Richard I

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King Richard I of England lived September 8, 1157 – April 6, 1199. He was King of England from 1189 to 1199. He is an important figure in many stories about the crusades such as Sir Walter Scott's "The Talisman" and participated in the Third Crusade where his forces performed admirably against Saladin.


He was from the Royal House of Plantagenet, although this name was not adopted until later. At the time, he, his father (King Henry II) and brother (King John), were collectively known as the House of Anjou (or the Angevins) as they descended from Count Geoffrey of Anjou, whose nickname was Plantagenet (from the sprig of 'planta genesta', a type of broom, that was worn as the family emblem.) Geoffrey married the Empress Matilda (aka Maud), daughter of the English King Henry I, who fought her cousin King Stephen for the English throne. The treaty which ended this struggle saw her cede the throne to Stephen in return for her son (King Henry II) being made his heir.

French Ties

King Richard was known as Coeur de Lion (the Lionheart). At this time, the English court was almost entirely French in character and language, being directly descended from King William the Duke of Normandy and including the lands of Anjou and Aquitaine in modern-day France. Indeed, the largest land holder in France, was King Richard. He spoke no English - his native tongue was the regional dialect French of Poitou. His body was buried in Poitou, and his heart in Rouen Cathedral in his ancestral Normandy.

Family and early years

He was the second oldest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine . He was not expected to ascend the throne, his elder brother Henry would become King of England. But he was always his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine’s favor. From an early age, he had already being known for his extraordinary military ability and great courage on the battlefield. He also had a great reputation of chivalry and energy in protecting pilgrims whom passing though his own territory.

According to Henry II ‘s plan, his eldest son 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 his younger brother Geoffrey would get Brittany through marriage alliance with Constance, the heiress to the region. Richard was betrothed to Alys, fourth daughter of Louis VII of France.

In 1171 Henry II gave him the duchy of Aquitaine at the request of his mother Eleanor. Together they laid the foundation stone of St Augustine's Monastery in Limoges.

In 1173, Henry the young King made a rebellion against Henry II, it is believe Eleanor manipulated her sons. He went to Louis VII for support, Richard and Geoffrey made an alliance with their brother. The 5 –year- old John remained with Henry at that time. The war lasts for a year. Louis made a peace treaty with Henry II alone after he raised the siege of Rouen in France, Richard was specifically excluded in the treaty. Being abandoned by Louis, Richard had to face the whole army of his father. He went to Henry’s court then weeping, and asked for forgiveness. Henry gave him the kiss of peace. His brothers joined him and reconciliated with their father later.

Henry the young King became increasingly jealous on him and demanded him pay homage but Richard refused. In 1183, Henry the young King and Geoffrey invaded Aquitaine, Bertrand de Born, Count of Hautefort, who was Richard's rival in minstrelsy also joined them. But Richard successfully hold them back. In June 11, 1183, the young King died.

King Henry demanded Richard give up Aquitaine to his youngest son John, Richard refused. Henry soon gave John permission to invade Aquitaine. In 1188, the war broke up; Richard paid homage to Philip Augustus, King of France in addition with Normandy and Anjou in exchange of an alliance. They defeated Henry’s army at Ballans. Henry died in 6 July 1189. According to report, Richard was unhorsed by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke during the war which give William the reputation of the only man ever to unhorse Richard, he then insulted the future King with words that “no one could ever bear”, but later, Richard welcomed and included him in the council of regency in his absence for Crusade as his chivalrous character. Richard was crowned as King of England at Westminster on Sept 3.


Towards the end of 1187, when the news of fall of the Jerusalem reached him, Richard took the Cross. Philip Augustus and Henry II had subsequently followed his example. After the coronation, Richard swore an oath to renounce his past sin in order to show his worthy to take the Cross. He sold sheriffdoms, justiceships, church lands, and set all kinds of positions for biding and spent most of his father’s treasure in raising and equipping crusaders. He even made bidding for the position of chancellor, William Longchamp, his own chancellor kept his position with £3,000. It is reported he said "I would have sold London if I could find a buyer." He raised around 8000 men and 100 ships.

In 1189, Richard crossed Calais and met Philip Augustus whom also started Crusade. He reached Marseilles and arrived in Messina then waited for the spring. Because his betrothed Alys, who is Philip’s sister had affair with his father, Richard refused to marry her, as a Christian, such a marriage is intolerable. Richard then betrothed to Berengaria of Navarre. This is the start of the lifelong hostile between him and Philip.

In June 10, 1190, their main partner in the crusade, Holy Roman emperor Frederick I, famous known as Barbarossa drowned when he across the Saleph River which is now part of Turkey .Germans then left the Crusade. Since Fredrick has the largest army among them, almost 10 times larger than the English and French combined, this significantly weakened the third Crusade. In1191, the ships carrying Richard’s fiancée Berengaria and his sister Joan which are on their way to catch up with him was anchored around coast of Cyprus. They were threatened and were put into prison by the island's despot Isaac Komnenos. Richard came to their rescue, he ordered Isaac release the prisoner, but he refused. Richard then captured the island, and overthrew Komnenos. He married Berengaria in the Chapel of St George on Cyprus in May 12. 1191.

