HumanitiesWeb.org - Richard I, the Lionheart - The Absent King [Biography]
HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
WelcomeHistoryLiteratureArtMusicPhilosophyResourcesHelp
Regions Alphabetically Nationality Timelines Topics Glossary
pixel

Richard I
Index
Biography
Selected Works
Quotations
Suggested Reading
Other Resources
Chronology
Related Materials

Search

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc
FEEDBACK

(C)1998-2013
All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
26 June, 2013

Richard I, the Lionhearted
Biography



"If I could have found a buyer I would have sold London itself."
- On raising funds for his crusade

RICHARD I. (1157-1199), king of England, nicknamed "Coeur de Lion" and "Yea and Nay," was the third son of Henry II. by Eleanor of Aquitaine. Born in September 1157, he received at the age of eleven the duchy of Aquitaine, and was formally installed in 1172. In his new position he was allowed, probably from regard to Aquitanian susceptibilities, to govern with an independence which was studiously denied to his brothers in their shares of the Angevin inheritance. Yet in it Richard joined with the young Henry and Geoffrey of Brittany in their rebellion; Aquitaine was twice invaded by the old king before the unruly youth would make submission. Richard was soon pardoned and reinstated in his duchy, where he distinguished himself by crushing a formidable revolt (1175) and exacting homage from the count of Toulouse. In a short time he was so powerful that his elder brother Henry became alarmed and demanded, as heir-apparent, that Richard should do him homage for Aquitaine. Richard having scornfully rejected the demand, a fratricidal war ensued; the young Henry invaded Aquitaine and attracted to his standard many of Richardís vassals, who were exasperated by the iron rule of the duke. Henry II. marched to Richardís aid; but the war terminated abruptly with the death of the elder prince (1183).

Richard, being now the heir to England and Normandy, was invited to renounce Aquitaine in favour of Prince John. The proposal led to a new civil war; and, although a temporary compromise was arranged, Richard soon sought the help of Philip Augustus, to whom he did homage for all the continental possessions in the actual presence of his father (Conference of Bonmoulins, 8th of November 1188) In the struggle which ensued the old king was overpowered, chased ignominiously from Le Mans to Angers, and forced to buy peace by conceding all that was demanded of him; in particular the immediate recognition of Richard as his successor.

But the death of Henry II. (1189) at once dissolved the friendship between Richard and Philip. Not only did Richard continue the continental policy of his father, but he also refused to fulfil his contract with Philipís sister, Alais, to whom he had been betrothed at the age of three. An open breach was only delayed by the desire of both kings to fulfil the crusading vows which they had recently taken. Richard, in particular, sacrificed all other interests to this scheme, and raised the necessary funds by the most reckless methods. He put up for auction the highest offices and honours; even remitting to William the Lion of Scotland, for a sum of 1,000 marks, the humiliating obligations which Henry II. had imposed at the treaty of Falaise. It is true that Richard indemnified himself on his return by resuming some of his most important grants and refusing to return the purchase money; but it is improbable that he had originally planned this repudiation of his ill-considered bargains. By such expedients he raised and equipped a force which may be estimated at 4000 men-at-arms and as many foot-soldiers, with a fleet of 100 transports (1191).

Richard did not return to his dominions until 1194. But his stay in Palestine was limited to sixteen months. On the outward journey he wintered in Sicily, where he employed himself in quarrelling with Philip and in exacting satisfaction from the usurper Tancred for the dower of his widowed sister, Queen Joanna, and for his own share in the inheritance of William the Good. Leaving Messina in March 1191, he interrupted his voyage to conquer Cyprus, and only joined the Christian besiegers of Acre in June. The reduction of that stronghold was largely due to his energy and skill. But his arrogance gave much offence. After the fall of Acre he inflicted a gross insult upon Leopold of Austria; and his relations with Philip were so strained that the latter seized the first pretext for returning to France, and entered into negotiations with Prince John (see John, king of England) for the partition of Richardís realm. Richard also threw himself into the disputes respecting the crown of Jerusalem, and supported Guy of Lusignan against Conrad of Montferrat with so much heat that he incurred grave, though unfounded, suspicions of complicity when Conrad was assassinated by emissaries of the Old Man of the Mountain. None the less Richard, whom even the French crusaders accepted as their leader, upheld the failing cause of the Frankish Christians with valour and tenacity. He won a brilliant victory over the forces of Saladin at Arsuf (1191), and twice led the Christian host within a few miles of Jerusalem. But the dissensions of the native Franks and the crusaders made it hopeless to continue the struggle; and Richard was alarmed by the news which reached him of Johnís intrigues in England and Normandy. Hastily patching up a truce with Saladin, under which the Christians kept the coast-towns and received free access to the Holy Sepulchre, Richard started on his return (9th October 1192).

