Politics Is the Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay

The Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay is a fictionalized biography of the man known to most readers as Richard the Lionhearted, leader of the Crusades.

Maurice Hewlet’s narrator tells readers in the first chapter that Richard had two natures, one deeply spiritual and the other beastly cruel. The novel elaborates on that theme.

Richard Count of Poictou is one of two living sons of King Henry of England. Richard loves Jehane Saint-Pol but his father wants him to marry to further the Angevin family’s political future. Richard agrees, then backs out on suspicion that his father is dallying with his intended bride.

Brilliant as a military strategist and battlefield leader, Richard treats his allies with less respect than he accords his soldiers. Before long, Richard has offended most of the European nobility. When he succeeds to the throne, his allies are all his enemies.

But for Jehane, Richard would have died even earlier than he did at the hands of enemies in the camp of his allies.

Hewlet’s narrator is a 12th century contemporary of Richard’s. That pose adds verisimilitude to the tale, but it makes for hard reading: familiar words are used with unfamiliar meanings, unfamiliar words pepper the prose, and critical passages are in French.

What interest there is in the novel is in the historical details, such as the fact that Richard of England didn’t even speak English.   On the whole, contemporary readers are not likely to find much in this novel to capture their interest.

The Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay
Maurice Hewlet
Norwood Press, 1901
400+ pages
1901 Bestseller #8
Project Gutenberg e-book #14813
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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