Richard arrived at Acre at June 8, 1191, but he was seriously sick. Even when he was being carried on a stretcher, he took out guards on the wall with his crossbow. He liberated Acre in July 12, 1191. However, Philip Augustus left the Crusade at that point. The French’s left furthermore weaken the Crusade, the rest of the armies are not large enough to liberate Jerusalem. Although in the hard situation, Richard then defeated Saladin at Arsuf on 7 September 1191, and then liberated Jaffa. These victories secured the way access to Jerusalem. In the first time, Christians in the Holy Land were relieved from the threat of Saladin. The armies then advanced into the Holy City, but the size of the armies made Richard decide to retreated back to the coast. He made another attempt marching into Jerusalem but again, he decided to retreat. In the spring of 1192, news reached to Richard that his brother John started a revolt against him back in England with the support of Philip Augustus whom had already came back to France. Without too many options, Richard had to go home. But He has to try everything he can to guarantee Christian’s security in Holy Land after his left.

Battle of Jaffa

After Richard’s withdraw, Saladin seized the opportunity and reinvaded Jaffa which served as headquarter for Crusaders at Jerusalem campaign. Facing massive enemies, although fought bravely but Christians were quickly outnumbered, the survivors retreated into the citadel. News reached to Richard, he immediately came to rescue. He divided his army into two. The main army under Templars marched into Jaffa though land which he expected they would be blocked on their way and it happened indeed. Meanwhile, he led a small army approach Jaffa by sea. At first, they thought there are no survivors, but when he saw a Christian flag weaving from the citadel in the city, Richard leaped into the sea and waded through the waves to reach the wall . The king led 54 knights, a few hundred infantrymen, and about 2,000 crossbowmen charge into the city. Christian prisoners in the city seized their arms and resumed fight. Being stunned by Richard’s assaulting, Muslims were quickly collapsed and fled.

But this was just beginning, after being driven out of the city, Saladin again gathered a massive army and plan to retake the city. With a much smaller army with him, Richard formed a defense line with spear men in the front and crossbowmen behind. Muslims repeated charge but were beaten back every time. After hold the line for hours, Richard led a charge with 50 knights which only 10 to 15 mounted. The king’s horse was killed during the battle and he eventually fought on foot. By the evening, it is clear the city was defended. Left 700 bodies and 1500 dead horses, Saladin abandoned his plan. Although with only a few men, Christians only miraculously lost 2 in the battle.

After heard new Frankish crusaders are on their way to Holy Land and there is nothing more he can do, Saladin had no choose but accepted a peace talk with Richard. Pilgrims again could go to Jerusalem to worship.

Return and Captured

Richard’s ship wrecked on his way back and he was forced to across the dangerous Continent. He was captured by Leopold of Austria; the latter sold him to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI who is jealousy of what Richard had done. Henry demanded 150000 marks as ransom which being equivalent to around £2 billion in 2011. He also demanded Richard surround his Kingdom to him. The Pope then excommunicated Henry. Eleanor the King’s Mother eventually raised the money. Richard reached home in 1194. Although being repeatedly threaten by John, Richard eventually pardoned him.

French campaign and the last days

During Richard’s absence, Philip Augustus took the Normandy. After his return, Richard led his army back. In March 25, 1199, near the Castle perimeter in Chalus-Chabrol, someone on the castle wall deliberately aimed the King with bow, applauded the first shot, he was hit in the left shoulder near the neck by the next. The arrow was positioned. The archer eventually was captured. As his last chivalric action, he forgave him, ordered gave him 100 shillings and set him free. However his wish was not practice by his company after his death.. He also declared forgave Philip. After confessed his sin, Richard died in the arms of his mother in April 6. As his wish, he was buried at feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou. His heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy.

Marriage and alleged homosexual

It is sometimes recorded that King Richard was homosexual, but there is little direct evidence. He was acknowledged fathering an illegitimate son from before his marriage. He alleged to have “love feelings” when he first met his future wife Berengaria, but it later went cold. It was possibly a typical political marriage for him. But Berengaria was deeply in love with him. The British monarchy website makes no mention of his homosexuality His sexuality may be argued, but he is known as a complex character, who on one hand enjoyed the rough male companionship of the military, and spent most of his reign under arms; whilst at the same time being accomplished in the arts of the troubadours with their focus on courtly love.

Reputation He is the only Christian leader at that time feared by Muslims. There is no denying Richard's skills as a tactician, and battle-field commander, and as a leader of men.Because of Scott, and the Robin Hood tales, and a belief that the warrior is more interesting than the diplomat, we have to peel back the various layers of romance and legend to reach the real Richard.

Sellars and Yeatman in their classic history of England; "1066 and All That" described him as always setting off for somewhere and called him "Richard Gare de Lyon" (Lyon railway station)