Monday, May 20, 2013

Richard I: The Troubadour King

by Christy English

Richard the Lionhearted is one of the most famous kings in English history. He is one of my great favorites, if not my favorite altogether. Just to let you know, the musings to follow simply will not be an unbiased post. I find that with Richard, and John, Eleanor and Henry, I see them less the way they were, and more the way I believe them to be, with all attempts at unbiased reflection abandoned.

                                                          Statute of Richard I, Westminster

Richard the Lionhearted, or Richard "Oc et No" ("Yes and No" in the langue d'oc) as he was known during his lifetime. His Grace the King, as he was most often known in the last ten years of his life. Duke of Aquitaine from the age of fifteen. The greatest Western European general of his age, equaled only by the Saladin in the Levant.

Richard was a man who gave his word and kept it, a man of honor in a world without. Though Richard almost always kept his word, others rarely kept their word to him. Betrayed by his father, his brothers, his "brother kings" while on Crusade and after, Richard only found honor in his constant companions and in his enemy, Saladin.

After the Third Crusade, returning overland to his lands in Normandy and Anjou, Richard fell ill in Vienna. He was captured and held captive by his "brother king" Leopold of Austria, who quickly turned Richard over to the Holy Roman Emperor. After three years under guard, Richard was only released after his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, raised his exorbitant ransom, and after Richard swore an oath of fealty to the Holy Roman Emperor. The idea was that Richard would not make war on his lord, though he had made almost constant war on his father years before.

                                                      Richard and Eleanor's Palace in Poitiers

The root of the dispute between Richard and Henry II was the fact that Henry felt Richard gained his lands in Aquitaine from him, whereas Richard, Eleanor and Louis VII said that those lands came from the French Crown. In that case, Louis VII was his rightful liege lord. Seen in that light,, Richard was making war against his father in order to keep the lands and power that were his by right, as well as fighting the king who kept his mother in prison for 15 years.

Can you tell that as much as I love Henry, I am biased in Richard's favor?

My bias aside, Richard by all accounts was a lovely song writer and singer. Please follow the link below to the famous song he composed while in captivity. This song alone is proof of his skill as a troubadour, and more than earns him the title of the troubadour king.  

It also brings to mind his mother, my favorite woman of all time, Eleanor of Aquitaine. She, like Richard, her favorite son, knew very well the political value of a good song, well sung.


 Christy English is the author of THE QUEEN'S PAWN and TO BE QUEEN, novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as the Regency romances HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE and LOVE ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT. For more about the early Plantagenets and Regency romance fun, please join her on her website Working with the Muse


  1. I used to love the TV series 'Richard the Lionheart' when I was a boy. Many years later I was in a theatre bar and bumped into Dermot Walsh the actor who played Richard. We had a drink together, very regal.

    Why was Richard called Oc et no? And was he called Lionheart in his own lifetime?

  2. Thanks for tuning in Martin...Richard was known as "Oc et No" during his lifetime b/c he tended to see things in black and white, as yes or no questions. He wasn't called the Lionheart until about 100 years after his death. His fame lives on...

  3. I'm fascinted by him too, but then it's a little easier for me as I live only a few miles from Chalus where he was fatally wounded, and his history is everywhere!

  4. I think Ridley Scott needs to re shoot The Kingdom Of Heaven


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