John II.surnamed le Bon (the Good, or rather the Gallant), king of France, the second of the Valois family, born about 1319, died in London in 1364. Succeeding his father Philip VI. in 1350, he indulged in such extravagant expenditures to celebrate his accession to the throne that he soon found the royal treasury exhausted, and had to summon the states general for a grant of money. His first measures were marked by despotism and cruelty. By his orders the great constable Raoul, count of Eu and Guines, whom he suspected of treacherous dealings with the English, was arrested and beheaded without any form of trial, while his office and property were given to Charles of Lacerda, a Spanish prince. The latter having been murdered at Laigle, Normandy, by Charles the Bad, king of Navarre, a friend of Raoul, King John came unexpectedly to Rouen, where Charles was entertained by the dauphin, made him a prisoner with his own hand, and caused four of his followers to be decapitated on the spot. Philip, brother of Charles of Navarre, and the count of Harcourt, uncle of one of the victims, appealed to Edward III. of England for vengeance. The English invaded France at once.
King John met one of their armies, under the Black Prince, at Maupertuis, near Poitiers, and, elated by his superiority in numbers, attacked him imprudently, was defeated, Sept. 19, 1356, and carried prisoner first to Bordeaux, and then to London, his conquerors treating him with courtesy and distinction. During his captivity violent dissensions broke out in France, and the dauphin (afterward Charles V.), who had assumed the regency, was for a while unable to contend against the rising power of the third estate. At the end of three years John tried to regain his freedom by a humiliating treaty with Edward III., which was rejected by the states general of France. The disastrous peace of Bretigny (1360), however, provided for the liberation of the French king by the sacrifice to the English of some of the best French provinces and the payment of a ransom of 3,000,000 crowns. On his return home, John, coming by inheritance into possession of the duchy of Burgundy, bestowed it on his fourth son, Philip the Bold, as a reward for his gallantry at the battle of Poitiers. Another son, the duke of Anjou, whom he had given as a hostage for the fulfilment of the treaty of Bretigny, having forfeited his word by running away from England, John thought himself in honor bound to return to captivity, saying, "If good faith were banished from earth, it ought to be still found in the hearts of kings." He consequently returned to London, and there died.