King Richard was the older brother and, according to Prince John, was favored by their mother. In contrast to Prince John, Richard is shown to be much stronger looking, and he sports a full mane. He is seen as an ideal king, kind, and considerate of his subjects. He apparently has family other than John, as Maid Marian is said to be his niece.
Sometime before the events of the film, Richard ruled England as King. He was later hypnotized by Sir Hiss, the henchman of Prince John, to go off on the Crusades. In his absence, Prince John usurped the throne and became known for his harsh, dictatorial rule.
Though King Richard is not seen for most of the film, he is alluded to. It is noted by many that the crown that Prince John wears belongs to King Richard, as it does not fit Prince John's head very well. The very name of Richard is enough to cause Prince John to throw an angry tantrum. Later, when facing death, Robin Hood cheers on Richard's name, noting that the crown is rightfully his and not Prince John's.
King Richard returns to England to set everything right at the end of the film, much to the relief of the people of Nottingham, and reclaims his throne from his brother. He imprisons Prince John, Hiss, and the Sheriff of Nottingham for their crimes against poor people. However, it is unknown what he did to the Rhino Guards and Wolf Arrowmen, assuming if he executed them for attempting to kill poor people. He also pardons Robin Hood and gives his blessing for Robin to marry Maid Marian. After the ceremony, King Richard notes to Friar Tuck that he now has an outlaw for an in-law.
An idea the Disney animators had thought of, but did not make the cut was where Prince John was about to strike Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the church, but is suddenly restrained by the sudden appearance of King Richard, who has just returned from the Crusades. King Richard sees firsthand the brutal oppression Prince John has imposed on the villagers, the misery and poverty of the commoners, and the fact the castle is all in flames. Richard is enraged that John has run his kingdom into the ground, but still cannot impose the punishment he wishes because John still is a family member and it would upset their mother. Had this idea made it on screen, it would have better explained the final scene and bridged the gap between the terrible fight in the burning castle and the joyous wedding. However, elements are shown in the film, such as Prince John (and his underlings) being punished at the Royal Rock Pile, the nullification of the tax burden, and Robin Hood's reinstatement into civilian society.
He is seen making appearances on the 2001-03 television series the House of Mouse, usually sitting at tables with Robin Hood, Maid Marian, or Little John. He is especially suspicious of his brother Prince John, Sir Hiss and the Sheriff of Nottingham, as he despises them.
King Richard doesn't appear on the show. However, Robin Hood sported a tattoo of a Lionheart symbol, which signifies his loyalty to the king. By extension, King Richard could also exist in this version.
- In the movie, it is stated that Richard is Maid Marian's uncle, but this would have to be an inaccuracy, because the two are separate species (Maid Marian is a vixen and Richard is a lion). However, it could be hinted that King Richard was once married to a sister of one of Marian's parents (also a fox), which could be considered radical. If this is the case then she may be based on Marie of Champagne; the eldest daughter of King Richard's youngest sister-in-law Blanche of Navarre, Countess of Champagne. Although Richard died not long after the historical Marie's birth, Maid Marian could also be based on Eleanor, the Maid of Brittany whose father Geoffrey was Richard's younger and John's older brother.
- King Richard's appearance as a lion is symbolic as the real King Richard I was nicknamed the "Lionheart."
- When John mentioned how his mother favored Richard over him, this alludes to historical fact: Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of Richard the Lionheart and John, was well known for favoring Richard above all her other children.
- In the story of Robin Hood, King Richard and Prince John are cousins of Maid Marian.