King Richard I
Born: September 8, 1157
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Reign: July 6, 1189 - April 6, 1199 (9 years)
Died: April 6, 1199
Chalus, Limousin, France (Age 41)
Prince Richard Plantagenet was born the second surviving son of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine on September 8, 1157. Though born in England, Richard was taken, in 1165, to be raised on his father’s lands in Normandy, where there can be no question that he, like his brothers, received a good education. Details of Richard’s early childhood and upbringing are, to say the very least, sparse. When, in 1159, Henry II formed an alliance with the Count of Barcelona, so that they may mount a double attack on the disputed county of Toulouse, Richard was briefly betrothed to one of the count’s daughters, though nothing ever came of this. The more significant betrothal involving Richard came when Henry II and King Louis VII of France agreed to the Treaty of Montmirail in January 1169. As part of the accord, Richard was to be married to Alice, a daughter of the French king (Richard’s elder brother, Henry the Young King, was already married to Alice’s elder sister Margaret). In addition, Henry II revealed how his vast territories would be divided up upon his death: Richard’s elder brother Henry was to inherit England, Normandy, Maine, Anjou and Touraine; Richard’s younger brother, Geoffrey, was to rule the duchy of Brittany in right of his wife; and Richard himself was to receive his mother’s inheritance of the duchy of Aquitaine, easily the largest portion of land which Henry II possessed within the continent. Soon after this agreement was ratified, Richard did homage to Louis VII, as his vassal, for the duchy and, in June 1172, he was formally instated as Duke of Aquitaine.
Though Henry II had revealed to his sons which specific parts of his empire they would inherit when he died, and had even gone so far as to require them to pay homage to the French king for the lands, he made it clear that he still held full sovereignty over these lands and refused to give his sons any real power or responsibilities. On top of this, the king did not provide his sons with any revenues to support their new statuses as vassals of the King of France, making their situations fairly precarious. As the eldest son and heir to the most substantial portion of the Angevin empire, Henry the Young King was the one who was most irritated by his father’s apparently miserly behavior. The final straw between Henry II and his eldest son seems to have been the fact that the former assigned several castles within the Young King’s proposed inheritance to the latter’s youngest brother, John, who had previously not been left anything. Undoubtedly urged on by Louis VII, the Young King deserted his father and joined the French court at Paris. Before long, he had managed to convince his mother Eleanor and his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, to join the rising against the Old King, and the latter two promptly joined their brother in Paris. Richard then took an oath with his brothers not to make peace with their father without the express consent of the King of France and proceeded to take part in an invasion of Normandy. Henry II though, was not known for his passivity and swiftly gathered a massive army of mercenaries, easily repelling this attack and others and brought his sons to the negotiating table. The king agreed to reward his sons with substantial revenues (Richard, for example, would be given half the annual income from Aquitaine), provided they agreed to acknowledge him as their rightful overlord. This was a fair enough deal, but Louis VII convinced the boys to turn it down, unnecessarily extending the “Great War.”
After being shunned, Henry II knew he had to increase the pressure and began taking castles within Aquitaine, capturing his wife Eleanor in the process. When Richard heard of the capture and imprisonment of his beloved mother, he seemed to have been spurred into more significant action and attempted to besiege the important coastal town of La Rochelle. This was a fool-hearted scheme considering the fact that the city was staunchly loyal to Henry II. Richard then stationed himself at Saintes, but was chased away by his father. A major blow for the rebel cause came in July 1174 when King William the Lion of Scotland was defeated at the Battle of Alnwick. Soon after, both Henry the Young King and King Louis VII agreed to the Treaty of Montlouis with Henry II. Knowing all hope was lost, Richard had no choice but to submit to his father. In the aftermath of the Great War, Henry II was surprisingly lenient with his sons and the other rebels and Richard was still awarded with a substantial portion of the income of Aquitaine, as long as he acknowledged his father as supreme overlord, a command he had no other option but to obey.
After Richard had been humbled by his father, he decided to concentrate all of his attentions to the governing of his duchy of Aquitaine. The duchy was very loosely made up, with highly obscure borders, of a series of counties and viscounties, all of which were under the control of a local lord who considered himself completely independent of any supreme overlord. For this reason, to say that the task of governing Aquitaine was a difficult one, would be an understatement. Though none of the counts, viscounts and other barons of Aquitaine could ever be fully trusted, some of them posed more of a threat than others. During the 1170s, it would be Count William VI of Angouleme, his sons and, perhaps most significantly, their half-brother, Viscount Aimer of Limoges, that would pose the greatest threats to Duke Richard. Though he had remained loyal to Henry II during the Great War, by 1176 Viscount Aimer was, along with his kinsmen of Angouleme, in open rebellion against Angevin rule. The exact reason for Aimer’s defection is not fully understood, but many historians will speculate that it involved the seizing of the county of Cornwall in England by Henry II. Aimer was married to the only child of the recently deceased earl of the county and most likely assumed that, with his father-in-law dead, he would rule the region in right of his wife.
