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on August 14, 2000
Richard the Lionheart's life and personality may be the stuff of legend, but they are hidden by the mists of time -- or rather the paucity of relevant documents. Gillingham does a brilliant job of breathing as much life as possible into rather arid fragments without stepping beyond what is warranted by the evidence. For his understanding of the king, he draws as much on contempory Arab sources as European ones, arguing convincingly that the Arab writers may have had fewer axes to grind in talking of Richard. Gillingham goes so far as to place his evaluation of Richard's character at the point where the evidence ends -- following his captivity in Germany -- rather than at the end of the book. Instead the book ends with a well reasoned argument that it was John (and John alone) who lost Normandy whereas Richard was winning the war against Philip Agustus of France. Gillingham also points out that, had Richard lived to complete that struggle, the empire of Henry II might still have disappeared with his death.
Inevitably, some of the work is frustratingly dry -- especially for the process of Richard's development into a strong ruler and military genius against the background of one of history's most disfunctional families. But that dryness arises from the lack of evidence, not from immersion in trivia at the expense of substance.
The book itself is a delight, with strong narrative supported by a myriad of footnotes which are where they should be -- at the bottom of the pages. All in all, a good story well told with insightful analysis based on the record.
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on December 12, 2014
During the century following the reign of Richard I of England, he was regarded as being one of England's best kings. In recent times, as this book points out, a completely different view of his reign has emerged and Richard I of England (1189-1199 in the current era [C.E.]) has been called one of the worst kings of England. Professor John Gillingham analyzes this phenomenon and determines that, in part, this extreme contrast in the view of Richard I, was due to the change according to the way in which the world viewed the crusades, soldiers and knights in the twelfth century as opposed to the way the crusades are viewed today. Modern historians, by and large, tend to view the crusades as a large, if not the largest, human folly in history. Accordingly, Richard I, who spent much of his reign away from England in pursuit of military glory in the crusades, is regarded as having neglected the needs of his kingdom at home in favor of foreign military adventures in re-capturing Jerusalem in the Holy Land from the Islamic army under Egyptian Sultan Yusuf Saladin.

My most recent interest in the Kings of England from the time of the Norman conquest until Henry III (1207-1272 C.E.). This was a time when the word "parliament" did not exist. Parliament grew very slowly over a long period of time, out of the King's council, which was, generally, a group of nobles that were to advise the King on foreign and domestic policy. These nobles would have to relate to the King, when necessary, that a particular policy favored by King would do great harm to his position in the kingdom. This was usually related to moneys that would be raised in England to allow the King to pursue foreign military adventures. Opposition to the foreign adventures and the taxation that financed these adventures arose on a regular basis. Sometimes the opposition to these foreign adventures among the nobles of England became so strong that revolts among the nobles arose which threatened to depose the particular King. During the reigns of Henry II, father of Richard I; Henry I, great-grandfather of Richard; and William the Conqueror, great-great grandfather of Richard, these kings spent a great deal of time fighting nobles in rebellion. Eventually, in 1215 C.E., Richard's Younger brother and successor to the throne of England, was famously forced by the nobles to sign the Magna Carta, which is regarded as being the first limitation on the power of the throne to tax or collect moneys from the citizens of England without any restriction under the theory of the "divine right of kings."

Thus, the actions of the King's Council, when objecting to the King's policies can be seen as the very beginnings of what later became parliament. This is what makes John Gillingham's book on Richard I, and the biographies of all the early Norman Kings of England, very interesting in studying the early roots of parliament, even though the "word" parliament is not used with regards to those monarchs themselves.
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on June 17, 2013
I just started reading this book very recently so I have not read all of it. It is written in the third person with the narrator (author) describing what has happened. I find it interesting although a bit redundant because I am aware that the material available for researh on this period of time is limited. I just happen to be enthralled with John, Richard, Alinor and Henry II. I think that the writing is dry and might be boring or hard to follow for some. I would not recommend this book to everyone. It is scholarly and well researched and would be of interest to a student who is looking for references to complete a research paper. Of course, it is there as a resource for anyone interested in the period and is devoted to finishing the book no matter how long it takes. I suspect it will take me awhile to finish it.
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on March 20, 2009
John Gillingham is possibly the world's most respected Richard scholar. This book is a masterpiece. I don't use that word a lot. This book is an exploration of the career of King Richard the Lionheart, one of the most famous of English kings. Although his reputation has remained high among the general population, among scholars his reputation has suffered under a series of attacks. For over a century he has been considered, in Steven Runciman's words, "a bad son, a bad king, but a noble and valiant soldier." His is a relatively positive interpretation compared to others. Professor Gillingham helps put the record straight, in part with the help of modern analysis of the writs and charters of his reign. He shows that the criticisms of the worst of King Richard's detractors are mistaken. The economy that Richard is accused of stretching to the breaking point is shown to have been healthy throughout his reign.

The Angevin kings are easy to understand, as their personalities are so strong that they show through even in the flat and adulatory writings of the period. And Gillingham's book brings their personalities across very well. You see Richard in all his larger than life nature. He is the dominating figure in this biography.
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on February 11, 2000
While I have not yet completed this book, I have found it to be a very well-balanced look at the life of a person better known through legend than history. The readability is excellent. Gillingham takes a very balanced view of Richard, looking at him both in his own time period and from our own. I highly recommend this book.
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on January 31, 2016
Wonderful book. Extremely well written. Numerous references.
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on October 25, 2014
great historical
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on November 6, 2015
The one star is for price. I didn't actually read the book. Get a grip, publishers! No digital edition of a book is worth $40! Perhaps people might actually read this book if they could afford it.
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