Richard I, the Lionheart - A Short Biography

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Richard resolved these problems in a matter of days.

He demanded and got Joan's release, but when her dower was not forthcoming he began taking control of strategic fortifications. When the unrest between the Crusaders and the townfolk flared into a riot, he personally quelled it with his own troops. Before Tancred knew it, Richard had taken hostages to secure the peace and begun constructing a wooden castle overlooking the city.

Tancred was forced to make concessions to Richard the Lionheart or risk losing his throne. The agreement between Richard the Lionheart and Tancred ultimately benefited the king of Sicily, for it included an alliance against Tancred's rival, the new German emperor, Henry VI. Philip, on the other hand, was unwilling to jeopardize his friendship with Henry and was irritated at Richard's virtual takeover of the island. He was mollified somewhat when Richard agreed to share the monies Tancred paid, but he soon had cause for further irritation. Richard's mother Eleanor arrived in Sicily with her son's bride, and it was not Philip's sister.

Alice had been passed over in favor of Berengaria of Navarre, and Philip wasn't in either a financial or military position to address the insult. His relationship with Richard the Lionheart further deteriorated, and they would never recover their original affability. Richard couldn't marry Berengaria quite yet, because it was Lent; but now that she'd arrived in Sicily he was ready to leave the island where he had tarried for several months. Three days out of Messina, Richard the Lionheart and his fleet ran into a terrible storm.

When it was over, about 25 ships were missing, including the one carrying Berengaria and Joan. In fact the missing ships had been blown further on, and three of them though not the one Richard's family were on had been driven aground in Cyprus. Some of the crews and passengers had drowned; the ships had been plundered and the survivors were imprisoned. All of this had occurred under the governance of Isaac Ducas Comnenus, the Greek "tyrant" of Cyprus, who had at one point entered into an agreement with Saladin to protect the government he'd set up in opposition to the ruling Angelus family of Constantinople.

After having rendezvoused with Berengaria and secured her and Joan's safety, Richard demanded restoration of the plundered goods and the release of those prisoners who hadn't already escaped.

The Life and Death of Richard the Lionheart (Classroom Activity)

Isaac refused, rudely it was said, apparently confident in Richard's disadvantage. To Isaac's chagrin, Richard the Lionheart successfully invaded the island, then attacked against the odds, and won. This was of great strategic value, since Cyprus would prove to be an important part of the supply line of goods and troops from Europe to the Holy Land.

Richard's first success in the Holy Land, after having sunk an enormous supply ship encountered on the way, was the capture of Acre. The city had been under siege by Crusaders for two years, and the work Philip had done upon his arrival to mine and sap the walls contributed to its fall. However, Richard not only brought an overwhelming force, he spent considerable time examining the situation and planning his attack before he even got there. It was almost inevitable that Acre should fall to Richard the Lionheart, and indeed, the city surrendered mere weeks after the king arrived.

Shortly afterward, Philip returned to France. His departure was not without rancor, and Richard was probably glad to see him go.

One of the most popular kings in English history

Although Richard the Lionheart scored a surprising and masterful victory at Arsuf, he was unable to press his advantage. Saladin had decided to destroy Ascalon, a logical fortification for Richard to capture. Taking and rebuilding Ascalon in order to more securely establish a supply line made good strategic sense, but few of his followers were interested in anything but moving on to Jerusalem.

And fewer still were willing to stay on once, theroretically, Jerusalem was captured. Matters were complicated by quarrels among the various contingents and Richard's own high-handed style of diplomacy.


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After considerable political wrangling, Richard came to the unavoidable conclusion that the conquest of Jerusalem would be far too difficult with the lack of military strategy he'd encountered from his allies; furthermore, it would be virtually impossible to keep the Holy City should by some miracle he manage to take it. The tension had grown so bad between the kings of England and France that Richard chose to go home by way of the Adriatic Sea in order to avoid Philip's territory.

Once again the weather played a part: a storm swept Richard's ship ashore near Venice. Henry kept Richard at various imperial castles as events unfolded and he gauged his next step. Legend has it that a minstrel called Blondel went from castle to castle in Germany seeking Richard, singing a song he had composed with the king. When Richard heard the song from within his prison walls, he sang a verse known only to himself and Blondel, and the minstrel knew he had found the Lionheart.

However, the story is just a story. Henry had no reason to hide Richard's whereabouts; in fact, it suited his purposes to let everyone know that he had captured one of the most powerful men in Christendom. The story cannot be traced back any earlier than the 13th century, and Blondel probably never even existed, although it made for good press for minstrels of the day. Henry threatened to turn Richard the Lionheart over to Philip unless he paid , marks and surrendered his kingdom, which he would receive back from the emperor as a fief.

Richard agreed, and one of the most remarkable fund-raising efforts began. The people of England were heavily taxed, Churches were forced to give up valuables, monasteries were made to turn over a season's wool harvest. Three days out of Messina, Richard the Lionheart and his fleet ran into a terrible storm. When it was over, about 25 ships were missing, including the one carrying Berengaria and Joan. In fact the missing ships had been blown further on, and three of them though not the one Richard's family were on had been driven aground in Cyprus.

