Britons are losing their grasp on reality, according to a poll out Monday, which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.
The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English King Richard the Lionheart was a myth.
And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Winston Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist.
Though one would think it inexplicable that nearly half of the British population does not think Richard I was a real person, I can somewhat understand how Richard - one of the most enigmatic kings in England's history - could be thought of as a myth. Richard's reputation has suffered the most extreme swings of assessment. For long after Richard's reign, he was seen as the greatest of English kings, being compared favorably to King Arthur, Alexander the Great, Augustus, and Charlemagne. But, since about the eighteenth century, Richard's reputation has been trashed. David Hume and Edward Gibbon both thought he was a terrible ruler. Bishop Stubbs called Richard "a bad son, a bad husband, a selfish ruler and a vicious man." More recently, J.A. Brundage has called Richard one of England's worst kings. J.J. Norwich similarly labeled the Lionheart. Sames goes for Regan.
In his own lifetime Richard's reputation suffered a massive propaganda campaign by the regime of Philip II of France. Ironically, for the most objective and detached assessment of Richard the Lionheart, one probably should consult the contemporary Muslim writers of the Third Crusade.
As for Churchill, well, we may soon be lucky Brits have even heard of the name...
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