Historiography Saturday: Richard I of England


Now known by the famous nickname of “Lionheart”, the English king Richard I was renowned in his own time for his military prowess, though not for his Englishness (he came from a French line and despised the weather on the British Isles). The monicker was appointed despite a reputation for cruelty and the war against his father he endured before gaining the throne. Once there, he was active in the Third Crusade, fighting Muslim leader Saladin to a truce in a dispute over Jerusalem. His death came during an internal revolt when he received a crossbow wound to the shoulder.

The matter of Richard’s sexual orientation became an issue beginning with a publication contending that an incident during which Richard shared a bed with King Philip II of France indicates his homosexuality. Some historians consider it to have been a diplomatic formality; others point for additional evidence to a warning by a hermit in Richard’s biography that urges him to give up “what is unlawful” and from Sodom, and be with his wife. What is known is that he had no children with her, and so was succeeded by his younger brother John.


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