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Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death in 1199.

He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Ireland, Lord of Cyprusmarker, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was known as Cœur de Lion, or Richard the Lionheart, even before his accession, because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior.

Other nicknames are oc e no (yes and no in lange d'òc) because of his frequent changes of mood, and the Muslims (referred to as Saracens at the time) called him Melek-Ric or Malek al-Inkitar (King of England).

By age 16, Richard was commanding his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father, King Henry II. Richard was a central Christian commander during the Third Crusade, effectively leading the campaign after the departure of Philip Augustus and scoring considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin.

While he spoke very little English and spent very little time in England (he lived in his Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France), preferring to use his kingdom as a source of revenue to support his armies, he was seen as a pious hero by his subjects. He remains one of the very few Kings of England remembered by his epithet, not number, and is an enduring, iconic figure in England.


Early life and family

Richard was a younger brother of William IX, Count of Poitiers, Henry the Young King and Matilda, Duchess of Saxony. As the third legitimate son of King Henry II of England, he was not expected to ascend the throne. He was also an elder brother of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, Leonora of England, Joan Plantagenet and John, Count of Mortain, who succeeded him as king. Richard was the younger maternal half-brother of Marie de Champagne and Alix of France. He is often depicted as having been the favourite son of his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine.

A 17th-century portrait of Richard as King of England
Although born at Beaumont Palacemarker, Oxford, Englandmarker, like other early Plantagenets Richard was essentially French (Gasconmarker). Richard was an educated man who composed poetry, writing in Limousin (lenga d'òc) and also in French (he never learned English). He was said to be very attractive; his hair was between red and blond, and he was light-eyed with a pale complexion. He was apparently of above average height, but his remains have been lost since at least the French Revolution, and his exact height is unknown. From an early age he showed significant political and military ability, becoming noted for his chivalry and courage as he fought to control the rebellious nobles of his own territory. His elder brother Henry was crowned king of England during his father's lifetime, as Henry III. Historians have named this Henry "the Young King" so as not to confuse him with the later Henry III of England, who was his nephew.

The practice of marriage alliances was common among medieval royalty, and allowed families to stake claims of succession on each other's lands and led to political alliances and peace treaties. In March 1159 it was arranged that Richard would marry one of the daughters of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona. The marriage never went ahead, but Richard's older brother Henry was married to Margaret, daughter of Louis VII of France and heiress to the French throne, on 2 November 1160. Despite the alliance between the Plantagenets and the Capetians, the dynasty on the French throne, the two houses were sometimes in conflict and in 1168 it took the intercession of Pope Alexander III to ensure a truce. Henry II had conquered Brittany and taken control of Vexin and Gisorsmarker, which had been part of Margaret’s dowry. Early in the 1160s there had been suggestions Richard should marry Alys (Alice), second daughter of Louis VII, but due to the rivalry between the kings of England and France, Louis obstructed the marriage of Richard and Alys. A peace treaty was secured in January 1169 and Richard’s betrothal to Alys, who was three years younger than him was confirmed. Henry II planned to divide his kingdom between his sons, there were three at the time; Henry would become King of England and have control of Anjou, Maine, and Normandy, while Richard would inherit Aquitaine from his mother and become Count of Poitiers, and Geoffrey would get Brittany through marriage alliance with Constance, the heiress to the region. At the ceremony where Richard's betrothal was confirmed, he paid homage to the King of France for Aquitaine which secured ties of vassalage between the two. After he fell seriously ill in 1170, Henry II put in place his plan to divide his kingdom, although he would retain overall authority of his sons and their territories. In 1171, Richard left for Aquitaine with his mother and Henry II gave him the duchy of Aquitaine at the request of Eleanor.

Revolt against Henry II

Like his brothers, Richard frequently challenged his father's authority. In the spring of 1174, at the age of 16, Richard joined both his brothers, Henry and Geoffrey, in a revolt against their father, whom they sought to dethrone. Initially, only Normandy remained faithful to Henry II; by August, however, Henry had largely crushed the rebellion in England. Crossing the Channelmarker to Normandy, he invaded Poitou and Aquitainemarker, the domains of Richard's mother, Eleanor, and captured and imprisoned her towards the end of the year. Richard was the last of the brothers to hold out against Henry, but in the end he refused to fight him face to face and humbly begged his pardon.

