(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 Cyprus, 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
before his accession, because of his reputation as a great
military leader and warrior.
The Muslims (referred to as Saracens at the time) called him
(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
Richard I. Cœur
de Lion -
Illustration from the 12th century
Early life and Duke of Aquitaine
Richard was born on 8 September 1157,
probably at Beaumont Palace.
He 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, Queen of Castile; Joan of England; and John,
Count of Mortain, who succeeded him as king. Richard was the
younger maternal half-brother of Marie de Champagne and Alix of
Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine's oldest son, William IX,
Count of Poitiers, died in 1156, before Richard's birth.
Richard is often depicted as having been the favourite son of
his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine.
His father, Henry, was French and great-grandson of William the
Conqueror. The closest English relation in Richard's family tree
was Edith, wife of Henry I of England. Contemporary historian
Ralph of Diceto traced his family's lineage through Edith to the
Anglo-Saxon kings of England and Alfred the Great, and from
there linked them to Noah and Woden. According to Angevin
legend, there was even infernal blood in the family.
While his father visited his lands from Scotland to France,
Richard probably stayed in England. He was wet-nursed by a woman
called Hodierna, and when he became king he gave her a generous
Little is known about Richard's education.
Although born in Oxford, Richard could speak no English; he was
an educated man who composed poetry and wrote in Limousin (lenga
d'òc) and also in French.
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, according to Clifford Brewer
he was 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m)
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: it 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;
however, these arrangements failed, and the marriage never took
place. 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 this alliance between the Plantagenets and the Capetians,
the dynasty on the French throne, the two houses were sometimes
in conflict. In 1168, the intercession of Pope Alexander III was
necessary to secure a truce between them. Henry II had conquered
Brittany and taken control of Gisors and the Vexin, 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; because of the
rivalry between the kings of England and France, Louis
obstructed the marriage. A peace treaty was secured in January
1169 and Richard’s betrothal to Alys was confirmed.
Henry II planned to divide his kingdom between his sons, of
which 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, thus securing 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.
Richard and his mother embarked on a tour of Aquitaine in 1171
in an attempt to placate the locals.
Together they laid the foundation stone of St Augustine's
Monastery in Limoges. In June 1172 Richard was formally
recognised as the Duke of Aquitaine when he was granted the
lance and banner emblems of his office; the ceremony took place
in Poitiers and was repeated in Limoges where he wore the ring
of St Valerie, who was the personification of Aquitaine.
Revolt against Henry II
According to Ralph of Coggeshall, Henry the Young King was
the instigator of rebellion against Henry II; he wanted to reign
independently over at least part of the territory his father had
promised him, and to break away from his dependence on Henry II,
who controlled the purse strings.
Jean Flori, an historian who specialises in the medieval period,
believes that Eleanor manipulated her sons to revolt against
Henry the Young King abandoned his father and left for the
French court, seeking protection from Louis VII; he was soon
followed by his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, while
the 5-year-old John remained with Henry II. Louis gave his
support to the three sons and even knighted Richard, tying them
together through vassalage.
The rebellion was described by Jordan Fantosme, a contemporary
poet, as a "war without love".
The three brothers made an oath at the French court that they
would not make terms with Henry II without the consent of Louis
VII and the French barons.
With the support of Louis, Henry the Young King attracted the
support of many barons through promises of land and money; one
such baron was Philip, Count of Flanders, who was promised
£1,000 and several castles. The brothers had supporters in
England, ready to rise up; led by Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl
of Leicester, the rebellion in England from Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl
of Norfolk, Hugh de Kevelioc, 5th Earl of Chester, and William I
of Scotland. The alliance was initially successful, and by July
1173 they were besieging Aumale, Neuf-Marché, and Verneuil and
Hugh de Kevelioc had captured Dol in Brittany.
