Death of King Richard

On this day of the 2nd of April in 1272, Richard of Cornwall was at Berkhamsted when he ‘exchanged the fleeting glories of the world for the heavenly kingdom’. Those glories included a vast fortune and three beautiful wives, the last of whom was forty years younger. His travels saw him received in state by kings, queens, the emperor, pope and sultan. The culmination of his lifelong search for fame was the crown of Germany and he was the only Englishman recognized as the king of that unruly collection of principalities. With his brother Henry III as the king of England, it was only time England had two brothers as kings at the same time.
Not everyone was impressed with his resume. One obituary noted that he was ‘a most greedy hoarder of treasure, violent oppressor of the poor, great lecher towards all women of whatever profession or condition’. I give a less jaundiced view of him in my biography. ‘In Richard we get a life full of quest and desire. We see him rebuilding King Arthur’s castle and treasure hunting on the Isle of Wight, searching for a princess bride and marrying ever younger ones, freely trading on his loyalty and lustfully producing little Richards, acting bold and threatening and happily stealing the thunder of others, and finally the greatest outrage of them all, going out and buying himself a kingdom with money fleeced from the working stiff.’
Richard of Cornwall was sixty-three at the time of his death. His funeral was held on 13 April at Hailes Abbey, where he was buried next to his second wife Sanchia and his son Henry of Almain, who had been murdered a year earlier by his Montfort cousins. Richard’s heart went to the Franciscan church at Oxford. His tomb and those of his family were destroyed when Tudor hooligans moved in to liquidate the abbey.

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