Although being one of the august bodies of Kings of England who could claim to be ‘The I’ Richard behaved in such an immensely colourful active manner that historians of the florid school of writing entitled him ‘The Lionheart’. As he spent a lot of time out of England and not involved in the day-to-day administration the barons of the time came to call him ‘Good King Richard’ (and so did everyone else if they knew what was ‘Good’ for them). This opinion might well have extended in Ireland and Wales for much the same reasons. Thus not only was he a king but also a legend, however as we are dealing with the serious side of history we must all sincerity put aside such romantic notions and deal with hard facts and reasonable interpretations. In doing this the reader should be warned that Richard was involved in several massacres, and although one was quite justified one should never overdo the business.
The Early Years
Born 8th Sep 1157; he grew to 6 foot 5inches; from an early age he liked to fight and this was indulged by his father who allowed Richard to invade or supress Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy, etc. Of course at the age of 16 he rebelled against his father; from 1173-74, but the Old Man was even more naturally ahead of the lad and Richard was obliged to seek forgiveness after Henry II locked up his wife and Richard’s mum Eleanor. As neither counselling or therapy been invented he worked off his issues by returning to putting down revolts, invading, or interfering in Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy, etc. In 1181–1182 Richard faced a revolt over the succession to the county of Angouleme, which was not an unusual event; he was excessively cruel, considering the general social and military morals of the time, he must have been pretty bad. He then spent a few years fighting with his brothers Henry (The Young Thing) and Geoffrey (The Overlooked) over Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc until they both died; the former of campaigning and not washing his hands; the latter of falling off his horse at a tournament; as he was known as treacherous and a smooth operator the cause is open to debate.
With all this experience in rebellions, wars, cruelty and more wars and elder brothers dying Richard was quite suited to be next, king which he ensured by rebelling once more against his father Henry II, who was getting a bit passed it. Thus when Henry II died of rebellions, campaigning and not washing hands the majority of barons thought Richard should be allowed to be king.
Richard The King
Richard was crowned king on 3rd September 1189 which was a nice early birthday present. One of the first things he did was justifiably massacre a load of London folk who in an outbreak of Terminal Stupidity massacred Jews in celebration of his coronation. Thus he made a public demonstrationt that he was stern but just ruler.(This was a bit of damage limitation since it was Richard banning the Jewish community from being present at the coronation which had started the trouble). In private he cultivated his hobbies of being cruel or ruthless and of course having ‘appetites’. The barons were rather very pleased with their choice.
Richard meanwhile was very much taken up with the idea of going to the Middle East and winning back Jerusalem from the Muslims. Their leader was currently Saladin who being a gifted and ruthless military leader was looked on with grudging respect by the Christians; until they found their wives, daughters or sisters kept wandering off into the deserts in the hope of being romantically captured by him. Richard was dismissive of all this and saw things as War, The Whole War and nothing but The War and promptly began to prepare.
One of his means of raising cash amused those barons who had not been given court job; in that he made those holding such posts either pay to keep them, or re-apply and pay a large application fee. He then turned his attention to a fellow spirit, William I of Scotland (The Lion) He also roared to William The I of Scotland that if he paid Richard a large sum he could be a really important unsubservient king of Scotland, be independent and keep bits of Northumbria. William roared back in agreement. In was only later that William realised he had just paid a large amount of money for something he was already doing, but by then Richard was on Crusade so William couldn’t do anything about it without being excommunicated which didn’t suit his plans. It says much about the general opinion of London at the time, that Richard complained he would have sold it if he could have found a buyer. (There are some places where this opinion still holds sway)
Relatives and Marriage
Richard was probably far too occupied to think about marrying and settling down and getting heirs to the throne, but his mother Eleanor wanted the best for her lad, so she arranged for him to marry Berengaria of Navarre. As Berengaria had no links with Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc, Eleanor hoped the marriage might work.
From Richard’s military outlook there was nothing so stimulating to a courtship as a good campaign, and so Berengaria was dragged with him to Sicily which was on the route to The Middle East and where his sister Joan had become the widow of a ruler and was naturally now imprisoned. Richard rescued her and massacred some locals as warning. As sea-craft was not what it became and Richard more used to land, the fleet met a storm and he managed to lose both his sister and Berengaria, who were washed up on the shores of Cyprus where they were both captured. (At this stage Joan could have been forgiven for taking up a career as a nun, but she persevered just like her mum & dad and went on to marry someone in Toulouse and carry on a war when he couldn’t). Richard turned up did some more massacring and rescued them both. Some romantic historians have used this to prove how chivalrous and even chivalric Richard was; it is likely, however, from Richard’s view point ‘that any excuse will do’
Berengaria and Richard were married 12th May 1191,and as a honeymoon treat he took her on the Crusade; this might explain why some historians claim the marriage was never consummated. Berengaria is famous for being the only Queen of England who probably never set foot in England; since she was from Mediterranean climes and her husband spent a lot of time in the middle east or Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy, etc one can hardly blame her.
