King Richard I, Lion-Heart: Interesting Facts and Stories

Born in 1157 and ruling from 1189 to 1199, he is called Lion-heart because of his prowess in battle, during the Third Crusade.

To get the big family picture, let’s begin with genealogical tables.


Here’s the table by Dan Jones, The Plantagenets:

The above table gives a good overview of the entire Plantagenet family.

W. L. Warren’s table:

Next, from Ralph V. Turner’s biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, here is a table about Louis VII, who had married Eleanor of Aquitaine before they divorced:

A genealogical table about the Capetians, from Medieval France: An Encyclopedia:

Philip II will succeed Louis VII his father in 1180. He will be called Augustus, mainly because he was born in August (so says Bradbury), but the French will realize that his reign was august and powerful.

Louis VII has his own post: Louis VII, King of France.

See his own post: Philip II Augustus

Louis VIII has his own post: Louis VIII the Lion, King of France.


William was born in Normandy, France on 17 Aug 1153. He died at Wallingford Castle, Berkshire about 25 Dec 1156 and was buried at Reading Abbey, Berkshire

Henry was styled the “Young King” and was born at Bermondsey, Surrey, 28 Feb 1155, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou and Maine. He was crowned king of England on 14 June 1170. He married Margaret or Marguerite of France, first daughter of Louis VII the Pious, King of France. They had one son, William, who was born about 19 June and died 22 June 1177. He was crowned again with his queen in 1172, He rebelled 1173-74 and again in 1183. He died at the Chateau Martel in Touraine on 11 June 1183 and was buried in Rouen Cathedral. She remarried soon afterwards.

Geoffrey was born 23 Sep 1158 and by right of his wife became the Duke of Brittany; and he also became the Earl of Richmond. He married Constance of Brittany about July 1181, daughter of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany. He was killed in a tournament at Paris 19 Aug 1186 and was buried in the quire of Notre Dame Cathedral. His widow remarried. Geoffrey and Constance had these children: Eleanor, who was captured by her uncle King John. A rescue attempted was foiled, and she remained in prison under her nephew King Henry III. She died testate 10 Oct 1241, probably at Bristol and was buried at St. James convent and then her body was transferred to the convent of Amesbury, Wiltshire; One key son that Geoffrey and Constance had was Arthur, who was probably murdered by his uncle, King John or at his command, on 3 Apr 1203.

John was born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, their last child, in Dec 1167. At six years old, his father arranged a marriage for him and bestowed on him the wedding gift of three castles: Chinon, Loudon, and Mirebeau. These castles were strategically important, for they lay between Anjou and Maine, France, part of Henry II’s vast empire. Despite these gifts, John was known in France as Jean sans Terre (“John without Land”) or John Lackland. John married Isabel of Angoulême at Bordeaux 24 Aug 1200. John had divorced his first wife Isabel of Gloucester in 1199 on the grounds of consanguinity or too closely related, before they had children. Isabel of Angoulême was crowned queen on 8 Oct 1200, while Isabel of Gloucester was kept a state prisoner. King John died testate at the Bishop of Lincoln’s castle at Newark 19 Oct 1216.

John has his own post at this website: Interesting Facts and Stories about King John.

RICHARD’S Born-Married-Died

Now let’s look quickly at the basic facts about Richard, his b-m-d (born, married, died) and his coronation.

He was born at Oxford on 8 Sep 1157. He was betrothed to Alice, daughter of Louis VII, for many years, but that was canceled. Instead, he married at Limassol, Cyprus, Berengaria of Navarre on 12 May 1191. They had no issue. He had an illegitimate son by an unknown mistress, named Philip Fitzroy or Philip de Cognac. Even John Gillingham, the main scholar on Richard, writes: “Richard acknowledged a child” (p. 264). Philip married Amelie de Cognac. Richard was crowned 13 Aug 1189. After his return from captivity, he went through a crown-wearing ceremony on 17 Apr 1194, just to show his subjects that he was alive and well. On 6 Apr 1199, Richard was fatally injured by a crossbow bolt and for his burial see the end of this post.  Berengaria died 23 Dec 1230 and was buried at L’Epau abbey. Why didn’t she bear a child? Gillingham again: “The probability is that Berengaria was barren” (p. 264).

Other facts are laid out, in the next section.

For more information about Henry II’s children, see his own post and his wife Eleanor’s post:

Henry II (includes his illegitimate children) Henry II Plantagenet: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Aquitaine (includes her children with Louis VII): Eleanor of Aquitaine: Interesting Facts and Stories


This section is subdivided into smaller sections.

Before His Kingship: Family Fights

His Early Kingship

The Third Crusade

Bottom Line on the Third Crusade

Richard, the Captive King

Recovering Lost Territories to the End

With that introduction, let’s begin. The points are numbered for clarity and conciseness.

