Richard I

Gillingham, John
Date published: 
October 1999

Unique among the kings of England, Richard I played a leading role in the great events of world history - in his case the struggle for control of the Middle East by two great religions, Islam and Christianity. No other monarch took on a challenge remotely comparable with that of the Third Crusade: taking a fleet and army to the eastern end of the Mediterranean and facing down an adversary as formidable as the great Saladin.

In his time and for centuries afterwards Richard was seen as the greatest of kings. But different ages hold different values and eighteenth and nineteenth-century historians such as Hume, Gibbon and Stubbs criticised Richard for his neglect of domestic government and policy, and cast him as a careless ruler and bad husband.

John Gillingham is the leading authority on Richard's reign, and the author of Richard the Lionheart, firstpublished in 1978. In this new assessment he looks afresh at the achievements and failings of the king and at the verdict of history: a restless, fearless individual with a love of war and a genius for it, or a monarch who neglected his kingdom, his citizens and his succession.

The account also considers the history of the Third Crusade, which sought, but failed, to recover the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Harnessing the latest sources and interpretations, John Gillingham provides a wholly convincing new assessment of Richard I, looking at what matters in history as well as what matters in legend. He provides the definitive account of the best of kings, and the worst of kings.