This started off as a very clever plan of an otherwise very urbane pope to get a lot of fractious and over-energetic knights, nobles etc out of Europe and do their fighting somewhere else. The alleged idea was to get Jerusalem back from the Muslims; naturally the knights, nobles etc could never focus for too long, no matter how many attempts there were at crusading and ended up fighting each other just like in the whatever-old country. Richard was involved in the third try.
Richard to his credit wanted to get on with the business, but this was complicated by various kings, emperors, dukes and counts all claiming they should be in charge or be king of Jerusalem when it was re-captured. Also several families descended from the First and Second Crusades were learning to get on with their Muslim opposites and thought the new lot were a danger to the set-up. Richard managed to overcome some of these complications, win some notable victories and massacre Muslims, which he claimed was a necessary act of war and thus pious. (As Terminal Stupidity was becoming a prevalent affliction in all strata of society in those days, he got away with it). Although he never took complete charge of the Crusade as this was decided by election by the nobles, dukes, kings, emperors etc of the most convenient. (Some commentators either by error, malice or mischief mis-wrote the word ‘election’ with an ‘r’- resulting in all sorts of speculation)
Despite all of the above Saladin, who was not above the odd massacre himself grew to respect Richard; they got on so well that Richard even suggested that Joan should marry Saladin’s brother in part-exchange for Jerusalem and Joan being the good sport she was didn’t see any problems. However, the Church got all stuffy and pedantic and started waving edicts of excommunications at Richard. When he received the news that his brother John was planning with Philip King of France (who Richard had thought was his BFF) for John to seize the Throne of England he was obliged to give up the whole crusading business and get back to England.
Richard The Commodity
Being short of an army Richard was obliged to sneak about the Mediterranean lands disguised as a knight or a template. Only familiar with the Middle East and Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc he lost his way and ended up in a bit of Austria where he was recognised, captured and held hostage for a large sum by the Holy Roman Emperor who was a Henry and only being the VI had something to prove. Although John brought in the best of his Treasury staff to prove the ransom was beyond the means of England, so what could one do, Eleanor was not having her favourite son held by the imperials. When the barons stopped laughing they thought it best to have the man back as he spoke their language and anyway John kept talking about inventing a universal income tax. Thus was Richard saved. Anyway Henry VI was glad to shot of him, since Richard had started to make memorable statements such as “I am born of rank which recognises no superior but God” which Henry couldn’t top.
Richard The Later Years
On being freed in some 1194-ish Richard found that Philip had been very kingly in Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc and was making the outrageous claim they should be all part of France After some brief business in England threatening John, Richard settled back into the less complicated business of fighting in Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc. Just to make sure he wasn’t going to bothered by distractions he told John he understood about the rebellion and John could be king after, he Richard had died, and not some obscure nephew Arthur who had somehow got involved without being colourful much less energetic. Somewhere along the way he forgot he had married Berengaria, and had to be reminded by a pope. This domestic fracture sorted out Richard whiled away the years of 1194-1199 campaigning in Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc. On the 25th March 1199 while ambling about the trench works of a besieged castle he was struck in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt. In those days the only medical help was some very fishy practices by sturgeons or a lot of enthusiastically doleful priests who would ask the patient if they willing to meet with God. Being Richard on learning the castle had been captured had the crossbow wielder brought to him. Much to his surprise the assailant was a but a lad who said he’d shot at Richard because Richard had been responsible for the death of his father and brothers. Although dying, Richard was rather fascinated by the idea of being annoyed at someone simply for killing your nuisance of a father or brothers. In consequence, he memorably pardoned the lad and gave him a 100 shillings (whether the lad got out of the camp with his life or the 100 shillings is not verifiable). As this was the most exceptionally chivalrous act possible Richard died while he was ahead; on the 6th April 1199 and to ensure his greatness bits of him were buried all over Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc
Richard The Heritage
Some sour-pusses in the Church of the day and some historians these days have suggested he was not all that interested in women and heirs and had ‘other appetites’. Some more pragmatic historians have suggested nobles of those days weren’t all that fussy, so what’s the big deal? The Victorian and Edwardian historians and novelists of course did not go near such stuff and just concentrated on the romantically, noble, chivalrous side, which parents could safely read to their children.
Thus is Richard the subject for statues, novels, plays, films etc. No one asks the opinion of the folk of Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, Normandy etc; much less The Middle East.
And yet as in the case of his father Shakespeare did not write a play about him.
In the next Chapter we shall consider his brother the controversial John. (In advance I would ask American readers not to snigger all the way through; this is a serious work)
Part 22 of The True History of The Isles- Normans and their approach to assimilation (known back then as Conquering
A True History of the Isles Part 23 The Start of the Avegins. The Isles Become Full of Memorable Folk (Hence the Long Chapter). It’s Not All About You Henry!!