Henry seemed unwilling to entrust any of his sons with resources that could be used against him. It was suspected that Henry had appropriated Princess Alys, Richard's betrothed, the daughter of Louis VII of France by his second wife, as his mistress. This made a marriage between Richard and Alys technically impossible in the eyes of the Church, but Henry prevaricated: Alys's dowry, the Vexin, was valuable. Richard was discouraged from renouncing Alys because she was the sister of King Philip II of France, a close ally.

After his failure to overthrow his father, Richard concentrated on putting down internal revolts by the nobles of Aquitaine, especially the territory of Gasconymarker. The increasing cruelty of his reign led to a major revolt there in 1179. Hoping to dethrone Richard, the rebels sought the help of his brothers Henry and Geoffrey. The turning point came in the Charente Valleymarker in spring 1179. The fortress of Taillebourgmarker was well defended and was considered impregnable. The castle was surrounded by a cliff on three sides and a town on the fourth side with a three-layer wall. Richard first destroyed and looted the farms and lands surrounding the fortress, leaving its defenders no reinforcements or lines of retreat. The inhabitants of the fortress were so afraid of Richard at this point that they left the safety of their castle and attacked Richard outside its walls. Richard was able to subdue the army and then followed the defenders inside the open gates, where he easily took over the castle in two days. Richard’s victory at Taillebourg deterred many barons thinking of rebelling and forced them to declare their loyalty. It also won Richard a reputation as a skilled military commander.

In 1181-1182, Richard faced a revolt over the succession to the county of Angoulêmemarker. His opponents turned to Philip II of France for support, and the fighting spread through the Limousinmarker and Périgord. Richard was accused of numerous cruelties against his subjects, including rape. However, with support from his father and from the Young King, Richard succeeded in bringing the Viscount Aimar V of Limoges and Count Elie of Périgord to terms.

After Richard subdued his rebellious barons, he again challenged his father for the throne. From 1180 to 1183 the tension between Henry and Richard grew, as King Henry commanded Richard to pay homage to Henry the Young King, but Richard refused. Finally, in 1183, Henry the Young King and Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany invaded Aquitaine in an attempt to subdue Richard. Richard’s barons joined in the fray and turned against their duke. However, Richard and his army were able to hold back the invading armies, and they executed any prisoners. The conflict took a brief pause in June 1183 when the Young King died. However, Henry II soon gave his youngest son John permission to invade Aquitaine. With the death of Henry the Young King, Richard became the eldest son and heir to the English crown, but still he continued to fight his father.

To strengthen his position, in 1187 Richard allied himself with Philip II, who was the son of Eleanor's ex-husband Louis VII by his third wife, Adele of Champagne. Roger of Hoveden wrote:

"The King of England was struck with great astonishment, and wondered what [this alliance] could mean, and, taking precautions for the future, frequently sent messengers into France for the purpose of recalling his son Richard; who, pretending that he was peaceably inclined and ready to come to his father, made his way to Chinonmarker, and, in spite of the person who had the custody thereof, carried off the greater part of his father's treasures, and fortified his castles in Poitou with the same, refusing to go to his father."

Hoveden mentions how Richard and King Philip "ate from the same dish and at night slept in one bed" and had a "passionate love between them", which some historians have taken to imply a homosexual relationship. In addition, there are allusions to the Books of Samuel's depiction of Jonathan and David in this passage, though overall, Hoveden is chiefly concerned with the politics of the relationship. The historian, John Gillingham, has suggested that theories that Richard was homosexual were probably stemmed from an official record announcing that, as a symbol of unity between the two countries, the kings of France and England had slept overnight in the same bed. He expressed the view that this was "an accepted political act, nothing sexual about it; ... a bit like a modern-day photo opportunity".