Whatever the case may have been, it appears that it would have been wise for Aimer and his allies to keep their grievances to themselves because Henry II provided his son with enough money so that Richard could hire a large mercenary force and crush the rebellion with relative ease. By the end of the summer of 1176, Richard had captured the two main centers of the rebellion, Limoges and Angouleme, and forced the recalcitrant barons to swear allegiance to him and his father. This marked the first conflict between Richard and Viscount Aimer, which is highly significant considering the fact that the former would ultimately meet his maker while fighting against the rebel baron. In the years, following his victory against the Angouleme family, Richard continued to put down minor rebellions throughout Aquitaine, particularly in Gascony (in the south-west), and watched as his father extended the boundaries of his duchy by purchasing the county of La Marche and acquiring part of the county of Berry. By 1179, Vulgrin, the eldest son and heir of Count William of Angouleme, was once again in open rebellion against Richard, with a minor, but wealthy, nobleman named Geoffrey de Rancon as his primary ally. Richard wasted no time in making his move against the rebels and, after an initial lack of success, he was able to capture Geoffrey’s major castle of Taillebourg, a fortress that was believed to be impregnable. After its capture, Vulgrin and Geoffrey both submitted themselves to their duke’s mercy and Richard had achieved his most significant military victory to date at the young age of twenty-one.
The years immediately following Richard’s victory at Tallebourg were surprisingly quiet within Aquitaine, considering the volatile nature of the duchy, and though very little is known of Richard’s activities during this time period, it must be assumed that he was ruling his inheritance with great effectiveness. It was not until 1182 that Richard would face any more serious opposition to his authority, and it was, once again, from the noble family of Angouleme. Upon the death of Count Vulgrin in June 1181 (who had inherited the county upon the death of his father, Count William, two years earlier), Richard took custody of the late count’s infant daughter Matilda (his only surviving child). According to his logic, Richard, as Duke of Aquitaine, had every right to do this. However, Count Vulgrin had two younger brothers, William and Ademar, and in France, where the Salic Law reigned supreme, females could only inherit land if there was no clear male heir in sight (as was the case when Richard’s mother Eleanor inherited Aquitaine from her father). With the backing of King Philip II of France and a number of other powerful noblemen (including their half-brother, Viscount Aimer of Limoges), the brothers were again in open rebellion. The rebels accused Richard and his soldiers of all kinds of heinous crimes to justify their uprising including, but not limited to, torture, rape, robbery and murder. In an age where much of a soldier’s pay came from pillaging, it would not be surprising if Richard’s men (or even the duke himself) were guilty of the crime’s they were accused of, but Richard was not prepared to submit to the will of his own subjects and the rebellion was swiftly put down when the combined forces of Richard, Henry II and the Young King proved to be too much for the disorganized rebel forces.
Later that year a much more serious threat arose when tensions amongst the royal family again made their way to the forefront. Henry the Young King was still unhappy with the lack of power that he possessed. In an attempt to appease his eldest son, Henry II asked his younger sons, Richard and Geoffrey, to pay homage to their brother for the duchies that they were in charge of (Aquitaine and Brittany respectively). Though Geoffrey preformed the required homage willingly, Richard remained headstrong and would not bow down to his brother. When Henry II finally convinced him to do so, the Young King would now not accept Richard’s homage. A number of border disputes further instigated the situation and the Young King began to seriously contemplate joining forces with the defeated rebels of Angouleme (who were once again causing trouble) against his brother. Henry II attempted to bring peace between his three eldest sons, but to no avail. In a rare lapse of judgment, which must be looked upon as the trust a father should have for his son, Henry II allowed the Young King to travel to Limoges to act as a mediator of peace with the Angouleme rebels.
It was at Limoges that the Young King joined with his brother Geoffrey and Viscount Aimer, who had gathered a large force of mercenaries. Richard quickly went to do battle against Aimer and decisively defeated his troops in battle, ruthlessly slaughtering most of them in the aftermath. Henry II then went to join the Young King at Limoges but was greeted with a stream of arrows, which gave him all the evidence he needed to show them that his eldest son had betrayed him again. A number of powerful noblemen who were unhappy with Richard’s rule, including Philip II of France, rallied to the Young King’s cause and the joint forces of Henry II and Richard were unable to bring them into submission. Luckily for the king and Richard, the Young King appeared to be on a thorough path to self-destruction. He was unable to pay his mercenaries and was greeted with hostility by the native citizens of the Limousin. In May 1183, the Young King fell ill. The following month, he died, aged twenty-eight, officially ending the rebellion that had began in his name.
With the Young King out of the picture, the remaining rebels were easily enough suppressed by Richard and the Old King. Henry II now saw an opportunity to provide for his youngest (and most beloved) son, John. With Richard now the eldest surviving son of the English king, it was assumed that he would now inherit England, Normandy and Anjou (though he was not officially named heir). Therefore, the Old King believed that John (who by this point had earned the nickname of “Lackland” because he had not been provided with any property) should be awarded with Richard’s duchy of Aquitaine. Though Richard seemed receptive to this idea at first, his amicability was, in reality, nonexistent. Richard felt that he should not have to give up his rights to a duchy that he had worked so hard to bring under his control and left his father’s court in the middle of the night to strengthen and fortify his castles in Aquitaine. As can be imagined, Henry II was infuriated by his son’s greed and, in a fit of rage, rashly gave his younger sons, Geoffrey and John, permission to raid their brother’s lands in Poitou. When the raiding began, Richard retaliated by staging attacks in Geoffrey’s duchy of Brittany. Realizing that he had reacted too hastily, Henry II summoned his three sons to England to make peace, which they reluctantly agreed to do.