Before His Kingship: Family Fights

  1. This section of the post is the story of three squabbling brothers, Young Henry, Geoffrey, and Richard (John was too young at first) and their father Henry II, sometimes referred to by Medievalists as the Old King. These alliances and peace conferences and reconciliations and fallings out happened rapidly and complicatedly.
  2. Here is a deeper wrinkle: Henry Senior permitted that his eldest (living) son Henry Junior should be crowned on 14 June 1170. Now there are the Old King and the Young King, both named Henry.
  3. Richard was born on 8 Sep 1157, at Oxford, probably at the royal palace of Beaumont. Despite his birth in England, his English royal forebears did not mean as much to him as his Angevin ancestors. In other words, he was more French than English.
  4. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II were his parents. They had married on 18 May 1152, after her divorce from French king Louis VII just a few weeks earlier.
  5. This marriage meant Henry was lord of the duchy of Aquitaine, a wealthy area, larger than Henry’s Norman and Angevin lands put together.
  6. Since Henry was an absentee father—even more so than was typical for kings—Richard and his mother and her duchy were special to him. But even Eleanor had to travel. So Richard’s nurse had to comfort and raise him, day-to-day. His wet-nurse was named Hodierne. Thirty years later he granted her a generous pension, and she became rich and famous in her own part of the world. She was perhaps the only wet-nurse in history who had a place named after her in the Wiltshire Parish of Knoyle Hodierne.
  7. He received an excellent education. He was very literate. His musicality was learned in the southwest of France, the land of troubadours.
  8. He was above-average height. He had reddish-golden hair.
  9. He liked church music too. “When the clerks of the royal chapel were singing in the choir, he would often walk among them, urging them with voice and hand to sing with greater gusto” (Gillingham).
  10. He liked jokes and the perfect word (bons mots) and bantering and negotiating half-seriously and half-jokingly.
  11. He was a man of “yea and nay” (Oc e Non), probably based on Matt 5:37 (“let your yea be yea and your nay be nay”).
  12. He was not known to be a famous huntsman or to enter into jousting tournaments. Members of his household remember him as being happy and relaxed.
  13. The classic rejoinder: Fulk of Neuilly, a famous preacher of the day, told Richard he had three wicked daughters: Pride, avarice and sensuality. Richard replied: “I give my pride to the Templars, my avarice to the Cistercians, and my sensuality to the Benedictines” (Gillingham). In other words, these three religious orders were famous for having those vices.
  14. Sometimes when he was king (though this section is about before his kingship), he sat enthroned and heard the Mass, even when two archbishops and five bishops were present in his chapel. So he was part of the religious service, even taking on an authoritative role, as indicated by his sitting on a throne.
  15. In early 1159 Henry traveled south through Poitou and Saintonge to Blaye on the Gironde. He met Raymond-Berengar IV, count of Barcelona. They agreed that when Richard and one of Raymond-Berengar’s daughters should be contracted to be married. The goal here was to form an alliance against Count Raymond V of Toulouse, who still claimed Aquitaine.
  16. In the summer of 1159, Henry and Raymond of Toulouse went to war, and Louis VII was Raymond’s ally. Henry did not dislodge him from Toulouse, but he did win towns.
  17. Nothing ever came of Richard’s early marriage contract. Medievalists don’t even know the name of the girl.
  18. Richard was then betrothed to Louis’s daughter Alice in Jan 1169. She did not bring a dowry. Would the marriage be carried out?
  19. It is important to realize that France as we know it today was not even close to being unified in the Medieval Age. It was in the process of breaking up into a patchwork of duchies and counties, overseen by dukes and counts. The King of France ruled a small area, known as the Ile de France or Isle of France, which included the area around Paris and went down to include Orleans. They tirelessly competed with each other.
  20. Henry II’s vast territory stretched from the south of France, where the people spoke a dialect of France, Occitan, and to the north, where the dialect of Langue d’Œuil was spoken. In England the aristocrats spoke yet another version of accented French, and as the decades and even centuries rolled on, it could be mocked, no doubt because Scandinavian and Germanic languages bastardized it.
  21. Henry II and his sons had to hold these territories by military struggle because various lords claimed their hereditary rights. Young King Henry, though titled the Count of Anjou, wanted England or Normandy or Anjou in his own right, not under his father, so the Young King could have his own income, so he could entertain knights. The Old King did not want to lose a huge chunk of income, so he refused. Ever afterwards the Old King and Young King could not speak to each other without quarreling.
  22. Geoffrey got Brittany.
  23. In June 1172, when Richard was fourteen years old, he was formally installed as duke of Aquitaine. In the abbey church of St. Hilary in Poitiers, he took the seat in the abbot’s chair to take the sacred lance and banner, the insignia of the ducal office. The archbishop of Bordeaux and bishop of Poitiers gave them to him. Richard moved on to Limoges and was again proclaimed duke.
  24. And now the squabbling begins. The lords revolted in various towns and castles, while the three sons formed or dissolved alliances, from 1173 to 1174.
  25. In the same timeframe, their mother and his wife Eleanor joined in the rebellions. Why? One explanation: Courtly love encouraged the independent woman. Another explanation: Eleanor was jealous of Henry’s relationship with Rosamund Clifford, the “Fair” or “Beautiful” Rosamund (d. 1176). A third explanation: She resented the reduction of her power over her beloved Aquitaine, a political and monetary reason.
