Thursday 29 December 2011

Dick Clark

*Many thanks to my kick-ass cousin for reminding me to post about Dick Clark!

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and what Dick is more associated with that day than Dick Clark? The man is an institution – New Year’s Eve would be a little less rockin’ without him.

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on 30 November 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York. His parents were Julia and Richard Clark, and Dick was the younger of two sons. His older brother Bradley was killed in World War II.

Dick began working in show business when he was still a teenager. He did odd jobs around the office of a radio station and soon graduated to filling in for the weatherman when he was on vacation and announcing station breaks. Not to denigrate his talent, but Dick’s rise was almost certainly helped by his family connections – his uncle owned the radio station and his father managed it. Dick graduated from Syracuse University with a business degree in 1951 and moved to Philadelphia in 1952. He continued working in radio, playing back-up host to Bob Horn for the teen dance show, Bob Horn’s Bandstand. When Horn left in 1956, Dick took over as full-time host. The show was then picked up by ABC, which renamed it American Bandstand, and began televising it on August 1957. Dick Clark stayed on as host, thus earning himself a spot in the annals of groovy teen programming.

American Bandstand was a huge hit. From 1957 to 1963 it ran Monday to Friday. Monday to Friday! Sock-hopping teenagers were jitterbugging across the television five days a week for over five years. Amazing. The show continued to air once a week on Saturdays until 1987. 1987! That’s longer than Law & Order was on the air! When the show was a five-day-a-week event it was filmed in Philadelphia, but it moved to Hollywood in 1964. The move to Hollywood was probably a good one for Clark, as he was the host of several game shows in the 1970s. He was briefly host of The Object Is and Missing Links, but his signature game show was The $10,000 Pyramid. Clark has hosted several versions of this show, including The New $25,000 Pyramid and The $100,000 Pyramid (that’s inflation for you, kids). Clark has won three Emmys for best game show host, and the Pyramids have won nine Emmys for best game show (outclassed only by Jeopardy!).

And now we come to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, which has been airing on ABC since 1972 (with one exception). In 1999, ABC did a special New Year’s Eve program, which was hosted by Peter Jennings (although Dick Clark had a small role). I guess if the world really did crash and burn on Y2K, ABC wanted a real newscaster on scene. I guess I’d rather be told the world was ending by a serious Canadian journalist than by a baby-faced DJ. The only other year Dick Clark did not headline was 2004 when he was recovering from his stroke. Regis Philbin hosted instead. Beginning in 2005, Dick Clark has co-hosted with Ryan Seacrest, who is famous for hosting American Idol (a show that is a far more egregious sin against humanity than those writhing teeny boppers on American Bandstand could have ever hoped to be). Clark returned to rockin’ out on the New Year in 2006, although his speech was still slurred. He has shown noticeable improvement every year. By 2008/2009 he was able to evenly split hosting duties with Seacrest, and in 2009/2010 his speech and movements were much improved. He did, however, make a mistake in the countdown, saying “10, 11, 10, 9….” In 2010/2011 he nailed the countdown, flawlessly counting down from 24 to 1. I have to say I’m glad some contributor to Wikipedia has so exhaustively studied Dick Clark’s appearances and counting abilities, because I have far better things to do than pour over Dick’s performances. Clark was criticized somewhat for returning to television before he had adequately recovered, but other people appreciated that he was willing to show millions what stroke recovery actually looked like.

Aside from benignly presiding over a host of feel-good shows, Dick Clark is also known for his perpetually-youthful appearance (prior to the stroke anyway). He’s been called “America Oldest Living Teenager,” and his uncanny ability to never age has been referenced and parodied any number of times.

So here’s to another rockin’ New Year’s Eve. I expect Dick Clark to execute another perfect countdown. No pressure, Dick.

Friday 23 December 2011

Dick Tracy

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were watching an episode of The Closer. In the beginning of the episode, the boss and a couple detectives meet a new, real-go-getter detective. He introduced himself as “Detective Richard Tracy.” The moment those words passed his lips, I turned to my friend and said, “Dick Tracy? He’s so obviously fake.” And, lo and behold, he was. My response: “If those cops knew their Dicks, they never would have been taken in by his ruse.” Knowing your Dicks is just a part of any well-balanced education.

