King John’s Walk is an old right of way which connected Eltham to Mottingham. Who was ing John? There are several ‘Johns’ associated with Eltham Palace but only two who were royal.
Who was King John?
Prince John of Eltham was born at the palace on 15th August 1316. He was the 2nd child and youngest son of Edward II of England and Isabella of France. Edward II gave Eltham to his queen, as a gift and she stayed there often. Prince John was also Earl of Cornwall. He was a strong supporter of his elder brother who became Edward III and was apparently a ruthless military commander. However, he died when only twenty years old in September 1336 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
King John of France (1319-64), Jean le Bon, was defeated and captured by the English at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. He wa, taken to England and held to ransom. In 1360 he was released to return to France in exchange for hostages which included his son Louis. Louis escaped in 1364 and King John voluntarily returned to England in his place.
According to Jean Froissart: ‘After spending two days at Canterbury, he rode on towards London and, travelling in short stages, came to Eltham where the King and Queen of England were waiting to receive him with a great company of knights and ladies. He arrived on a Sunday in the afternoon, and between then and supper there was time for much dancing and merriment. It would be impossible for me to record all the honours with which the King and Queen of England received King John, but finally he left Eltham and entered London.’ The King died in London the same year.
Of the two royal Johns Prince John of Eltham is perhaps the most likely candidate, although he was never a king – very puzzling!
King John’s Walk today
The old path hides away below the palace on top of the hill. It lead, downwards past fields with donkeys and horses, across the Sidcup bypass, and past the Mottingham Farms lands (now riding stables) to Mottingham Lane. The lane was once the heart of old Mottingham village.
The view from the top of the hill is over the Middle Park and Horn Park Estates, then towards Blackheath. Canary Wharf, the City of Westminster and the Shard are on the western horizon. There is a small riding stable just below the palace and the horses uses the fields on the far side of the walk.
The fields below the crest of the hill and to the south of the palace are home to several donkeys. This scene could be in the middle of the countryside
You can easily walk on this paved path at all times of the year. It offers a breezy walk with good views.