Some of the crews and passengers had drowned; the ships had been plundered and the survivors were imprisoned.

William Marshal, a Knight’s Tale

All of this had occurred under the governance of Isaac Ducas Comnenus, the Greek "tyrant" of Cyprus, who had at one point entered into an agreement with Saladin to protect the government he'd set up in opposition to the ruling Angelus family of Constantinople. After having rendezvoused with Berengaria and secured her and Joan's safety, Richard demanded restoration of the plundered goods and the release of those prisoners who hadn't already escaped.

Isaac refused, rudely it was said, apparently confident in Richard's disadvantage. To Isaac's chagrin, Richard the Lionheart successfully invaded the island, then attacked against the odds, and won. This was of great strategic value, since Cyprus would prove to be an important part of the supply line of goods and troops from Europe to the Holy Land. Richard's first success in the Holy Land, after having sunk an enormous supply ship encountered on the way, was the capture of Acre.

The city had been under siege by Crusaders for two years, and the work Philip had done upon his arrival to mine and sap the walls contributed to its fall. However, Richard not only brought an overwhelming force, he spent considerable time examining the situation and planning his attack before he even got there.

It was almost inevitable that Acre should fall to Richard the Lionheart, and indeed, the city surrendered mere weeks after the king arrived. Shortly afterward, Philip returned to France. His departure was not without rancor, and Richard was probably glad to see him go. Although Richard the Lionheart scored a surprising and masterful victory at Arsuf, he was unable to press his advantage.

Saladin had decided to destroy Ascalon, a logical fortification for Richard to capture. Taking and rebuilding Ascalon in order to more securely establish a supply line made good strategic sense, but few of his followers were interested in anything but moving on to Jerusalem. And fewer still were willing to stay on once, theroretically, Jerusalem was captured. Matters were complicated by quarrels among the various contingents and Richard's own high-handed style of diplomacy.

After considerable political wrangling, Richard came to the unavoidable conclusion that the conquest of Jerusalem would be far too difficult with the lack of military strategy he'd encountered from his allies; furthermore, it would be virtually impossible to keep the Holy City should by some miracle he manage to take it. The tension had grown so bad between the kings of England and France that Richard chose to go home by way of the Adriatic Sea in order to avoid Philip's territory.

Once again the weather played a part: a storm swept Richard's ship ashore near Venice.

Henry kept Richard at various imperial castles as events unfolded and he gauged his next step. Legend has it that a minstrel called Blondel went from castle to castle in Germany seeking Richard, singing a song he had composed with the king. When Richard heard the song from within his prison walls, he sang a verse known only to himself and Blondel, and the minstrel knew he had found the Lionheart.

However, the story is just a story. Henry had no reason to hide Richard's whereabouts; in fact, it suited his purposes to let everyone know that he had captured one of the most powerful men in Christendom. The story cannot be traced back any earlier than the 13th century, and Blondel probably never even existed, although it made for good press for minstrels of the day. Henry threatened to turn Richard the Lionheart over to Philip unless he paid , marks and surrendered his kingdom, which he would receive back from the emperor as a fief.

Richard agreed, and one of the most remarkable fund-raising efforts began. The people of England were heavily taxed, Churches were forced to give up valuables, monasteries were made to turn over a season's wool harvest.

2. But he never had any children

In less than a year nearly all of the exhorbitant ransom had been raised. Richard was released in February, , and hurried back to England, where he was crowned again to demonstrate that he was still in charge of an independent kingdom. Almost immediately after his coronation, Richard the Lionheart left England for what would be the last time.

He headed directly to France to engage in warfare with Philip, who had captured some of Richard's lands.

Biography of King Richard I, the Lionheart, of England, Crusader

These skirmishes, which were occasionally interrupted by truces, lasted for the next five years. By March of , Richard was involved in a siege of the castle at Chalus-Chabrol, which belonged to the Viscount of Limoges. There was some rumor of a treasure having been found on his lands, and Richard was reputed to have demanded the treasure be turned over to him; when it was not, he supposedly attacked. However, this is little more than a rumor; it was enough that the viscount had allied with Philip for Richard to move against him. On the evening of March 26, Richard was shot in the arm by a crossbow bolt while observing the progress of the siege.

Although the bolt was removed and the wound was treated, infection set in, and Richard fell ill. He kept to his tent and limited visitors to keep the news from getting out, but he knew what was happening. Richard the Lionheart died on April 6, In this reassessment the author looks at his deeds and achievements in a new light. This includes his Muslim enemies, who spoke of him as their most dangerous and gallant opponent.

It shows him to be a man badly let down by some of those around him, especially his brother John and the duplicitous French king Philip. The foibles of his character are also exposed to the full, including his complicated relationships with the key women in his life, especially the imposing contemporary figure of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his wife, Berengaria, with whom he failed to produce an heir, leading to later suggestions of homosexuality.

This is a new Richard, one for the twenty-first century, and a re-evaluation of the life story of one of the greatest personalities of medieval Europe.