In the interests of full disclosure, I actually know very little about Dick Tracy. He’s a comic-strip detective who was named “Dick” as a nod to the slang term for detective (or so I heard, somewhere). It’s therefore entirely possible that Dick Tracy isn’t named Richard, which is a real shame. But I digress.

Dick Tracy, the comic strip, debuted in 1931 and was created by Chester Gould. Gould wrote and drew the strip until his retirement in 1977; several people have subsequently headed the strip. I believe the strip is still in print, although I cannot be sure. I actually don’t read newspaper comics with any regularity whatsoever.

Dick Tracy is known for a few things: deformed criminals and the two-way wrist radio (which appeared in 1946). From a brief scan of the Wikipedia page, it seems Tracy characters also have ridiculous names that match their salient characteristics. For instance, Tracy’s girlfriend (now wife) was named Tess Trueheart. Spare me. That’s some heavy-handed symbolism right there. One villain was named Flattop Jones, and he had a huge, flat head. I guess you can’t make things too complicated for the newspaper readers.

One final tidbit: at some point, fairly early on, Dick Tracy took in a homeless boy. The Dick subsequently adopted this boy as both his son and sidekick, naming him Dick Tracy Junior (although he’s usually called Junior. Too many Dicks spoil the comic strip). Where have I seen this before (or, more accurately, after)? Oh, right. That’s how Batman got Robin: he adopted a stray kid as his sidekick. Seriously, what was going on in the 1930s/early 1940s? Were childless people just picking kids off the streets as if they were kittens? Where were Social Services? Did the Depression have something to do with this? If the current recession worsens, will we start to see roving bands of stray children across America? If we do, I’m calling dibs on any orphans who are good at Latin. They can be my medieval history sidekicks – and the worst injuries they will face are paper cuts.

Dick Tracy: the original square-jawed detective. See him in a newspaper near you!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Richard Mentor Johnson

I’m back in the United States for a spell, so I figured I ought to focus on an American. So let’s give it up for Richard M. Johnson, former Vice President of the United States!

To be honest, I knew nothing about Richard Johnson before I started researching this post. Well, I knew his name and that he was once vice president, but I got that information from a list in the back of a textbook. Even though now I pretty much only know what Wikipedia told me, I’m so glad I read about this particular Dick. He was amazing, crazy, and a dick. What a guy.

The boring basics: born in 1780 in what would become Kentucky, he became a lawyer and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1806 (which is a pretty early start in politics, as the Constitution requires Representatives to be at least 25). Richard was a colonel during the War of 1812 and might possibly have personally killed Tecumseh (boo!). We can’t be sure if he really did; Richard was at the battle and much political hay was made of him “killing” the Shawnee chief, but politicians are notorious liars. Richard made it to the Senate in 1819 to fill a vacated seat, and lost his 1829 re-election bid. He was later nominated as Martin Van Buren’s running mate in 1836 and served as vice president from March 1837 to March 1841. Although Van Buren lost the 1840 election to William Henry Harrison, Johnson wasn’t his running mate. The Democrats found Johnson to be a liability (more on that later) and so Van Buren ran without an official running mate. Richard was out of politics for a while, but was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1850. Unfortunately, he died of a stroke two weeks later.

Now for the good stuff. Why, pray tell, was a war-hero colonel such a liability? A couple of reasons, but one of the most scandalous was his love life. Richard Johnson was in a long-term committed relationship with Julia Chinn, a slave he had inherited from his father. Although Julia was only one-eighth African-American, she was too much of a “Negro” for her and Richard to legally marry. Nevertheless, Richard Johnson treated her as his common-law wife and had two daughters with her. Perhaps as a slight sop to the prejudices of the day, Richard never took Julia and his daughters with him to Washington, D.C.; Julia stayed at home and managed their farm in Kentucky. Richard’s wife was one of the reasons he didn’t win re-election to the Senate in 1829. He defended himself with a rockin’ quote, though: “Unlike Jefferson, Clay, Poindexter and others, I married my wife under the eyes of God, and apparently He has found no objections” (Wikipedia). In your face, TJ! Richard and Julia’s two daughters both eventually married white men, and Richard settled property on them at the time of their marriages. It was a good thing he did, too, because when he died his one living daughter wasn’t allowed to inherit the rest of his property. I imagine it had something to do with her being technically illegitimate (and a little bit black). Julia died in 1833 during a cholera epidemic, so she was never our nation’s second lady. Nevertheless, Richard’s relationship with her was an issue throughout his life.

