Originally posted on History Today
Richard 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.
Runciman, who had passed a convalescent VE Day on Cyprus relaxing beneath the castle of Kyrenia, had remained well-informed about Cypriot affairs because of his friendship with the Greek poet and diplomat George Seferiades, or Seferis, who was torn between admiration for British culture and unwavering support for Cypriot independence. From Seferis, Runciman would be one of the first Britons to hear of the foundation of the Cypriot terrorist organisation, EOKA, with its solemn oath ‘to free Cyprus from the British yoke’, in the same month that his article appeared in History Today.
Runciman’s profile of Richard is to some degree extracted from The Kingdom of Acre (1954), the third volume of A History of the Crusades, and condenses what was the most familiar and dramatic part of the story to…