A feud with Pope Innocent III, beginning in 1208, further damaged John’s prestige, and he became the first English sovereign to suffer the punishment of excommunication (later meted out to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I). After another embarrassing military defeat by France in 1213, John attempted to refill his coffers–and rebuild his reputation–by demanding scutage (money paid in lieu of military service) from the barons who had not joined him on the battlefield. By this time, Stephen Langton, whom the pope had named as archbishop of Canterbury over John’s initial opposition, was able to channel baronial unrest and put increasing pressure on the king for concessions.
With negotiations stalled early in 1215, civil war broke out, and the rebels–led by baron Robert FitzWalter, John’s longtime adversary–gained control of London. Forced into a corner, John yielded, and on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede (located beside the River Thames, now in the county of Surrey), he accepted the terms included in a document called the Articles of the Barons. Four days later, after further modifications, the king and the barons issued a formal version of the document, which would become known as the Magna Carta. Intended as a peace treaty, the charter failed in his goals, as civil war broke out within three months. After John’s death in 1216, advisors to his nine-year-old son and successor, Henry III, reissued the Magna Carta with some of its most controversial clauses taken out, thus averting further conflict. The document was reissued again in 1217 and once again in 1225 (in return for a grant of taxation to the king). Each subsequent issue of the Magna Carta followed that “final” 1225 version.