  26. Why not all three explanation working at the same time, at this time? (The second explanation drops off when Rosamund dies in 1176, unless Eleanor held a grudge, yet Henry had many liaisons, as most king did.)
  27. At this stage, the upshot of these family and regional rebellions is that they fizzled out because Henry II was too strong; he could marshal resources that individual dukes and counts and his sons could not.
  28. During this season of revolt, Henry captured Eleanor and placed her under luxurious “castle arrest” up north in unsexy England—certainly not the most civilized and cultured region in Western Christendom—Aquitaine.
  29. From 1174 to 1184, Henry II asked Richard to punish various lords in Aquitaine who had revolted. He did amazingly well, moving in lightning strikes. He besieged castles, and when they gave in, he tore them down, on orders of his father.
  30. One famous conquest was of the castle Taillebourg, in the county of Angoulême. It was situated on the Charente River and perched on an outcrop of rock. On 1 May 1179 Richard mounted siege machines and bombarded the walls, especially the fourth side where a small town was situated. While the bombardment went on, Richard’s soldiers looted and burned and destroyed. Three days later the citadel surrendered.
  31. Comparing and contrasting Young Henry and Richard: Henry the Younger did not live up to his father’s expectations. He was courteous and chivalrous and attended lots of knightly tournaments. Young knights loved him, for he gave them livelihood and pleasure. He went from whim to whim. In summer of 1177, his pregnant young wife left him and went to her father’s house.
  32. Richard, on the other side, did indeed live up to his father’s expectations. He was determined and developed his military expertise. After Taillebourg, several leading nobles decided to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In other words, they gave up before the fighting began.
  33. Young King Henry planned to conquer Aquitaine. He had a measure of success. Even his brother Geoffrey joined his cause. Henry Senior and Richard almost lost control. Old Henry was almost killed when he approached a castle. The various lords did not like Richard; for one thing he claimed their wives and daughters as concubines. He was cruel.
  34. However, Young Henry died on 11 June 1183, and the revolts and squabbling lost their impetus.
  35. Richard was now heir apparent. Geoffrey was punished by being deprived of Brittany.
  36. Henry II wanted his young son John to pay homage to Richard and receive Aquitaine, while Richard would step into Young Henry’s place. However, Richard said he would never give up the duchy for which he had fought so hard. Young Henry had no real power and money of his own. Richard did not want the same thing. This indicates Richard had been ruling Aquitaine in his own right, independent of his father.
  37. Watch this space: King Louis VII died on 18 Sep 1180. Now Philip II is king of France. As noted, he is nicknamed Augustus because he was born in August, but his rule was also very august and powerful. (He will make mincemeat out of Richard’s younger brother, the future King John, later.)
  38. How would Henry II deal with Richard? Easy: He released Eleanor and gave her permission to return to Aquitaine and demand her duchy back from her favorite son. This happened. Richard rolled over and gave her the keys, so to speak.
  39. Geoffrey saw the significance of the turnaround in Aquitaine, so he went to Philip, the king of France, the usual place for the Plantagenet boys to go when they were upset. No matter: he participated in a tournament at Paris and got trampled to death (presumably by his horse) on 19 Aug 1186. Now he’s out of the way, to speak in a business manner.
  40. What about Alice, Richard’s betrothed? She’s now twenty-five years old and in Henry’s custody. Rumors say he seduced her. Richard couldn’t marry his father’s mistress. She was in limbo, for Henry did not want to give her up so Philip could form a new alliance by marrying her to someone else.
  41. Richard and his father were fighting, so the son ran off to Philip. They shared the same table—and yes, the same bed. Modern writers say this proves they were homosexual. However, it was common for people of the same sex to share the same bed. Contemporary historian Roger of Howden had no fears that his readers would misunderstand him. All this was an act of political defiance against Henry.
  42. Henry and Richard were reconciled in the summer of 1187. Richard knelt before him and swore on the Gospels that he would be faithful to him against all men. This wouldn’t last, however.
  43. In autumn 1187 Richard decided to take the cross, that is, go on a crusade. Taking the cross meant that a bishop or archbishop handed the crusader a cross, literally, some of wood, others of cloth. The king or other crusader would go to such-and-such church and kneel or lay prostrate. Prayers and vows. Richard did this at Tours, in the new cathedral which was being built on the old one.
  44. Philip did not like this decision, for what about his half-sister Alice? Henry did not like the decision, but soon he too will be caught up in crusader fever.
  45. If someone did not go, he received a distaff and wool, indicating he did women’s work. Henry and Philip decided to go. On 21 Jan at a conference, it was decided that the men of the king of France would wear red crosses, and Henry’s men would wear white crosses, and the men of the count of Flanders green crosses. But Henry never went because of political upheavals.
  46. Philip and Richard formed an alliance. On 18 Nov 1188, Henry, Richard and Philip met at Bonsmoulins. Richard knelt before the king of France, did homage, and received Normandy, Aquitaine, Maine, Berry and his conquests in Toulouse.
  47. Except for a faithful few, men deserted Henry II, king of England, and shifted the allegiance to Philip or Richard. The Old King’s touch had deserted him. He died on 6 July 1189. But a few days before that fateful day, Philip, Henry and Richard met, and Henry, in great pain, said he would submit to the judgment of Philip, paying him 20,000 marks. Alice would be handed over to Richard.

