Fact of the day: 25th March

On this day in 1199 Richard I was wounded by a crossbow bolt while fighting France, leading to his death on April 6.

Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy (as Richard IV), Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and 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. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion, or mainly Richard the Lionheart, even before his accession, because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior.

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Richard’s reputation over the years has “fluctuated wildly”, according to historian John Gillingham. Richard’s contemporaneous image was that of a king who was also a knight, and that was apparently the first such instance of this combination.  He was known as a valiant and competent military leader and individual fighter: courageous and generous. That reputation has come down through the ages and defines the popular image of Richard. He left an indelible imprint on the imagination extending to the present, in large part because of his military exploits. This is reflected in Steven Runciman’s final verdict of Richard I: “he was a bad son, a bad husband, and a bad king, but a gallant and splendid soldier.”

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