4. Military Maketh the Man: Richard's Aims and Objectives


In this section, you will study what drove Richard to undertake military expeditions abroad. You will also explore how his personality is revealed through the extant historical sources.

Guiding Questions:

  • Was Richard a short-term conqueror or long-term strategist?
  • What were the motives behind Richard's military expeditions and engagements?
  • How has Richard's personality been constructed by historians from the sources?

4.1. Aims and Objectives

A number of motives behind Richard's broad activities have been suggested by historians over the last few centuries and as with all famous individuals, perceptions and accounts of him change and continue to change in light of shifting focuses, fresh analysis and new sources.

Some of the key motives for Richard's activities in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East are identified as:

  1. Personal glory.
  2. Direct conquest.
  3. power and wealth.
  4. Strategic vision.
  5. Defense of territory.

Conquest and glory

On one view, Richard's primary interest was war with victory. Often, he has been evaluated in that context by historians from the 18th century onwards. Even if he was a neglectful ruler, his military prowess, tactical astuteness and resolute determination overshadow that aspect. Thus, historians have privileged his military deeds over his governance. In fact, these military deeds it can even be argued were seen to mitigate his negative character traits. As an example, the historian William E. Aytoun writing in the early 19th century admits Richard's poor governance but gives precedence to his military ambitions due to the necessity of that kind of ambition - according to Aytoun - for the political unity of Anglo-Norman and Angevin Kings. Aytoun writes in hyperbolic fashion:

Richard has been often and justly blamed for his inattention to the interests of his subjects but [...] as a warrior Richard is certainly entitled to rank amongst the most distinguished of ancient or of modern times. The field of his exploits was indeed circumscribed when compared with that of others; but such as it was, it offers to our view as dazzling a train of splendid successes as ever fell to the lot of king or chieftain to achieve.

 The Life and Times of Richard I, pp.347, 349.

William Stubbs late in the 19th century also highlights Richard's ambitions being primarily glory and military success:

[it] was that of a mere warrior: he would fight for anything whatever, but he would sell everything that was worth fighting for. The glory he sought was victory rather than conquest.

Constitutional History of England, 1:575.

However, even before Aytoun and Stubbs in the 19th century, the great Scottish empiricist Philosopher David Hume defined Richard's valour and military achievements as not only defining of his success and reputation, but the factors that made him a real man:

The most shining part of this prince’s character are his military talents. No man, even in that romantic age, carried personal courage and intrepidity to a greater height and this quality gained him the appellation of the lion­hearted, coeur de lion. He passionately loved glory, chiefly military glory; and as his conduct in the field was not inferior to his valour, he seems to have possessed every talent necessary for acquiring it.

Thus, It seems to be that Richard's ambitions were primarily military. His character consisted of valour and desire for glory. It was these qualities some historians argued that made him so successful (especially in the Third Crusades) as a king and leader. Not only did it make him successful, but it shaped him to become the kind of man he was; differentiated from other medieval commanders. In other words, his love of military adventure and expedition made him a better general. "Military maketh the man" one could say.

On Richards character and qualities, see the page "Chivalrous Warrior" and the sources and analysis in there.

Wealth and Power

A number of historians have also suggested that Richard's aims were not really good governance - nor even glory - but war and wealth in order to serve to consolidate his power. His desire for wealth was also to fund his ambition to retake Jerusalem - but for another pretext for him to acquire new wealth and new regions to control and dominate. In Kings and Queens of England, p.28, Moncrieff writes:

Richard tended to regard England mainly as a piece of property from which, by taxes or other means, he could raise money for the Crusades. He got it chiefly in large lump sums from the wealthier people. For instance, he sold the Archbishopric of York for £2,000. He put Ranulf Glanvill in prison, for no reason except that the old man rich - King Henry's strong sense of justice not having descended to his sons - and this fetched a ransom of £15,000.

ATL Skills: Critical Thinking


1. What can you learn from Moncrieff's quote about Richard? State two points. (2)

ATL Skills: Research and Critical Thinking
Description of Richard

[For details of the Chronicon Anglicanum manuscript,

see the British library page link here]

Ralph of Coggeshall in Chronicun Anglicanum, p.49 describes Richard as "rex ille bellicosus".


