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Richard The Lion-Hearted

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Richard I, King of England, called "the Lion" or "Coeur de Lion," was the third of the five sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. As a doughty warrior-King, principal figure in the Third Crusade, and personal director of extended campaigns against the French, Richard won in his forty-two years of life credit for being a typical representative of the brave and generous, but often barbarously cruel, chivalry of his time. Eleanor, Richard's mother, had been the wife of Louis VII of France. Like other women of rank of her time she had become imbued with the spirit of the age and prevailed upon Louis to allow her and others of her court to accompany him upon the crusade against the Saracens. The rigorous life which followed for the Queen was indirectly the cause of an estrangement between herself and Louis, and on March 18, 1152, they were divorced. Six weeks later, according to Lamb, Eleanor bestowed her hand upon Henry, Duke of Normandy, who afterward became Henry II of England. Richard was born of this union September 8, 1157, probably, Lamb reasons, in the King's palace of Beau Monte at Oxford. The King and Queen went to Normandy in 1167 to be present at the marriage of their daughter, Matilda. After the ceremony, King Henry and his eldest son returned to England, while Queen Eleanor remained abroad with Princess Marguerite and the two sons, Geoffrey and Richard. The latter had already been invested with certain territories and some chroniclers state that as the young Prince grew in under-standing, the mother sought to impress him with the idea that he should become a ruler independent of his father in these territories. At any rate it was not long before revolts against parental control took place. Aided by the French King, Henry, Geoffrey and Richard entered into a conspiracy in 1173 with William of Scotland and several disaffected English nobles to attack their father's possessions, English and Continental. Henry longed for the territory as well as the title of King of England. Richard was eager to possess himself of the territory of Poitou, and Geoffrey claimed right to the Duchy of Bretagne. For this treacherous conduct they were afterward pardoned by their father, but in 1189, after the death of Geoffrey and his brother Henry, Richard renewed his opposition to his father and was joined in this unfilial conduct by his younger brother, John. An alliance was formed with Philip, who had ascended the French throne, and the allies invaded Maine and Touraine and wrested these possessions from Henry, who retired to Normandy, hunted by his own sons, and there died, at the castle of Chinon, July 6, 1189. Richard now became King of England and was crowned at Westminster, September 3, 1189, with a great display of pomp and magnificence. The formalities adopted on that occasion have been quite faithfully followed in all subsequent English coronations. Richard had, during the years of his youth, shown that spirit of adventure and personal bravery which was later so fully developed in his campaigns for the recovery of Jerusalem. He had taken the cross in 1187 and immediately upon becoming King, he began extensive preparations for a crusade. His first act, however, was to order the liberation of his mother, Queen Eleanor, who had been under restraint for sixteen years as a punishment for haying incited her sons to rebellion. Upon his only surviving brother; John, he conferred the earldoms of Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. He entrusted the government of the nation to Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, and Chancellor of England; and Hugh, Bishop of Durham. He then gave his attention to raising funds for the crusade. He levied taxes, disposed of crown lands, sold ecclesiastical and temporal offices to the highest bidders and for a certain large sum, released the King of Scotland from the vassalage to which he had been subjected by Henry II. By these and other means he raised a vast sum, equipped himself and his followers for the undertaking which he proposed to carry out, and crossed to Calais on December 12, 1189. Having entered into a treaty with Philip of France to join him in the crusade, the two Kings met with their armies on the plains of Vezelai, in Burgundy, June 27, 1190. Here the two monarchs bound themselves with elaborate pledges and marks of affection to make the recovery of Jerusalem from the Saracens a common cause. A code of laws for the armies was drafted and the French and English forces marched together as far as Lyons. Philip here set out for Sicily, taking the route to Genoa, while Richard took another route, going by way of Marseilles and a temporary separation of the forces was brought about. Richard arrived at Messina September 23d and was there joined by the French army. Here the fleets which were to carry them had been assembled.

Several years previously Richard had met and fallen in love with Berengaria, daughter of Sancho the Wise, of Spain. He now commissioned Eleanor, his mother, to go to Navarre and urge his cause. As a result of this mission Berengaria promised to meet her royal suitor in Messina. In the meantime a conflict arose between the two young monarchs which for a time threatened to put an end to the joint crusade. Philip had established himself in the palace of Tancred, who had seized the throne of Sicily, shortly before, on the death of William II, who was the husband of Richard's sister, Joanna. Richard peremptorily ordered the banners of Philip taken down from the palace walls and his own placed there. A conflict as a result of this arbitrary act seemed imminent, but a clash was avoided. The incident, however, served to sever the ties of friendship and affection to which they had pledged themselves and jealousy and hatred of each other dated from this rupture. Philip with his army left Sicily for the Holy Land, without waiting for Richard, who remained to await the arrival of Berengaria. When his fiancée, accompanied by his mother, arrived, he fitted out a ship for their services and then with his army embarked for his original destination. Near the Port of Cyprus, some of the ships were wrecked and on the shipwrecked soldiers reaching shore a conflict between them and the Cypriotes was precipitated. Richard and three thousand of his men drove the enemy back into Limoussa, their capital, and captured the city. The whole island yielded to his army and in May, 1191, the marriage between Richard and Berengaria was celebrated and the pair were crowned King and Queen of Cyprus.

