The rivalry between King Philip II of France and England’s King Richard I (popularly known as the Lionheart) spanned decades of battles, intrigue and betrayal. This real-life royal duel played an important but little-known role in the fictional tales of Robin Hood told over the centuries in songs, poems, books and films.
The enmity between Philip and Richard began when the then-prince of England spurned a marriage with Philip’s sister – but managed to retain a dowry of territory in France. Their hostility escalated when Philip tried unsuccessfully to forge a document that would return the territory to him while King Richard was away on a crusade.
After Richard was taken captive returning from the Holy Land, Philip formed an alliance with Richard’s brother John and began a military campaign to take back Richard’s dowry territory – along with all of Richard’s other lands in northern France.
Ransomed from captivity by his mother, Richard led a counter campaign to win back the territory he’d lost to Philip. Following a string of Richard’s victories, his brother John abandoned his alliance with the French king. The battles between Philip and Richard would rage for decades with Richard eventually regaining most of his territories – and forgiving his brother.
John’s real-life betrayal of his brother Richard very likely led to his portrayal as the duplicitous regent in the fictional Robin Hood tales. In effect, the feud between Philip and Richard created the legend’s most memorable villain. From a storyteller’s point of view: Vive la France.
In KING ROBIN, Philip II is the catalyst for Robert Webber’s rise to the throne as the only English military leader cunning enough to defeat an imminent invasion from France.
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