I realize the above story makes Richard look like a stand-up guy, and to Julia and his daughters, he must have been. After Julia died, however, Richard’s love life deteriorated. He had a relationship with another family slave, but she left him for another man. That pissed Richard off (and hell having no fury like a Kentuckian scorned), he sold her at auction, and entered into a relationship with her sister. Damn! What a dick move.

Back to politics, though. It turns out Richard’s marriage to Julia was still causing trouble in 1836 when he was a widower. Many Southern voters refused to vote for the Democratic ticket because of Johnson. Despite his wartime service, Johnson didn’t help Van Buren win many Western votes either. While Van Buren won the popular and elector vote, twenty-three electors from Virginia refused to vote for Johnson as vice president. This left Johnson a vote short of the necessary majority, so the Senate had to vote (per the 12th Amendment), selecting Johnson as vice president over the Whig candidate. This was the first and so-far only time this had happened.

Since Johnson just achieved the vice presidency by the skin of his teeth, it’s not entirely surprising he had little influence with Martin Van Buren. Richard didn’t do too much except cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Probably the most exciting thing he did was take a leave of absence, go home, and open up a tavern and spa on his farm, in an effort to keep himself financially solvent. Being a slave-marrying bar owner probably did not help Johnson keep in the Democrats good graces.

Even though he wasn’t nominated for vice president in 1840, Johnson campaigned anyway. Apparently he campaigned a little too intensely and managed to start a riot in Cleveland, courtesy of some remarks he made about William Henry Harrison. (If they were along the lines of “your candidate’s so dumb he doesn’t even wear a coat when it’s cold out,” then Richard would have the last laugh). Despite his efforts, he lost. Of course, so did Van Buren, so I guess Johnson could take some comfort from that. The former vice president returned home, ran his farm, and kept trying to get back into politics. As mentioned previously, he did, only to die two weeks later.

Sometime during his tenure as vice president, Johnson started to wear a red vest and a tie. This was basically because he had suggested a friend wear read (to color coordinate with his red mail coach) and this friend had said, “I will if you will.” So they both did. I heartily approve of this maneuver. Red is a great color; people should wear it more.

So that’s Richard Johnson: our first Dick of a vice president. Overall, I get the impression that Richard Johnson was somewhat of a loose cannon. He played by his own rules, and while that was awesome in some cases (following your heart and marrying the woman you loved) it was less than stellar in others (starting riots when campaigning). Richard seems to have been neither a great politician nor a wretched one. He sponsored some good bills, did a few good things, but also promoted unworthy buddies and supported slavery (although he married a slave, he also owned them). He was, in short, a politician.

And to end this on a puerile (or sophomoric, take your pick) note: Richard Johnson. Two dick nicknames in one. No wonder he became a politician.

Thursday 8 December 2011

My Dad’s More Famous than Your Dad!

Today we celebrate two Richards whose fathers are much more famous than they are. I’m sure, though, that being featured on this blog is a fabulous consolation prize.

Our first Richard is Richard Horatio Blair, born in either May or June 1944. At first glance he sounds pretty not famous, but his father is none other than Eric Arthur Blair – better known as George Orwell.

[A quick side note: I owe this entry to the vast knowledge of my very erudite friend studying literature. She got me out of the house and down to Portobello Road in London, whereupon we saw a blue plaque proudly proclaiming, “George Orwell lived here!” (According to Wikipedia, he lived there in 1927, before he decided to be “Down and Out.”) We took some photos and moved on with our lives, although we later had a conversation about Orwell. I hadn’t realized he had died so young, so I asked my friend if he had any children (I mean, somebody must be keeping track of his estate, right?). She coolly answered, like it wasn’t even a thing, “Yes, I think he had a son named Richard.” I looked at her, “you have got to be kidding me” written all over my face. “Seriously?” I asked. “Richard?” Remembering my love of Dicks, she laughed and said she was pretty sure Orwell’s son was named Richard. I told her I was on it. I investigated, and lo and behold, she was right! Diggity dank. Thank you, my erudite Canadian friend. This one’s for you.]