In exchange for Philip's help against his father, Richard promised to concede to him his rights to both Normandy and Anjou. Richard paid homage to Philip in November of the same year. With news arriving of the Battle of Hattinmarker, he took the cross at Toursmarker in the company of other French nobles.

In 1188 Henry II planned to concede Aquitaine to his youngest son John. The following year, Richard attempted to take the throne of England for himself by joining Philip's expedition against his father. On 4 July 1189, Richard and Philip’s forces defeated Henry's army at Ballansmarker. Henry, with John's consent, agreed to name Richard his heir. Two days later Henry II died in Chinon, and Richard succeeded him as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. Roger of Hoveden claimed that Henry's corpse bled from the nose in Richard's presence, which was taken as a sign that Richard had caused his death. He was officially crowned duke on 20 July 1189 and king in Westminster Abbeymarker on 13 September 1189.

Anti-Jewish violence

When Richard I was crowned King of England, he barred all Jews and women from the ceremony (apparently a concession to the fact that his coronation was not merely one of a king but of a crusader), but some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king. According to Ralph of Diceto, Richard's courtiers stripped and flogged the Jews, then flung them out of court. When a rumour spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed, the people of Londonmarker began a massacre. Many Jews were beaten to death, robbed, and burned alive. Many Jewish homes were burned down, and several Jews were forcibly baptised. Some sought sanctuary in the Tower of Londonmarker, and others managed to escape. Among those killed was Jacob of Orléans, one of the most learned of the age. Roger of Howeden, in his Gesta Regis Ricardi, claimed that the rioting was started by the jealous and bigoted citizens, and that Richard punished the perpetrators, allowing a forcibly converted Jew to return to his native religion. Archbishop of Canterbury Baldwin of Exeter reacted by remarking, "If the King is not God's man, he had better be the devil's," a reference to the supposedly infernal blood in the House of Anjou.

Realising that the assaults could destabilise his realm on the eve of his departure on crusade, Richard ordered the execution of those responsible for the most egregious murders and persecutions. (Most of those hanged were rioters who had accidentally burned down Christian homes.) He distributed a royal writ demanding that the Jews be left alone. However, the edict was loosely enforced, as the following March there was further violence, including a massacre at York.

Crusade plans

Richard had already taken the cross as Count of Poitou in 1187. His father and Philip II had done so at Gisorsmarker on 21 January 1188, after receiving news of the fall of Jerusalemmarker to Saladin. Having become king, Richard and Philip agreed to go on the Third Crusade together, since each feared that, during his absence, the other might usurp his territories.

A 19th-century portrait of Richard wearing a cross emblem
Richard swore an oath to renounce his past wickedness in order to show himself worthy to take the cross. He started to raise and equip a new crusader army. He spent most of his father's treasury (filled with money raised by the Saladin tithe), raised taxes, and even agreed to free King William I of Scotland from his oath of subservience to Richard in exchange for marks. To raise even more money he sold official positions, rights, and lands to those interested in them. Those already appointed were forced to pay huge sums to retain their posts. William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and the King's Chancellor, made a show of bidding £ to remain as Chancellor. He was apparently outbid by a certain Reginald the Italian, but that bid was refused.

Richard made some final arrangements on the continent. He reconfirmed his father's appointment of William Fitz Ralph to the important post of seneschal of Normandy. In Anjou, Stephen of Tours was replaced as seneschal and temporarily imprisoned for fiscal mismanagement. Payn de Rochefort, an Angevin knight, was elevated to the post of seneschal of Anjou. In Poitou, the ex-provost of Benon, Peter Bertin was made seneschal, and finally in Gascony, the household official Helie de La Celle was picked for the seneschalship there. After repositioning the part of his army he left behind to guard his French possessions, Richard finally set out on the crusade in summer 1190. (His delay was criticised by troubadours such as Bertran de Born). He appointed as regents Hugh, Bishop of Durham, and William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex—who soon died and was replaced by Richard's chancellor William Longchamp. Richard's brother John was not satisfied by this decision and started scheming against William.

