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The Legend of King John (1199-1216) and his Sojourn at Kings Quay

By a Village Resident.

In the year 1215, fisher folk who lived in the few cottages along the banks of Whippingham Creek were alarmed by the arrival of four large vessels. Most ran away, those that remained to hear the invaders talking in what seemed to be a foreign tongue. Initially they thought the foreigners might be Danes who normally pillaged and burned, but these people turned the inhabitants out, and made the poor hovels as comfortable as possible for themselves. The inhabitants who had failed to flee were used as slaves to fetch water and wood and other menial tasks.

Picture of of King John
King John

It appeared that these strangers had every intention in staying permanently as deer hides, costly furs, woollen cloth, cooking vessels, dried meats, haunches of venison and casks of wine were unloaded from their vessels and installed in the cottages. Costly armour such as only the nobility and wealthy knights could afford was brought ashore. One of the poor fishermen was so curious that he asked if the gentlemen were intending to stay long. If so, might he suggest that there were better houses fairly near by, and that he would be pleased to conduct them there.

The chief, or so he appeared, told the fisherman to keep his mouth shut, and eyes closed, to what was afoot, and mention nothing to anyone, otherwise it would be worse for him, indicating that should the fisherman be indiscreet he would be hung from the nearest tree. In fact he thought it might be a good idea to carry out the threat anyway and called his henchman de Mark to send Gigo with six men and a rope. The hanging of the hapless fisherman would be a deterrent to the rest.

The poor man had a noose placed about his neck, although his hands were left untied, the rope was thrown over a branch and he was left to dangle. For a while he was able the use his hands to hold onto the rope, but his strength failed and his face turned black.

Whilst the fisherman was still kicking Gigo asked his master if he should pull on the victims legs as this would break his neck. He was told to leave him alone, and when the body had stopped kicking to thrown the carcase away. “But” said Gigo “I don’t think he is dead yet and he may recover”—“It doesn’t matter if he does” the lord replied, “I only did for a joke”

At this point a Templar arrives, and it was hoped that he would have important news from one Hugh de Bores. Apparently the Templar had some difficulty in tracking them down, and had asked at Carisbrooke Castle of the lord there, “de Vernon” as to the groups whereabouts. The lord had heard of the groups arrival, but not their whereabouts, there was an inference given, that the group would be welcome at the castle. When mentioned, this was not thought to be a good idea as de Vernon was against King John [in actual fact the leader of the group was King John].

The Templar’s news was that many in Poretou, Garecony, Louvain, Brabant and Flanders would be prepared to join King John’s cause and would sat sail for Dover within two weeks. Then with this host, King John would be able to suppress the Barons for once and all. In the mean time the Templar thought it would be a good idea if Islanders were taxed heavily in order to keep the King in a more fitting manner. But King John again refused, although it was pointed out that supplies were running very short. Phillip de Mark, one of King John’s men suggested that it would be possible to attack and remove the cargo from the wealthy merchant ships that sailed too and fro from Southampton. This was though to be an excellent idea and would be carried out once the supplies had run out. So far the groups food had been augmented by the killing of a few deer and some supplies sent from Kerne near Knighton, that belonged to the Knights Templar.

Picture of of Kings Quay
Kings Quay, Wootton

The supplies eventually ran out and men were ordered to disguise themselves, the men at arms to hide below decks and only Flemish to be spoken. A merchant ship was chosen and duly boarded, its red haired captain bravely fighting to save his ship and the cargo. Realising he was out numbered he demanded to know by whose authority they were taking this action, and that he would demand vengeance from the king. King John had had enough and ordered Gigo to chop the captain’s head of—this he did with great alacrity.

Having filled their own vessel with supplies it was decided that it would be unwise to return to their hide-a-way as the local authorities, on hearing of the piracy, might make a search of the area and discover them. So it was decided that they would sail round the Island and approach their encampment from the west. However none of the crew had ever sailed round the Island, but had heard it was perilous journey with unexpected huge waves, dangerous currents, water demons and Kelpies. The Templar added that he had heard reports of strange lights being seen on the coast of the South Wight at night, and weird sounds and deep caverns on the South West, with strong currents that sucked unwary ships inside.

It was therefore decided that sailing round the Island would be foolish, instead they would stand off the coast as if waiting for the right tide and winds. There was little wind to fill the sails, but a strong swell developed which caused those on board including the king, who were not use to the sea to become very unwell! But by night fall the weather settled and they set sail for Kings Quay.

Once ashore the hoped for news of the continental army’s arrival at Dover awaiting King John and it was recommended that he set sail without delay to meet the army at Dover. Unfortunately the wind changed and it was impossible for the party to set sail.

To while away the time King John decided to go for a walk in the woods. There he found a young lady sitting on a log stroking a greyhound. She was tall delicately formed and her long dark hair hung down in tresses. King John was taken with he beauty and thinking that she would be impressed with the usual country gallantries he sat down by he side and began to complementing her.

The young lady was in no way impressed and shrank away from him, but King John, not used to rebuffs persisted. She demanded to know who he was, and by what right a scruffy fisherman [the king was in disguise] approach a lady of her rank? She was the daughter of a knight and expected to be treated with respect.

The king replied that he was not a fisherman, but one of high rank, far about that of a knight, in fact I am the king. If he thought she would be impressed, he was sadly mistaken. The young lady shrank even farther away in horror exclaiming “You can’t be, I know however that the king is profligate, wicked and cruel, but even he would never have hung a poor man in jest. That poor man still lives, he was brought to our house, and I nursed him back to health. What a sad day for me that I should have fallen in with such a villain as you”.

With that she made to move, but King John tried to detain he. The greyhound [I suspect it was in fact a deerhound] sprang at him growing deep in its throat. The king let go of her and the hound withdrew, but growling in a menacing fashion.

At that point a number of armed men were seen and the lady clapped her hands and called out to them. She turned to the king and told him he was outnumbered and he was lucky that she did not tell the men to hang him as he had poor Girton, and he should go away and mend his manners.

King John was furious that he should have been thwarted and made to look a fool. By the time he set sail he determined that she should be his prize.

Supper was over at the old hall in Wootton and Sir Reginald de Bosco and his daughter Isabel [the lady in the wood] were about to retire for the night when they were disturbed by a loud knocking. The seneschal [steward] went to the entrance with the porter to ask who was creating such a noise so late at night.

The reply was it was a messenger for Sir Reginald de Bosco from the Earl of the Isle of Wight. The bolts were drawn and before the seneschal and the porter could open the door it was violently pushed aside and a crowd of armed men entered the hall.

Isabel recognised the king and ran through a door at the back of the hall and drew the bolts behind her. The king ordered his men to follow her and a group ran up the hall overturning forms stools and tables as they went. They smashed down the door with axes and soon caught the lady.

Gigo and the Templar dragged her away from the house followed by the king and the rest of the men. Soon they entered the wood, when suddenly Gigo fell to the ground pierced by an arrow, the Templar flinched and remarked that the arrow could have felled Isabel. A disembodied voice replied “I only did it for a joke” and this was swiftly followed by another arrow that scored the ribs of King John. “Treason” cried the king, scour the woods for the villain, a pot of gold to the one who catches him.

Isabel was released and the armed men ran off followed by the king. The archer knew the woods and made good his escape from the searching men, this also gave Isabel time also to escape. The next day the king and his followers left the island to meet up with the foreign soldiers at Dover. The taunt “I only did it for a joke” would for ever echo in his ears. Believe it or not folks, but that is the Legend of King Quay.


This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:38

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