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 Richard I

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Caro
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PostSubject: Richard I   Mon 25 Aug 2014, 06:44

A different Richard from the usual discussion but perhaps some of you have opinions/knowledge about this one.  My novel, set before and during the third Crusade, has Richard I as one of the main protagonists, though I don't think we see things from his point of view (not so far anyway, about a quarter of the way through).  Bearing in mind Nordmann's strictures on the Princes in the Tower thread about how to know what historical event has actually taken place, what are the thoughts on these descriptions of Richard?

"This had been her [Eleanor] son's legacy from her: scorn and contempt for his father mixed with a loyalty both feudal and filial. There was something more. Richard was unable to enjoy the sensual love of women which should have been natural to such a brawling, matersful, vital man, but turned instead to other men for his enjoyment. To Eleanor, this made little difference so long as he was resigned to marriage and to the dutiful begetting of an heir to the throne. However, it arounded a certain distast among a few of the clergy who went around muttering about "the sin of Sodom" and it made things awkward for some of his friends, who either had to reject his advances or to deny rumours that they had accepted them.

He is also shown as blowing hot and cold, being very friendly to the trouvere Denys at one moment and then pretending he didn't recognise him or remember the last conversation next day.  "Richard was a man full of contradictions, swayed by impulses which appeared sometimes to be no more than whims, seesawing abruptly between extremes."

There is also shock when he decides to take up the Italian arbalest (cross-bows) as a weapon to fight in the Crusade.  So is all this roughly how Richard is seen now?

As an aside it feels rather odd to read about "perishing in Syria fighting against Saladin and the Saracens" at the moment.
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PostSubject: Re: Richard I   Mon 25 Aug 2014, 08:45

Richard I is a case study of how divergent established and assumed fact can be historically. There is is practically nothing in the historical record to suggest that the "Lion Heart" was anything but weak, disinterested, ineffectual and administratively disastrous in his role as English regent, as well as being parasitic regarding his realm's wealth and even so contemptuous of its existence that he was willing to sell it off to anyone interested. However his historical reputation has traditionally placed him amongst the "great" English rulers and therefore many historians over the centuries have felt themselves obliged to tackle the subject of Richard with this aspect of the man to the fore in their deliberations.

Historiographically therefore the issue of how he ever became "great" at all is a fantastic avenue into studying the nitty gritty of how history is transmitted. The manipulation of Richard's reputation in the century or so after his demise is essentially the story of a competition between two really effective propaganda machines - one in France and one in the Vatican (English people often react to this discovery with surprise) - both of whom actually vied at one point to "claim" the man's reputation as theirs to exclusively control, and to a large extent generate. They were in competition because they had two different agendas which brought them into direct conflict regarding the acquisition of wealth, power and influence in the Levant and both therefore needed to "own" the characters involved, be they living or as in Richard's case, dead but still with a huge profile amongst those who they needed to influence.

I have always felt a bit sorry for his brother John in all this. By definition John was almost forced reputationally to stand in contrast to his "great" sibling and even the reforms he implemented have been traditionally slanted as evidence for his poor (if not actually corrupt) administrative skills and approach. Yet the truth of the matter is that without John there was a strong chance that "England" could even have ceased to exist, its assets stripped, its power-bases sold to the highest bidders, its economy ransomed and its prospects of revival as a nation state all but extinguished.

The "Barons' War", so often cited as a component of England's transfer to democracy, when seen in that context however becomes much more interesting in its analysis. Some very powerful people stood to become very rich indeed had Richard had his way. Those who lined up against the crown in the form of John afterwards can be seen almost in the same light as Thatcherite "dries" in the 1980s who pitted themsleves against the "wets", characterising their obsession with privatisation and the concentration of wealth in private hands (much fewer hands than they advertised) always as "good governance" and "democracy" (and coincidentally popped up with cynical regularity later as "directors" on the boards of these privatised industries). The difference in John's time was that they not only pressed their case with more deadly vigour than their 1980s counterparts but came very close to winning outright. The whole Plantagenet dynasty came dangerously close in 1216 to transplanting itself to Ireland, a move from which it might never have been able to recover in terms of power. That which would have replaced the Plantagenets, headed up by a French dauphin later to assume control of that state too, might have been many things. But "English" seems likely not to have been one of them, at least in terms of importance. "Democratic" it most certainly would not have been.


