Richard LionHeart Book Reviews
A brief intro to the man himself… Richard the Lionheart
Richard was the third son of King Henry II of England and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (my favourite!). His older brothers, sadly, died before they could become King – a bit of a shocker as Henry his eldest brother was ‘kind of crowned King’ during his father’s reign but never got any power associated with it. Which meant when his father passed, King Richard I was king of England, Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony. A hugeeeeee land mass to cover!
The reason he was known as “Richard the Lionheart” was because of his reputation as a great military leader. He started fighting alongside his own army at only 16 years old, against none other than his own father! After his was crowned, he instantly took the crusader’s vow, and set out to join the Crusade and free the Holy Land from Saladin, the leader of the Turks. He never seemed to have any interest in anything else.
However, most strangely, as an English King he was barely in England during his reign! Maybe only a few months. He didn’t speak any English, and his Queen, Berengaria of Navarre, never even set foot in the country. She was crowned in Cyprus… as Queen of England and Cyprus. His relationship with women is one of the main focuses of the books I have chosen to read and review in regards to Richard.
Books about Richard the Lionheart
Sister of the LionHeart by Hilary Benford
Joanna was the youngest daughter of of King Henry of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. As strong-willed as her mother, she grew up very close to her brother Richard, as she traveled between the courts of France and England. This is the story of her close bond with Richard and her adventures as a young wife.
During her childhood, Joanna befriends a number of girls in the court, including Richard’s betrothed, Alys (sometimes known as Alice), who was the fourth daughter of Louis VII. But this relationship was not meant to be and Joanna’s youth was spent in the thick of it all, the jousts, the scandals and the affairs! But Joanna wanted to be a Queen…. and this is one determined woman. Therefore, imagine her luck when she is shipped away to marry the handsome King of Sicily, William. She then swaps one court’s drama for the next. Her new husband’s court is full of Normans, Italians, Jews, Arabs and Byzantines and harems!! Like a true Plantagenet, Joanna is headstrong and she refuses to accept her husband’s ways in silence. This is only the beginning of Joanna’s adventures. When William died suddenly he was succeeded by his bastard cousin Tancred, who seized her lands and dowry, keeping her practically a prisoner in the place she once was Queen. When Richard hears about this, he immediately demands that his sister be released and given her inheritance. It’s Richard that goes to rescue her and Richard who then allows Joanna to accompany him and his new wife on his Crusade to free the holy land! This is only the first book on Joanna’s life and well worth a read. Followed by the next book Joanna Crusader (part 2).
The Loves of the LionHeart by Margaret Brazear
This tale follows Richard’s two “loves”, although to be honest, I think Richard’s only loves were for his family and crusades! So, for me, this is the tale of his two forgotten loves!
His first betrothed wife-to-be was Alys of France who was only 8 years old when she was sent to live with Richard’s family in England. Lonely and half forgotten by Richard when he frequently left her in England, she was an easy target to Richard’s father, King Henry II.
Next, his chosen bride, Princess Berengaria of Navarre, who became the only Queen of England never to set foot in the country. She was a mysterious beauty, not like the typical English Queens, and she was brought to Richard by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine when he was already in his thirties. Since Richard was already on the Third Crusade, the marriage started badly with the two women struggling to catch up with him. Richard’s sister Joanna, the widowed Queen of Sicily, and Berengaria were even left by Richard en route to the Holy Land and he never took her to England even when he returned. Her life with Richard produced no heir and it might have been likely she never really had a the chance to be his proper wife.
The Autumn Throne (part 3) by Elizabeth Chadwick
Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Richard’s mum, is a powerful story that is concluded in this third book. At this point in the tale, Eleanor is imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, but is refusing to give up her crown!
Then, when Henry dies, Richard (her favourite son!) comes to her rescue and Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. Her passion and support of her sons continues past her husband’s death as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, travels Europe to ransom him when he is captured and the way she tries keep the peace between her competitive sons. She’s still my favourite queen and this book highlights Richard and her close relationship and love for each other.
The Captive Queen by Alison Weir
Yes, I couldn’t resist slipping another Eleanor of Aquitaine book in here. Plus, its my favourite.
This is the full story of the Queen that made nations. She was passionate, headstrong, determined, rebellious and a real survivor. Women in history don’t often get the credit for their part, so I am a true reader of English Queens and this lady was no exception!
Disney’s Robin Hood!
Disney’s Robin Hood is actually (shock horror) pretty historically accurate when covering the story of King Richard, but this time from the reign of his youngest brother “Prince John”.
The plot of the Disney film is about the evil Prince John, younger brother to the real King Richard, collecting so many taxes from the poor animals of Sherwood Forest (in Nottingham) that Robin Hood is forced to rob from the rich to feed the poor. This is not too dissimilar to when John was King of England in the Medieval period. So what are the similarities? Well, in the film King Richard rarely makes an appearance until the end… this echoes real life where he joined the crusade the moment he was crowned and only spent months in England. For Prince John, he really was not a popular king in the film or in history. In the film the townsfolk sing a song about him called the “Phony King of England”, with even his loyal soldiers joining in, which is the same argument presented in real events when he was forced to sign Magna Carta, a document limiting his power as king!
Robin Hood is set in Nottingham and John originally had many lands in Nottingham and Lancaster, so this might be why the story originates here. He didn’t truly gain full power of England until Richard died.
Can I say, I love the animal characters in this film but… even Richard and John’s appearance in the film as two lions is hinting at they personalities in history. Richard sports a full mane and is therefore the true king, whilst John has barely any hair because during Richard’s time on the throne he did try to attempt a rebellion but was defeated (brotherly love). In the film John is accompanied by a snake, potentially showing his untrustworthy side. Plus, Robin Hood is a cunning fox!
Lastly, in the film, Prince John is always found sucking his thumb and calling “mummy”, this is because he was know to rely on his mother Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to help him rule England. In complete contrast, Richard was favored by their mother, which was apparently true with Queen Eleanor referring to him as her “favourite son” and supporting him against his father, her husband.
So, I just had to include a Disney film in my little review of Richard the Lionheart.