1. What does the Latin phrase rex ille bellicosus mean?

2. Discuss two reasons why you agree or disagree with this characterisation of Richard.

Gerald of Wales - a long time clerk of the Angevins who later became a scathing critic - describes Richard in this way:

The King (Richard the Lionheart) is like a robber permanently on the prowl, always probing, always searching for the weak spot where there is something to steal.

Gerald of Wales, vol.8, p.13 translated by Gillingham in Richard, p.133 as cited in Turner and Heiser, The Reign of Richard Lionheart, p.12.

Roger of Howden writes:

Richard put up for sale everything he had - offices, lordships, earldoms, sheriffdoms, castles, towns, lands, the lot.

John T. Appleby in England without Richard 1189-1199 (New York: Ithaca, 1965), p.36 states that Richard was:

"for all practical purposes, he was king in name only ..." making England "an inexhaustible source of money".

ATL Skills: Critical Thinking

Below is an excerpt from Turner and Heiser's The Reign of Richard the Lionheart, p.12:


1. Why might kings/monarch financially exploit their subjects?

2. What might a limitation be on Gerald of Wales' account about Richard? (2)

3. 'Early Medieval governments were predatory'. To what extent does this statement apply to Richard's reign as king? (15)

Note: For helpful hints on answering 15 mark questions, see the separate page on exam tips.

4.2. Jerusalem

  • Richard’s motive for being involved in the Third Crusade was religious. The Holy Land was the emotional center of the Christian world.

  • Richard no doubt had a personal connection to the Holy Land. His great grandfather was Fulk of Anjou, the King of Jerusalem (jure uxoris) from 1134-1142.

[Richard's family tree]


[Foulque (Fulk) V of Anjou from a 13th Century illuminated manuscript /

Courtesy of wikipedia]


[Fulk V was the first count of Anjou to use a seal; Brigitte B. Rezak, "Women, Seals, and Power in Medieval France, 1150–1350", Women and Power in the Middle Ages, ed. Mary Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1988), p. 63]

  • Richard may also have seen the Crusades as a military adventure – an opportunity for prestige and glory. A means for military posterity.

  • No doubt he achieved that posterity in the annals of religious and military history.

4.3. Alternative views

Richard I is situated in what is labeled as the "Third Crusade". The literature on the crusades is vast and some background on the Third Crusade for the purpose of understanding the context that defines Richard's objective and strategy is already given in another page.

Note: The Third Crusade is a Higher Level (HL) unit. For those not taking the HL units, the depth may not be necessary for examination purposes but no doubt helpful for studying purposes or for those taking Paper 2 medieval wars and warfare as a topic option.

However, a number of historians are increasingly inclining towards a view that Richard's immediate aim was never to capture Jerusalem, i.e. it was never direct military conquest. Rather, his aim appears to be securing a political base for himself in thee Middle East by strategically seeking a settlement with Saladin. This would over time allow for a Christian political presence in the region to grow. One of the key locations for enabling this was the coastal cities like Jaffa, Acre and Ascalon (See map below) and neighbouring Egypt - which Saladin considered immensely important. The main thrust of the reasoning of these historians is that Richard prioritised a long-term geo-political strategy over military intervention.

[Map of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Regnum Hierosolimitanum) around the early - mid 12th century; courtesy of Wikipedia)].

Professor Andrew Latham is one academic who argues for the alternative reading of why Richard abandoned directly occupying Jerusalem despite there being a few opportunities to do so.

Andrew Latham

Latham concludes:

Viewed in this way, the decision to “abandon” the advance on Jerusalem in January 1192 is perfectly explicable.  For Richard, taking Jerusalem by force of arms was never a primary strategic objective. To be sure, he agreed to lead the advance under pressure, and probably hoped that such an advance would add to the pressure on Saladin to negotiate a settlement favorable to the crusaders. But my reading is that he never seriously intended to lay siege to the Holy City. When it became possible for him to call off the advance, he seized the opportunity, renewing both negotiations and his indirect strategy of pressuring Saladin by taking, refortifying and holding Ascalon.