Anyway, back to the Dick at hand. Richard Horatio Blair is the son of George Orwell and his first wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy. Eileen and George met in 1935 and married in 1936, but they were apparently unable to have children. In June 1944, the couple adopted Richard, who was then three weeks old. As mentioned before, they named him Richard Horatio. Baby Richard might have been named after his grandfather, Richard Blair (who – and I did not make this up – worked in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service) or Sir Richard Rees, a buddy of George’s who owned and edited a magazine. My friend thought the baby was named after Richard Rees, and I’m inclined to go with that as well; Richard Blair sounds like a rather dull guy. In addition, he was absent for a large part of George’s childhood, his wife and children being in England while he continued to work in India. But who knows. My friend also thought she had read somewhere that Orwell had an admiral ancestor named Horatio (maybe Horatio Hornblower?). Whatever the reason, the baby was named Richard Horatio.
            Poor little Richard had some bad luck, though. His parents were already ill when he was adopted, and his mother Eileen died in March 1945 when he was not even a year old. Some stories say she died under anesthesia while having a hysterectomy, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography claims she died of cancer; the anesthesia story was a tale spread by Orwell himself (for whatever reason). Richard was largely cared for by the housekeeper or his aunt (George’s sister). Orwell wanted very much to remarry (both for his own sake and for Richard’s sake), but his suits were not accepted until 1949. In October 1949, he married Sonia Brownell (whom he had pursued before) at University College Hospital in London. Although both Sonia and George knew he had tuberculosis, neither fully understood (or had been properly told) how grave his condition truly was. George Orwell died on 21 January 1950; he was 46 and his little son was just five.
            After George’s death, Richard was raised by an aunt, while his stepmother Sonia took care of Orwell’s literary estate. Richard became an agricultural agent for the British government, and inherited his father’s estate in 1980 when Sonia died. Presumably, he is still in charge of the estate today. Richard Blair is a private person who keeps a low profile, so there isn’t much more to say.
            Please do check out the links, though: George Orwell and Eileen O’Shaughnessy are fascinating people.

Look up George Orwell in the ODNB if you have access to that resource

Richard Cromwell (1626-1712)

            Richard Cromwell was the son of Oliver Cromwell, the famous Lord Protector of England. To be brief, Cromwell was the leader of an army opposed to Charles I, King of England, and Cromwell won the civil war. Charles I was executed in 1649, England ceased to be a monarchy, and Oliver Cromwell was head of state (hence his title of Lord Protector). Cromwell ran the country until his death in 1658, after which Richard succeeded his father as Protector.
            Up to this point, Richard had mainly lived the life of a county gentleman. Although he served in the occasional Parliament, Richard had mainly focused on his wife, growing family (the couple had nine children although only four lived to adulthood), and managing his estate in Hampshire. He was not entirely prepared to lead the country. The Protectorate was already having difficulties before Richard inherited the position, and the army (a major supporter of his father) didn’t trust Richard (mainly because he was a civilian). Long story short, Richard was eventually put under a sort of house arrest by the army, and he officially resigned the protectorate in May 1659.
            Richard returned home to his wife and children, but his familial bliss was not to last. Despite not having served in the civil war or had any hand in the execution of Charles I, Richard was apprehensive for his own safety when the monarchy was restored in 1660. He went into “semi-voluntary” exile in July 1660, leaving behind his very-pregnant wife (their youngest daughter was born the following month) and children.
            Richard stayed on the continent (mostly in Paris) from 1660 until 1680 or 1681. He lived under various aliases and changed his residence often. Although he wrote letter to his family, he did not return to England during his wife’s final illness. She died in 1676; the two had not seen each other in sixteen years.
            With his wife dead and Richard in exile, his son took over management of the estate. Consequently, when Richard returned to England in either 1680 or 1681 he took to living in boarding houses. He visited his children at the family home, but never lived there with them, presumably to keep the estate free from risk of confiscation by the crown. Interestingly, he was given an allowance from the profits of the estate, effectively reversing roles with his children. He died in 1712 at the ripe old age of 86 and was buried beside his wife in their local church.
            Richard Cromwell seems to have been a good guy, which is probably why he failed to succeed in politics. According to the ODNB, most friends and opponents found he had few personal faults, so pundits (or the seventeenth-century equivalent thereof) “portrayed him as too gentle and a little too naïve for his own good.” One of his nicknames was ‘Queen Dick” (preserved forever by the tract Fourty Four Queries to the Life of Queen Dick), which is itself a fascinating commentary on early-modern ideas about gender. (I’ll spare you all the disquisition, though).