Some writers have criticised Richard for spending only six months of his reign in England and siphoning the kingdom's resources to support his crusade. According to William Stubbs:

Richard claimed that England was "cold and always raining," and when he was raising funds for his crusade, he was said to declare, "I would have sold Londonmarker if I could find a buyer." However, although England was a major part of his territories—particularly important in that it gave him a royal title with which to approach other kings as an equal—it faced no major internal or external threats during his reign, unlike his continental territories, and so did not require his constant presence there. Like most of the Plantagenet kings before the 14th century, he had no need to learn the English language. Leaving the country in the hands of various officials he designated (including his mother, at times), Richard was far more concerned with his more extensive French lands. After all his preparations, he had an army of men-at-arms, foot-soldiers, and a fleet of 100 ships.

Occupation of Sicily

In September 1190 both Richard and Philip arrived in Sicily. After the death of King William II of Sicily, his cousin Tancred of Lecce had seized power and had been crowned early in 1190 as King Tancred I of Sicily, although the legal heir was William's aunt Constance, wife of the new Emperor Henry VI. Tancred had imprisoned William's widow, Queen Joan, who was Richard's sister, and did not give her the money she had inherited in William's will. When Richard arrived, he demanded that his sister be released and given her inheritance. The presence of foreign troops also caused unrest: in October, the people of Messinamarker revolted, demanding that the foreigners leave. Richard attacked Messina, capturing it on 4 October 1190. After looting and burning the city, Richard established his base there. He remained there until Tancred finally agreed to sign a treaty on 4 March 1191. The treaty was signed by Richard, Philip and Tancred. Its main terms were:

  • Joan was to be released, receiving her inheritance and the dowry her father had given to her late husband.
  • Richard and Philip recognized Tancred as King of Sicily and vowed peace between all three of their kingdoms.
  • Richard officially proclaimed his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey, as his heir, and Tancred promised to marry one of his daughters to Arthur when he came of age.
  • Richard and Tancred exchanged gifts; Richard gave Tancred a sword which he claimed was Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur.

After signing the treaty Richard and Philip left Sicily. The treaty undermined England's relationships with the Holy Roman Empire and caused the revolt of Richard's brother John, who hoped to be proclaimed heir instead of their nephew. Although his revolt failed, John continued to scheme against his brother.

Conquest of Cyprus

The Near East in 1190, before Richard's conquest of Cyprus
In April 1191, while on route to Jerusalem, Richard stopped on the Byzantine island of Rhodesmarker to avoid the stormy weather. It seems that Richard had previously met his fiancée Berengaria only once, years before their wedding. He had assigned his mother to represent him and convince her father, Sancho VI of Navarre, and her other relatives to agree to the wedding, and to bring the bride to him. Richard came to their rescue when they were shipwrecked on the coast of Cyprusmarker. He left Rhodes in May, but a new storm drove Richard's fleet to Cyprus.

On 6 May 1191, Richard's fleet arrived in the port of Lemesosmarker (Limassolmarker) on Cyprus, and he captured the city. The island's despot Isaac Komnenos arrived too late to stop the Crusaders, and he retired to Kolossimarker. Richard called Isaac to negotiations, but Isaac demanded his departure. Richard and his cavalry met Isaac's army in battle at Tremetusia. The few Cypriot Roman Catholics and those nobles who opposed Isaac's rule joined Richard's army. Though Isaac and his men fought bravely, Richard's army was bigger and better equipped, ensuring his victory. He also received military assistance from the King of Jerusalem and Guy of Lusignan. Isaac resisted from the castles of Pentadactylosmarker, but after the siege of Kantara Castlemarker (which was a siege that had taken place over several days, forcing the surrender of the Reardon family, who were later sold into slavery), he finally surrendered. It was claimed that once Isaac had been captured Richard had him confined with silver chains, because he had promised that he would not place him in irons. Isaac's young daughter was kept in the household of Berengaria and Joan. Richard looted the island and massacred those trying to resist him. He and most of his army left Cyprus for the Holy Land in early June, having gained for the crusade a supply base that was not under immediate threat from the Turks as was Tyremarker. In his absence Cyprus was governed by Richard de Camville and Robert of Thornham. King Richard later sold Cyprus to the Knights Templar. This was because Richard lost a battle against Muslim forces in the Holy Land, and the Templars (who were already based there in earlier crusades) had nowhere to base themselves.