Soon enough though, Richard and Geoffrey were again quarreling, prompting the king, in April 1185 to journey to the continent in person, this time with a different approach to the matter. In a strategy to control his eldest son’s power, Henry II released his wife Eleanor, the legitimate Duchess of Aquitaine, from captivity and ordered Richard to restore his mother to her duchy immediately. Richard, not wanting to deprive his beloved mother of her rightful inheritance, did so without resistance, though, it must be said, very little changed in the way of authority, with Richard still playing a major role in the policy making within the duchy. With the feud with this brother’s over for the time being, Richard focused his attentions on rebellious activities of Count Raymond V of Toulouse.
The county of Toulouse was long considered to be a mere fief of Aquitaine, and therefore under the control of the duke, but the region’s counts had always maintained their autonomy. As was standard practice, the count appealed to the King of France (who claimed to be the true overlord of the county) for aid against the Angevins. King Philip did not jump to Count Raymond’s aid immediately, but saw an opportunity to gain some ground on his enemies when Geoffrey of Brittany died in August 1186. The French king demanded that Brittany by put under his control and that Richard should cease his aggressive behavior towards Toulouse. He also requested that the lands that were part of the dowry of his sister Margaret (who had been married to the Young King) should be returned to him, in addition to his sister Alice, who was supposed to have been married to Richard many years earlier, but had remained in the possession of Henry II, despite the fact that the marriage never occurred. Upon the Angevins’ refusal to meet his steep demands, Philip invaded the county of Berry (yet another territory in King Henry’s possession which was disputed between the Angevins and the Kings of France). But, neither side was truly committed to a full-scale war and a two year truce was agreed to in which no real ground was gained by either monarch.
After the truce was ratified, in a rather strange turn of events Richard accompanied King Philip back to Paris and, from that point on, the two remained on incredibly close terms. Many modern historians have actually gone so far as to say that Richard and Philip were even engaging in a homosexual relationship, though this claim in unsubstantiated. Though it is not completely clear what the two men were attempting to accomplish by this friendship, nor is it clear how it came about when they had just been on the brink of all-out war, but speculations can be made. At this point, Richard had still not been named his father’s official heir to England, Normandy and Anjou and most likely wanted to have Philip, as overlord of the latter two territories, as an ally to help push his father towards the decision to clarify his intentions. Philip, on the other hand, believed that he would be able to use this generous support to his advantage to make Richard a more malleable vassal than Henry II had been. The Old King was highly suspicious of this new alliance and forced his son to pay him homage and to swear allegiance to him, which the latter ultimately conceded to.
By 1187 though, Richard’s mind was now fully set on going on crusade to the Holy Land and he took the cross in the fall of that year. Large portions of the kingdom of Jerusalem had fallen to the Muslims and their brave leader, Saladin (who had recently won the Battle of Hattin), and Richard could think of no other way of showing himself to be a warrior of God than to do battle against these heretic Saracens. Unfortunately, Richard was forced to deal with yet another rebellion in Aquitaine (which was easily enough put down), followed by more trouble from Count Raymond of Toulouse, who was accused of supposedly torturing and murdering Aquitainian merchants passing through the county. Richard invaded Toulouse and made massive gains, capturing the entire region of the Quercy. Philip II interpreted Richard’s hostilities as a breaking of the truce and, by early 1188, the French and Angevins were again at war, with Philip renewing his invasion of Berry. The fighting lasted for months until finally, in the fall, Henry II, Philip and Richard met to agree to peace terms. It was suggested that Philip would hand over his conquests in Berry if Richard would hand over his conquests in Toulouse. Henry II had no problem with this, but Richard was unhappy with giving away the gains he had made (which also brought him a substantial income) and wished to negotiate with Philip directly. Philip took advantage of this breach between father and son and began to spread rumors that Henry II was planning on disinheriting Richard in favor of the latter’s younger brother John. Slowly but surely, Richard began to believe these rumors and the fact that Henry II continued to refuse to acknowledge his elder son as his heir added to his suspicions.
Several attempts were made to reconcile Henry II and his son, but to no avail and, by early 1189, Richard joined forces with King Philip against his father and began launching attacks on the Old King’s lands. Within months, the two had conquered the entirety of Maine and Touraine and were preparing to move on to Normandy. Henry II, who was by now a sick man, was in no fighting mood and retired to his castle of Chinon in Anjou. Knowing he had no other option, Henry II agreed to peace terms with his son and the French king. Richard was to be named the official heir to the Angevin empire, while Philip was to receive a large cash payment and several castles from the ailing king. It was a truly humiliating agreement for Henry and he vowed revenge against Richard for this betrayal. But, revenge would never come as the king died on July 6, 1189, apparently pushed over the edge by the knowledge that his favorite son John had earlier joined Richard’s rebellion against him. On that day, Richard succeeded his father as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, Maine and Touraine.
