With the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta taking place this year, it is interesting to remind ourselves of King John’s association with Petersfield. Born in 1167, he was the fourth son of Henry II and as such was not expected to inherit significant lands; indeed he was given the nickname of “John Lackland”. Though he grew up to be a weak and unscrupulous character whom few trusted, he was Henry II’s favourite son and Henry made every attempt to provide an inheritance for him, part of which were the manors of Mapledurham and Petersfield.
In 1120 Petersfield was granted a charter by William, Earl of Gloucester and on his death his widow, Hawissa, confirmed it. The Gloucesters were very wealthy and extremely close to the royal family as Richard’s father, Robert, was a son of Henry I.
However in 1176, after the death of Hawissa, Henry II disinherited the two elder daughters of William and Hawissa in favour of their younger daughter, Isabella, to whom he betrothed his son John. It was for this reason, in the face of convention that Prince John, Count of Moreton as he was then known, came to confirm the charter of the manor of Petersfield in 1198, which had been bestowed upon him by marriage.
John became King in 1199, and six years later he granted the manors of Mapledurham and Petersfield to Earl Evreux, who had married one of Isabella’s older sisters.
John subsequently divorced Isabella and in 1214 he seized back the manors from the estate of Earl Evreux and sold them to Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who had married Isabella. The story doesn’t end here as Mandeville rebelled against the King and, as a punishment, John deprived him of his lands and granted Mapledurham and Petersfield to Savary de Mauleon in May 1215. However, in October that year, John bestowed the lands to his faithful adherent Roger de la Zouche. This was King John’s last connection to the town and he died a year later in 1216.
One can surmise that the successive changes in ownership in lands, which included Petersfield, related to the feud King John was having with his barons and led to the signing of the Magna Carta in June 1215.
(Source: British History online and Book “Monarchs of Britain” by Josephine Ross)