Hollywood has a tradition of introducing King Richard I in the last few minutes of stories of Robin Hood, but how much do you know about the real man behind the myths which have grown over the years? I recall being taught at school about his wars of the crusades and remember thinking it can't have been good to be out of the country for quite so long.
Richard the Lionheart: The Crusader King of England is therefore a useful reappraisal of what King Richard really achieved, and provides an intriguing insight into his life, and how his actions were shaped by the times he lived in.
I found surprising parallels with the modern world, as he battles Islamic enemies, and had the nickname 'Richard Oc e No' (Richard yes and no, much like our modern leaders.) The author visited Syria for his research on the great crusader castles, and notes how well the different communities have coexisted, yet as I write this, Syria is on the brink of an international war.
W. B. Bartlett's experience shows in his lively and readable style, and he uses engaging montages to bring the story to life. I'd never thought about it but Richard's untimely death meant he never had the chance to show us what sort of king he might have been. I'm sure he'd have done a better job than his successor, King John.
This isn't the story of an English king, it's about the life of an Angevin noble who became King of England. A great book which I am happy to recommend.