His Early Kingship

  1. Now Richard was king. He was generous to the dead king’s servants who remained faithful to him, even when Richard and he fought. But he dismissed anyone who changed sides. Loyalty above all else. One man toward whom he was generous was William Marshal, the greatest knight. In a battle Marshal was about to slay Richard, but held back. “Marshall, you are pardoned. I bear you no malice.” Rewards followed.
  2. Richard was generous to his surviving brother John, giving him many counties and such like in England and France. He became a very rich man, but had no political power. This wealth without power could not stand, eventually. But that’s for a little later.
  3. Richard released his mother from close surveillance under which Henry placed her, probably in 1188.
  4. Richard landed at Portsmouth on 13 Aug 1189. He was crowned at Westminster on Sunday 13 Sep. His clothes were stripped off except his breeches and shirt. Baldwin, the archbishop of Canterbury, anointed him with holy oil on his head, chest, and hands. Now he had divine sanction for kingship. He was dressed in his ceremonial robes and then crowned. In those days Richard picked up the crown, handed it to the archbishop, who placed it on his head. A big feast followed.
  5. Jews tried to enter and present gifts to the new king, but the crowds would not allow this and killed some. The next day Richard had some hanged. He also hanged a Jew who converted in fear of his life; Richard had wanted him to show courage and remain a Jew. He was their protector. Later, when Richard was in the Holy Land, Jews were massacred at York, instigated by a fanatical hermit, in Mar 1190.
  6. Richard left Canterbury, went to Dover, and then crossed to Calais on 12 Dec 1189. He would not step foot on England for more than four years.
  7. The first order of business was that on 30 Dec 1189 Richard met Philip, and both assured each other that when they went out on crusade they would protect each other’s property. Then Richard promised him that he would marry Alice, Philip’s half-sister. Half-true and half-false promise. He couldn’t repudiate her because Philip would be infuriated and devastate Richard’s lands, while the king of England was away.
  8. However, Richard was going to marry the daughter of Sancho VI, Berengaria of Navarre, in the south of France, on 12 May 1191, in Cyprus at St. George’s chapel, Limassol. She was crowned queen by John, the bishop of Evreux.
  9. Apparently Philip had released Richard from his promise to marry Alice in March of that year, while Berengaria was on her way to Cyprus in Nov-Dec 1190. The whole affair was odd. Philip, even though he released Richard from the obligation, would use it against him. Richard did not release her until much later.
  10. Before then Richard was in France to take care of business. Preparations for the Crusades were behind. But at last he was ready to go.

