The Life and Death of Richard the Lionheart (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: The Life and Death of Richard the Lionheart

Q1: Read the introduction and study the sources and then explain why Richard the Lionheart rebelled against his father in 1173?

A1: Eleanor of Aquitaine believed her older sons, including Richard the Lionheart, should be given parts of her husband's empire to run. When Henry II refused, she encouraged the three brothers to rebel.

Q2: Why did Eleanor of Aquitaine try very hard to arrange the marriage of Richard the Lionheart to a European princess? Why did Richard reject this idea?

A2: Eleanor of Aquitaine wanted all her sons to marry European princesses. In this way the family could increase the size of their empire. According to Marion Meade (source 3), Richard refused to "marry any woman" because he was a "homosexual".

When he became king of England, Richard finally agreed that he should take part in a political wedding. On 12th May 1191, he married Berengaria of Navarre, the daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. William of Newburgh suggests that the marriage was arranged by Eleanor as she wanted him to have an "incontestable heir". Walter of Guisborough claims that Richard had married Berengaria "as a salubrious remedy against the great perils of fornication". Richard took his new wife on crusade with him briefly but she returned home before Richard became involved in any fighting. The marriage did not produce any children.

Q3: (i) Select passages from this unit that suggested that Richard was sometimes short of money. (ii) How do these sources help to explain why he needed this money?

A3: In source 6 Gerald of Wales points out that Richard was "like a robber"... looking for "something to steal". Roger of Howden (source 7) claims that "Richard put up for sale everything he had." Richard needed this money to pay for the wars described in sources 8 and 13.

Q4: Study sources 1, 5, 9 and 12. Do these images provide an accurate representation of Richard the Lionheart.

A4: Source 9 was produced in Richard's lifetime but it is not a very detailed portrait of him. The same is also true of source 12. Anyway, the artist, Matthew Paris, was born after Richard died. Artists such as Merry-Joseph Blondel (source 1) and N.C. Wyeth (source 5) were produced hundreds of years after Richard was alive. However, they were able to consult contemporary written accounts of Richard.

Q5: Source 14 was written 700 years after the event that it described took place. Which source from this unit would John Richard Green, have found most useful when he wrote History of the English People (1874)? How might this source have influenced Green's interpretation of what happened?

Q5: John Green would have found source 13 very useful when he wrote his account of Richard the Lionheart's death. In source 14 , Green claims that Richard threatened to hang the people in the castle because they refused to surrender. In source 13, Roger of Howden says that this happened only after he was injured by the arrow. Both sources agree that Richard was struck by an arrow and that he forgave Bertrum de Gurdun, the archer who had been responsible for the injury. However, Howden adds that after Richard had died, Mercadier had Bertrum de Gurdun executed.