Monday, October 26, 2015

Hollywood History: Richard the Lionheart

On Wednesday last week, Turner Classic Movies showed a series of Medieval swashbucklers (plus of a couple of outliers (set during the reigns of Charles II of England and of Philip II of Spain)--among them three featuring Richard the Lionheart: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and King Richard and the Crusaders.

The first two pose a Hollywood historical problem: did Richard the Lionheart come home and confront his usurping brother John with the help of Robin Hood and his merry men or did he arrive during a tournament duel between Ivanhoe and De Bois-Guilbert? What both movie's Richard the Lionheart have in common is that he wants to create unity in England between Norman and Anglo-Saxon, restoring order and justice after removing his brother John and his followers.

As the BBC notes, however, Richard I had little interest in ruling over England and certainly forgave John for any attempts to usurp power while he was held for ransom:

As king, Richard's chief ambition was to join the Third Crusade, prompted by Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1187. To finance this, he sold sheriffdoms and other offices and in 1190 he departed for the Holy Land. In May, he reached Cyprus where he married Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre. Richard arrived in the Holy Land in June 1191 and Acre fell the following month. In September, his victory at Arsuf gave the crusaders possession of Joppa. Although he came close, Jerusalem, the crusade's main objective, eluded him. Moreover, fierce quarrels among the French, German and English contingents provided further troubles. After a year's stalemate, Richard made a truce with Saladin and started his journey home.

Bad weather drove him ashore near Venice and he was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being handed over to the German emperor Henry VI, who ransomed him for the huge sum of 150,000 marks. The raising of the ransom was a remarkable achievement. In February 1194, Richard was released. He returned at once to England and was crowned for a second time, fearing that the ransom payment had compromised his independence. Yet a month later he went to Normandy, never to return. His last five years were spent in intermittent warfare against Philip II. While besieging the castle of Châlus in central France he was fatally wounded and died on 6 April 1199. He was succeeded by his younger brother John, who had spent the years of Richard's absence scheming against him.

The BBC also posts a discussion of whether Robin Hood and Richard I ever met.

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