The Bastard, first known as Philip Faulconbridge, is knighted and renamed as Sir Richard Plantagenet by King John when the latter comes to agree that the young man is his brother Richard the Lionhearted’s bastard son.
An excellent fighter, hugely energetic, the Bastard is glib and extraordinarily cheeky, to the extent that John sometimes has to rein him in. Utterly guileless, he has no qualms about giving up a guaranteed income for the sake of a new name and the opportunities afforded by serving the King. He is a charmer, quickly getting his grandmother Elinor’s approval and becoming one of John’s closest advisers. He is loyal to his uncle, and thinks nothing of being sent to ransack monasteries to find money for the wars. Impatient with the dithering of the citizens of Angers, he suggests that the town be destroyed before anyone decides who owns it, while seeing the advantage that the enemy might end up destroying itself at the same time. He is a fair man, willing to fight Salisbury to allow Hubert have a chance to explain himself, even though he shares Salisbury’s opinion of the man. John gives him complete command of the English forces to fight off the French after Pandulph fails to arrange a peace. The Bastard grows up over the course of the play: starting as merely high-spirited, his experience with politics soon makes him extremely cynical about the world, and he resolves to make the most of it; but he slowly comes to realize that there are things more important, and he leads the English noblemen in their resolve to keep their land free from French invasion.