Henry II's son is now on the throne. More from "Kings and Queens of England and Scotland". (I find it interesting that there are definite dates regarding births, deaths etc.)
RICHARD I Known as Coeur-de-Lion, Lionheart.
Born at Oxford on 8th September, 1157.
Succeeded as Duke of Aquitaine 1172, as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou on 6th July, 1189, aged 31.
Whatever were his tenuous claims to more of Britain, John was formal Lord of Ireland, and Richard was specifically not overlord of Scotland, having sold the right to homage for 6666 pounds.
Eldest surviving son of his predecessor Henry.
Married in Cyprus on 12th May, 1191 Berengaria of Navatre.
Died at Chalus, in Limousin, on 6th April, 1199, from gangrene following a wound by a cross-bolt, aged 41, having reigned 10 years.
Buried at Fontrevault,, but his heart is buried at Rouen.
Profile: Tall with exceptionally long legs and arms, auburn hair and a short beard; a very handsome physique to match his bravery.
Richard was an absentee king whose influence on England arose from his neglect of it. He was a courtly musician and poet, but his great enthusiasm was for war. He was a man of high courage and an outstanding military engineer. His youth was turbulent and unpardonably disloyal, but from the age of 30 his life was dominated by the passion to regain the city of Jerusalem in what became the Third Crusade. Three months after his coronation a ceremony which was allowed to provoke a pogrom of the Jews in London, and was followed by similar outbursts in Lincoln, Norwich and York - he left England, having raised for Jerusalem all the money he could in a reckless liquidation of royal perquisites. His methods were tyranical, devious and rapacious. Areas excluded from Richard's rapacity were the six counties of England which he foolishly handed over to his young and totally unreliable brother John, for thorough despotic exploitation. No taxes for the Crown were levied there, and even the King's Justices were excluded from entry.
Over a year after his departure from England, Richard had got no nearer the Holy Land than Sicily, His 69-year-old mother Eleanor of Aquitaine, travelled there to introduce to him the young princess Berengaria of Navarre (Navarre is the Basque country straddling the Pyrenees) with the suggestion that Richard should marry her. Richard dutifully agreed - since Navarre bordered the Cascony area of Aquitaine, it was a useful territory to have a claim to - and he took Berengaria on his voyage to the east. They were married, and Berengaria was crowned Queen of England, when they put ashore in Cyprus. Richard was in fact homosexually inclined, and he saw very little of his wife, except that he recalled her to his bed four years later when he was accused of sodomy.
The Third Crusade was a time-consuming failure, partly because Richard was given the news that his brother John was challenging for the throne which would have come to him anyway, and Richard consequently broke off the siege of Jerusalem. Its local conclusion, three years after Richard's departure, was a national disaster and possibly ranks as England's most expensive pay-off in history for any single operation before the twentieth-century wars. Richard mortally offended the Duke of Austria at the siege of Acre, publicly disgracing him for insubordination and having his banner trampled in the dirt. On the voyage home Richard was wrecked in the Adriatic and, taking a chance, rode through the Duke's territories on the straight route to England. He was recognised, captured, imprisoned and put up for ransom. The price was 100,000 pounds - say 12 million pounds in modern money, but it then represented a third of the gross national product of the country. Richard seems hardly to have been worth that, except that the alternative was John, now in alliance with Philip Augusts of France, who had accompanied Richard to the crusade but retired hurt. The most special taxes had to be collected to redeem the king, and the process took over a year. Once ransomed, Richard exhibited himself wearing his crown in Winchester Cathedral, and went straight off to Normandy for Christmas, never again visiting England. He had proved to be a most expensive king.
The country was run, and well run, by Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury and Justiciar (King's Deputy).
Richard amused himself with was in France. When a ploughman unearthed in Chalus an intricate Roman relic in gold, and his feudal overlords confiscated it, Richard considered the incident sufficiently serious to besiege Calus and get the gold for himself. He was fatally wounded in the operation. It was a typically frivolous way to die, but Richard carried it through with a Provencal
panache not too often seen among he English. He had good-naturedly congratulated the enemy crossbowman on the skill of his shooting before, miscalculating the flight, he was hit. On his deathbed he sent for the bowman, not for execution but for pardon.
This takes me back to the film Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, a film I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought Alan Rickman's role as John was wonderfully portrayed. We have it on DVD and watch it about once a year. More about John in our next episode of "K and Q of E and S".