Source: Peter Gaunt, ‘Cromwell, Richard (1626–1712)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 [ /view/article/6768, accessed 7 Dec 2011]

Thursday 1 December 2011

Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199)

            At the outset, I must admit I am much less of a Richard I fan than I am a Richard II or Richard III fan. While my love of Richard III borders (oh, who am I kidding? I crossed that line a long time ago) on obsession and my love of Richard II knows no bounds (he’s prominently featured in my doctoral dissertation. I did not pick my topic simply in order to include him but being able to have a prominent Dick in my work certainly enhances the pleasure of the subject matter), I’ve always been sort of “eh” on Richard I. I know he’s the Lionheart and the good king Richard of Robin Hood fame (and I do love me some Robin Hood), but he’s just not that controversial. Okay, he did bleed England dry to go on Crusade, bleed them dry again to ransom his ass back from his Austrian captors, and generally not give an f about his kingdom (he liked France better and only spent about 6 months of a ten-year reign in England), but that is so run-of-the-mill for medieval kings. Scholarship on Richard I seems to run the very short gamut of “he was awesome” to “hey, guys, he really wasn’t that awesome.” Please, people. I need a little murder, mayhem, deposition, and starvation in dark castles to keep my interest. As far as military prowess goes, Richard the Lionheart is top Dick; as far as controversy and historians bickering and becoming a tad too emotionally involved, he’s on the bottom.
            So I could arouse almost no enthusiasm for Richard I until I found out about the deep dark secret you don’t get in generic history texts: he might have been gay.* I was on that like a buzzard on a gut wagon. Finally, something more interesting than dying of gangrene from an arrow wound!

*Fascinating side note: Richard II has also been rumored to be gay. Check out some of the work by John Bowers for an extremely over-wrought attempt to draft R2 for the pink team. Unless I’ve missed it, though, no one has tried to make Richard III gay. Maybe this is because Richard I and Richard II were both childless, while Richard III managed to sire some spawn. We do have some hints from chroniclers that maybe (if you squint) could support homosexuality for Richards I and II but the evidence is weak. Also, calling someone a sodomite was a fairly standard insult in the middle ages, so one guy saying Richard II had obscene familiarities with his bff does not necessarily mean the king was. It does, though, mean that said chronicler didn’t really like R2.

            The rumor draws its force from a comment made by the chronicler Roger of Howden, which claims:

Philip so honored him [Richard] that every day they ate at the same table, shared the same dish and at night the bed did not separate them. Between the two of them there grew up so great an affection that King Henry was much alarmed and, afraid of what the future might hold in store, he decided to postpone his return to England until he knew what lay behind this sudden friendship.*

As historian John Gillingham points out, people shared beds in the middle ages and Richard’s newfound closeness with Philip (the king of France and his father’s rival) was a political act, designed to piss off daddy. In essence, it was a case of politics making strange bedfellows! Before his crusade, however, Richard also did penance for a serious (yet unmentioned) sin; people have been quick to suggest said sin was sodomy. So we really don’t have much to go on. A king asking pardon for serious sins is rather dull and ordinary (any king without serious sins is lying to himself!) and budding up to your dad’s nemesis is a time-honored strategy for getting daddy to notice you.

*Quote from John Gillingham, Richard I, Yale English Monarchs Series (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 84. Gillingham is quoting Howden, Gesta Henrici II et Ricardi I, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols (Rolls Series, 1867), ii, 7. The translation is also Gillingham’s, as Howden wrote in Latin.

