Already established as Europe’s finest soldier, he undertook the Third Crusade to come to the aid of Jerusalem, which had recently fallen to Saladin. Richard’s epic military and strategic achievements in confronting Saladin’s vast armies on his home soil were repeatedly punctuated by acts of extraordinary personal courage, which made him a legend.
Having fought each other to a standstill, Richard and Saladin agreed a truce and Richard set out for home to confront his enemies. However, he was captured en route by a truculent Duke Leopold of Austria and ransomed for the equivalent of a quarter of the wealth of England. Once released, Richard successfully resumed his rule, but was killed by a stray arrow whilst campaigning in France.
From the age of fifteen, at his father’s instruction, Richard had kept a series of journals recording all of the personal aspects of his daily life. On his death, according to his instructions, the diaries passed to his wife Berengaria. She was buried clasping the diaries to her chest. For over seven hundred years the diaries lay entombed with her in a crypt in a French abbey. Then, following the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, Berengaria’s grave was opened and the diaries were removed and secretly taken to Germany to a private collection.
Whilst at Oxford University in the 1980s, Chris Manson had first learned of the possibility of the existence of the diaries of Richard the Lionheart in a series of private tutorials.
Recently, after an extensive search, he finally discovered their location. Unfortunately, only parts of the diaries remained legible, the rest having been destroyed by mildew and other corrosives. Following exhaustive verification carried out by experts across a number of fields, he bought these Latin manuscripts. He has spent the past eighteen months translating the diaries.
Historians and academics have wondered for centuries why Richard did certain things, but only now can we gain a genuine understanding of the events that drove him to act in the way that he did. Now published for the first time, these diaries provide a unique, personal insight into the legend of the man universally known in his own time as the ‘greatest king who ever lived’.
This narrative was absolutely riveting. The claim in the synopsis is that the diaries of King Richard I were found and then translated, shining light on the reasons behind Richard's actions in battle as well as decisions made in his personal life. I have no idea if this claim is factual or part of the fictional claim mixed with historical facts in order to weave a spellbinding story concerning the life of this notorious King, but either way, it is absolutely one of the most interesting pieces of historical-possible fiction-I have ever before read. There were a few terms used in the narrative that sounded a bit too modern. Not something I would imagine a King saying, but I'm wondering (if these diaries are legitimate and really were translated) if the translation was simply put into modern wording that would help the reader understand Richard's meaning. When I think of all of the Shakespeare I had to pick apart and understand in high school and college, my brain hurts just a little. I would have been grateful for a modern translation, making Shakespeare a little easier to understand while affording me an opportunity to relate to the story far better than I had before. Go back several hundred years before Shakespeare, and can you imagine how impossible it would be to understand Richard's diaries without modern translation? Anyway, I won't nit pick that argument any further. Suffice it to say, I am grateful to understand the message.
Familial bonds during these dark times were so different from the parenting that I'm used to or the way I treat my own children. I can't imagine having a father more interested in power, alliances and money than the interests of his own children. There is no shortage of intrigue, drama and action in this story. The manipulative tactics used by Richard's father are nothing short of emotional and psychological warfare in how he dealt with his children and his wife. I greatly admired Eleanor for her stubborn rebelliousness. There really wasn't much a woman could do in that day and age, helplessly dependent on men who neither valued them nor respected their contributions. They were little more than bargaining chips and breeders. My feminine side took it all in with the horrific fascination one might have in observing a bloody crime that cannot be prevented.
Henry's abuse of his wife when he assumed the baby she carried wasn't his was absolutely despicable, yet I know that women were treated just as badly if not worse than that. The manipulative events leading up to that confrontation made me despise Richard a little even though the consequences were not something he intended. It took him a while to get his footing and think before he made a move. His earlier behaviors matched that of an impetuous youth fighting tirelessly to gain the approval of his father-however unworthy that tyrant was to bestow such approval on the young prince-and land himself in the most favorable position for wealth and power. I must admit that I liked the more mature Richard much better as the narrative progressed.
I think Berengaria served to bring out a softer side to him because I was quite convinced Richard had no heart until he met her. Not that an emotional heart was something to be valued or feared at the time. So interesting how social interactions and customs dictated their behaviors, though the same could be said for our time as well. We're simply used to what is happening now rather than what occurred several hundred years ago.
The strategies of warfare and the way in which Richard plotted against his enemies was absolutely fascinating. You have to understand that I'm more of a romance reader, but I couldn't get enough of the battles and the reasoning behind every move Richard made. So illuminating and told in a way that was easy to understand though I hold zero knowledge in that kind of warfare. I kept thinking how useful a grenade and a few AK47's would have been at the time. Ha!
I enjoyed the court intrigue and all of the different alliances, negotiations and political unrest. How these people slept peacefully at night is beyond me. Most probably didn't. Imagine having someone allotted to taste test your food. Stressful. No wonder Richard's father went mad. I'm surprised Richard didn't lose his mind either, though that might have been happening once the tragedy with his wife occurred. I was spitting mad when that happened. I'm a sucker for those happy endings. Throughout the entire book I was simply amazed at how little value the nobility placed on an individual's life, especially those of soldiers, peasants, women and children.
The way women were used as sex tools for power was terrible. I admit to having to skip over those scenes, mainly because I don't read that stuff, though there's no doubt that this did, in fact, happen to women and probably continues to happen in our day and age. It just isn't so widely accepted. I'm giving everyone fair warning. If you have problems with this like I did be aware that these sexual situations exist within the narrative.
As a whole, this book shed light on a history of which I was fairly ignorant. I've always found history fascinating, but presented in this light as a fast paced autobiography, I think I retained more than I would have if I had simply cracked open a history book and read a bunch of dates and impersonal facts. While I still don't know if these diaries legitimately belonged to King Richard I, isn't it fun to read narratives like this and wonder...what if? This is a wonderfully fast paced history and coming of age story. Whether real or fictitious, I don't think anyone should pass up the chance to read it.
He then developed a successful business career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and at Chelsea Football Club.
In 1999 he co-founded sit-up television, which he sold to Virgin Media six years later for £194 million. He was elected an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005, and five years later founded Blott, now one of Britain's fastest growing retailers.
He and his family divide their time between homes in Zermatt in Switzerland, Quinta do Lago in Portugal and Oxford, England.