Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lion-Heart

When I was a little girl one of my favorite Disney movies was Robin Hood. This movie had the animals playing the part of all the characters. You had a fox as Maid Marian and Robin Hood, a Lion as King Richard, a younger Lion as King John and a snake as Sir Hiss the exchequer.

My mom pointed out a vital argument over Thanksgiving break. Because I loved watching Robin Hood (and still do) my mom said even at a young age I was meant to be a historian, and you know what? I think she had a very valid point.

Today, December 20 in 1192 King Richard was captured on his way back to England from the Third Crusade. When I saw this fact today I knew I wanted to blog about it, because of the parallel with one of my favorite movies as a child.

King Richard took the thrown after King Henry II. Richard was the third son born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a marriage that is one of the most interesting in History. Eleanor was married previously to the King of France, and bore him two daughters before the marriage was ended. Eleanor then married Henry, heir to the English thrown. With their marriage England inherited most of the western area of France in addition to the mainland of England.

The first son born to Eleanor and Henry was named William; he did not survive childhood. The second son was named Henry; he died before he could inherit the thrown. The third son was Richard, followed by Geoffrey and finally by John.

Richard really was, as Disney claimed in their movie, Eleanor’s favorite son. Richard grew up in France in the court in Aquitaine where Eleanor grew up. He was close with the French lords. John was only the favorite of Henry after all three older boys, along with Eleanor, rebelled and waged war against their father. John was too young join in.

King Richard was crowned King, and spent much of his early reign on the content in France fighting against the French King for land. And as many strong Kings during the Middle Ages, when the opportunity came to go on Crusade, King Richard went.

He really wasn’t supposed to be captured at all. Richard simply angered Leopold V of Austria while on crusade, and to get back at him captured him when Richard was on his way home. Leopold required 2 million pounds from England for Richards return. Eleanor, still alive at the time, worked the hardest to get the money for Richards return. John, who was acting as King in Richards place, also worked for his brothers return (no doubt because Eleanor required him to).

In the end Richard was returned to England, and immediately went back to the continent to gain back all the land John lost while Richard was on crusade. And unlike how the new 2010 movie Robin Hood with Russell Crow depicts it, King Richard died on the continent from gangrene after he received an arrow in the arm. He was searching for treasurer with his knights.

Now, if you have read carefully you should be wondering why Geoffrey did not become King after Richard did. Alas, he too died, but he left behind a teenage son who should have inherited instead of John by the rules of feudal law. However, this son mysteriously disappeared and was found dead. This left no one but John, the last of the sons of Eleanor and Henry. King John is also the only King John in English history. He was one of the worst English Kings; he single handedly lost all the land in France to the French King.

And that is the history briefly summarized for everyone. I hope you all enjoyed reading about it. And I would go pop in my favorite Robin Hood, but my VCR is no longer in my living room. Wow, VCR, history in itself. I feel much older than I should for admitting my old Disney movies are on VCR.

I hope everyone has a great rest of his or her December 20, and I will work hard to update again this week. I have a good idea I may expand a bit on. As always, Happy History!

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