England under the Normans and Angevins, 1066-1272

By H. W. C. Davis | Go to book overview
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WITH Richard's coronation a knight-errant succeeded to a statesman. At heart the new King much resembled those adventurers who had clustered round his elder brother, following their landless lord for the sheer love of a predatory and nomad life, and repairing tattered fortunes by the spoils and the ransoms of those whom they unhorsed in tournaments. Richard's open hand and reckless daring, his indifference to prudential considerations and the duties of common life, his contempt for the ordinary rules of morals and his fidelity to the fantastic code of chivalry, stamped him as the type of a class of which England hitherto had seen little, but with which the Continent had been only too familiar for a century and more. Rufus had prefigured Richard; but in the Lion-Heart there was an emotional susceptibility to high ideals which made him a greater man than Rufus, though it made him at least as bad a ruler. There would be much to say in Richard's favour, even as a king, if he had succeeded in imparting to his island subjects a spark of the fiery ardour which drove him to a hopeless struggle in the East. For the self-centred, plodding, material Englishman it would have been a moral education to realise the inner meaning of the aspiration which had consumed so many noble minds from the time of Godfrey de Bouillon. In the wretchedness of Stephen's reign a certain number had risen to the height of renouncing self for the common good of Christendom. But returning prosperity had brought with it a more complacent and more selfish temper; and lofty purposes had withered in the atmosphere of order and security. To recall the better impulses of the forgotten past would have been, on Richard's part, a benefit of a nobler kind than the adroitest continuation of his father's administrative labours. The heaviest charge against him is that he made

Character of Richard


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