Richard went to Poitou and raised the barons who were loyal to
himself and his mother in rebellion against his father. Eleanor
was captured, so Richard was left to lead his campaign in
against Henry II's supporters in Aquitaine on his own. He
marched to take La Rochelle, but was rejected by the
inhabitants; he withdrew to the city of Saintes which he
established as a base of operations.
In the meantime, Henry II had raised a very expensive army of
over 20,000 mercenaries with which to face the rebellion.
He marched on Verneuil, and Louis retreated from his forces. The
army proceeded to recapture Dol and subdued Brittany. At this
point, Henry II made an offer of peace to his sons; on the
advice of Louis the offer was refused.
Henry II's forces took Saintes by surprise and captured much of
its garrison, although Richard was able to escape with a small
group of soldiers. He took refuge in Château de Taillebourg for
the rest of the war.
Henry the Young King and the Count of Flanders planned to land
in England to assist the rebellion led by the Earl of Leicester.
Anticipating this, Henry II returned to England with
500 soldiers and his prisoners (including Eleanor and his son's
wives and fiancées),
but on his arrival found out that the rebellion had already
collapsed. William I of Scotland and Hugh Bigod were captured on
13 July and 25 July respectively. Henry II returned to France
where he raised the siege of Rouen, where Louis VII had been
joined by Henry the Young King after he had abandoned his plan
to invade England. Louis was defeated and a peace treaty was
signed in September 1174,
with the Treaty of Montlouis.
When Henry II and Louis VII made a truce on 8 September 1174,
Richard was specifically excluded.
Abandoned by Louis and wary of facing his father's army in
battle, Richard went to Henry II's court at Poitiers on
23 September and begged for forgiveness, weeping and falling at
Henry's feet, who gave Richard the kiss of peace.
Several days later, Richard's brothers joined him in seeking
reconciliation with their father.
The terms the three brothers accepted were less generous than
those they had been offered earlier in the conflict (when
Richard was offered four castles in Aquitaine and half of the
income from the duchy)
and Richard was given control of two castles in Pitou and half
the income of Aquitaine; Henry the Young King was given two
castles in Normandy; and Geoffrey was permitted half of
Brittany. Eleanor would remain Henry II's prisoner until his
death, partly as insurance for Richard's good behaviour.
Under Henry II's reign
After the conclusion of the war began the process of
pacifying the provinces that had rebelled against Henry II. He
travelled to Anjou for this purpose and Geoffrey dealt with
Brittany. In January 1175, Richard was dispatched to Aquitaine
to punish the barons who had fought for him. According to Roger
of Howden's chronicle of Henry's reign, most of the castles
belonging to rebels were to be returned to the state they were
in 15 days before the outbreak of war, while others were to be
Given that by this time it was common for castles to be built in
stone, and that many barons had expanded or refortified their
castles, this was not an easy task.
Gillingham notes that Roger of Howden's chronicle is the main
source for Richard's activities in this period, although he
notes that it records the successes of the campaign;
it was on this campaign that Richard acquired the name "Richard
The first such success was the siege of Castillon-sur-Agen. The
castle was "notoriously strong", but in a two-month siege the
defenders were battered into submission by Richard's siege
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 Gascony. 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
Valley in spring 1179. The fortress of Taillebourg 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 garrison
sallied out of the castle and attacked Richard; he 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 Angoulême. His opponents turned to Philip II of
France for support, and the fighting spread through the Limousin
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 22-year-old 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 Chinon, 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
Overall, Hoveden is chiefly concerned with the politics of
the relationship between Richard and King Philip. The historian,
John Gillingham, has suggested that theories that Richard was
homosexual 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
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 Hattin, he took the
cross at Tours 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 Ballans. 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.
Richard I was officially crowned duke on 20 July 1189 and
king in Westminster Abbey on 13 September 1189.
When he was crowned, Richard 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 London 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 London, 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.
Richard had already taken the cross as Count of Poitou in
1187. His father and Philip II had done so at Gisors on 21
January 1188, after receiving news of the fall of Jerusalem 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.
