Richard the Lionheart's Influence on Today's Maritime Law
Maritime attorney Todd Lochner of Annapolis, Maryland, has agreed to let us share a series of his articles about various facets of boating law as posted at his website boatinglaw.com. This is the first installment in that series.
Boating Law. Admiralty Law. Maritime Law. All these are names that are given to the law that encompases all boats, ships, and things that float.
Regardless of label, the body of law is the same for all disputes involving vessels in navigable waters and often in disputes in fields that are related as well, such as marine insurance contracts. This body of law, known as general maritime law, was first codified in 2000 B.C within the Hammurabi Code. Much of the modern maritime law is directly descended from the Code of Oleron, which was penned in the 12th century by King Richard I.
Modern courts still cite to this code as precedent for their decisions. The United States Supreme Court cited it as recently as 1974 in Cooper Stevedoring Co. v. Kopke, Inc., 417 U.S. 106 (1974)
In recent decades, great pressure has been placed on traditional maritime doctrines by the dramatic increase in purely recreational boating. Needless to say, King Richard I did not envision the advent and dramatic proliferation of the Personal Water Craft, nor, of course the many other changes that have occurred in our society.
As a result, there are many uncertainties in the law where doctrines developed to regulate the conduct of commercial ships are molded to the fit the facts of small private pleasure yachts. This fascinating story is now being written in courts around the country, sometimes in highly unpredictable ways. Hopefully boatinglaw.com will provide you with an introduction to these issues. As stated in our disclaimer, however, there is no substitute for legal research and investigation by professional counsel on the known facts of a specific dispute.
That ends the explanation by boatinglaw.com. What follows is perspective added by us:
As it happens, Richard I is one of the great badasses in history, otherwise known as Richard the Lionheart. As King of England and many other noble titles, Richard led the Third Crusade to retake the Holy Land from its Moslem rulers. That set up one of the greatest military duels in history as Richard’s forces battled the armies of the famed Moslem commander Saladin. Unlike many commanders who were careful with their safety, Richard fought…well…like a lion and is credited with personally killing dozens of enemy fighters in close combat.
All of Richard’s ruling and fighting meant that he spent a lot of time aboard boats, going back and forth from England to his holdings in France and transiting the Mediterranean Sea from his various HQs in Sicily and Cyprus, and, of course, Palestine. So it makes some sense that he might be involved in establishing boating law conventions, although it’s just about the last thing that anyone would associate with him.
In popular culture, almost every Robin Hood movie ever made features a heroic King Richard arriving just in time at the end of the film to set the kingdom aright by ending the rule of the evil King John.
Richard I spent a great deal of time making passages across the English Channel and throughout the Mediterranean Sea.