By Edward M. Humpert
Master’s Thesis, Ohio University, 2010
Abstract: Traditional assessments of Richard I’s first years on the throne treat him as a king interested only in draining the Angevin realm of men and money in the interest of the Third Crusade. Modern scholars still often consider Richard obsessed with combat, and disinterested with the protection of his inheritance. Richard apparently worked quickly to tear down all that his father, Henry II, had worked so hard to build up in the way of administration particularly in England. This thesis seeks to reassess Richard’s first years as king in order to correct the traditional narrative of Richard’s kingship. While Richard did make great effort to acquire funds and men for crusade, he also went to great lengths to establish the defense of his inheritance. Like any crusader, Richard had to establish the security of his lands in light of his upcoming absence. His dealings with family and his use of marriage diplomacy reveal a particular vision Richard had for his reign. That vision sought to break from the policies of his father, and to avoid warfare. While crusade ultimately shaped the rest of his reign, the actions Richard took in his first years display the course that Richard wanted his reign to take.
Introduction: Traditional assessments of Richard the Lionheart’s first years as king, between 1189 and 1191 look most often like the following. Richard became king of England at age thirty-two on September 3 1189. His one goal upon his accession was to drain his realm of men and money for his upcoming crusade. He remained in England only long enough to receive the crown, to make impetuous and ill-planned decisions for the governance of England in his absence, and to suck the country dry of every penny. His father, Henry II, had built up a highly efficient system of government, which Richard promptly began to tear down. He dismissed his father’s chief justiciar, Ranulf Glanvill, ousted his father’s sheriffs. Richard was unmarried and about to depart on crusade, from which he might not have returned. Richard did not designate a successor in the event of his death. He gave his brother John unreasonably vast grants of land including six whole counties, and nominated a bastard brother Geoffrey, who it was rumored had designs at the throne, to the archbishopric of York. In the words of J.T. Appleby, “Richard thus heaped up the materials for an explosion…and subjected the governmental system, painfully restored by his father…to the most severe strain.”1