Perhaps, it was reading stories about Robin Hood as a boy that I first came to admire Richard the Lionheart, King of England from 1189 until his death ten years later. He was the noble ruler who, when returning from the Crusades, removed his usurping brother John from the throne and undid that pretender’s repressive measures, restoring law and order, furthering freedom and ushering in a Golden Age for England.
Only later, would I learn that that usurper would succeed Lionheart as King. Of his decade on the throne, Richard was only in England a few months, perhaps spending the lowest percentage of his reign in Great Britain of any English monarch. He may not even have spoken English. (Wikipedia says he “spoke very little English“.)
Maybe had he spent more time in England, he could have made sure his edicts were enforced. He had issued a writ allowing Jews to live free from state (and church) interference and even ordered the execution of Christians who persecuted and murdered Jews–quite an enlightened act for the Middle Ages. He could not prevent the massacre at York in 1190, indeed many historians believe that his crusading zeal generated the religious fervor of those who perpetrated the crime.
All that said, sometimes, I wish I didn’t so love history so much; my knowledge sometimes detracts from my enjoyment of movies. Whenever I watch the wonderful 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood, I want the wicked Prince John (another masterful Claude Rains performance) to get his just desserts, but I know that, in real life, John would succeed Richard, reigning for seventeen years. Instead of remaining in England to preside over a new Golden Age after he ended John’s tyrannical rule, Richard was off to France to fight for his lands there.
And the irony of all this: in many cases, it’s the historically inaccurate movies which sparked my interest in the history behind the legends.