After losing control over several French territories, King John needed money and had less revenue-generating land to fill his coffers. His barons were angered by his efforts to raise this money through increases in payments of all kinds. They were also upset by his preference for using foreign mercenaries as officers of all ranks. They rebelled and finally made a list of demands meant to ensure fair treatment and to curb the king's abuse of power. The Magna Carta is King John's concession to the barons—a peace treaty of sorts, meant to stop a civil war. Using the royal "We," John agrees to a long list of very specific promises, in no particular order. The nature of these promises gives the reader of the Magna Carta a fairly clear picture of the king and his approach to rule.
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III, originally Lothar of Segni from Italy, was elected pope on January 8, 1198. His tenure in the office was marked by significant reform and the expansion of papal authority. He presided over Crusades intended to reconquer the city of Jerusalem. His position as pope during the reign of King John resulted in several conflicts. Innocent III became involved in a dispute between the king of France, Philip II, and King John, and a conflict between the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, about who would be appointed their archbishop. Innocent's appointment of Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury and John's stubborn refusal to accept Stephen caused Innocent to excommunicate the king for a time.
Stephen Langton was a cardinal under Pope Innocent III when Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury, died, leaving the post vacant. The post was disputed for two years, and to resolve the issue Innocent III appointed Langton to the office, creating strife as King John refused to accept the decision. However, Langton's role was not entirely passive. He supported the barons' rebellion against John, though when the conflict became violent he withdrew support. Scholars believe Langton influenced the writing of the Magna Carta by causing it to include the sections about the freedom of the English Church—items that were not included in the Articles of the Barons on which the bulk of Magna Carta is based.
Gerard de Athée
King John brought Gerard de Athée from France to be his strong arm in exacting taxes and tolls from the barons and generally suppressing their power. Therefore he was greatly disliked by the barons. Yet John valued Gerard a great deal, paying 2,000 marks for his ransom from King Philip of France and then setting him in power over Wales, where he again used his brutal methods to wring money from the land. His actions were so reviled he was identified by name in the Magna Carta.