Last edited by nordmann on Mon 25 Aug 2014, 09:07; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Richard I   Mon 25 Aug 2014, 09:06

@nordmann wrote:
Richard I is a case study of how divergent established and assumed fact can be historically. There is is practically nothing in the historical record to suggest that the "Lion Heart" was anything but weak, disinterested, ineffectual and administratively disastrous in his role as English regent, as well as being parasitic regarding his realm's wealth and even so contemptuous of its existence that he was willing to sell it off to anyone interested. However his historical reputation has traditionally placed him amongst the "great" English rulers and therefore many historians over the centuries have felt themselves obliged to tackle the subject of Richard with this aspect of the man to the fore in their deliberations.

I have always felt a bit sorry for his brother John in all this. By definition John was almost forced reputationally to stand in contrast to his "great" sibling and even the reforms he implemented have been traditionally slanted as evidence for his poor (if not actually corrupt) administrative skills and approach. Yet the truth of the matter is that without John there was a strong chance that "England" could even have ceased to exist, its assets stripped, its power-bases sold to the highest bidders, its economy ransomed and its prospects of revival as a nation state all but extinguished.


Yes, I actually tried defending John once on the Beeb and was shouted down in a torrent of abuse. Because everyone knows Richard was 'good' and John was 'bad' right?

Always found it odd that the King who never had any other interest in England other than as a source of income for incessant foreign wars is praised to the sky whilst the one who did actually try to do something for the place has been subject to centuries of ridicule. Yet another example of where myth has replaced fact in historical accounts, the Robin Hood stories have done a great deal to re-inforce that misconception as well.

Caro, I think the novel you are reading is overplaying Richard's supposed homosexuality a bit. As far as I know there isn't any evidence to support it, other than he took very little interest in his wife and preferred to remain abroad in the company of armies. But that doesn't necessarily imply that he was homosexual, and if memory serves Richard did have a child from a mistress somewhere in Europe?
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PostSubject: Re: Richard I   Mon 25 Aug 2014, 09:17

The Robin Hood stories are collectively one of the primary proofs of how immediately pervasive a well-controlled propaganda campaign can be, and in Richard's case we are talking about two such campaigns (and a third when the English administration later incorporated elements in their own retrospective history). They simply do not work as stories at all, even in their oldest known form, without the reputations of the principal characters borrowed from "reality" already established in the minds of the listeners. It is especially interesting - given that the stories purportedly represent a very real desire for democratisation amongst the common people - that the only named historical facilitator of actual democratisation in the tales ends up in the polarly opposite role when included as a character. This is, in fact, a very precise example of "myth" in the academic sense of the term, something of which I have despaired in the past when attempting to explain to certain people the role of myth in the formation of popular concepts of supposedly historical characters in other contexts.
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PostSubject: Re: Richard I   Wed 27 Aug 2014, 06:49

I have read, but only briefly, that Richard probably wasn't homosexual, so don't know on what grounds either/any of the possibilities are based.  Might go and have an internet hunt - my book dates to the mid-60s so no doubt a lot of research has been done since then.

I suppose my book is coming from the assumption that Richard is lion-hearted and brave.  The trouvere finds him compelling and talks of his leonine looks and hair. But so far there has been nothing appealing to the reader in his depiction of Richard who seems flippant in his attitudes to people, inconsistent, teasing, and cruel.  I do get a sense, in just one or two scenes, of how powerful kings were in those days, with just a word or two damaging someone, even favourite someones, completely in a sentence or two. 

Novels I have read (haven't read a lot of non-fiction of that period in recent years) have left me with sympathy for John too - at least he is known as the monarch when the Magna Carta was signed and no one can take that legacy away from him.  I do note there have no other King Johns since his time - this seems to be an indication of some sort of disgrace - no more Richards after III, no more Henrys after VIII, James II is the last of that name,  may not be any more Edwards in a hurry either.  Soon we will only be left with Williams or Georges (and they may have been lucky to survive George IV).  I am very doubtful that Charles will be used either.
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PostSubject: Re: Richard I   Sun 31 Aug 2014, 17:08

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PostSubject: Re: Richard I   Thu 15 Dec 2016, 23:10

Prince John expected to become regent of England when Richard left on a crusade. Instead, Richard chose his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to look after his kingdom. Prince John expected to be named as Richard I's heir. King Richard chose Prince Arthur of Brittany, son of their late brother, Prince Geoffrey, as his heir.
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