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Useful Notes / Richard the Lionheart

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Statue of Richard by Marinetti outside Parliament.

"Spread your wings
King of the kings"
— "Lionheart" by Grave Digger

King Richard I of England, called Cœur-de-Lion (or the Lion-Heart(ed)) in French, was born at Oxford, England, September 8, 1157, and died at Chalus-Chabrol, France, April 6, 1199. The son of Henry II of The House of Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard came to the throne in 1189, and thereafter spent no more than six months of his ten years' reign in England. Both in his life and after his death, Richard's reputation has fluctuated wildly, from champion of Christendom and paragon of chivalry to blood-thirsty butcher, from beef-witted thug to poet and musician, from feckless political blunderer to shrewd diplomat and statesman, from insatiable womanizer to (latterly) insatiable... er... man-izer. Nevertheless, one aspect of his fame has remained constant — his reputation as a particularly badass warrior, one which resonates to this day: along with Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror (Alfred the Great wasn't King of England, per se), he is one of the few Kings of England to be more usually known by his epithet rather than regnal number.

Richard's political career began when he was enthroned as the ruler of his mother Eleanor's duchy of Aquitaine (his elder brother Henry being the inheritor of his father's kingdom and duchy of Normandy). Their father's refusal to share power drove both boys to join their mother in rebellion against him; even after Prince Henry (the Young King) died, the rebellion smouldered on to no real conclusive effect, until Henry II died in 1189, his heart broken (it was said) by the rebellion of his sons — particularly John, his youngest and favourite.

On coming to the throne, Richard immediately took in hand the greatest of his projects — the preparations for the Third Crusade (the so-called "Crusade of the Kings," as it was to be jointly led by Richard, King Philip II Augustus of France, and the aged Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire). Unfortunately for the Christian cause, Barbarossa died en route (either drowning or succumbing to a heart attack in the river Saleph in Turkey) and the Kings of France and England, who had already quarreled when Richard had refused to marry the French king's sister Alice to whom he was betrothed (on the not entirely unreasonable grounds that she had been his father's mistress for years), refused to pull together, and were in fact plotting against each other continuously until Philip's early departure. Richard stayed on, winning some victories, both military and diplomatic, against his great Muslim opponent, Saladin, but unable finally to recapture Jerusalem or to gain any decisive dominance for the Christians in the Holy Land. News of his brother John's intrigues with Philip forced him reluctantly to withdraw.

On his way home, he was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria (whom he had insulted in the Holy Land), and held to ransom by Leopold and his master, the Emperor Henry VI. During his captivity, he wrote a song about it — "Ja Nus Hons Pris" (perhaps channelling his great-grandfather William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, a noted trobador). He was released two years later after secretly swearing fealty to the Emperor and openly paying a huge ransom, collected by his mother; John's conspiracy against him immediately collapsed.

The final five years of his reign were spent fighting against Philip's incursions into various disputed territories in France, his death occurring as a result of a crossbow bolt to the shoulder at the siege of a not particularly important castle during a side campaign against the rebellious Viscount of Limoges. The surgeons removing the bolt bungled the operation; gangrene set in, and Richard died, reportedly forgiving his killer — who was nonetheless supposedly flayed alive after the king's death by Richard's enraged followers. He was succeeded by John.

Since at least the Victorian Era, the modern historical view of Richard largely regarded him as a lousy king who was uninterested in actually governing his kingdom; during his reign, he was hardly ever in-country, preferring to fight his wars abroad. A revisionist historical view has lately been gaining strength, noting that due to factors such as the court of the Angevin Empire's being held in Angers or Chinon, even if Richard's reign had not mostly consisted of military activity, he would not have been in England that often. Moreover, he was reputedly a gifted military leader; a Muslim contemporary wrote, "Never have we had to face a bolder or more subtle opponent."

In popular culture, Richard usually appears as the Crusader king. In older works he is apt to be treated positively as a chivalrous figure and just ruler, but later works tend to be more cynical.

Since Tudor times, Richard has been associated particularly with the Robin Hood legend, often as a mostly-unseen Big Good whom Robin remains loyal to, regarding John as a pretender. However, most modern scholars associate Robin with one of the Edwards — and Richard, at any rate, saw Sherwood Forest for the first time only after his release from captivity and second coronation in 1194. Nevertheless, many retellings feature him pardoning Robin, often after Robin has been involved in foiling an attempt by John to usurp the throne.

Fun fact: American President Richard Nixon was named after him.

Works associated with Richard the Lion-Heart in the Robin Hood mythos:

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    Animated Films 


  • Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, fittingly, as Scottish historian John Major was one of the earliest writers to associate Richard with Robin. Scott incorporates the episode of the King's exchange of buffets with the outlaw from the ballads.
  • In Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood, he does the traditional dramatic arrival at the end. This version pays more attention to political realities than most; though Richard admires the courage of Robin and his men, he also doesn't want to encourage their lawlessness even if it is in a noble cause.
  • In Angus Donald's The Outlaw Chronicles, the main character Alan Dale is Robin Hood's chief Lieutenant and close ally/favourite of the King, taking the role of the unnamed minstrel Blondel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Richard was played by Bernard Horsfall in the 1971, Julian Glover in the 1982, and Rory Edwards in the 1997 TV versions of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.
  • John Rhys-Davies played the king in Robin of Sherwood, a particularly cynical depiction in which he is as worthless and parasitic as the rest of the aristocracy, and his pardon of Robin is merely an attempt to co-opt and neutralise him.
  • Robin Hood: Steven Waddington played Richard.
  • Forbes Collins (who also played Prince John) was Richard in one episode of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men where he was just as rotten as his brother, and like the real-life Richard was only briefly in the country before leaving again. He did have his own theme song, "The White-ish Knight," which was a CLANNAD-esque riff and a spoof of the 1980s Robin of Sherwood's style of music.

