How would you rate King Richard I Lionheart as a general?

How would you rate the Lionheart as a general?

  • 5 stars

    Votes: 13 16.5%
  • 4 stars

    Votes: 24 30.4%
  • 3 stars

    Votes: 18 22.8%
  • 2 stars

    Votes: 6 7.6%
  • 1 star

    Votes: 4 5.1%
  • don't know enough to judge

    Votes: 15 19.0%

  • Total voters
    79

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,063
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Richard's march to Jaffa from Acre, is rather correctly as RC Smail puts it, a pinnacle of crusader tactics in the success of the defensive march.

Richard did rather well to react to sudden changes and committ to them ultimately successful. The blame does lie with The Hospitallers who broke to early, minimising the effectiveness of the cavalry, whci hRichard still managed to make up for rather well. Yet placing the Templars in the van and the Hospitallers in the rear was to be fiar a rather sensible decision. The 2 military orders were the most experienced and most professional and most familiar with the topogrpahy and the enemy. Objectively it was a good choice. But such things dont always work out as planed though I guess.
The Christian and Muslim sources mentioned by Runciman [The "Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi" [pages from 248 to 278], with confrontation with Beha Ed-Din, pages from 275 to 295, Abu Sham II [pages from 33 to 40]] leaves actually a bad impression about the military functioning of the Knights of the Hospital on the battle field.

While the Knights of the temple followed the orders until the end, the Hospitallers lost their equilibrium. The worse detail is that while the Grand Master was near to the King, it was the Marshal of the order, supported by a not so known Knight to launch the charge.

The glorious successes of the military history of the Order were still to come [one above all the others: the siege of Malta when they broke another myth of invincibility, the one of Ottomans].

Also the choice made by Sa El Din to attack the side where there were the Hospitallers indicates that they hadn't the terrible fame of the Templars.

So, I don't agree totally with your opinion that to deploy the Hospitallers there was the most correct decision.

They were a good force, but probably not at the level of the Templars [at least in that context].

The question is if during the march there was a possibility that this "lack of internal equilibrium" in the lines of the Hospitallers was visible in some way. In this case it would have been better to put the Hospitallers in the middle and the local lords in substitution.

But here I'm discussing impressions.
 
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DreamWeaver

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
10,445
Wales
The Christian and Muslim sources mentioned by Runciman [The "Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi" [pages from 248 to 278], with confrontation with Beha Ed-Din, pages from 275 to 295, Abu Sham II [pages from 33 to 40]] leaves actually a bad impression about the military functioning of the Knights of the Hospital on the battle field.

While the Knights of the temple followed the orders until the end, the Hospitallers lost their equilibrium. The worse detail is that while the Grand Master was near to the King, it was the Marshal of the order, supported by a not so known Knight to launch the charge.

The glorious successes of the military history of the Order were still to come [one above all the others: the siege of Malta when they broke another myth of invincibility, the one of Ottomans].

Also the choice made by Sa El Din to attack the side where there were the Hospitallers indicates that they hadn't the terrible fame of the Templars.

So, I don't agree totally with your opinion that to deploy the Hospitallers there was the most correct decision.

They were a good force, but probably not at the level of the Templars [at least in that context].

The question is if during the march there was a possibility that this "lack of internal equilibrium" in the lines of the Hospitallers was visible in some way. In this case it would have been better to put the Hospitallers in the middle and the local lords in substitution.

But here I'm discussing impressions.
While the Templars were perhaps their superiors in military ventures, the Hospitallers still would have been a better choice for the rear than the anglo-french forces that comprised the centre.

To err is human though. The Hospitallers had had to put up with several days of relentless attacks by Saladin's forces. Sooner or later they (or to be fair anybody else in their unenviable position) would have sucumbed to the pressures placed upon them and broken. That they faired better than the French who had originally brought up the rear after initially levaing Acre is perhaps telling.

The choice to attack the rear, I think has less to do with the reputations of the the two orders, and more that focusing ones energy on the rear is easier. Attacking the van of the army would be difficult, since they would easily be reinforced by those following. Attacking the rear though, forces the march to slow down, breaking up the armies order of marhc and isolating individual elements, surrounding them and destroying them. This had worked only a few days earler against the French having just left Acre, and previously against the Franks on their march to Hattin.
 
Apr 2011
58
Berry Province, rural France
Did Richard the Lionhearted win his 'nickname' at Arsuf?... charging past the front line on his own? He can be called a 'commander' but certainly not a 'general'. As a commander in medieval times I would rate him 4 stars.
 
Feb 2011
1,006
British Empire
I really dislike Richard in all departments. Poor old John had to clean up Richard's mess yet he gets all the blame. Big debts from the Crusades with John having to put taxes up and getting blamed, etc..... This is one of the main points. I have always defended John and always will.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,063
Italy, Lago Maggiore
While the Templars were perhaps their superiors in military ventures, the Hospitallers still would have been a better choice for the rear than the anglo-french forces that comprised the centre.

