Is King John especially important to Lynn? That was the talk given by historian and author Dr Paul Richards at the first of the new series of True’s Talks at True’s Yard Musem in Lynn.
As always, Dr Richards combined a scholarly grasp of the essential issue - a lucid expression of it and a stimulating abundance of evidence, illustration and asides.
King John reigned from 1199-1216 at a time when European towns were beginning to flourish. Country aristocrats still ruled but the urban middle class and the wealth they generated were becoming important.
Lynn, which hardly existed before the 12C, was in the top four English towns. The royal charter John granted to a Lynn in 1204 - for a much needed £33 - established a merchant guild. This meant the sheriff of Norfolk could no longer order Lynn merchants about, or not so much, gave protection to traders, asserted the security of merchants over the barons and meant Lynn’s merchants didn’t have to pay tolls anywhere except London.
King John also had a lot of enemies and Lynn offered him friendship and a haven.
So a special relationship? Not altogether. John had already granted charters to Cambridge and Ipswich by 1200 and it was ironically Bishop De Grey (of Norwich) in his palace opposite St Nicholas Church who persuaded John to grant ours, wanting, like his friend the king, a prosperous Lynn to tax.
The port was known as Bishop’s Lynn after John’s charter not before and was ruled dually by bishop and town.
King John’s Cup (so-called) and Sword and the name King’s Lynn all came centuries after John was buried at Worcester Cathedral.