    Video Games 

Works associated with Richard the Lion-Heart apart from Robin Hood:

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 

  • In 1911, Scott's The Talisman was made by an Italian film company into a two-reeler (Il talismano, released in the Anglosphere in 1912 under the boring title Richard the Lionhearted); Richard was portrayed by Emilio Ghione(?) in a florid, almost operatic style. The same novel was adapted again in 1954, again with an unimaginative retitle, King Richard and the Crusaders; Richard, was played by George Sanders in exactly the same manner as his effete, snarky Charles II from Forever Amber. Aleksandr Baluyevone played Richard in the 1992 Russian version Ричард Львиное Сердце ("Richard the Lion-Heart") (completing a trifecta of re-titling dullness).
  • In Cecil B. DeMille's 1935 film The Crusades, he is played by Henry Wilcoxon.
  • The 1968 The Lion in Winter is all about the family intrigues of Henry II, Eleanor, and their sons, including Richard (played by Anthony Hopkins).
  • Lionheart, a 1987 film by Franklin J. Schaffner (of Patton and Papillon fame).
  • In the 1994 Hellbound, King Richard appears in the opening segment with his band of knights to save his baby son from being sacrificed by the demon Prosatanos.
  • In Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Richard (played by Iain Glen) appears at the end of the movie, as the story's events are the elements that provoked the Third Crusade.


  • Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman. Scott's take on the king is of a not entirely uncultured Boisterous Bruiser.
  • Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy series takes place in modern-day Europe with a balance of power between an Anglo-French Empire and the Kingdom of Poland, in which, instead of dying at the siege of Chaluz, Richard survived and returned to England to rule.
  • In Fate/strange Fake, Richard is summoned as a Saber-class Servant. He's a bit nutty and completely ignores his Master's requests remain hidden from Muggles, instead cheerfully roaming around in public and making no attempts to be subtle. He's portrayed as a massive fanboy of King Arthur and his main Noble Phantasm is to turn anything he wields into a copy of Excalibur. He also deeply regrets leading his country into war and ruin, because he was obsessed with emulating King Arthur's reign, so he overspent his kingdom's budget on quests and picked fights just to copy the events in Arthur's stories. His other Noble Phantasm allows him to very briefly summon his old comrades, including Robin Hood, to aid him in battle.
  • He is the title character of Molly Costain Haycraft's historical novel My Lord Brother the Lion-Heart. He's not the main character, however; the protagonist is Joan, the widowed Queen of Sicily, who (at least in this story) was Richard's favorite sister.
  • The Tom Holt novel Overtime is a pastiche of the legend of Blondel, in which the minstrel has to search for King Richard not just through the Holy Land, but across time and space.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Crusade." Funnily enough, Julian Glover also played him here.
  • Dermot Walsh played the king in a 1962 TV series called Richard the Lionheart.

    Popular Music 

  • In 1727, Georg Friedrich Händel produced his Riccardo primo, re di Inghilterra, recounts Richard's capture of the island of Cyprus. The part of Richard was originally sung by the castrato Francesco Bernardi ("Senesino").
  • André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry's 1784 opera, Richard Cœur-de-Lion, retells the story of Richard's release from captivity by his faithful minstrel, Blondel. Blondel's aria "O Richard! O mon roi!" became a rallying cry for Monarchists during The French Revolution.

  • Though Richard does not appear in person, a sort of avatar of Richard appears in the form of his bastard son, Philip Faulconbridge, in William Shakespeare's King John. Richard's old enemy Leopold of Austria is conflated by Shakespeare with the Viscount of Limoges, and appears wearing Richard's own personal lion-skin (!), which Faulconbrige takes back after slaying him.
  • Richard appears as a young man in The Lion In Winter (1966) (though the title refers to his father, Henry II, rather than to him); the Ho Yay in this version is very obvious.
  • Played by Andrew Howard in the 2003 miniseries adaptation of The Lion in Winter.
  • The Time Rice/Stephen Olivier musical Blondel (later reworked as Lute!) is an Anachronism Stew comedy in which the eponymous minstrel thinks being recognised by Richard could be his big break into showbiz.

    Video Games 
  • Appears as a non-playable character in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, as an ally in the final part of the Barbarossa campaign, at the time of his siege of Jerusalem, and as an enemy in the final part of the Saladin campaign, at the time of his siege of Acre. He later appears as a playable character in the one-shot scenario "Cyprus" in "The Forgotten", detailing his invasion of Sicily and conquest of Cyprus on his way to the Holy Land.
  • He is one of the heroes in Age of Empires: Castle Siege. He has the ability to boost foot soldiers for some time, during which they are faster and stronger.
  • In Assassin's Creed, Richard appears repeatedly and interacts with Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, the main character. Unlike most depictions, Richard has a French accent, which is actually quite correct since he was not British and spoke French as his first language instead of English.
  • Richard appears in Dante's Inferno, where Dante serves under his command and was the one responsible for the massacre of 3,000 prisoners.
  • Appears opposing Saladin in Medieval: Total War and again in Medieval II: Total War.
  • Appears as a Hero unit in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World . One of the game's campaigns is focused on him, too.
  • Richard is a playable character in Crusader Kings II if you choose a custom start date (the official bookmarks skip over his reign, though he exists in the 1187 "Third Crusade" start).
  • Stronghold Crusader is based around the Third Crusade, where Richard was a key figure, and thus, Richard is a lord you can choose to play as.
  • Richard is one of your opponents in the second Rock of Ages game. Compared to the other foes you face, Richard doesn't have that much of a gimmick to him.

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