The Third Crusade

  1. It is imperative to realize that when Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, died in 632, Islamic armies stormed out of the Arab Peninsula and aggressively conquered nations north, east, and west, nonstop, and got all the way to Tours – Poitiers, France, until Charles Martel stopped them in 732. But they kept on with aggressive jihad for hundreds of years.
  2. The European response was more defensive than religious—in other words, if Islam, aggressive to its core, had not arrived on the earth, the kings of Europe would have (or could have) taken pilgrimages, but would not have been compelled to launch wide-ranging military action to counter Islamic jihad. Peace.
  3. Please see these two posts at this website: The Truth about Islamic Jihad and Imperialism: A Timeline; and A Brief History of War in the Earliest Caliphates.
  4. Now back to the Third Crusade. Richard and his team left on 4 July 1190.
  5. When he set out on crusade, he believed that he took the legendary sword Excalibur with him. Charming.
  6. On the Straits of Gibraltar, his army sacked and pillaged the property of Jews and Muslims, while he was waiting for them at Marseille.
  7. He stationed near the Tiber R. which leads up to Rome, but he did not visit Pope Clement III. He thought the pontiff was greedy and did not merit respect.
  8. At Salerno, Sicily, he almost lost his life. He and just one companion went overland through a small village and heard the cry of a hawk coming from a house. In those days only the nobility could own hawks, so he thought the bird had been stolen. He barged in and got the bird. But he was surrounded by an angry crowd, which pelted him with rocks and hit him with sticks. He refused to let it go. One man took out a knife, and Richard struck him with the flat of his sword, but the blade snapped. He had to throw anything he could find at them to escape, which he did.
  9. Richard’s sister Joan was married to King William II of Sicily, but he died in Nov 1189, and they had no heir. Tancred of Lecce, an illegitimate cousin of William II, looked like an ugly “little bastard” (so said popular opinion). He did not treat Joan very well and kept her in close confinement and would not return her dowry. Richard would not allow that. Tancred released her, and she appeared in Philip’s presence. He was pleased and thought about marrying her. Richard would not allow that, either.
  10. Eventually, through military action Richard conquered Messina by Oct 8.
  11. Richard’s next goal was the island of Cyprus. It was a key to survival for Europeans of the area, the Outremer or Overseas. If Latins could hold it, it could be a supply line for them.
  12. Richard conquered Cyprus when Isaac Comnenus surrendered it on 1 June 1190. His one condition was the he must not be put in chains of iron. Okay—Richard made special chains made of silver.
  13. On 8 June 1192, Richard arrived in the coastal town of Acre. It was in desperate shape. He rolled up siege engines and bombarded it. His sappers and miners worked until one of the walls collapsed. Philip’s sapped and miners had done the same thing, and his troops tried to enter, but the Muslims resisted, since the French had to go through a narrow entry.
  14. In any case the fortress surrendered on 12 July 1191. Frankish banner flew over Acre. The terms were for Saladin to pay an indemnity, restore the Holy Cross; then he could get his prisoners back.
  15. Rumors spread that he had poisoned the French king Philip. Accusations said he had bribed Saracen Assassins to kill Philip’s allies, Conrad of Montferrat, the lord of Tyre. Philip had set up a dark propaganda factory at Paris, for the excuse to invade Richard’s lands.
  16. It is for these reasons that the German emperor Heinrich (Henry) VI and the Duke of Austria exploited these rumors to arrest and retain Richard in prison, for he was arrogant, ruthless, and treacherous.
  17. On 3 Aug Philip sailed for home, taking half the loot and prisoners.
  18. Saladin did not fulfill all the terms by the due date, so according to the terms, Richard had the Muslim prisoners massacred, in all about 2,600-3,000. Some believe that Saladin’s failure at Acre and the massacre led to the quick surrender of the coastal towns of Haifa, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa, Gaza, and Ascalon to Richard.
  19. The next story from the Outremer (Overseas) about Richard’s ruthlessness is considered reliable. It shows he could be clever and scheming.
  20. “Richard committed a great and horrible crime by scheming to kill the king of France without laying a finger on him. While the king of France was lying ill, King Richard went to call on him. As soon as he arrived, he enquired after his illness and how he was. The king replied that he was at God’s mercy and felt himself severely afflicted by his illness. Then King Richard said to him, ‘As for Louis your son, how are you to be comforted?’ The king of France asked him, ‘What about Louis my son that I should be comforted?’ ‘It is for this,’ said the king of England, ‘that I have come to comfort you, for he is dead.’” In fact Louis was alive.
  21. Three Muslim historians report this famous episode about Richard. While he was riding out on patrol, he was almost captured by Muslims. One his followers managed to persuade the captors that he was the king. And Richard escaped. The point is that Richard was not afraid to ride out away from his main army. Bravery.
  22. On 8 Nov 1191 Richard met with al-Adil, Saladin’s brother and trusted adviser. The king asked the Arab if he could arrange to hear Arab song. He sent for a woman who accompanied herself on the guitar. She sang before Richard, to his great delight.
  23. In June 1192, Saladin sent for reinforcements to protect Jerusalem. Richard had to prevent their arrival. A paid Bedouin informant told the king where the army was. He did not believe it and so disguised himself as a Bedouin and went about the encampment with a small entourage. He was satisfied that the Bedouin’s report was true. Richard launched a devastating dawn attack and routed the army.
  24. On 1 Aug 1192 Saladin captured the town of Jaffa. Only the citadel held out. Saladin thought he had reinforced the shore so no one could land. Richard arrived in his galley, which was painted red; its deck was covered with red awning and flew a red flag. Frankish trumpets sounded. In an hour all the galleys landed their men. They charged the Muslims who scattered in all directions. Richard’s men drove them from the harbor. Saladin withdrew to Caesarea.
  25. His friendly relations with Muslims made him suspect with his fellow-crusaders. Saladin and Richard constantly exchanged gifts. When Richard was sick, for example, probably from scurvy, he craved fruit and asked Saladin for it, who gave it him.