His voyage was delayed by storms, and he appears to have been perplexed as to the safest route. The natural route overland through Marseilles and Toulouse was held by his enemies; that through the empire from the head of the Adriatic was little safer, since Leopold of Austria was on the watch for him. Having adopted the second of these alternatives, he was captured at Vienna in a mean disguise (December 20th, 1192) and strictly confined in the dukeís castle of DŁrenstein on the Danube. His mishap was soon known to England, but the regents were for some weeks uncertain of his whereabouts. This is the foundation for the tale of his discovery by the faithful minstrel Blondel, which first occurs in a French romantic chronicle of the next century. Early in 1193 Leopold surrendered his prize, under compulsion, to the emperor Henry VI., who was aggrieved both by the support which the Plantagenets had given to the family of Henry the Lion and also by Richardís recognition of Tancred in Sicily. Although the detention of a crusader was contrary to public law, Richard was compelled to purchase his release by the payment of a heavy ransom and by doing homage to the emperor for England. The ransom demanded was 150,000 marks; though it was never discharged in full, the resources of England were taxed to the utmost for the first instalments; and to this occasion we may trace the beginning of secular taxation levied on movable property.

Richard reappeared in England in March 1194 but his stay lasted only a few weeks, and the remainder of his reign was entirely devoted to his continental interests. He left England to be governed by Hubert Walter (q.v.), and his personal authority was seldom asserted except by demands for new subsidies. The rule of the Plantagenets was still popular in Normandy and Aquitaine; but these provinces were unable or unwilling to pay for their own defence. Though Richard proved himself consistently the superior of Philip in the field, the difficulty of raising and paying forces to resist the French increased year by year. Richard could only stand on the defensive; the keynote of his later policy is given by the building of the famous Ch‚teau Gaillard at Les Andelys (1196) to protect the lower courses of the Seine against invasion from the side of France. He did not live to see the futility of such bulwarks. In 1199 a claim to treasure-trove embroiled him with the viscount of Limoges. He harried the Limousin and laid siege to the castle of Ch‚lus; while directing an assault he was wounded in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt, and, the wound mortifying from unskilful treatment or his own want of care, he died on the 6th of April 1199. He was buried by his own desire at his fatherís feet in the church of Fontevrault. Here his effigy may still be seen.1 Though contemporary, it does not altogether agree with the portraits on his Great Seal, which give the impression of greater strength and even of cruelty. The Fontevrault bust is no doubt idealized.

The most accomplished and versatile representative of his gifted family, Richard was, in his lifetime and long afterwards, a favourite hero with troubadours and romancers. This was natural, as he belonged to their brotherhood and himself wrote lyrics of no mean quality. But his history shows that he by no means embodied the current ideal of chivalrous excellence. His memory is stained by one act of needless cruelty, the massacre of over two thousand Saracen prisoners at Acre; and his fury, when thwarted or humbled, was ungovernable. A brave soldier, an experienced and astute general, he was never happier than when engaged in war. As a ruler he was equally profuse and rapacious. Not one useful measure can be placed to his credit; and it was by a fortunate accident that he found, in Hubert Walter, an administrator who had the skill to mitigate the consequences of a reckless fiscal policy. Richardís wife was Berengaria, daughter of Sancho VI., king of Navarre, whom he married in Cyprus in May 1191. She was with the king at Acre later in the same year, and during his imprisonment passed her time in Sicily, in Rome and in France. Husband and wife met again in 1195, and the queen long survived the king, residing chiefly at Le Mans. She died soon after 1230. Berengaria founded a Cistercian monastery at Espau.

AUTH0RITIES - The more important of the general chronicles are: the Gesta Henrici Secundi, ascribed to Benedict of Peterborough (Rolls Seties, 2 vols., 1867); the Chronica of Roger of Hoveden (Rolls Series, 4 vols., 1868-71); the Chronica of Gervase of Canterbury (Rolls Series, 1879); the Imagines Historiarum of Ralph of Diceto (Rolls Series, 2 vols., 1876); the Historia Rerum Anglicarum of William f Newburgh (in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, &c., Rolls Series, 2 vols., 1884ó85); the De rebus gestis Ricardi Primi of Richard of Devizes (in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, &c., vol. iii., Rolls Series, 1886); the Chronicon Anglicanum of Ralph of Coggeshall (Rolls Series, 1875); the Flores Historictrum of Roger of Wendover (Rolls Series, 3 vols., 1886-89); the Gesta Philippi Augusti of Rigord (Societi de líhistoire de France, Paris, 1882) and of Guillaume le Breton (op. cit.). A detailed narrative of Richardís crusade is given in LíEstoire de la guerre sainte, a rhyming French chronicle by the minstrel Ambroise (ed. Gaston Paris, Paris, 1897), and in the Latin prose version known as the Itinerarium 0. Peregrinorum et gesta Regis Ricardi; this last, with some valuable historical letters, is printed in W. Stubbsís Chronicles and Memorials of the Reign of Richard I. (Rolls Series, 2 vols., 1864-65). Of modern works the following are useful: W. Stubbsís preface to vols. iii. and iv. of Hoveden; the same authorís Constitutional History of England, vol. i. (Oxford, 1897); Miss K. Norgateís England under the Angevin Kings, vol. ii. (London, 1887); Sir J. H. Ramsayís Angevin Empire (London, 1903); R. RŲhrichtís Geschichte des Konigreichs Jerusalem (1898); W. B. Stevensonís Crusaders in the East (Cambridge, 1907); A. Cartellieriís Philipp II. August (Leipzig, 1899, &c.).
(H. W. C. D.)

1 The remains of Richard, together with those of Henry II. and his queen Eleanor, were removed in the 17th century from their tombs to another part of the church. They were rediscovered in 1910 during the restoration of the abbey undertaken by the French government.

contributed by Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911


10 July 2006
Personae

Terms Defined

Referenced Works