After his father was laid to rest, Richard began to tie up a few loose ends within Anjou and Normandy. Many of those who had aided him in the struggle against his father were well rewarded, including his one remaining brother John, who received extensive estates in Normandy and England (making him a very rich man), and his mother Eleanor, who was finally released from house arrest after fifteen years of captivity. Once his authority was solidly enough established in his continental territories, Richard departed for England the month following his father’s death. Upon arriving to his new island kingdom, the new king was given a particularly grandiose coronation ceremony at Westminster. Disruptions occurred outside the banquet hall when a group of Jews who were attempting to present gifts to their new sovereign were attacked (with a number of them slaughtered or injured) by an opposing group of proud Christians. Hearing of this heinous act being committed on his coronation day, Richard put the Jews of his entire empire under his protection and ordered several of the Christian offenders to be hanged for their offenses.
Though the king’s noble act by no means completely halted all attacks on Jews in England, it showed his subjects that he was a man who was tolerant to all religions, despite his staunch advocacy of the Catholic cause (though many historians will claim that Richard only protected the Jews so that he may borrow money from them to fund his crusade to the Holy Land). Richard further endeared himself to his subjects by helping to solve a dispute between Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury and a group of Benedictine monks over the founding of a collegiate church. The king then set to securing England’s borders against her tumultuous neighbors, Wales and Scotland, both of whom only nominally acknowledged the Kings of England as their overlord. A rebellion in Wales, led by the powerful Welsh prince Rhys of Deheubarth was easily enough put down and King William the Lion of Scotland was treated with surprising kindness, being given back several castles that Henry II had seized from him after the Scottish king’s embarrassing defeat at Alnwick during the Great War.
By far though, Richard’s attentions were most focused on preparations for his participation in the Third Crusade in the Holy Land and much of his time in England was spent finding various ways to gather money to fund what was undoubtedly going to be an extremely expensive campaign. The Saladin Tithe had already been enacted several years earlier, in kingdoms throughout Europe, to help fund the crusade, but proved not to be nearly enough. Knowing that he could not tax the general population of England any further, Richard began to engage in some more unorthodox methods to raise money quickly and efficiently: He confiscated the incomes from vacant Episcopal sees (which was the right of the monarch); He sold, at fairly inflated prices, various lands and positions within government; and, he demanded large sums of cash from most of England’s wealthiest citizens, a bold move in which the king risked alienating these powerful and influential men. But, the strategy was effective and Richard, having gained enough money, departed England for France in December 1189 to begin his journey to the Holy Land. In the king’s absence, the governing of England was left, primarily, in the hands of his chancellor, Bishop William Longchamp of Ely.
Upon arriving on the continent, Richard met up with Philip II, who was to be his primary ally on the crusade, and the two agreed to protect one another and to act in good faith in the name of Christianity. Richard then proceeded to tour his lands in Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine, appointing able men who would be in charge of the day to day functions of government during his absence. After taking care of a number of other administrative duties, Richard met with Philip II again in Burgundy and then travelled to Marseille, where he set off to sea. While he was awaiting the rest of his substantial fleet (which, unfortunately, had taken a detour to pillage the city of Lisbon in Portugal), Richard stopped at a number of cities down the Italian coast before rejoining his navy at Messina in the island kingdom of Sicily. The English king was greeted with a lavish ceremony upon his arrival, but had an issue with Sicily’s king, Tancred, that needed to be settled. Tancred had been keeping Richard’s sister Joan in custody (without the release of her dowry) since the death of her husband, the previous King of Sicily, William II (a cousin of Tancred’s). In addition, William II had apparently agreed to leave Henry II a vast amount of riches, to use for the crusade, upon his death. Since Henry II predeceased King William, Tancred believed that the deal was off and seized William’s riches for himself. Richard was not of the same opinion as the Sicilian king and, although Tancred ultimately released Joan with a substantial amount of cash in pocket, a further quarrel seemed inevitable.
Tancred’s claim to the Sicilian throne was, at best, questionable, and he had already faced a number of rebellions against his regime. Add to this the fact that Sicily (which had last been conquered by Richard’s Norman ancestors in the eleventh century) was a rich prize for any would-be conqueror and it came as no surprise that a volatile situation was at hand. Richard and the other pilgrims were further antagonized by high prices at the Sicilian market places (which they believed to be intentional). By October 1190, Richard had decided to spend the winter in Sicily and took it upon himself to occupy a local monastery to store his arms, an action that severely alarmed the Sicilian people, who felt that the crusaders were attempting to conquer their kingdom. Though Richard did his best to try and cool the situation, armed conflict still broke out between the natives and the crusaders, ending in Richard taking the city of Messina by force. This forced Tancred to agree to Richard’s demands in full and the former reluctantly agreed to pay the full price of Joan’s dowry and to marry one of his daughters to Richard’s nephew Arthur of Brittany (posthumous son of Richard’s late brother Geoffrey, who Richard proceeded to name as his heir). In order to appease Philip II (who was unhappy, and most likely jealous, that Richard had conquered Messina and was displaying his banners upon the city walls), Richard awarded him with half the money he received from Tancred. In return, Richard returned Messina to Tancred and agreed to provide him with future aid against Sicily’s many potential foreign invaders. Though Tancred undoubtedly received the short end of the stick in these negotiations, the crusaders’ remaining months in Sicily were decisively less tense.