Bottom Line on the Third Crusade:

  1. It was Richard’s crusade.
  2. As part of a peace settlement, he almost married off his sister Joan to Saladin’s brother al-Adil, but she refused to marry an infidel. He may have been half-joking, half-serious. (The pope would not allow it, it is believed.) However, maybe al-Adil would have converted to Christianity. The financial reward of being married to the sister of a king was considerable. But in any case, nothing came of it.
  3. Richard really was an effective commander general in tactics. He could size up a fortress and in a few days undermine or destroy its walls. His knights could do almost anything. They captured rich caravans that were intended to resupply the jihadists. Richard captured one fortified coastal town after another.
  4. The crusaders blocked Egypt’s navy, so it could not resupply jihadists, but the European navy could resupply the crusaders and protect their west flank.
  5. But would he go for Jerusalem, when it was so far inland, and Saladin could harass the supply lines coming in from the coast?
  6. A peace settlement was finally reached when, it turned out, Richard fell ill (again) and his army was the most helpless—the jihadists were not entirely inept. There was to be a three year and eight month truce from 2 Sep 1192, the date when the treaty of Jaffa was formally sworn by the leaders on both sides. European crusaders could visit Jerusalem. (Richard did not go.) The Europeans got several coastal towns.
  7. Gillingham, a specialist and top expert on Richard, gives the distinct impression that the Muslims were hapless and helpless before the European onslaught. Even contemporary or near-contemporary Muslim historians admired the Europeans, militarily speaking. But he never took Jerusalem; he counseled against it, even though some of his leaders said to go for it.
  8. John France says, “The greatest commander within this period [1000 to 1300] was undoubtedly Richard I. Richard took great risks as a matter of policy, and it was this which endeared him to his own generation. He too sought advice, but in the end he had the personality to impose himself on others and the skill to recognize military opportunities” (p. 142).
  9. John Gillingham speculates, with reason, that if Saladin had died, the crusaders could have defeated the jihadists. But Richard set sail and left on 9 Oct 1192. Irony: Saladin died on 4 Mar 1193, while Richard was in prison in Germany.

Islam had been aggressive for centuries. Please see this post:

The Truth about Islamic Jihad and Imperialism: A Timeline

Richard, the Captive King

He was held captive by Henry (Heinrich) VI, Holy Roman Emperor.
This part of his interesting life is divided into ten stages.

  1. Here are Richard’s main European enemies. (a) Philip II Augustus was humiliated during the crusade and accused Richard of trying to assassinate him. Richard humiliated Philip’s sister Alice, for though he didn’t marry her, he wouldn’t release her until much later. Philip formed an alliance with Henry VI. (b) Richard humiliated Duke Leopold of Austria. He was a minor player with few men. Richard tore down the duke’s banner over Acre, who wanted a share in the spoils. Richard (and Philip) said no. (c) The bishop of Beauvais, Philip’s militaristic cousin and also named Philip, was a close associate with Conrad of Montferrat. The bishop accused Richard of betraying Conrad and ordering his throat cut and of the poisoning of the duke of Burgundy. Bottom line: None of it was true. Propaganda. Richard was an enviable military leader, and he was envied.
  2. How was Richard to return home? Couldn’t he wait until late spring or summer? His brother John and King Philip of France were acting contrary to their vows to stay loyal or stay away from Richard’s lands. Winter was coming on, and the Atlantic was too risky. He had to cross overland and in disguise, with very few men for protection.
  3. His narrow escapes ran out. Leopold captured the king of England on 21 Dec 1192, the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Henry VI demanded the prisoner.
  4. During his captivity he was gracious and kind and prudent. He even composed his best-known lamenting song. His ransom was set at 100,000 marks, and the duke would get half. But then some additional requirements were imposed (see the eighth point).
  5. During his trial, he spoke eloquently about his deeds in the crusade. He was there in the Holy Land and accomplished military victories. Accomplishments plus the force of personality plus the conviction of truth can be compelling. The assembly of nobles and princes was won to his side. Even Henry VI was won over, but not to the point of releasing him without payment!
  6. Philip tried to buy Richard. If that had happened, Richard would never have been released. Through clever negotiations, Richard, even from prison, outmaneuvered the French king. His brother John repeated that Richard would never go free, no matter who held him. John tried to rebel, but nearly all the lords held firm and loyal to Richard, for he had made sure that he secured alliances where there were weak spots. Religiously, no lord wanted to rebel against a king on a crusade or returning from one.
  7. His mother Eleanor and the justiciars of the realm ordered a 25% tax on income and the value of moveable property, appropriating the wool crop from Cistercian monasteries and the gold and silver plate from the churches throughout the country. Other territories outside England got the same demands.
  8. On 4 Feb 1194, “on completing the payment of 100,000 marks and giving hostages for the 50,000 marks still outstanding, the archbishops of Mainz and Cologne brought Richard to his mother. He was at long last a free man” (Gillingham).
  9. Richard took his time to return. He stopped by Cologne, Louvain, Brussels, and Antwerp. He boarded a fleet of English ships and sailed to Zwin. Apparently, he was spying out the land.
  10. He finally set sail for England on 12 Mar 1294 and arrived at Sandwich, on 13 Mar.

