HISTORY, ROMANCE AND...CATS!
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a vet by day and author of intelligent historical fiction by night. Grace is an avid reader and believes that smart people need to read romance - as an antidote to the modern world!
Grace is also obsessed by all things feline.
Today’s blog post looks at the‘Sin Tax’imposed by King John.
King John (whose name is inextricably linked with stories of Robin Hood) came to the throne (1199) after the death of his brother, Richard the Lionheart. The one thing historians seem to agree on is that John’s personality was dangerously flawed: greedy, petty and selfish, with an inability to see anyone’s viewpoint but his own.
King John imposed heavy taxes, for example, a tax of sixteen pence in the pound on a wide range of imported goods. But one of his more unusual taxes was the ‘Sin Tax’, imposed after John was excommunicated for refusing to approve the Pope’s choice for Archbishop of Canterbury.
King John signing the Magna Carta at Runymede.
John ordered his men to seize the wives, and ‘hearth-mates’ or concubines, of the clergy, to be held for ransom. The women would only be released on payment of a high price or 'Sin Tax'.
However it wasn’t just the clergy who felt aggrieved. By 1215 the nobility had had enough of John’s heavy taxation and rebelled. They seized London, forcing John into a meeting at Runnymede to accede to their demands and sign the Magna Carta, or ‘Great Charter.’ This document lay down rules to protect individuals from the unfair demands of the monarch. After the Magna Carta:
“The church is free to make its own appointments.”
“No more than the normal amounts of money will be collected by the government.”
And accordingly the tax was abolished on the wives and hearth-mates of clergymen.
King John's tomb - Worcester Cathedral.
If you had the power, what unusual tax would you put in place, and why?