Great seal of Richard I, 1189
How do we sort out the truth of King Richard I from his legend? Was Lionheart a brave warrior who liberated Jerusalem and a hero of the tales of Robin Hood, or a vicious killer and failed monarch? The third of the legitimate sons of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard was never expected to accede to the throne. Once he was crowned in 1189, he turned his attention to the Third Crusade and his effort to regain Jerusalem for Christendom sealed his popularity as a brave warrior.
However, there was also a dark side to his reign. The religious and social conflicts of the times, including a series of anti-Semitic attacks on the Jews of England, were intensified by Richard’s decision to bar Jews from participating in his coronation, and riots followed. The largest attack in York is still referred to as England’s Masada.
Ralph Nurnberger, professor of international relations at Georgetown University, untangles the life and legacy of this legendary king.
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