Recovering Lost Territories to the End

  1. After his return, he had to fight for territories that King Philip of France had taken and John had ceded, from 1194 to his death in 1199.
  2. In short, only two English castles held out for John, and they capitulated quickly. The rest of the fight had to take place on the continent.
  3. In the days before the web and instant news, he had to show that he had returned and was no phantom, so his advisers said he had to go through a crown-wearing ceremony. He reluctantly gave in to their advice. “On the Sunday after Easter, 17 Apr 1194, in full regalia and wearing a crown, with the king of Scots and two earls carrying swords before him, he walked in procession from his chamber in Winchester Cathedral priory (St. Swithun’s) into the cathedral church, preceded by the prelates and followed by earls, barons, knights and a great crowd of people. His mother and her ladies waited for him in the north transept” (Gillingham 272).
  4. Before he went to the continent to take on Philip, he overhauled the administration, headed by Hubert Walter, considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest government minister in English history.
  5. Richard took a day trip to Sherwood Forest, “which was the nearest he ever came to the legendary figure of Robin Hood” (Gillingham 270).
  6. He made peace with William, king of the Scots, which secured the northern border before he crossed the Channel. Great achievement.
  7. He admired how the French knights fought, so he designated five places in England as official tournament sites: The fields between Salisbury and Wilton in Wiltshire; between Warwick and Kenilworth in Warwickshire; between Brackley and Mixbury (Northants); between Stamford and Warinford (probably Suffolk); and between Blyth and Tickhill in Nottinghamshire. He appointed William, earl of Salisbury, as director of tournaments.
  8. Richard finally crossed the channel over to France in 1194. For the full years of 1194 and 1195, Richard had his way, virtually.
  9. In May 1194, Philip laid siege to Verneuil. The garrison of the castle pretended to allow Philip in, but then raised the gate, and on its underside was a caricature of Philip holding a mace. Richard was on his way to relieve the castle. When he reached Lisieux, his brother John changed sides and fell at his brother’s feet, begging forgiveness. Richard gave it immediately, but contemptuously: “Don’t be afraid, John, you are a child. You have got into bad company, and it is those who led you astray who will be punished” (qtd. in Gillingham, p. 285). John was 27 years old. But Richard’s instant forgiveness showed generosity.
  10. Richard walked into Verneuil on May 30. This is just one example of Richard’s push towards retaking lost territory.
  11. However, Philip defeated Richard and took Aumale in July 1196, for Philip had allied with the counts of Flanders, Boulogne, and Ponthieu.
  12. While laying siege to Gaillon, Richard was wounded in the knee by a crossbow bolt.
  13. But most of the battles clearly went to Richard after the setbacks of 1196.
  14. He built the Andelys castle on a 300-foot limestone crag overlooking the Petit-Andelys and Seine Rivers, at a cost of about £12,000, compared with £7,000 for all the castles he built during his reign, combined.
  15. Richard succeeded against Philip from 1197 to 1199 by negotiating with Philip’s allies and winning them over to his side and by pitched battles. “For Richard’s diplomatic triumphs were unanimous. It was his great wealth and generosity which drew so many allies to his side” (Gillingham 314).
  16. In one of them, William Marshall, the “greatest knight,” captured Philip’s cousins, the bishop of Beauvais, the military bishop, whom Richard hated the most.
  17. After many battles, Philip and Richard agreed on a truce, to last until 13 Jan 1199. The document of the truce did not survive, so the terms are not known. Presumably, Philip should restore the land he had taken while Richard was still fighting for the cross. He said: “If it had not been for his malice, forcing me to return, I would have been able to recover the whole of Outremer [Overseas]. Then, when I was in prison, he conspired to keep me there so that he could steal my lands” (qtd. in Gillingham, p. 319).
  18. Richard went down to Aquitaine. Philip’s allies, the count of Angoulême and the viscount of Limoges, had not been included in the truce. He devastated the viscount’s land for three days until he came to Chalus-Chabrol.
  19. After supper on the evening of 26 Mar 1199, daylight fading, Richard left his tent to watch the siege and to exercise. He wore no heavy armor except an iron headpiece and a rectangular shield. A man from the tower shot a crossbow bolt. Richard congratulated him, but did not get out of the way in time. The bolt stuck his left shoulder. Not to discourage his followers, he made no cry of pain, but turned around and left as if nothing had happened.
  20. He went back to the tent and by torchlight he tried to pull it out, but got only broke the wood. The iron barb, the length of a man’s hand, was left in. A surgeon was called, and he dug around, hacking at the flesh, and got it out. The wounds from the bolt and surgeon’s knife were covered. But the flesh was gangrenous and the infection spread. He was experienced with wounds, so he knew he had only a short time left. He wrote to his mother Eleanor, who came ina hurry.
  21. The castle fell. He asked to see the crossbowman. Richard forgave him. He confessed his sins and received extreme unction.
  22. One 6 Apr 1199, as evening came, he died.
  23. His brain and entrails were buried on the Poitou-Limousin border at Charroux in an abbey that was founded by Charlemagne. His heart went to Rouen and buried next to his elder brother, Henry. According to a chronicler, it was an unusually large heart. The rest of him was buried at Fontevrault, at his father’s feet, on Palm Sunday 11 Apr.
  24. The effigy on a tomb shaped like a draped bier shows him crowned, sceptered, and magnificently attired, his sword by his side.
  25. King Philip II rejoiced. Now, over time, he was about to make mincemeat of weak John.