By the opening months of 1191, the crusaders were, to say the least, beginning to become wrestless and tensions over minor issues were causing problems between Richard and Philip II. These tensions would be instigated even further upon the impending arrival of Richard’s mother Eleanor and Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. By this point it became blatantly clear that Richard was intending to marry Berengaria in order to form an alliance with her father and gain a valuable ally in his long struggle to obtain the county of Toulouse (which, again, was longed believed to have been a fief of the Dukes of Aquitaine). This plan did not sit very well with Philip II, considering the fact that Richard had been betrothed to his sister Alice since the Treaty of Montmirail had been signed all the way back in 1169. But, both Henry II and Richard had always stalled the marriage, pushing the French king to the limit.
When he heard of Berengaria’s imminent arrival, Philip II began to create fears in the mind of King Tancred, telling him that, when Richard departed Sicily, he planned on lending support to the King of Germany (who was married to the official heir of Tancred’s predecessor, William II) in his quest to conquer the island kingdom. Tancred, in fear of losing his kingdom, did not allow Eleanor and Berengaria to land in Sicily and approached Richard about these supposed intrigues, only for the English king to completely deny them. It was now clear to all parties that Philip II was the villain in the situation, attempting to sow seeds of discontent to save his sister’s honor. Undoubtedly as punishment for his deceitful actions, Richard forced Philip to free him from his obligation of marrying Alice (in exchange for a cash payment), even going so far as to say that she had been his father’s mistress and had born him a son. In addition, a settlement was reached on several lingering territorial disputes (the Norman Vexin, Quercy, etc.). The whole ordeal left King Philip humbled, humiliated and undoubtedly seething for retribution. In a fit of rage, the French king departed towards the Holy Land early so as not to encounter the woman whom he believed to be the desecrater of his sister’s good name.
Several weeks later, with his new bride-to-be in hand, Richard, after a stay of eight months, finally departed Sicily to join his fellow crusaders in the east. On their travels, a portion of Richard’s fleet became shipwrecked on the coast of yet another island kingdom, Cyprus, where many of the crusaders aboard said ships were robbed and drowned, courtesy of the native Cypriots and their self-proclaimed emperor, Isaac. Though Isaac is portrayed as nothing less than the devil incarnate by the chroniclers of the time, his actions are somewhat understandable. Cyrus’s strategic location made it the perfect place for crusaders on their way to the Holy Land to stop and resupply themselves. Isaac undoubtedly believed that this particular crusading force, while small, had come in an attempt to wrestle his kingdom (which was by no means securely under his control) away from him.
Whatever the case may be, Richard, when he discovered what had occurred, was not happy. The king stormed the beach of Cyprus only to find that Isaac had deserted the town of Limassol, where the crusaders had originally landed. Richard and his army then occupied the town and it was there that he was married to Berengaria in a small ceremony at a local chapel. Chronicles of the time differ greatly as to what happened next, but it appears that Richard was ultimately able to draw Isaac into some sort of battle and defeat him. Isaac agreed to swear allegiance to Richard but, soon after, reneged on the deal and hid himself away in one of his castles. This prompted the crusaders to march deeper into Cyprus and take castle after castle. Isaac finally surrendered when Richard’s army was able to capture his beloved daughter. The Cypriot ruler was then forced to acknowledge Richard as his overlord and, although there were a few minor rebellions which followed this incident, Richard had now successfully conquered Cyprus, which he then sold to the Templar knights.
With Cyrus conquered, Richard finally set off to the Holy Land, where his destination was the Muslim-held coastal city of Acre, which was currently under siege by the Christian armies, which included that of Philip II. After dropping the deposed Isaac off at the castle of Margat, which was to be his new home (i.e. prison), Richard landed at Tyre, at this point under Christian control, but was denied entry into the city, supposedly under orders from Philip II. At this point, it must be told that the relationship between the Kings of England and France was now rapidly deteriorating. Philip II was already unhappy with Richard for his occupation of Messina and for the repudiation of his sister. He was now upset with the fact that Richard had conquered Cyprus and was refusing to hand over half of the island to him, claiming that the agreement they had come to (which was highly ambiguous to begin with) was that they would only split the gains they made directly related to the crusades and since, the conquest of Cyrus was merely a side project of sorts, Richard need not share it with Philip. Perhaps more seriously though, Richard and Philip both supported rival claimants for the throne of Jerusalem. Richard supported Guy of Lusignan, who had been deposed and, for a time, imprisoned by Saladin. Guy, however, had only ruled as king by right of his wife, Sibylla, the mother of Jerusalem’s previous king, Baldwin V. Without Sibylla (who had recently passed away), Guy’s claim had no real substance. On the other hand, Philip II supported Conrad of Montferrat for the throne. Conrad had gained notoriety for being the man most responsible for taking back Tyre from the Muslims and was looking to take advantage of his popularity. Therefore, he forced Sibylla’s younger sister Isabel (now the most obvious claimant to the throne) to divorce her husband and marry him, which she reluctantly did.
