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Josh Gates searches for legendary lost treasure of King John on Expedition Unknown

King John's tomb
King John’s tomb lies in Worcester Cathedral, England

This week Expedition Unknown heads to England in search for the lost jewels of King John, that are said to have met a watery fate over 700 years ago.

John was King of England for just over 17 years, taking the throne in April 1199 and dying in 1216 of dysentery whilst campaigning.

However, just prior to his death the king was travelling across south eastern England and is said to have lost all or part of his baggage train. Some reports from the time say that this included the Crown Jewels, though the details are sketchy and quite contradictory.

King King Æthelstan presenting an illuminated manuscript to St Cuthbert presenting an illuminated manuscript to St Cuthbert
This manuscript from around 930 shows King Æthelstan presenting an illuminated manuscript to St Cuthbert…King John’s crown might have been something like the one worn by Æthelstan

John was travelling to Bishop’s Lynn but his dysentery forced his return to Spalding. He took the longer route back but is reported to have sent his baggage train to cross the low tide route near Sutton Bridge. They proved to be too slow moving for the advancing tide and many of these were lost to whirlpools and quicksand.

The Wash is a tidal area of fens
The Wash is a tidal area of fens

However, there is a lot of disagreement over whether the Crown Jewels were in the baggage train at all and even some evidence that he had them after the incident.

The area is more managed now but was a treacherous place with mud flats, fens and fast moving tides in John's day
The area is more managed now but was a treacherous place with mud flats, fens and fast moving tides in John’s day

Expedition Unknown airs on Wednesdays at 9:00 PM on Travel Channel.

James has worked for Monsters and Critics since it started back in 2003. He oversees the business and technical side of things. You can contact... read more
James Wray


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