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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Medieval Tidbit: Richard the Lionhearted

Sean Connery as Richard the Lionheart in
1991's Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
Photo Credit: disneysrobin.blogspot.com

Did you know...?

That Richard the Lionhearted was probably a straight man?

Let me explain. For generations, people have believed that Richard was a homosexual. It's an understandable conclusion. For one thing, though he was the king of England, he never married and died childless. From what we know, he took very few lovers in his lifetime--he was much more excited at the prospect of war than of women--and it was whispered among the ranks of his army that he was taking male lovers while on the war trail.


Though many people (i.e. junior high and high school history teachers, along with amateur historians) will tell you that Richard was gay--because that's what many history books say--it's actually not true.

I always heard this about Richard, and it just didn't jive for me. As a writer, I study characters, right? Everything we know about Richard says that he was testosterone to his toenails. His motivations, his personality, the primary sources we have about him. They all suggest that he's not the sort of person that would have been a homosexual. He was a strict Christian and truly believed that if sinned (homosexuality was considered a sin by the church) then he would lose his battles, so it's not something he would have been part of. Of course, I thought, I must be wrong because everyone says he was in fact a homosexual.

Danny Huston as Richard the Lionheart
in 2010's Robin Hood
Photo Credit: buzzinefilm.com
Then I took a college level medieval history class. College professors are much more in the know than others, especially about history. This professor told us something that made all kinds of sense to me! He said it was true that Richard's own men whispered that he was a homosexual, but that didn't mean that he actually  was. Think about it: in this era, the church was completely in charge and the homosexual lifestyle was not socially acceptable. Richard was fierce on the field of battle, and undefeated in the Crusades. If his enemies couldn't defeat him in the field, how could they defeat him?

By discrediting him. They (his enemies) circulated these rumors about him because they believed it would cause dissension in his ranks and turn his men and allies against him. But his enemies were wrong. They misjudged how much loyalty his friends and soldiers had to him, and how much faith his country placed in him. As long as he continued to win--which he did until he was killed in battle--they stood by him.

Meanwhile, generations of people have believed something about him that's not true. Does this fact change absolutely everything we know about this era of history? Um...no. But it's kind of interesting. :D

 Happy Monday, Everyone! :D


  1. Interesting. I love learning tidbits about history. It's especially fascinating to look at common myths that have arisen over time. The idea of his enemies trying to discredit him makes sense--we see it happening plenty today--and considering the heavy hand of the church in that time period that would be a pretty quick way to do it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rachel! I appreciate your thoughts! :D