King Richard the First is known in history as the lion-hearted, and well did he deserve the name. It is characteristic of the lion to be fierce, reckless, and cruel, intent only in pursuing the aims which his own lordly and impetuous appetites and passions demand, without the least regard to any rights of others that he may trample under foot, or to the sufferings that he may inflict on the innocent and helpless. This was Richard's character precisely, and he was proud of it. His glory consisted in his reckless and brutal ferocity.
Almost all the early years of the life of our hero were spent in wars which were waged by the different members of his father’s family against each other. These wars originated in the quarrels that arose between the sons and their father in respect to the family property and power. Henry had five sons, of whom Richard was the third. He had also three daughters. The king held a great variety of possessions, having inherited from his father and grandfather, or received through his wife, a number of distinct and independent realms. Thus he was duke of one country, earl of another, king of a third, and count of a fourth. England was his kingdom, Normandy was his great dukedom, and he held, besides, various other realms. He was a generous father, and he began early by conveying some of these provinces to his sons. But they were not contented with the portions that he voluntarily assigned them. They called for more. Sometimes the father yielded to these unreasonable demands, but yielding only made the young men more grasping than before, and at length the father would resist. Then came rebellions, and leagues formed by the sons against the father, and the musterings of armies, and battles, and sieges. The mother generally took part with the sons in these unnatural contests, and in the course of them the most revolting spectacles were presented to the eyes of the world—of towns belonging to a father sacked and burned by the sons, or castles beleaguered, and the garrisons reduced to famine, in which a husband was defending himself against the forces of his wife, or a sister against those of a brother. Richard himself, who seems to have been the most desperate and reckless of the family, began to take an active part in these rebellions against his father when he was only seventeen years old.
These wars continued, with various temporary interruptions, for many years, and whenever at any time a brief peace was made between the sons and the father, then the young men would usually fall to quarreling among themselves. Indeed, Henry, the oldest of them, said that the only possible bond of peace between the brothers seemed to be a common war against their father.
Nor did the king live on much better terms with his wife than he did with his children. At the time of Eleanora’s marriage with Henry, her prospects were bright indeed. The people of England, notwithstanding the evil reports that were spread in respect to her character, received her as their queen with much enthusiasm, and on the occasion of her coronation they made a great deal of parade to celebrate the event. Her appearance at that time attracted unusual attention. This was partly on account of her personal attractions and partly on account of her dress. The style of her dress was quite Oriental. She had brought home with her from Antioch a great many Eastern fashions, and many elegant articles of dress, such as mantles of silk and brocade, scarfs, jeweled girdles and bands, and beautiful veils, such as are worn at the East. These dresses were made at Constantinople, and when displayed by the queen in London they received a great deal of admiration.
We can see precisely how the queen looked in these dresses by means of illuminated portraits of her contained in the books written at that time. It was the custom in those days in writing books—the work of which was all executed by hand—to embellish them with what were called illuminations. These were small paintings inserted here and there upon the page, representing the distinguished personages named in the writing. These portraits were painted in very brilliant colors, and there are several still remaining that show precisely how Eleanora appeared in one of her Oriental dresses. She wears a close head-dress, with a circlet of gems over it. There is a gown made with tight sleeves, and fastened with full gathers just below the throat, where it is confined by a rich collar of gems. Over this is an elegant outer robe bordered with fur. The sleeves of the outer robe are very full and loose, and are lined with ermine. They open so as to show the close sleeves beneath. Over all is a long and beautiful gauze veil.