All in all, the complexity of the situation did not bode well for the fragile alliance between Kings Richard and Philip but, for the time being, they had no choice by to get along in the name of Christianity. After Richard was shunned in Tyre, he continued to sail south (encountering a Muslim fleet along the way, which he quickly disposed of) until he reached Acre. Morale in the Muslim camp was already low, as they had been under siege for quite some time now, so when Richard showed up with his massive force, they were, as can be imagined, even more discouraged. The crusaders kept heavy pressure and launched frequent attacks on Acre and, within a month of Richard’s arrival, the battered city was forced to surrender. Saladin agreed to hand over anything within the city to the crusaders and a number of Muslim prisoners were taken to make sure he honored the agreement. The crusaders had achieved a huge victory over their enemies, but a further rift between Richard and Philip II would certainly not help matters. Just as Richard was suggesting that they should remain in the Holy Land for at least another three years, Philip informed him that he would be departing back to France. The French king supposedly claimed that Richard had betrayed him by negotiating and exchanging courteous messages with Saladin. This reason, combined with the effects of a recent illness which had weakened him, is what Philip claimed forced him to leave the crusade. In reality though, it was more of a territorial reason. After the death of the Count of Flanders, one of wealthiest vassals of the Kings of France, Philip was eager to gain more control over the region. Plus, with Richard gone, Philip almost certainly already had thoughts of making a move on Normandy, Anjou or Aquitaine. He obviously could not do this from the Holy Land. Philip departed from Acre with his half of the Muslim prisoners in late July 1191. In doing so, he had left his protégé, Conrad, in an awkward position. A compromise was agreed to where Guy of Lusignan was reign as king for the remainder of his life, with Conrad and Isabel and their heirs succeeding him upon his death (though the two men would split the kingdom’s incomes in the meantime).
With this matter settled, Richard now focused his attentions more fully on the peace negotiations with Saladin, which dragged on for over a month. It eventually got to the point where the crusaders believed that Saladin was stalling the negotiations for his own benefit. A rumor in the Christian camp that Saladin had killed his prisoners seems to have been the final straw and, shortly after, this “information” came to light, Richard and the other Christian leaders ordered the slaughter of over two thousand Muslim prisoners. Saladin was, quite understandably, infuriated by this brutal incident and responded by killing all of his own prisoners. As catastrophic of an event as the slaughtering of the prisoners was for both sides, negotiations were renewed soon after and, surprisingly, cordial relations were renewed.
With Acre now in Christian hands, where it would remain for the next century, Richard chose to proceed south down the coast to the city of Jaffa. It was a wise strategy because, if the Christians were able to secure the coastal towns, they would not only be able to have future crusading armies land safely, but they would also cut off a valuable route for the Muslims to transport their supplies from Egypt to Jerusalem. Travelling down the coastline also allowed Richard’s substantial fleet to follow them via sea, assuring them him that his army would remain well supplied. Unfortunately, the Christian army was also being shadowed on its land-locked side by Saladin’s forces, which consisted of a large number of Turkish riders who continuously fired on the crusaders with their crossbows. With the Christians constantly being harassed and peace negotiations at a near standstill, it appeared that it was only a matter of time before the two armies would meet on the battlefield. This is exactly what happened. Saladin drew up his troops and ambushed Richard’s army as they exited the forest and forced them to fight. At the subsequent Battle of Arsuf, there was fierce fighting on both sides. But, in the end, Richard and the crusaders reigned supreme, forcing Saladin’s forces to retreat and scoring their second consecutive major victory over the Muslims.
In the aftermath of Arsuf, the crusaders continued their march south, reached Jaffa (of which large portions had already been destroyed by the Muslims) and occupied it. While Jaffa was being rebuilt by the Christians, Richard contemplated what his next move should be. He most certainly would have liked to lay siege to Jerusalem and certain chroniclers also claim that that the king also had his sights on conquering the whole of Egypt. In addition to these plots of conquest, it is also believed, as is reported in various contemporary Muslim chronicles, that Richard was proposing a peace treaty with the Muslims that would have been sealed through the marriage of his sister Joan to Saladin’s brother Al-Adil. The respective plans of conquest may have been a bit too ambitious for the crusaders to undertake. A march to Jerusalem, which was considerably further inland, would have cut the Christians off from their supplies at sea, while a conquest of Egypt simply would have been too difficult and time-consuming. As for the marriage between Joan and Al-Adil, this too would have been a far-fetched prospect as neither was willing to convert to the other’s religion. Therefore, after a brief (and unsuccessful) journey towards Jerusalem (in appalling weather conditions), Richard decided to stick with his original plan of conquering the coastal cities and continued his march south, with the city of Ascalon as his next stop.
