A contraction of Johannes (Joh'n). The French contract
it differently, Jean—i.e. Jehan or Jehann; in Italian, Giovanni.
JOHN I. died wretchedly in jail.
JOHN II. and III. were nonentities.
JOHN IV. was accused of heresy.
JOHN V., VI., VII., were nonentities.
JOHN VIII. was imprisoned by Lambert, Duke of Spoleto; at a
subsequent period he was dressed in female attire out of mockery, and
was at last, poisoned.
JOHN IX. had SERGIUS III. for a rival Pope.
JOHN X. was overthrown by Gui, Duke of Tuscany, and died in prison.
JOHN XI. was imprisoned with his mother by Alberic, and died there.
JOHN XII. was deposed for sacrilege, and was at last assassinated.
JOHN XIII. was imprisoned by his nobles and deposed.
JOHN XIV. was deposed, and died imprisoned in the Castle of St.
JOHN XV. was a nonentity.
JOHN XVI. was driven from Rome by Crescentius.
JOHN XVII. (antipope) was expelled by Otto III., and barbarously
treated by Gregory.
JOHN XVIII. abdicated.
JOHN XIX. was deposed and expelled by Konrad.
JOHN XX. was a nonentity.
JOHN XXI. was crushed to death by the falling in of his palace at
JOHN XXII. was charged with heresy.
JOHN XXIII. fled in disguise, was arrested, and cast into prison for
three years. Certainly a disastrous list of Popes.
A proverbially unhappy name with royalty, insomuch that when John
Stuart ascended the throne of Scotland he changed his name to Robert;
but misfortune never deserted him, and after an evil reign he died
overwhelmed with calamities and infirmity. John Baliol was the mere
tool of Edward I.; John of England, a most disastrous reign. John I.
of France reigned only a few days; John II., having lost the battle
of Poitiers, died in captivity in London; to France his reign was a
tissue of evils. John of Bohemia was slain at Cressy. John 1.
of Aragon was at ceaseless war with his subjects, by whom he was
execrated; John II. was at ceaseless war with his son, Don Carlos.
John I. of Constantinople was poisoned by Basil, his eunuch; John
IV. had his eyes put out; John V. was emperor in name only, and was
most unhappy; John VI., harassed with troubles, abdicated, and died in
John I. of Sweden
was unhappy in his expeditions, and died childless; John II. had
his wife driven out of the kingdom by his angry subjects. Jean sans
Peur of Burgundy engaged in the most horrible massacres and was
murdered. John of Suabia, called the Parricide, because
he murdered his father Albert, after which he was a fugitive and a
vagabond on the face of the earth, etc., etc.
N.B. John of Portugal was a signal exception.
Ivan IV. of Russia,
surnamed the “Terrible” (1529-1584). He murdered with his own hand
his eldest son; Ivan V. (1666-1696) was dumb and nearly blind; Ivan
VI. (1737-1762) was dethroned, imprisoned, and put to death. (See
King John and the Abbot of Canterbury.
John, being jealous of the state kept by the abbot, declared he
should be put to death unless he answered three questions. The first
question was, how much the king was worth; the second, how long it
would take to ride round the world; and the third, what the king was
thinking of. The king gave the abbot three weeks' grace for his
answers. A shepherd undertook to answer the three questions, so with
crozier, mitre, rochet, and cope, he presented himself before the king.
“What am I worth?” asked John. “Well,” was the reply, “the Saviour was
sold for thirty pence, and your majesty is a penny worse than He.” The
king laughed, and demanded what he had to say to the next question, and
the man replied, “If you rise with the sun and ride with the sun, you
will get round the world in a day.” Again the king was satisfied, and
demanded that the respondent should tell him his thoughts. “You think I
am the abbot of Canterbury, but I am only a poor shepherd who am come
to ask your majesty's pardon for him and me.” The king was so pleased
with the jest, that he would have made the shepherd abbot of
Canterbury; but the man pleaded that he could neither write nor read,
whereupon the king dismissed him, and gave him a pension of four nobles
a week. (Percy: Reliques, series 2, bk. iii. 6.)
or Mass-John. A priest.
The supposed Christian king and priest of a mediaeval kingdom in
the interior of Asia. This Prester John was the Khan Ung who was
defeated and slain by Genghis Khan in 1202, said to have been converted
by the Nestorian Christians. He figures in Ariosto, and has furnished
materials for a host of mediaeval legends.
“I will fetch you a tooth-picker now from the farthest inch of Asia;
bring you the length of Prester John's foot: fetch you a hair off the
great Cham's beard ...” Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing ii.
The three Johns
—an alehouse picture in Little Park Street, Westminster, and in
White Lion Street, Pentonville—is John Wilkes between the Rev. John
Horne Tooke and Sir John Glynn (serjeant-at-law). (Hotten: History
St. John the Evangelist is represented writing his gospel; or bearing
a chalice, from which a serpent issues, in allusion to his driving the
poison from a cup presented to him to drink. He is sometimes
represented in a cauldron of boiling oil, in allusion to the tradition
of his being plunged into such a cauldron before his banishment to the
isle of Patmos.
The usual war-cry of the English of the North in their encounters
with the Scotch. The person referred to is St. John of Beverley, in
Yorkshire, who died 721.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894