Before leaving Cyprus, Richard married Berengaria, first-born daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. The wedding was held in Limassolmarker on 12 May 1191 at the Chapel of St. George. It was attended by his sister Joan, whom Richard had brought from Sicily. When Richard married Berengaria he was still officially betrothed to Alys, and Richard pushed for the match in order to obtain Navarre as a fief like Aquitaine for his father. Further, Eleanor championed the match, as Navarre bordered on Aquitaine, thereby securing her ancestral lands' borders to the south. Richard took his new wife with him briefly on this episode of the crusade. However, they returned separately. Berengaria had almost as much difficulty in making the journey home as her husband did, and she did not see England until after his death. After his release from Germanmarker captivity Richard showed some regret for his earlier conduct, but he was not reunited with his wife.

In the Holy Land

King Richard landed at Acremarker on 8 June 1191. He gave his support to his Poitevin vassal Guy of Lusignan, who had brought troops to help him in Cyprus. Guy was the widower of his father's cousin Sibylla of Jerusalem and was trying to retain the kingship of Jerusalem, despite his wife's death during the Siege of Acre the previous year. Guy's claim was challenged by Conrad of Montferrat, second husband of Sibylla's half-sister, Isabella: Conrad, whose defence of Tyre had saved the kingdom in 1187, was supported by Philip of France, son of his first cousin Louis VII of France, and by another cousin, Duke Leopold V of Austria. Richard also allied with Humphrey IV of Toron, Isabella's first husband, from whom she had been forcibly divorced in 1190. Humphrey was loyal to Guy and spoke Arabic fluently, so Richard used him as a translator and negotiator.

Richard and his forces aided in the capture of Acre, despite the king's serious illness. At one point, while sick from scurvy, Richard is said to have picked off guards on the walls with a crossbow, while being carried on a stretcher. Eventually, Conrad of Montferrat concluded the surrender negotiations with Saladin and raised the banners of the kings in the city. Richard quarrelled with Leopold V of Austria over the deposition of Isaac Komnenos (related to Leopold's Byzantine mother) and his position within the crusade. Leopold's banner had been raised alongside the English and French standards. This was interpreted as arrogance by both Richard and Philip, as Leopold was a vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor (although he was the highest-ranking surviving leader of the imperial forces). Richard's men tore the flag down and threw it in the moat of Acre. Leopold left the crusade immediately. Philip also left soon afterwards, in poor health and after further disputes with Richard over the status of Cyprus (Philip demanded half the island) and the kingship of Jerusalem. Richard suddenly found himself without allies.

A 19th-century depiction of Richard leaving the Holy Land
Richard had kept 2,700 Muslim prisoners as hostages against Saladin fulfilling all the terms of the surrender of the lands around Acre. Philip, before leaving, had entrusted his prisoners to Conrad, but Richard forced him to hand them over to him. Richard feared his forces being bottled up in Acre, as he believed his campaign could not advance with the prisoners in train. He therefore ordered all the prisoners executed. He then moved south, defeating Saladin's forces at the Battle of Arsufmarker on 7 September 1191. He attempted to negotiate with Saladin, but this was unsuccessful. In the first half of 1192, he and his troops refortified Ascalonmarker.

An election forced Richard to accept Conrad of Montferrat as King of Jerusalem, and he sold Cyprus to his defeated protégé, Guy. Only days later, on 28 April 1192, Conrad was stabbed to death by Hashshashin before he could be crowned. Eight days later, Richard's own nephew, Henry II of Champagne was married to the widowed Isabella, although she was carrying Conrad's child. The murder has never been conclusively solved, and Richard's contemporaries widely suspected his involvement.