Well satisfied with the ultimate outcome of the ship-wreck, Richard now proceeded toward Acre, arriving there June 8th and finding Philip and his army already on the ground, having arrived two months previously. Acre had been undergoing a siege since 1189, the attacking force being under command of Guy of Lusignan, who laid claim to the throne of Jerusalem. With the forces of the crusaders added to the besieging army, the city readily surrendered. It was occupied by the Christians on July 12, 1191. Saladin, the leader of the Moslems, agreed in the terms of surrender to pay the Christians, within forty days, 200,000 pieces of gold and to restore to them the wood of the true cross which had been taken in battle. There was still a dispute over the claim of sovereignty over Palestine, Guy of Lusignan's rival being Conrad of Montferrat. Richard favored the claim of Lusignan and Philip supported that of Conrad. It was finally agreed that Conrad should have the title of King of Jerusalem and that Guy, in the event that he survived. his rival, should be entitled to the throne and that his heirs were to have the sovereignty perpetually. Lusignan was given the crown of Cyprus. Shortly after this adjustment Conrad was murdered and the crime was by some laid at Richard's door. A few days later, Philip pleaded ill-health and the necessity of his presence in France, and announced that he had decided to return to his own country. Richard prevailed upon the French monarch to leave ten thousand foot soldiers and five hundred knights with the crusaders, under the command of the Duke of Burgundy. Philip pledged himself to make no hostile move against the possessions of Richard during his absence, and with the bulk of his army set out for France. Upon his arrival there he at once violated the pledge he had made and set about an attempt to capture some of the English strongholds. Failing in this he entered into negotiations with John, the younger brother of Richard, to join forces across the channel. The threats of the English council deterred John from his treacherous purpose.

In the meantime, Richard was waiting at Acre for Saladin to fulfill the terms of surrender. Finally the time limit expired without the promises having been kept and Richard cruelly ordered the massacre of three thousand Moslem captives within sight of the camp of the Saracens. Richard fortified Acre and started out along the seacoast in the direction of Ascalon. During this journey a terrific battle was fought with the Saracens between Cs area and Jaffa. The enemy fell suddenly upon the Christians with savage fury, but were beaten back after a bloody struggle in which Richard's famous sword-arm played an important part. The Moslem loss, while no definite figures are given, is reported to have been enormous. That of the crusaders was also large, but not in comparison. While Richard and his forces proceeded to Jaffa, the Mussulmans took occasion to recruit their shattered army. He caused the rebuilding of Jaffa, which had been partially destroyed, and then began the march upon Jerusalem. The crusaders arrived within sight of the goal of their long pilgrimage, but owing to the reluctance of the allies to join in an attack, Richard was prevented from capturing the Holy City. With his army he now with-drew to the coast. Ascalon was found to have been stripped of its ramparts and citadel. The stronghold was rebuilt by the hands that were better accustomed to the wielding of swords. The winter of 1191-1.192 was given up in fortifying the maritime towns, and in June, 1192, Richard once more set out in the direction of Jerusalem. He had in the meantime received disquieting news from England, but was anxious to accomplish the conquest upon which he had come, hoping with one more effort to capture the Holy City. The army encamped in the valley of Hebron and thence proceeded to Bethlehem. Here, again in sight of the towers of the city which he had vowed to subdue, Richard found himself unable to carry out his designs owing to the objections of his councillors. The army of crusaders now retired to Jaffa and Acre. The strength thus being divided, Saladin fell upon the division at Jaffa and succeeded in capturing that city. Richard on learning of the result of the conflict, hastened from Acre by sea and made a sudden onslaught on the Moslem hosts. The Mussulmans were under the impression that he had sailed for England and his appearance with his army and assault upon them was so sudden that they were compelled to retreat into the interior and once more the cross was raised over Jaffa. This was on August 1, 1192, but a few days later the Moslems returned with augmented forces and, although many times outnumbered, the crusaders, after listening to a vow by Richard that he would decapitate any one of his knights who shirked duty, attacked the enemy and after a bloody encounter completely routed the Moslems. In this battle Richard displayed such bravery in personal encounters that his acts were regarded as miracles. After the battle a truce was arranged for three years, three months, three days and three hours. The Christians were under this arrangement to retain possession of the seacoast from Jaffa to Tyre and Christian pilgrims were to be allowed to enter Jerusalem free of tribute. In the winter of 1193 Richard started upon the home voyage. The ship which bore him away from the Holy Land was wrecked at Aquileia and he was cast ashore. Realizing the dangers of attempting to pass through France and thus placing himself in the power of Philip, he determined to go on foot through Germany and with a few followers, disguised as pilgrims, reached Erdburg. His plan to escape recognition did not succeed. He was discovered by Count Meinhard, a near relation of Conrad, of whose murder Richard had been accused. He was seized and made a prisoner and loaded with irons and turned over to the Emperor of Germany. It was in March, 1193, that he became the prisoner of Emperor Henry VI of Germany, and after being imprisoned for some time at Trifels was transferred to Worms. Here the warrior lay in the castle dungeon for fifteen months; his only amusement was wrestling with his guards and composing poetry. In early life he had won some fame as a minstrel and now devoted his talents to writing pleas in rhyme for aid from his friends in England. Efforts to discover the location of Richard's prison were for some time futile and his continued detention created much concern in England, Prince John, in the meantime was looking with envy upon the territories of his brother, and only the intercession of Queen Eleanor prevented him from usurping the throne. Philip of France also saw an opportunity for revenging himself upon his former sworn friend. He offered to aid John in an attempt on the throne and proposed a marriage between the English Prince and Alice, the sister of Philip. John did homage to the French King and was furnished with an army of mercenaries with which he proceeded to England and captured the castles of Windsor and Wallingford. He then proceeded toward London, proclaiming that King Richard was dead. It was, however, discovered that Richard was still alive and messengers from England discovered his whereabouts. At Worms a diet was held in which Richard was charged with recognition of Tancred, who had usurped the throne of Sicily. He was also accused of the murder of Conrad and the conquest of Cyprus, as well as the betrayal of the Holy Land to Saladin. The royal prisoner defended himself with fiery eloquence against these accusations and was fully vindicated. When the information reached France and the expectation was that Richard would be released, King Philip wrote to Prince John, "Beware, for the devil is let loose." King Henry of Germany set a price of 15o,000 marks upon Richard's liberty and efforts were at once instituted in England to raise this sum. In the mean-time Philip and John offered a like amount to the German monarch to withdraw his offer and keep his captive.