ATL Skills: Critical Thinking
Alternative Historical Interpretation

Read professor Latham's full essay "Why King Richard Did not March on Jerusalem" here.


1. What according to Latham was the conventional view of Richard abandoning his advancement into Jerusalem?

2. What reasons does Latham offer to challenge the conventional view?

3. What is your view? Give reasons for your view and understanding.

ATL Skills: Critical Thinking

Jerusalem Strategy sheet

Imagine you Richard's military advisor.

Recapturing Jerusalem is your stated aim.

Only using the historical information you have read or researched and without using hindsight, what would you have advised Richard to do?

Set out your information on a strategy sheet with at least three headings:

  1. Information
  2. Action
  3. Outcome. 
ATL Skills: Research

Read the following articles on Richard I from online papers:

here by Justin Cartwright, Guardian (2013);

here by Helen Castor, Guardian (2008);

here by Nocola Martine, Telegraph (2008).

Watch as well the BBC Radio 4's radio show on Richard's life and historical background.

See as well W. E. Burgwinkle, Sodomy, Masculinity and Law in Medieval Literature: France and England, 1050–1230 (Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 2008), pp.73-84 on the section: 'The Curious Case of Richard' for a discussion on Richard's sexuality. Below is an excerpt:


1. One presenter in the BBC Radio 4 show - Timmy Mallett - described Richard's death as a "lion killed by a flea". What do you think this means? What specific incident do you think it is referring to?

2. What information would you add to Richard's early life given by the historian Helen of Castor. [you might want to consider:

1) appearance,

2) upbringing,

3) family,

4) empire].

3. How do the guests on the show assess and evaluate Richard as a monarch?

4. 'Richard I was a bisexual king'. To what extent do you agree with this statement? (15)

4.4. Defence of territories

According to some historians, Richard's return to the West after his sojourn in the East under the banner of the Third Crusade helped him hone his skills including:

  1. Tactical knowledge.

  2. Military efficiency.

  3. Battle skills.

  4. Leadership qualities.

Professor Thomas Asbridge comments in the article Richard the Lionheart: King of War:

Rather, it is to point out that the Lionheart was still sharpening his skills in Palestine. The Third Crusade ended in stalemate in September 1192, but it was in the fires of this holy war, as Richard and Saladin fought one another to a standstill, that the English king tempered his martial genius.

He returned to the west having acquired a new depth of experience and insight, and proved only too capable of putting the lessons learned in the Levant to good use as he strove first to subdue England, and then to reclaim the likes of Normandy and Anjou from Philip of France. It is this period, between 1194 and 1198, which rightly should be recognised as the pinnacle of Richard I’s military career.

Between 1194-1998, Richard regained and held Angevin territory. A number of key events within that time are outlined below. The important context to bear in mind include:

  • Rebellion and usurpation of England by John.

  • Philip's attack on Richard's territories in Normandy.


[Nottingham castle: the last castle held in John's name to surrender to Richard (Artist's impression)]

On 25 March 1194, reaching the age of 36, Richard laid siege to Nottingham Castle. He was intent on reasserting his authority over England aware that his brother John in his absence had usurped the crown. Richard directed the full force of his military knowledge and resources against a supposedly impregnable, rebel-held castle.

Here Richard summoned siege machines, stone throwing Trebuchets from Leicester, 22 carpenters from Northampton and expert engineers - especially Urrich, his master engineer. Firstly, he led a direct assault on the castle and after a strong resistance, the outer battlements had fallen. He captured a number of prisoners.

On the next day, the internal garrison defending the castle were ordered to surrender failing which a full frontal assault will begin in order to breach the defenses and then no one would be spared. After a short resistance, the garrison capitulated and Richard seized the Castle. England was under Richard's full military control and John's political cause fully collapsed.

ATL Skills: Communication and Critical-Thinking
Capture of Nottingham Castle


1. What does the case study of Richard's capture of Nottingham Castle tell us about his character and leadership qualities? Explain your answer.


