51 The Fouler Presence of John?

In 1199, Richard the Lion Heart died after being shot by a cook outside the castle of Chalus in the Limousin. The Empire was split between supporters of Arthur and supporters of John. Philip was for himself, with a bit for Arthur. That year was one of John's best years, where he showed that he could be effective.

51 The Fouler Presence


The Death of Richard the Lion Heart

Castle of Chalus ChabrolThe legend is that Richard went to Chalus in the Limousin because a treasure trove had been found, the local lord refused to hand it over, and Richard was going down there to get his hands on it. It's much more likely that in fact this was part of a wider campaign against the rebellious Count of Angouleme and Viscount of Limoges. 

Whatever the reason, Richard was on the verge of takin the castle when he went for a wander round hte castle, without armour but with a shield carried by a man at arms. On the tower was a lone man with a crossbow, using a frying pan as a shield. He shot towards Richard who applauded the shor – and so ducked too late. He was hit between neck and shoulder. back in his tent, Richard couldn't pull the whole thing out so a surgeon was called, who made even more of a mess of it. 3 days later Richard was dead. 

The accession of John

Public opinion was split – Arthur, the son of Geoffrey of Brittany or John, son of the old king? England and Normany declared for John; Maine Anjou and Touraine for Arthur. Aquitaine wasn't a problem – it belonged to Eleanor. John was decisive. He talked round the key nobleman of greater Anjou, William des Roches. His defection too all the wind out of Arthur's sails. John took the fealty of 15 counts – including the crucial allies, the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne. Phillip had attacked eastern Normandy and Evreux, but now realised he could make little headway – and agreed to a truce. 

9 thoughts on “51 The Fouler Presence of John?

  1. Many thanks for introducing Morton’s Fork to me. A bit of research shows I’ve been mixing the old metaphors incorrectly. I will from this point on get the usage of my Hobson’s Choice, Catch 22, Sophie’s CHoice, and now Morton’s Fork right. The pedants of the world rejoice!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful podcast, as always. To me, if the history of England were a soap opera, then Richard’s death would have happened like this: actor playing Richard wants to leave, or his contract is ended; so let’s just kill him off with a cook wielding a crossbow. At least that’s how it feels.

  3. I always get the feeling that when a monarch is praised by historians for being ‘a good administrator’ it is because, being historians, they value that sort of thing and that they can’t think of anything else positive to say about them – Mussolini, made the trains run on time. John, crap king but boy did he leave good records.
    Arthur is also a little unfortunate here. His claim was pretty strong. Will we ever have a King Arthur?

  4. The entire Angevin clan should be a good candidate for a soap opera – or maybe a reconstructed docudrama- at home with the Angevins – and as you say, ah now time to kill him off!…I also have a theory that Richard actually felt like a bit of a berk. I mean there he was showboating and clapping the guy who was trying to shoot, and then …oops, got him. I think that explains why he didn’t say anything, slunk ofbak to his tent and tried to dig the blt out on his own before anyone noticed.

  5. Fantastic episode, this one.
    Enjoyed the histoiography, examining the opinions of John down through the ages. To top it off with that Winston Churchill impression was priceless.
    Please give a belated wrap to your son for his participation in that brief re-enactment. Thanks also for introducing me to Morton’s Fork: a concept that I will endeavour to introduce into day-to-day conversation at the first opportunity.
    One question: in an earlier episode you mentioned Richard I giving “Excalibur” to Tancred as a gift (or some such). What is the provenance of this sword? Was it just something that he had forged on the quiet and handed out at an opportune moment for maximum impact, or was there some rusty old blade handing around that people were attaching a mythical history to?

  6. I have to say, I’ve been rather pleased with the reaction to my WC impression. I am now constantly searching for an excuse to do it again…
    Um, I’m not sure exactly what the provenance was to be honest. I wouldn’t put it past Richard to go and find some old bit of rust somewhere and pass it off – not a man, I suspect, who let truth get in the way of a good story!
    And I shall be sure to pass your congratulations to Henry.

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