. (When I caught the cat napping on the ironing pile I knew it really was time to start playing catch-up).

  • Reply October 3, 2014


    What about religious convictions and the like? We know very little about Rhaegar really, only what he could do, but there seem to have been a few comments about him that hint at some knowledge of future mystical events and its hinted he only bothered becoming a knight because some bit of ancient lore made him feel a need to.

    • Reply October 3, 2014


      Hi Grant
      In terms of religious convictions inspiring the taking-up of arms (to match the supposed zeal of Rhaegar concerning the ‘Prince that was Promised’ prophecy) I suppose the closest comparison is Edward of Westminster and the idea of a (to use the term coined by James I of England) ‘Divine Right of Kings’. According to this doctrine, any attempt to depose an anointed King contradicts the will of God and so is an act of sacrilege as well as treason. This religious conviction may well have inspired Edward to become an accomplished warrior more than the Black Prince or Prince Henry.
      However, it is interesting to note that Henry was viewed by his contemporaries as incredibly religious – he ensured all his household attended church sermons and he even introduced a sort of ‘swear jar’ to fine all those who swore in his presence (and gave the money to the Church). He has even been described as ‘Upright to the point of priggishness’!
      Hope this helps!

    • Tom Pert
      Reply October 3, 2014

      Tom Pert

      Hi Grant
      In terms of religious convictions inspiring the taking-up of arms (to match the supposed zeal of Rhaegar concerning the ‘Prince that was Promised’ prophecy) I suppose the closest comparison is Edward of Westminster and the idea of a (to use the term coined by James I of England) ‘Divine Right of Kings’. According to this doctrine, any attempt to depose an anointed King contradicts the will of God and so is an act of sacrilege as well as treason. This religious conviction may well have inspired Edward to become an accomplished warrior more than the Black Prince or Prince Henry.
      However, it is interesting to note that Henry was viewed by his contemporaries as incredibly religious – he ensured all his household attended church sermons and he even introduced a sort of ‘swear jar’ to fine all those who swore in his presence (and gave the money to the Church). He has even been described as ‘Upright to the point of priggishness’!
      Hope this helps!

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    I meant to tag on to my previous post that I am extremely impressed by the standard of the art inspired by Game of Thrones.

    • Reply October 4, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      I completely agree. When I tried to find art to illustrate this article, I found tons of amazing fan art – some of which the artists are ok with people using on their sites under certain conditions. Frankly, the talent of the two artists whose illustrations appear in this article is amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at their galleries on their websites. The images of the Targ ancestors created vivid faces for some characters who were fairly shadowy in my mind – wonderful experience.

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    This is an edit (so I’m not coming here ad nauseam just for the heck of it) – in my post about confusing my Edwards, I should have said that any history knowledge I have acquired since school days has been via background reading – though of course I have watched documentaries on TV and listened to them on the radio. The three words “since school days” do make a difference. I think medieval history was covered – though obviously summarily – from part way through first year and through second year at secondary school. I remember we had to learn “John was a tyrant, John was a tartar, John put his name to the great big charter” by Hugh Chesterman in first year, though John was one of the earlier Plantagenets and the War of the Roses (said in part to have inspired GRRM) involved the later Plantagenets.

    • Reply October 4, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      That’s a great rhyme actually. I’ve never heard that before. They certainly don’t teach that in Canadian schools. This is all the same John right? Eg Richard I’s brother? I’m not sure about the Tartar reference?

  • Reply October 4, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    The text of the short poem about King John is on this page It’s some way down the page so if anyone follows it, it might be worth doing a search for “John was a tyrant” on the webpage. This Yahoo answers page also references it While searching I came across a more recent poem about King John written in northern English dialect (I think in the style of the late Stanley Holloway) I think this poem is written by Marriott Edgar. This extract is written for humour but I think accurately depicts the attitude prevalent to the “small folk” in medieval times:-
    “it were all right him being a tyrant
    To vassals and folks of that class,
    But he tried on his tricks with the Barons an’ all,
    And that’s where he made a ‘faux pas’. ”
    North American people may be most familiar with Stanley Holloway from his portrayal of Eliza Doolittle’s father, a cockney dustman in the 1960s “My Fair Lady” film, but he was also known for northern (British) English rhyming monologues. I also found a site which gave information about the poet Hugh Chesterman
    “Tartar” here is a variation of “tatar” – though there are of course other meanings (I think Grumpy Cat’s real name is Tartar Sauce). It might be falling out of use now but in my youth one might say about a strict teacher “She’s a bit of a tartar” like one might say “She’s a bit of a dragon” – the sense I think coming from when the Tatars were allied with Genghis Khan’s mongols. Yes, King John was Richard I’s brother.

  • Reply October 11, 2014

    Mohammed Choudhury

    Hi Tom. Great read. You’ve compelled me to write my first comment! A historian myself (less qualified than you, I’m only a BA!), I think the similarities to Edward are rather, *ahem*, stark.

    GRRM used the War of the Roses as his greatest reference point, so it’s extremely likely that he’d have used the death of the heir of the Mad King as an inspiration IMO.

  • Reply January 25, 2015

    jean mclean

    can you remember the rest of the poem? I can only remember the first verse and I would love to read it again. many thanks….jean

  • Reply January 27, 2015

    Jamie Adair

    Hey Jean,
    Thanks for reading. I think this might be the poem? This is from one of Watcher’s links, but I’m not familiar with the poem, so please let me know. I’m curious.
    John was a tyrant, John was a tarter
    John put his name to the great big charter.
    Every barron from Thames to Tweed,
    Followed that road to Runnymead.
    Every Barron had something to say
    To poor preplesed King John that day.
    Pray sign your name, said Guy De Gaunt,
    It’s easily done and it’s all we want,
    A “J” and an “O” and an “H” and an “N”,
    Said Hugo, Barron of Harpenden


    • Reply January 28, 2015

      jean mclean

      yes this is it. thank you very much. There is only one thing and that is the poem is much longer, do you know the other verses?

      • Reply January 30, 2015

        Watcher on the Couch

        This link mentions a 2004 book with the poem The Runnymede link does not have the poem as much longer just a few lines but I’ve mentioned the link already.

        “John was a tyrant, John was a tartar
        But John put his name to the great big charter.
        Every baron from the Thames to the Tweed
        Followed the road down to Runnymede;
        All the barons had something to say
        To poor, confused King John that day,
        “Please sign your name”, said Guy de Gaunt,
        “It’s easily done, it’s all we want.”
        “A ‘J’ and an ‘O’ and an ‘H’ and an ‘N’,”
        Said Hugo, Baron of Harpenden;
        Quietly spoke the Lord of St. Pere,
        “Your name, my king, to be writ just here.”
        And with so many hurrying him on
        One can’t help feeling sorry for John.”

        There isn’t that much on the internet (not that I can find at least).

  • Reply January 30, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    Addendum to previous post -there is also Eleanor Farjeon’s poem beginning “John, John, Bad King John” – link to rest of words.

  • Reply December 5, 2019


    This is very belated but I think in my above and long ago comments I had Henry Stuart down as the son of Charles I whereas he was the son of James I (of England – VI of Scotland).

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