The crusaders reached Ascalon, which had already been destroyed on orders from Saladin in anticipation of the imminent arrival of his enemies, by the beginning of 1192, and began rebuilding it. As the rebuilding process was going on, Richard was hearing reports of quarrels at Acre between the supporters of Conrad of Montferrat and Guy of Lusignan, the latter of whom was supposed to be the acknowledged King of Jerusalem for his lifetime. But, ever since that agreement had been made, Conrad, despite his earlier pledge to honor the agreement (which was a reluctant one at best) had been plotting against his rival and all who supported him, even going so far as to request the aid of Saladin in order to win the crown for himself. Saladin and the Muslims, of course, quite enjoyed this game and had no problem negotiating agreements with both Richard and Conrad and playing the one against the other. When Richard heard of Conrad’s deceitful activities, he journeyed back north and worked with the royal council to deprive him – Conrad – of the subsidies he was to receive from the kingdom (as was also agreed to the previous year). Conrad responded by dismissing a large number of French knights from the crusader army that were loyal to him. If this trouble was not enough, it was at this time that Richard began hearing troubling reports from England pertaining to his brother John. Apparently, John had deposed Richard’s chancellor, William Longchamp, and was seeking to gain support to run the kingdom himself.
Richard, however, was not ready to return home, despite contrary advice from his counselors. As negotiations between Richard, Conrad and Saladin dragged on, it became clear that the momentum was in Conrad’s corner, considering the fact that he had the support of the French, in addition to being married to the rightful heiress to the throne. Therefore, the council voted to award him with the crown. Unfortunately, Conrad had little time to celebrate his victory as, just days after the council ruled in his favor, he was stabbed to death by two followers of Rashid-al-Din Sinan, a powerful and influential Muslim leader from Syria. The circumstances behind Conrad’s death have always been, and will always be, clouded in obscurity. Some contemporary chroniclers and modern historians will claim that there was some sort of personal feud between Conrad and Sinan which led to his death and others will state that Saladin, fearing that Conrad was on the verge of making peace with Richard and uniting the Christian forces, ordered his assassination. By far though, most of the blame seems to have gone on Richard himself. While much of this suspicion can be chalked up to French propaganda, the rumors may have some substance to them. Richard had been an avid support of Guy of Lusignan and did not appreciate the fact that Conrad had been negotiating with Saladin, who both men should have been regarding as a common enemy, against him. With Conrad dead, Isabel, the late king’s widow and the heiress of Jerusalem, was now free to marry again. Isabel took, as her third husband, Count Henry of Champagne, a nephew of Richard’s (though also of King Philip), an arrangement that was much more desirable to the English king.
Whatever Richard’s involvement in the murder plot may, or may not have been, having a man on the throne who was a nephew of both the King of England and the King of France acted as a unifier of sorts within the crusader army, which then continued its southward march and took the fortress of Darum. This victory was soured for Richard by a further message that his brother John was again conspiring against him back in England, this time with supposed aid from Philip II. Richard was undoubtedly more disturbed by this news than when he was told of William Longchamp’s deposition, but he still informed his army that their next stop would be the city of Jerusalem, which they would, in turn, lay siege to. Though the crusader army began to march towards the holy city (for the second time), occupying several smaller towns along the way, Richard himself was not fully on board the enterprise and felt, once again, that it might be a better idea to embark on a campaign in Egypt. This difference in opinion between Richard and Duke Hugh of Burgundy, the man in charge of the remaining French troops, caused yet another rift within the Christian army. For the time being though, there was a more imminent threat.
Richard had received intelligence that there was a Muslim army marching out of Egypt that intended to reinforce and resupply Saladin’s forces at Jerusalem. In what must be described as a stroke of strategic brilliance, Richard marched south with his army, surprised the Egyptian forces and routed them, taking several hundred prisoners and several thousand horses and camels, in addition to large amounts of various other sorts of treasures. Saladin responded to this embarrassing defeat by spitefully destroying all of the cisterns and wells around Jerusalem so that the crusaders would have a harder time laying siege to the city. This, combined with the still-lingering factions within the Christian army, made a siege of Jerusalem highly unlikely to be successful. Knowing this, Richard and his fellow crusaders agreed to withdraw from the outskirts of the citadel (though some reluctantly). With a siege of Jerusalem now out of the question, Richard again took up peace negotiations with Saladin. But, when Richard refused the sultan’s request that he give up Ascalon, which could have been used as a springboard for future attacks against the Muslims, the talks broke down.
Richard then travelled to Acre where he contemplated laying siege to the city of Beirut, which would have further secured the Christian hold on the coast. Once he discovered what Richard’s intentions were, Saladin quickly marched to the Christian-held city of Jaffa, laid siege to it and, within days, was able to take the town (though not the citadel itself). Richard swiftly travelled south, via sea, and, in a highly dramatic scene, stormed the beach at Jaffa and chased the Muslim invaders away. Negotiations with Saladin were resumed, but the sultan still insisted on the crusaders giving up Ascalon, which was an automatic deal-breaker for Richard. In a bout of frustration, Saladin decided to launch a sneak attack against the Christian troops stationed outside the walls of Jaffa, only to find that the crusaders were ready for them. Fighting erupted and, in the end, Richard’s considerably smaller force handed that of Saladin yet another decisive defeat.