Summary and Assessment

  1. He brought about stunning military victories in the Holy Land, but he also offended his allies, or maybe they were too easily offendable.
  2. He did not take Jerusalem, but once he got there, he did not intend to do this. Yet he still considered it a failure.
  3. He could not cross through the region of what is now considered France, because he offended Philip II. He was taken prisoner by the duke of Austria, whom he had offended.
  4. He was noble and charming in prison. He was an effective speaker, as he defended his cause.
  5. He liked music and wrote poems that were good enough to earn some praise and respect. He stood in the middle of a choir and encouraged them to sing with more gusto. It is easy to believe that the choir was made up of only the best voices, but he took an active hand in their technique.
  6. One time he sat on his throne as he attended the Mass. This indicates that he did not take a submissive posture towards the church and that he was involved in a sacred moment, merging church and state.
  7. To go back to the military theme, he had an uncanny skill at taking down the walls of fortresses and castles. He enjoyed many military victories on the Continent. And when he ran out of steam, he had a knack for diplomacy. He even used it effectively in his most vulnerable state—in prison.
  8. He had efficient tax collecting and used the money wisely.
  9. However, he did not produce an heir.
  10. One last point: certain historians of the modern era have claimed he was gay. However, Gillingham spends a lot of time explaining why this was not so. For example, he had a son by a mistress, not by a wife of a political and compelled marriage, so it was not as if he had no attraction to women. He did not get married, but this was not so unusual among kings who sometimes delayed matrimony until later in life. His death was unexpected and so needless and prevented marriage.
  11. All in all, he was a much greater king than I had first expected.


Henry II Plantagenet: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Henry II)

King Richard I, Lion-Heart: Interesting Facts and Stories

King John: Interesting Facts and Stories

Henry III: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Provence: Interesting Facts and Stories (married Henry III)

Edward I: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Castile: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Edward I)

Edward II: A King of Bad Judgment

Edward III: Better Than Most

Richard II: The Weak King

Henry IV King of England

Henry V King of England

Henry VI King of England

Edward IV King of England

Edward V: Prince in the Tower

Richard III, King of England


Rolf or Rollo the Viking



(They lived before Henry II, above)

Richard I, Norman Marquis and Count

Richard II, Duke of Normandy

Robert I, Duke of Normandy

William the Conqueror: Interesting Facts and Stories

Matilda: Wife and Queen of William the Conqueror

King William II, Rufus: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Henry I: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Stephen: Interesting Facts and Stories

Empress Matilda and Three Henrys


Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).

Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (New York: Metro Books, 2006).

John France, Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades 1000-1300 (Cornell UP, 1999).

John Gillingham, Richard I (Yale UP: 1999, with updates in 2002 paperback edition).

Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (New York: 2014).

Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).

Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).

The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).

James H. Ramsay, the Angevin Empire or the Three Reigns of Henry II, Richard I, and John (A.D. 1154-1216), (London: Swan Sonnenschein and New York: Macmillan, 1903)

Desmond Seward, The Demon’s Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty (Pegasus, 2014).

Ralph V. Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England (New Haven: Yale U P, 2009)

W. L. Warren, King John, New Edition, (New Haven: Yale U P 1997 [1961, 1978]).

—, Henry II (Berkeley: University of California P, 1973).

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