Normandy was very important for Richard for several reasons:


  • a very wealthy region with huge revenues for the Angevin crown;

  • it generated revenue for Richard's ransom so its potential was huge;

  • Normandy and England had strong trade links, a further source and potential for revenues.


  • many leading barons controlled land in Normandy and loss of Normandy would mean loss of the English barons' confidence in Richard as a king who could protect them and provide stability to the kingdom.


  • Richard losing Normandy would mean a possible launch-pad gained by the enemy to attack England.

  • The region was an area known as the Norman vexin (a contested border zone) that overlapped with two rival centres of power - Paris for the French (Capetian) King and Rouen for the Duke of Normandy.

By 1194, Philip II had become a dangerous opponent against Richard:

  • Philip had made serious inroads into Norman territory.

  • Philip had gained position within close reach of Rouen, the capital of Normandy.

  • Many powerful Norman lords/barons had defected to Philip's side hoping to maintain control over their lands if he gains full power over Normandy.

  • In Aquitaine, leading barons had deserted loyalty to Richard and were in revolt against him.

  • Philip had a number of allies including: the Count of Toulouse, the Count of Flanders and the Count of Boulogne.

A basic timeline of events on Richard's re-control of Normandy territory between 1194-1198:

May 1194: Philip laid siege on Richard's castle of Verneuil and breached its walls. Richard arrived in time to break the French lines with a group of knights and crossbowmen and reinforced the outer garrison. Another group attacked Philip's supply line forcing him to withdraw. John by now had switched to his brother's side.

July 1194: Richard recaptured the town of Vendome from Philip's (which was earlier seceded by John) advance forcing the latter to retreat and lose their wagon train laden with treasure. Philip retreated and was pursued and hid in a church; narrowly escaping capture.

Spring 1196: Richard builds the castle of Château-Gaillard at a huge budget of £12,000 (nearly double the entire amount Richard spent on all of his castles in England during his reign).

October 1196: Richard made an alliance with the new Count of Toulouse, Raymond VI, ensuring a political ally was secured.

[Salle des illustres a Capitol de Toulouse ville de Toulouse, région Midi-Pyrénées (France) : Raymond VI annonce à la ville de Toulouse la mort de Simon de Montfort 1218, Labatut]

Summer 1197: Richard formed an alliance with Baldwin IX, Count of Flanders - a previous ally of Philip.

1198: Richard forged another alliance; this time with Renaud Count of Boulogne. This secured another political ally in his rivalry with Philip.

[Philippe Auguste bringing Ferrand Portugal, Count of Flanders,

and Renaud, Count of Boulogne, as prisoners].

January 1199: Richard and Philip agree to a five year truce which involved Philip returning all usurped and confiscated territories back to Richard when Richard was in captivity with the exception of Gisors.

Thus, Richard recovered Normandy due to:

  1. Richard's alliances.

  2. Richard's military skill.

  3. Richard's tactical acumen.

  4. Richard's good fortune.

  5. Philip's errors and poor decisions.

Here it would be beneficial to read up on events after Richard's death with John and Philip and the loss of Normandy between 1199-1204.

A video below on one of Richard's Castles in France, Château Gaillard (meaning 'lively') on the frontier of Normandy looking over the river seine. It was personally designed by Richard in 1190.

The Importance of the Château  for Richard included:

  1. The castle acted as a defence for the route to Rouen, the Norman capital.

  2. The castle gave Richard a secure base from which to launch offensive incursions into Vexin.

  3. The castle acted as a convenient supply depot as it was near the river.

  4. The castle was a link between Normandy and England via the river.

A video below on the Gaillard:

ATL Skills: Communication and Critical-Thinking
Importance of Normandy


Explain why Normandy was so important for Richard.

ATL Skills: Communication
Château Gaillard


1. Why is the Château Gaillard important for Richard? Outline four reasons.

ATL Skills: Communication and Creative-Thinking
Richard's Conquests


Create information cards on the context around Richard's agenda to reclaim Norman territories.

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