Chapter 5. King John ,The Crusades and The Holy Grail's Last Resting Place


One of the great lunacies inspired by the church in the middle ages was the crusades. This was whereby many of the great leaders of Europe convinced their subjects that it would be fun to travel to Turkey and the Holy lands and slaughter what they called 'the infidels' that lived there. The reasoning behind this is is quite peculiar and exactly why it was believed that the inhabitants of Jerusalem had less right to live there than the crown princes of Europe is still somewhat vague. Probably it had something to do with the fact that the crown princes of Europe were all bored egomaniacs who enjoyed bloody murder. Religious fervor once again proved to be a good way to get ordinary folks to get themselves slaugetered for their rulers' benefit.

King Richard is fondly remembered as one of Britain's greatest monarchs, despite the fact that he buggered-off for many years and got many of the most able men in his kingdom killed on a hair-brained quest thousands of miles away in a completely foreign land for no real purpose. His brother John, on the other hand, who stayed behind and took over the difficult task of running a nation that has been abandoned by it's ruler has gone down in history as some sort of despot.

We all know the tales of Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor and how nasty King John tried to thwart him. So it seems John's biggest crime was trying to stop a notorious crimina - perhaps if he'd just let robbers and thiefs run rampant he would have been more popular. He is criticized for having lost the crown jewels in The Wash, so for some reason when this particular rich man makes himself less wealthy he has done wrong - if only he'd just given them to the Hood. His greatest 'failure' as king was of course to sign the Magna Carta, an act that supposedly defines him as weak king. But the Magna Carta is the basis for our whole legal system. The most important legal document in history makes the law-maker subject to his own laws. The Magna Carta, incidentally was signed in the shade of a great yew tree (See Chapter 4).

So why is John so reviled? No doubt his brother is to blame. On returning from the crusades Richard finds that (a) some of his jewels have been lost in the sea; (b) he will now have to obey his own laws and (c) his mate Robin of Loxley with whom he fought in the crusades has not been allowed to pursue criminal activites as freely as he would of wished. These things would understandably have pissed him off and so he began to slag John off something chronic. Since he and all his buddies were hairy, warlike bullies, John and his supporters who had not been 'hard' enough to go to the crusades and kill innocent people were quickly discredited and put down. When you look at Britain today surely it is more the product of the Johns than the Richards and it is time this man's role in our history was seriously re-examined.

No doubt one of the other things he got shit from his elder brother for was owning a castle in Basingstoke... OK well, it's actually just outside Odiham on the Basingstoke Canal - a very pleasant little walk from the ford if you have an hour or two of a sunny afternoon - take the kids! It's just a ruin now, and was never more than a pied-a-terre but I'm sure it must have been one of the great pleasure of King J's life to get away from it all in the exquisite North Hampshire countryside with a couple of floosies from the Royal entourage. It was there that hes stayed the night before riding to Runnymead to sign the Magna Carta.

Near the center of Basingstoke is the Holy Ghost church, final resting place of a Knight's Templar returned from the crusades. Apparently some time ago they were "redecorating" the cemetery and found him buried deep in the ground. He's been cleaned him up a little and placed in a special area in the graveyard. Believe it or not his final resting spot is right in the middle of 5 yew trees. Those readers who have more than a passing interest in the search for the lost cup of Christ will no doubt now be salivating over the fact that it too may yet be found in Basingstoke.


Chapter 6. "The Most Finely Appointed House In All England"





Artwork and text ©2004 Chuck Whelon
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