Realising that he had no hope of holding Jerusalem even if he took it, Richard ordered a retreat. There commenced a period of minor skirmishes with Saladin's forces while Richard and Saladin negotiated a settlement to the conflict, as both realized that their respective positions were growing untenable. Richard knew that both Philip and his own brother John were starting to plot against him. However, Saladin insisted on the razing of Ascalon's fortifications, which Richard's men had rebuilt, and a few other points. Richard made one last attempt to strengthen his bargaining position by attempting to invade Egyptmarker—Saladin's chief supply-base—but failed. In the end, time ran out for Richard. He realised that his return could be postponed no longer, since both Philip and John were taking advantage of his absence. He and Saladin finally came to a settlement on 2 September 1192—this included the provisions demanding the destruction of Ascalon's wall as well as an agreement allowing Christian access to and presence in Jerusalem. It also included a three-year truce.

Captivity and return

Bad weather forced Richard's ship to put in at Corfumarker, in the lands of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, who objected to Richard's annexation of Cyprus, formerly Byzantine territory. Disguised as a Knight Templar, Richard sailed from Corfu with four attendants, but his ship was wrecked near Aquileiamarker, forcing Richard and his party into a dangerous land route through central Europe.

On his way to the territory of Henry of Saxony, his brother-in-law, Richard was captured shortly before Christmas 1192, near Viennamarker, by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, who accused Richard of arranging the murder of his cousin Conrad of Montferrat. Moreover, Richard had personally offended Leopold by casting down his standard from the walls of Acre. Richard and his retainers had been travelling in disguise as low-ranking pilgrims, but he was identified either because he was wearing an expensive ring, or because of his insistence on eating roast chicken, an aristocratic delicacy.

Duke Leopold kept him prisoner at Dürnstein Castle. His mishap was soon known to England, but the regents were for some weeks uncertain of his whereabouts. While in prison, Richard wrote Ja nus hons pris or Ja nuls om pres ("No man who is imprisoned"), which is addressed to his half-sister Marie de Champagne. He wrote the song, in French and Occitan versions, to express his feelings of abandonment by his people and his sister. The detention of a crusader was contrary to public law, and on these grounds Pope Celestine III excommunicated Duke Leopold.

Early in 1193, the Duke then handed Richard over to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who was aggrieved both by the support which the Plantagenets had given to the family of Henry the Lion and also by Richard's recognition of Tancred in Sicily, and who imprisoned him in Trifels Castlemarker. So Pope Celestine III excommunicated Henry VI as well for wrongfully keeping Richard in prison. However, Henry needed the ransom money to raise an army and assert his rights over southern Italy.

Richard famously refused to show deference to the emperor and declared to him, "I am born of a rank which recognizes no superior but God". Despite his complaints, the conditions of his captivity were not severe.

The emperor demanded that marks (65,000 pounds of silver) be delivered to him before he would release the king, the same amount raised by the Saladin tithe only a few years earlier, and 2–3 times the annual income for the English Crown under Richard. Eleanor of Aquitaine worked to raise the ransom. Both clergy and laymen were taxed for a quarter of the value of their property, the gold and silver treasures of the churches were confiscated, and money was raised from the scutage and the carucage taxes. At the same time, John, Richard's brother, and King Philip of France offered marks for the Emperor to hold Richard prisoner until Michaelmas 1194. The emperor turned down the offer. The money to rescue the King was transferred to Germanymarker by the emperor's ambassadors, but "at the king's peril" (had it been lost along the way, Richard would have been held responsible), and finally, on 4 February 1194 Richard was released. Philip sent a message to John: "Look to yourself; the devil is loose."

The affair had a lasting influence on Austria, since part of the money from King Richard's ransom was used by Duke Leopold V to finance the founding in 1194 of the new city of Wiener Neustadtmarker, which had a significant role in various periods of subsequent Austrian history up to the present.

