The Familiar and the Fresh

Steven Runciman’s profile of Richard the Lionheart, written at a time of impending crisis in Anglo-Cypriot relations, offers a nuanced and sensitive portrait, writes Minoo Dinshaw.

Depiction of Richard being pardoned by Emperor Henry VI, c. 1196Richard I of England, called the Lionheart, seized the island of Cyprus in the summer of 1191. Almost 700 years later, in 1878, Cyprus came under English, or British, rule once more. Between 1951 and 1954 the great Byzantinist Steven Runciman published his three-volume narrative, A History of the Crusades, achieving both scholarly acclaim and enormous sales. Following this, Runciman’s old friend, Peter Quennell, a founding editor of History Today, commissioned him to write a profile of Richard for the magazine, then in its fifth year.

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