Fontevraud Abbey, 49590 Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, France
Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, and Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and seemed unlikely to become king, but all his brothers except the youngest, John, predeceased their father. Richard is known as Richard Cœur de Lion (Norman French: Le quor de lion) or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. The troubador Bertran de Born also called him Richard Oc-e-Non (Occitan for Yes and No), possibly from a reputation for terseness. The funereal effigy of Richard I at Fontevraud Abbey shows him with flowing hair and a full beard. He, too, has over the centuries been accused of queer proclivities.
While Duke of Aquitaine he engaged in a close friendship with Philip, King of France, to the extent that his father, Henry II, ‘was absolutely astonished at the passionate love between them and marvelled at it’. He was also supposed to be interested in Raife de Clermon, a young knight whom he rescued from captivity.
Among the roll call of figures that activist Peter Tatchell announced under the heading of ‘famous homosexuals’ there are ‘gay by orientation’: Edward II, Richard the Lionheart, and James I, for instance, find themselves appropriated as key personalities in a proposed exhibition on The Queer Kings of England and Scotland. Richard Coeur-de-Lion seems to have been bisexual, though obviously preferring men's company. Richard does not seem to have cohabited much, it at all, with his wife, Berengaria: a political marriage, there were no children of it. Coeur-de-Lion was prone to breakdowns from overstrain: in one of them he received the tell-tale warning from a religious hermit: "Be thou mindful of the destruction of Sodom and abstain from what is unlawful." He probably preferred the company of his minstrel, Blondel. Richard was himself devoted to the music and song of the troubadours. Hence the charming and tenacious tradition of Blondel's tracking Coeur-de-Lion to the castle where he was imprisoned in Austria and singing the first staves of a song he and Richard had composed together in happier days. The king responded by singing the rest of it from within the walls. Richard left as Justiciar, to govern England in his absence, William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely. The Bishop was a confessed misogynist, who preferred boys.
By the age of 16, Richard had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father. Richard was an important Christian commander during the Third Crusade, leading the campaign after the departure of Philip II of France and achieving considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, although he finalized a peace treaty and ended the campaign without retaking Jerusalem. Richard probably spoke both French and Occitan. He was born in England, where he spent his childhood; before becoming king, however, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England. Most of his life as king was spent on Crusade, in captivity, or actively defending his lands in France. Rather than regarding his kingdom as a responsibility requiring his presence as ruler, he has been perceived as preferring to use it merely as a source of revenue to support his armies. Nevertheless, he was seen as a pious hero by his subjects. He remains one of the few kings of England remembered more commonly by his epithet than his regnal number, and is an enduring iconic figure both in England and in France.
In the historiography of the second half of the 20th century, much interest was shown in Richard's sexuality, in particular whether there was evidence of homosexuality. The topic had not been raised by Victorian or Edwardian historians, a fact which was itself denounced as a "conspiracy of silence" by John Harvey (1948). The argument primarily drew on accounts of Richard's behaviour, as well as of his confessions and penitences, and of his childless marriage. Richard did have at least one illegitimate child, Philip of Cognac, and there are reports on his sexual relations with local women during his campaigns. Historians remain divided on the question of Richard's sexuality. Harvey argued in favour of his homosexuality but has been disputed by other historians, most notably John Gillingham (1994), who argues that Richard was probably heterosexual. Flori (1999) again argued in favour of Richard's homosexuality, based on Richard's two public confessions and penitences (in 1191 and 1195) which, according to Flori, "must have" referred to the sin of sodomy. Flori, however, concedes that contemporary accounts of Richard taking women by force exist, concluding that he probably had sexual relations with both men and women. Flori and Gillingham nevertheless agree that accounts of bed-sharing do not support the suggestion that Richard had a sexual relationship with King Philip II, as had been suggested by other modern authors.
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