Later years and death

Tomb at Fontevraud
During his absence, John had come close to seizing the throne. Richard forgave him when they met again and, bowing to political necessity, named him as his heir in place of Arthur, whose mother Constance of Brittany was perhaps already open to the overtures of Philip II. When Phillip attacked Richard's fortress, Chateau-Gaillardmarker, he boasted that "if its walls were iron, yet would I take it," to which Richard replied, "If these walls were butter, yet would I hold them!"

Determined to resist Philip's designs on contested Angevin lands such as the Vexin and Berry, Richard poured all his military expertise and vast resources into war on the French King. He constructed an alliance against Philip, including Baldwin IX of Flanders, Renaud, Count of Boulogne, and his father-in-law King Sancho VI of Navarre, who raided Philip's lands from the south. Most importantly, he managed to secure the Welf inheritance in Saxony for his nephew, Henry the Lion's son Otto of Poitou, who was elected Otto IV of Germany in 1198.

Partly as a result of these and other intrigues, Richard won several victories over Philip. At Freteval in 1194, just after Richard's return from captivity and money-raising in England to France, Philip fled, leaving his entire archive of financial audits and documents to be captured by Richard. At the battle of Gisors (sometimes called Courcelles) in 1198 Richard took "Dieu et mon Droit"—"God and my Right"—as his motto (still used by the British monarchy today), echoing his earlier boast to the Emperor Henry that his rank acknowledged no superior but God.

In March 1199, Richard was in the Limousin suppressing a revolt by Viscount Aimar V of Limoges. Although it was Lent, he "devastated the Viscount's land with fire and sword". He besieged the puny, virtually unarmed castle of Chalus-Chabrolmarker. Some chroniclers claimed that this was because a local peasant had uncovered a treasure trove of Roman gold, which Richard claimed from Aimar in his position as feudal overlord.

In the early evening of 25 March 1199, Richard was walking around the castle perimeter without his chainmail, investigating the progress of sappers on the castle walls. Arrows were occasionally shot from the castle walls, but these were given little attention. One defender in particular amused the king greatly—a man standing on the walls, crossbow in one hand, the other clutching a frying pan which he had been using all day as a shield to beat off missiles. He deliberately aimed an arrow at the king, which the king applauded. However, another arrow then struck him in the left shoulder near the neck. He tried to pull this out in the privacy of his tent but failed; a surgeon, called a 'butcher' by Hoveden, removed it, 'carelessly mangling' the King's arm in the process. The wound swiftly became gangrenous. Accordingly, Richard asked to have the crossbowman brought before him; called alternatively Peter Basile, John Sabroz, Dudo, and Bertrand de Gurdon (from the town of Gourdon) by chroniclers, the man turned out to be a boy. This boy claimed that Richard had killed the boy's father and two brothers, and that he had killed Richard in revenge. The boy expected to be executed; Richard, as a last act of mercy, forgave the boy of his crime, saying, "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day," before ordering the boy to be freed and sent away with 100 shillings. Richard then set his affairs in order, bequeathing all his territory to his brother John and his jewels to his nephew Otto.

Richard died on 6 April 1199 in the arms of his mother; it was later said that "As the day was closing, he ended his earthly day." His death was later referred to as 'the Lion (that) by the Ant was slain'. His last act of chivalry proved fruitless; in an orgy of medieval brutality, the infamous mercenary captain Mercadier had the crossbowman flayed alive and hanged as soon as Richard died.

Richard's brain was buried at Charroux Abbeymarker in Poitou, his heart was buried at Rouenmarker in Normandy, and the rest of his body was buried at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbeymarker in Anjou.

A 13th century Bishop of Rochestermarker wrote that Richard spent 33 years in purgatory as expiation for his sins, eventually ascending to heaven in March 1232.


Richard produced no legitimate heirs and acknowledged only one illegitimate son, Philip of Cognac. As a result, he was succeeded by his brother John as King of England. However, his French territories initially rejected John as a successor, preferring his nephew Arthur of Brittany, the son of their late brother Geoffrey, whose claim is by modern standards better than John's. Significantly, the lack of any direct heirs from Richard was the first step in the dissolution of the Angevin Empire. While Kings of England continued to press claims to properties on the continent, they would never again command the territories Richard I inherited.