To err is human though. The Hospitallers had had to put up with several days of relentless attacks by Saladin's forces. Sooner or later they (or to be fair anybody else in their unenviable position) would have sucumbed to the pressures placed upon them and broken. That they faired better than the French who had originally brought up the rear after initially levaing Acre is perhaps telling.

The choice to attack the rear, I think has less to do with the reputations of the the two orders, and more that focusing ones energy on the rear is easier. Attacking the van of the army would be difficult, since they would easily be reinforced by those following. Attacking the rear though, forces the march to slow down, breaking up the armies order of marhc and isolating individual elements, surrounding them and destroying them. This had worked only a few days earler against the French having just left Acre, and previously against the Franks on their march to Hattin.
My criticism is functional. [And btw, I should feel a certain proximity with the Hospital, but this is an other tale]. In that historical period the Marshal was the Military Chief of an order on the battle field [there was the same figure also in the Order of the Temple], but the highest authority was the Grand Master and according to the rules of the orders it was a religious duty to follow the orders of this one [in the rule of the Templars it's at the art. XXXIII and art. XLV even prohibits to change or ask without the permission of the Grand Master].

Now, if the Marshal Knight felt enough free to do that, it meant that the command chain in the Order had troubles ... or ... [but this is not recorded, so it's only an hypothesis] the Master told him to charge despite the orders of the King if Richard didn't allow the attack in some hours [just to say].

In both the cases, Richard was carrying with him in battle [and not a common battle] a not totally reliable unit.

I do know that Hospitallers risked to be severely damaged staying firm to defend their position, anyway they had their orders.

And when Richard saw the Master of the Hospital asking with urgency to attack he had to change something.

This is why I say he was "mindless" before and during.

Just for information a Grand Master in such a situation should show the standard meaning "no Knight is allowed to leave one's position, fight until death!"

It's clear that the evaluation of King Richard was more optimistic than the evaluation of the Marshal of the Hospital.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,623
Florania
As stated on a related thread, the facts speak by themselves; he seems to have been a good tactician, but a lousy strategist.

His legacy was eloquent enough on that issue, particularly the treaty of Ramla; even if he got some nice victories over Salah ad-Din and Philip Augustus, on the long run both adversaries got the winning hand over him.
In a short form: a good general but not a good commander-in-chief. http://historum.com/editpost.php?do=editpost&p=2407628
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
In a short form: a good general but not a good commander-in-chief. http://historum.com/editpost.php?do=editpost&p=2407628
That was my take as well. Richard was great in the field and is pretty much the gold standard for medieval warrior kings. He's the guy you'd want leading a charge into the enemy's ranks.

He was much less skilled a politician however, and bankrupted the realm with his constant military adventuring. In his defense, not all of those campaigns were unavoidable, but Richard seem to relish being in the saddle a little too much, and at the expense of the realm.

I gave him a 4 in the poll, because the OP asks to rate him purely as a general. As a king I'd rate him much lower, since you have to consider more than just the battles and campaigns he fought. As a king, I'd probably give him a 2.
 
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kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,375
I would say poor, but not terrible.

He spent most of his wars either fighting France, his brothers, his father, or all at the same time all with the same result. He then goes off on the Crusade. He does pretty well, but cannot capture Jerusalem.

You don't go home from Palestine overland through enemy territory, it is just asking for your ass to get captured. Then after having England pay a "king's ransom" for his return, he starts a war with France, and then some half-blind French cook that could not shoot the broad side of a barn with a cannon point-bank-range gets a single lucky shot off and kills King Richard, and then the crown passes to John.
 
Aug 2015
870
wish it was Constantinople
pretty good, lots of experience and good tactics. he won many battles along with a few huge ones like arsuf. defeated the famous saladin in battle as well. However he was not a commander like hannibal or alexander the great because he never really developed tactics and warafare. he knew how to use tactics, but never really created anything special or innovative
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,784
Ohio, USA
That was my take as well. Richard was great in the field and is pretty much the gold standard for medieval warrior kings. He's the guy you'd want leading a charge into the enemy's ranks.

He was much less skilled a politician however, and bankrupted the realm with his constant military adventuring. In his defense, not all of those campaigns were unavoidable, but Richard seem to relish being in the saddle a little too much, and at the expense of the realm.

I gave him a 4 in the poll, because the OP asks to rate him purely as a general. As a king I'd rate him much lower, since you have to consider more than just the battles and campaigns he fought. As a king, I'd probably give him a 2.
Richard and his opponent Saladin were essentially mirrors of each other; Saladin the rather poor battlefield commander, but excellent politician; Richard the poor politician, but rather excellent battlefield commander. This basically results in a wash.