Research snippets: Who should succeed Richard I?

Effigy of Richard I by Adam Bishop – CC BY-SA 3.0,

King Richard I, the Lionheart, died on April 6, 1199. On his deathbed, he named William Marshal as custodian of the royal treasury until his successor was crowned. Marshal took the news of the king’s death to Archbishop of Canterbury Hubert Walter. The two men had long, faithful service to the king and had served as justiciars – running the country – while Richard was on Crusade and during his subsequent imprisonment. And though it seemed Richard had decided John should be his heir, the two men debated who they would support, or, as other historians suggest, who was the lesser of two evils – Arthur, Richard’s nephew, or John, his brother.

“My lord, we must hasten to choose some one whom we may make king.”

“I think and believe,” answered Archbishop Walter, “that according to right, we ought to make Arthur king.”

“To my thinking,” said the Marshal, “that would be bad. Arthur is counselled by traitors; he is haughty and proud; and if we set him over us he will seek evil against us, for he loves not the people of this land. He shall not come here yet, by my advice. Look rather at Count John; my conscience and my knowledge point him out to me as the nearest heir to the land which was his father’s and his brother’s…”

“So be it, then,” said the archbishop; “but mark my words. Marshal; of nothing that ever you did in your life have you so much cause to repent as you will have of what you are now doing.”

Norgate, Kate. (1902). John Lackland. London, New York, Macmillan.


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