Such severe criticism of the acceptance of this proposal by King Henry ensued, however, that he once more demanded the original amount, and Queen Eleanor brought the sum which secured the release of the captive.

Richard arrived in England March 13, 1194, after an absence of four years. It was not until the following month that Queen Berengaria was able to rejoin her husband. The reunion of the royal couple was marked with acclamations of joy throughout England. A second coronation which took place at Winchester, April 17, 1194, was attended with magnificent ceremony. Prince John now sought his brother's pardon and Richard granted it with the remark, "I forgive you, John, and I wish I could as easily forget your treachery as you will my pardon." Richard, learning that King Philip was besieging an English stronghold in the Continental possessions, organized an expedition and started for France. Philip fled from the advance of Richard's army to Verneuil. Shortly after this a truce was entered into between the two Kings the first of a long series of short-lived treaties. For five years there were encounters, sieges and fresh reconciliations, though neither of the armies were formidable enough to decisively crush the other. In January, 1199, a treaty of peace to cover a period of five years was solemnly entered into. It was not long after this that Richard was apprised that Vidomar, Lord of Chaluz, had found an iron chest in one of his fields, filled with golden statues and vases full of diamonds. The historian Green relates that Richard desired a share of this treasure and advanced upon the castle of Lord Vidomar to secure it. Vidomar resisted and siege was laid to the castle. While Richard was demanding surrender, an arrow from the crossbow of Bertrand de Gourdon pierced the King's shoulder, inflicting a severe wound. It is a question whether the arrow wound was mortal or whether the bungling work of the surgeon in withdrawing the shaft was responsible for the result which followed. When Richard found that he had but a brief space left of life, he had de Gourdon brought before him and generously extended pardon to his slayer. He died of the wound April 6, 1199. His body was buried at Fontevraud. His closing hours were filled with remorse on account of his undutiful treatment of his father and his last request was that he be buried as near the grave of Henry II as possible. He was succeeded on the throne by his brother John. The history of Richard the Lion-Hearted is interwoven with romantic incident, such as abounds in the lore of the knights of old. Of this vague evidence there is sufficient of an authentic nature to prove that he was a great warrior, personally brave and naturally magnanimous, though imbued with the greed for power which was one of the prevalent diseases of the age. No excuse can be found for the wanton massacre of Moslem captives of which he was guilty, though in this he displayed only the ferocity which at that period was entertained by Christians generally toward their enemies. His record fails to show that he accomplished any great result either for his own country or any other. His sole ambition lay in the direction of war and while he was not successful in attaining the objects for which the greatest of his campaigns were undertaken, his courage and skill as a leader of armies, coupled with his personal bravery and prowess, deservedly won for him the proud title of "Coeur de Lion."

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