Richard's legacy comprised several parts. First, he captured Cyprus, which proved valuable in keeping the Frankish kingdoms in the Holy Land viable for another century. Second, his absence from the English political landscape meant that the highly efficient government created by his father was allowed to entrench itself, though King John later abused it to the breaking point. The last part of Richard's legacy was romantic and literary. No matter the facts of his reign, he left an indelible imprint on the imagination extending to the present, in large part because of his military exploits. This is reflected in Steven Runciman's final verdict of Richard I: "he was a bad son, a bad husband and a bad king, but a gallant and splendid soldier."

Medieval folklore

By 1260 a legend had developed that, after Richard's capture, his minstrel Blondel travelled Europe from castle to castle, loudly singing a song known only to the two of them (they had composed it together). Eventually, he came to the place where Richard was being held, and Richard heard the song and answered with the appropriate refrain, thus revealing where the king was incarcerated. The story was the basis of André Ernest Modeste Grétry's opera Richard Coeur-de-Lion and seems to be the inspiration for the opening to Richard Thorpe's film version of Ivanhoe. It seems unconnected to the real Jean 'Blondel' de Nesle, an aristocratic trouvère.


See also



  • Cannon, John & Hargreaves, Anne (eds). Kings and Queens of Britain, Oxford University Press 2001, 2004, ISBN 0198609566. Richard I, by John Gillingham
  • Graetz, H. Bella Löwy, and Philipp Bloch: History of the Jews, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1902
  • Harvey, John. The Plantagenets
  • Longford, Elizabeth (1989). "The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes", Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192141538.
  • Madden, A History Of The Crusades
  • Madden, T. Crusades: The Illustrated History
  • See also
  • Meade, Marion, Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • Ralph of Coggeshall, Chronicon Anglicanum
  • Roger of Hoveden, Gesta Regis Henrici II & Gesta Regis Ricardi Benedicti Abbatis, ed. William Stubbs, 2 vols, (London, 1867), available at Gallica.
  • Roger of Hoveden, Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene, ed. William Stubbs, 4 vols, (London, 1868-71), available at Gallica.
  • Turner, Ralph V. / Heiser, Richard R.: The reign of Richard Lionheart : ruler of the Angevin empire, 1189–1199, Harlow [u.a.] : Pearson Education, 2000, ISBN 0-582-25660-7 - ISBN 0-582-25659-3

Further reading

  • Ralph of Diceto, Radulfi de Diceto Decani Lundoniensis Opera Historica, ed. William Stubbs, 2 vols (London, 1876)
  • Berg, Dieter. Richard Löwenherz. Darmstadt, 2007.
  • Edbury, Peter W. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation. Ashgate, 1996. [Includes letters by Richard reporting events of the Third Crusade (pp. 178–182).] ISBN 1-84014-676-1
  • Gabrieli, Francesco. (ed.) Arab Historians of the Crusades, English translation 1969, ISBN 0-520-05224-2
  • Gillingham, John, Richard Coeur de Lion: Kingship, Chivalry and War in the Twelfth Century, 1994, ISBN 1-85285-084-1
  • Nelson, Janet L. (ed.) Richard Coeur de Lion in History and Myth, 1992, ISBN 0-9513085-6-4
  • Nicholson, Helen J. (ed.) The Chronicle of the Third Crusade: The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, 1997, ISBN 0-7546-0581-7
  • Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades, 1951-54, vols. 2-3.
  • Stubbs, William (ed.), Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi (London, 1864), available at Gallica. (PDF of anon. translation, Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land (Cambridge, Ontario, 2001))
  • William of Tyre, French continuation of. Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum (external link to text in mediæval French).
  • Williams, Patrick A. "The Assassination of Conrad of Montferrat: Another Suspect?", Traditio, vol. XXVI, 1970.
  • Reston, James Jr. "Warriors of God", 2001, ISBN 0-385-49562-5

External links

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