The great siege of Rochester castle is
possibly the most famous siege of the
medieval period due mainly to the fact that its outcome would ultimately decide whether the crown of England would stand or fall. It is also the best documented of all medieval sieges.
The story really begins in the year 1204 when King John, the king of England, lost most of his lands in France including Normandy,
Anjou and Poitou to the king of France.
In an effort to regain these regions John had to raise huge amounts of money to pay his knights and also to recruit foreign mercenaries in order to do battle against the French king.
The money was raised by over-taxing his barons and extorting money in other ways such as fining people huge amounts for trivial offences.
This, and John's lack of success in France persuaded the barons to draw up a large list of complaints against him.
This list of complaints was called Magna Carta - the Great charter.
The king was forced to sign Magna Carta but, as soon as he had, he secretly wrote to the pope (Innocent III) asking that the charter be declared illegal and condemned, however, before the pope had an opportunity to write back, the rebel barons had agreed that John could not be trusted to adhere to the terms of the charter and had decided to offer the crown of England to Prince Louis, the eldest son of the king of France.
The scene was set for a bloody civil war.
King John had already taken possession of Rochester castle but under the terms of Magna Carta was forced to hand it back into the custody of the archbishop of Canterbury in May 1215.
In September the pope wrote to John announcing that Magna Carta was "not only shameful and base but also illegal and
However, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Stephen Langton) refused to condemn the charter and was subsequently suspended from office.