A Lionheart is No Substitute for Antibiotics

Richard I of England, more famously known by his moniker Richard the Lionheart, died on 6 April 1199 as the result of an infected arrow wound.

Richard the Lionheart

One of the enduring mysteries to me is WHY Richard was such a popular king in his lifetime. In the decade of his reign he spent about 6 months in England, taxed the country to pay for the Third Crusade ( yet another attempt to steal riches from Muslim Arabs disguised as a ‘holy’ war during which history says the king had ‘important victories’ but honestly Richard lost to Saladin because he never retook Jerusalem), and failed to leave an heir. Seriously, he lousy as anything other than a defender of Anglo-French territories and brutalizing the people of France.

It’s also unfair that Richard was literally lionized while the other English king who shared his predilection for *ahem* “male companionship” was demonized. Edward II has gone down in mainstream (and thus homophobic) history as a limp-wristed pouf even though he fathered several legitimate kids and at least one premarital daughter, while Richard has been given the wink-wink-nudge-nudge boys-will-be-boys treatment for his sexuality. Apparently, slaughtering people with a big sword makes you LESS ‘gay’ than a man who actually had sex with women. Golly, cultural construction of masculinity as inherently violent much?

The fact that Richard got held captive by Leopold V, the Duke of Austria and by Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV is also glossed over. This was a big deal in terms of hardship for England.

The emperor demanded that 150,000 marks (100,000 pounds of silver) be delivered to him before he would release the king, the same amount raised by the Saladin tithe only a few years earlier, and 2–3 times the annual income for the English Crown under Richard. Eleanor of Aquitaine worked to raise the ransom. Both clergy and laymen were taxed for a quarter of the value of their property, the gold and silver treasures of the churches were confiscated, and money was raised from the scutage and the carucage taxes. At the same time, John, Richard’s brother, and King Philip of France offered 80,000 marks for the Emperor to hold Richard prisoner until Michaelmas 1194. The emperor turned down the offer. The money to rescue the King was transferred to Germany by the emperor’s ambassadors, but “at the king’s peril” (had it been lost along the way, Richard would have been held responsible), and finally, on 4 February 1194 Richard was released. Philip sent a message to John: “Look to yourself; the devil is loose”.

A mere six years after he had bankrupted England to ransom his butt, he was shot in the upper arm while lollygagging around the walls of a small castle his men were besieging. It was his own fault, since he was wasn’t wearing chainmail and laughing at the valiant defender on the castle wall at the time. Richard the Lionheart,  a decent military commander who sucked at almost all other aspects of kingship, died in his mothers arms roughly two weeks later because the wound became septic.

Richard was a bad king, but upon his death England would get one even worse; his little brother John.

King John tomb effigy

King John then promptly lost the lands in Europe that Richard had spent his life defending and expanding. Richard’s reign had been a massive waste of money and conquest … yet he was remembered fondly in England. Just … why???


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