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 10,000 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 £3,000 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
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:
"He was a bad king: his great exploits, his military
skill, his splendour and extravagance, his poetical
tastes, his adventurous spirit, do not serve to cloak
his entire want of sympathy, or even consideration, for
his people. He was no Englishman, but it does not follow
that he gave to Normandy, Anjou, or Aquitaine the love
or care that he denied to his kingdom. His ambition was
that of a mere warrior: he would fight for anything
whatever, but he would sell everything that was worth
fighting for. The glory that he sought was that of
victory rather than conquest."
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 London 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 4,000 men-at-arms, 4,000
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
Messina 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
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.
In April 1191, while on route to Jerusalem, Richard stopped
on the Byzantine island of Rhodes 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 Cyprus. 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 Lemesos
(Limassol) on Cyprus, and he captured the city. The island's
despot Isaac Komnenos arrived too late to stop the Crusaders,
and he retired to Kolossi. 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 Pentadactylos, but after the siege of Kantara Castle (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 Tyre.
In his absence Cyprus was governed by Richard de Camville and
Robert of Thornham. King Richard later sold Cyprus to the Guy of
Jerusalem. This was because the council of nobles had voted that
Conrad of Monferrat was the king of Jerusalem, and not Guy. As
Richard had supported Guy the island was given as a sort of
Before leaving Cyprus, Richard married Berengaria, first-born
daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. The wedding was held in
Limassol on 12 May 1191 at the Chapel of St. George. It was
attended by his sister Joan, whom Richard had brought from
Sicily. The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and splendor,
and many feasts and entertainments, and public parades, and
celebrations followed, to commemorate the event. Among the other
grand ceremonies was a double coronation. Richard caused himself
to be crowned King of Cyprus, and Berengaria Queen of England
and of Cyprus too. 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 German captivity
Richard showed some regret for his earlier conduct, but he was
not reunited with his wife.
In the Holy
King Richard landed at Acre 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.
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 Arsuf
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 Ascalon.
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 Egypt—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 Corfu, 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 Aquileia, forcing
Richard and his party into a dangerous land route through
On his way to the territory of Henry of Saxony, his
brother-in-law, Richard was captured shortly before Christmas
1192, near Vienna, 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
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 Castle. 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
The emperor demanded that 150,000 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
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 80,000 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
Germany 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
Neustadt, which had a significant role in various periods of
subsequent Austrian history up to the present.
years and death
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 Philip attacked Richard's
fortress, Chateau-Gaillard, 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-Chabrol.
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
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
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 Abbey in Poitou, his
heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, and the rest of his body
was buried at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in
A 13th century Bishop of Rochester wrote that Richard spent
33 years in purgatory as expiation for his sins, eventually
ascending to heaven in March 1232.
Before 1948, no historian appears to have clearly affirmed
that Richard was homosexual.
However, modern historians generally accept that Richard was
But this was disputed by the reputable historian John
The equally reputable historian Jean Flori analyses the
available contemporaneous evidence in great detail,
and concludes that Richard's two public confessions and
penitences (in 1191 and 1195) must have referred to the sin of
Referring to contemporaneous accounts of Richard's relations
with women, Flori concludes that Richard was probably bisexual.
Flori thus disagrees with and refutes Gillingham, although he
does agree with Gillingham that the contemporaneous accounts do
not support the allegation that Richard had a homosexual
relation with king Philip Augustus.
"The reputation of Richard ... has fluctuated wildly.
The Victorians were divided. Many of them admired him as
a crusader and man of God, erecting an heroic statue to
him outside the Houses of Parliament; Stubbs, on the
other hand, thought him ‘a bad son, a bad husband, a
selfish ruler, and a vicious man’. Though born in
Oxford, he spoke no English. During his ten years'
reign, he was in England for no more than six months,
and was totally absent for the last five years."
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 Crusader 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."("History of the Crusades" Vol. III)
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.