Richard the Lionhearted

From William A. Percy
Jump to: navigation, search

King of England. Richard was famed for his reckless courage and extreme cruelty‒he massacred 3,000 brave Moslems who had surrendered Acre to the Crusaders under his safe conduct‒as well as for gallantry to many, including Saladin. Favorite of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who set him against his royal father Henry 11 of England-himself falsely accused of having loved Thomas Becket, with whom he did share a bed on occasion while carousing and wenching together before Becket became Archbishop of Canterbury- Richard has been seen by some as a mama's boy.

The Norman and Angevin (Plantagenet] kings of England were, along with their courtiers, regularly accused by monkish chroniclers of sodomy. It was not true of Henry 11, who .made his son's fiancee Alice of France his mistress to the outrage of Eleanor and Richard. The accusation rings true, however, for William II Rufus (ca. 1056-1100), as for his nephew Prince William (son of his brother Henry I), who was coasting down the Channel with his frivolous, effcrninate companions, when the White Ship capsized‒"God's vengeance on the sodomites," as the chroniclers declared.

Richard was the great-grandson of Henry I and scion on the other side of the brutal, vicious, exuberant counts of Anjou, thought by some to be genetically sadistic. It is pcrhaps not true that Richard fell in love with the young king of France, Philip II Augustus. Their intimate friendship was occasioned by their plotting against Richard's father. But Richard never showed any serious interest in women. He waited very late to marry Berengaria of Navarre; he spcnt practically no time with her, and failed to sire any heir, an important obligation of kingship. During a stay in Messina in 1190 he seems to have decided to abjure his preference for male sexual partners. He appeared barefoot in a chapel and, surrounded by high ecclesiastics, Richard confessed his past misdeeds. Although he was absolved on promise of good behavior, he apparently relapsed later.

When Richard, who spent only ten months of his eleven-year reign in England, was imprisoned or captured on his way back from Jerusalem by the Duke of Austria, an ally of Philip I1 of France, now his enemy, a visitor sang outside the prison a troubadour's song, composed long before by the king, as a signal of his arrival. Perhaps this wasalover, but the sources do not name a single one of them.

To Richard's reign belongs the account of the London underworld and its homosexual denizens composed by Richard of Devizes. Like Edward II (1284-1327), Richard II (1367-1400) probably practiced sodomy. None of the medieval sodomitical monarchs and princes of England died a natural death, unlike almost all their exclusively heterosexual royal rivals in France, the Capetians.

James A. Brundage, Richard Lion Heurt, New York: Scribner's, 1974.
William A. Percy

Personal tools