Taking a break from working and writing, I sat down to watch Ironclad, one of the current medieval movies floating in the cinema’s swamp of new movies. A week prior I’d watched Season of the Witch, Nicholas Cage’s atrocious stomp through some pretend Middle Ages, and had low hopes for Ironclad.
It’s dumb, sure, blending Templar Knights with the Baron’s Rebellion of 1215. An historically faithful beginning – King John’s campaign did start with the castle at Rochester – it quickly sinks into the standard Hollywood siege movie with flaming catapult balls and the pathos-wishing (not twisting) deaths of the castle’s innocents. Spread over a couple nights, it did what I wanted it to do: numb my mind before I tumbled into bed.
Then I got thinking, why is King John of England always painted as such a pisspot? Paul Giamotti plays the role, and he looks great. He shouts and pouts and fills the role’s shoes, he might even do it well, I don’t know, but the question remains. Why does every author make John out to be an asshole? He is an asshole in all the Robin Hood tales: mean, miserly, stealing Good Richard’s crown, and taxing England into abject poverty. Was he really such a shit, or is this literary invention?
Frank McLynn gives this a closer look in Lionheart and Lackland, and apparently Richard was as good as we are all told and John as bad. So perhaps Ironclad paints an historically acceptable version of King John. It’s after this that things get exciting for me, as I searched for the answer to this question.
After winning Rochester, John continued to battle his barons, taking and losing castles all over England. Along the way, he caught dysentery, which ultimately killed him. Before he died, sick and weary, he lost a good percentage of his baggage train, the string of horses and mules that carried his treasure everywhere he went. This wasn’t unusual; medieval kings didn’t trust anybody strongly enough to leave the kingdom’s wallet out of hand’s reach. As he crossed the tidal estuaries called the Wash, he lost his crown jewels.
Now, having just discovered that, I’m excited and thankful I watched Ironclad. What a tag line for an adventure! I want to assemble a group of adventurers and send them looking for King John’s lost jewels. Maybe they were sucked out to sea or sunk in quicksand (a bit boring), and maybe they where found by a dragon who lives under the Wash and are adoring his pinkie toes. My current favorite beasties are the Slaad. Perhaps those chaos-loving, plane-jumping, bipedal toads hopped in and snatched the shinny baubles, and are in route to offer them to the god of entropy and the god of insanity? Yeah, that’s cool.