RICHARD LION HEART by James A. Brundage


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At the close of this meticulous reconstruction of the career of Richard I of England, Brundage quotes Winston Churchill's estimate of me Lion Heart's life: ""a magnificent parade."" The 19th century scholar Stubbs, on the other hand, who edited several 12th century accounts and was in a somewhat better position to comment, flatly stated that Richard was, ""a bad son, a bad husband, a selfish ruler, and a vicious man."" Brundage is inclined to agree and provides chapter and verse on those particulars: Richard's battles with father Henry II and his brothers (not unusual for the times of course), his undoubted homosexual practices, his lack of interest in England other than as a source of revenue, and his fits of extraordinary cruelty. But Richard was a remarkably cool, clever and fearless military leader, and on his Crusade he maneuvered efficiently and intelligently with Saladin to secure a Western foothold in Jerusalem. The author inches his way through the maze of engagements and diplomatic dealings and concludes that although Richard was ""one of the worst rulers England ever had,"" his absenteeism encouraged the stabilizing of some governmental institutions. A comprehensive portrait of that ""efficient killing machine"" (or hero, depending on your romance threshold) -- lacking dash and color, perhaps, but a sound reference for students and armchair medievalists.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1974
Publisher: Scribners