            Of course, that’s incredibly boring, so our sex-crazed society was only too happy to put a more scandalous and interesting spin on things. You can see this in the original The Lion in Winter in which Richard (played by Anthony Hopkins) visits Philip (played by a pre-James Bond Timothy Dalton) in Philip’s room and the two have a conversation that clearly indicates, “yeah, we totally slept together.” Some historical fiction novels have picked up on this possibility as well (see below). I realize there is the added twist of Richard’s failure to have a child with his wife, but given that the two were rarely in the same country (let alone same bed) that isn’t too surprising. We don’t have any obvious proof Richard wasn’t gay (such as an “I love you, man – no homo” note to Philip), but we don’t have any smoking guns proving he was either. Sadly, this rather weak evidence for Richard I’s homosexuality was not enough to spark lasting interest on my part. Richard thus returned to being a warrior king. Yawn.
            If you are devoted to the idea that Richard I was homosexual, know that some scholars share your view. John Boswell discusses Richard’s was homosexuality in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (see pages 231-2), as does James Brundage in Richard Lion Heart (1974). One of these authors is a fan of the possibility, while the other denigrates homosexuality. I’ll let you guess which is which.
            For those who are wailing and gnashing their teeth over my failure to mention anything about Richard’s reign, be still. Your time is now. Richard I was born on 8 September 1157 in Oxford, England. Since he had an elder brother, Richard wasn’t expected to become king of England and spent much of his youth in Aquitaine, his mother’s principality and his presumed inheritance. When Richard’s older brother died, he then became heir to the throne, which he inherited on his father’s death in 1189.
            Richard was only king for ten years, dying in 1199. As mentioned before, he spent little time in England. He came to the island for his coronation and to raise money for his crusade, after which he left for the Holy Land. Unmarried when he became king, Richard married Berengaria of Navarre in Cyprus, en route to Jerusalem. Berengaria, despite being Queen of England, never set foot there.
            Richard participated in the third crusade (the one against Saladin). He did all right, but none of the subsequent crusades were anywhere nearly as successful as the first (they should have quit while they were ahead). Returning home, Richard was traveling overland and was kidnapped by the Duke of Austria and held for ransom. If you remember Robin Hood, the benevolent outlaw is trying to raise money to spring the king from the hoosegow.
            After the ransom was paid, Richard returned, briefly, to England. He crowned himself again in an attempt to remove the taint of having been kidnapped and held hostage by an Austrian, and then skipped off to France to make war. Richard I loved war like a drunk loves cheap beer. He was all about it, all the time. He even designed his own castles (of which one, Château Gaillard, is pretty damn awesome). As Richard was going about defending all of his French territory (even though he was King of England he owned about half of France, too – long story) and generally kicking Philip’s ass,* he was hit by an arrow. The arrow lodged in his shoulder between his breastplate and his arm coverings and a wound formed. Although the doctors removed the arrow, the wound festered, became gangrenous, and the king died. Before he died, Richard asked to see the archer who shot him. Said archer was brought to the king, and Richard pardoned him, basically using the old “I know you were just doing your job” line. The king even made his officials promise not to exact revenge on his accidental killer. The men all promised, but as soon as Richard the Lionheart was dead, they flayed the poor bastard who shot him alive. Promises, promises.

*This is the same Philip who was supposedly his lover. Hell hath no fury like a lover-king scorned!

            Richard I is also cool because his mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine (who was eight thousand different kinds of awesome). Wife of two kings (obviously not at the same time), she lived into her eighties and spent a lifetime kicking ass and taking names. Read about her, she rocked the casbah.*

*Sadly, Eleanor has been rather ill-served by biographies. Several seem to take “biography” as code for “novel based on a true story,” and are filled with all manner of claptrap about Eleanor and courtly love. A pretty decent recent biography is Ralph Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. My main complaint is that Turner tries to psychoanalyze Eleanor a bit, which I hate. The middle ages were a different time, and I dislike when people try to project current modes of thinking back into the past.

            And that, friends, is Richard I. For some unknown reason, the man has a statue outside Parliament, presumably to capitalize on the street cred of a national hero. I, however, like to think Parliament is making a statement: the best kind of monarch is one that leaves us (Parliament) the heck alone. (of course, Parliament didn’t exist yet back when Richard I was king, so this is Parliament projecting).

Historical Fiction

The best I can offer about Richard I are two books by Pamela Kaufman, The Shield of Three Lions and Banners of Gold. She plays into the Richard-was-homosexual angle, yet also has him fall in love with a young woman (her protagonist). I especially liked the second book, Banners of Gold, because it had a totally-awesome Jewish character named Bonel. Man, he was diggity dank.