Richard I

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King Richard I of England lived September 8, 1157 – April 6, 1199. He was King of England from 1189 to 1199. Some consider him a great and very popular king despite the fact that he did not accomplish much for his people as he was away from England for most of his reign. He is an important figure in many stories about the crusades such as Sir Walter Scott's "The Talisman" and participated in the Third Crusade where his forces performed admirably against Saladin.


He was from the Royal House of Plantagenet, although this name was not adopted until later. At the time, he, his father (King Henry II) and brother (King John), were collectively known as the House of Anjou (or the Angevins) as they descended from Count Geoffrey of Anjou, whose nickname was Plantagenet (from the sprig of 'planta genesta', a type of broom, that was worn as the family emblem.) Geoffrey married the Empress Matilda (aka Maud), daughter of the English King Henry I, who fought her cousin King Stephen for the English throne. The treaty which ended this struggle saw her cede the throne to Stephen in return for her son (King Henry II) being made his heir.

French Ties

King Richard was known as Coeur de Lion (the Lionheart). At this time, the English court was almost entirely French in character and language, being directly descended from King William the Duke of Normandy and including the lands of Anjou and Aquitaine in modern day France. Indeed, the largest land holder in France, was King Richard. He spoke no English - his native tongue was the regional dialect French of Poitou. His body was buried in Poitou, and his heart in Rouen Cathedral in his ancestral Normandy.


It is sometimes recorded that King Richard was homosexual, but there is little direct evidence. It seems unlikely as whilst away fighting Crusades he was accused of raping women and although he showed little interest in his wife and Queen, Berengaria, she was deeply in love with him. He also acknowledged fathering an illegitimate son from before his marriage. The British monarchy website makes no mention of his homosexuality His sexuality may be argued, but he is known as a complex character, who on one hand enjoyed the rough male companionship of the military, and spent most of his reign under arms; whilst at the same time being accomplished in the arts of the troubadours with their focus on courtly love.

He died at age 41 from an infected arrow wound inflicted during a siege of a minor castle in France. It put to an end a long string of military adventures, starting with early attempts to remove his father by force of arms whilst still a teenager. Having no legitimate heirs, his throne fell to his brother, King John

There is no denying Richard's skills as a tactician, and battle-field commander, and as a leader of men. There is also no denying his penchant for breaking his oath, and for a ruthlessness notable even in a barbaric age. Because of Scott, and the Robin Hood tales, and a belief that the warrior is more interesting than the diplomat, we have to peel back the various layers of romance and legend to reach the real Richard.

Sellars and Yeatman in their classic history of England; "1066 and All That" described him as always setting off for somewhere and called him "Richard Gare de Lyon" (Lyon railway station)