With this glorious victory at the Battle of Jaffa, one would believe that Richard would have been in the ultimate bargaining position when it came to peace talks with Saladin. This was indeed the case in the immediate aftermath of Jaffa. But, unfortunately, Saladin was soon after reinforced by a massive number of troops and began to close in on Jaffa, which had already been severely weakened by the previous Muslim assault. On top of this, Richard himself was suffering badly from an unknown illness and many in his camp feared he might die. Further still, the schemes of his brother John and King Philip were finally beginning to genuinely worry Richard, and he knew that he could not spend any more time away from home. Therefore, the English king made it known that he was willing to make peace with Saladin and that the surrender of Ascalon was now on the table. In the final treaty between the two armies, it was agreed that the crusaders would be allowed to keep such larger cities as Jaffa and Acre (as well as several smaller towns), but would be forced to surrender Ascalon and a number of other towns. Peace was to be kept for a minimum of three years and pilgrims of all religions were to be given safe passage throughout the kingdom of Jerusalem. The truce was not ideal for Richard but, given the circumstances, he cannot have asked for a better agreement.
In October 1192, Richard finally departed the Holy Land and began what was to be a very long journey home. All in all, the Third Crusade produced mixed results for the Christians. While Richard and his allies were able to conquer most of the towns along the Mediterranean coast, they were unable to bring the fight further inland and take Jerusalem. This, for many crusaders, meant that the entire campaign was a failure (though opinions, of course, varied greatly). If Richard had stuck to his original plan of prolonging the crusade until Easter of the following year, he may have been more successful. This can be assumed because, in March 1193, Saladin died, beginning a war of succession within his dominions. Richard and his fellow crusaders could very easily have used this disunity within the Muslim camp to their own advantage and made more progress in taking back Jerusalem and even more territory. How well the crusaders would have fared had they stayed past Saladin’s death is, of course, open to speculation, and will likely remain so.
Upon leaving the Holy Land, Richard was in a very precarious position. Both before and after he had arrived in Outremer (another name for the crusader states), Richard had made a number of powerful enemies. The two most powerful of these men were Philip II of France and Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Ever since he had departed the crusade to return home, Philip II had been thinking of what he could do to avenge himself on his English counterpart. The French king felt that he had not received his fair share of the power and glory that Richard had and was also not afraid to voice his dissatisfaction with the latter for his actions at Sicily and Cyprus (the latter of which Richard refused to share with Philip). It must also be remembered that Richard had shunned Philip’s sister Alice after being betrothed to her for over twenty years. Combine these matters with Philip’s general antipathy towards the English king, because of the fact that Richard’s continental territories were substantially larger than his own kingdom, and they will create a very bitter and vengeful man. When he returned home, Philip did his best to stir up trouble within Richard’s dominions. He considered invading Normandy, attempted to instigate the already-turbulent local lords of Aquitaine and pushed Richard’s brother John to openly rebel against his brother’s authority in England. All of this scheming though, at least for the time being, came to nothing. Philip did, however, succeed in forming an alliance with Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI.
Though Philip and Henry did not fully trust one another, they were united in their hatred towards the King of England. Henry’s reasons for being unhappy with Richard revolve around the latter’s alliance with King Tancred of Sicily, which deprived the emperor of winning the rich kingdom for himself in right of his wife Constance, the rightful heiress to the Sicilian throne. With the enmity of both these men, in addition to several minor lords who allied themselves with them for whatever reason, Richard had very few options as to where he could land that would get him safely back to his own lands. The king left his ship at the island of Corfu and continued his journey in a smaller vessel. Richard’s plan was to land somewhere in an inconspicuous fashion and travel in secret, with only a small following, through hostile territory and work his way back home. Unfortunately, Richard soon found himself shipwrecked within the confines of the Holy Roman Empire. Although the reports of the chroniclers of the time all vary as to the method of Richard’s subsequent capture, it is a known fact that he ultimately found himself in the custody of Archduke Leopold of Austria, a vassal of the emperor and a cousin of Conrad of Montferrat, a man whose murder Richard was widely rumored to have ordered. Additionally, Leopold had left the Third Crusade it a fit of anger when Richard refused to allow him to display his banner upon the walls of Acre (along with those of his own and Philip II) after it had been conquered. The Archduke also felt that, as the leading German prince taking part in the crusade, that he should have a share in the spoils acquired along the way. In this assumption he was also shunned by Richard. Judging by this evidence, Archduke Leopold was clearly one of the last men that Richard wanted to encounter in any way, let alone as his prisoner.
The king was promptly imprisoned at the castle of Durnstein to await his fate. It was ultimately decided that Richard’s person was to be sold and delivered to the Holy Roman Emperor. When Richard was brought before Henry VI, he was given a show trial where he was accused of several “crimes” within the Holy Land, with the murder of Conrad of Montferrat being at the top of the list. The king defended himself honorably against these accusations, and was looked at with admiration by the emperor (who gave Richard the kiss of peace and agreed to reconcile him and Philip II) but, when the price of his release was negotiated, it was steep and, as can be imagined, not in his – Richard’s – favor. Richard was to provide the emperor with a substantial cash payment, a large number of men and ships (for a proposed invasion of Sicily) and his niece Eleanor was to be betrothed to a son of Archduke Leopold (with part of the cash payment acting as a “dowry” for Eleanor). Unfortunately, Richard had no choice but to agree to these demands and his mother Eleanor and others set about levying taxes from the king’s subjects and collecting hostages who were to stand in for the king until the full amount of the “ransom” money was paid. While all of these negotiations and preparations were occurring, further schemes were being launched against the captive king.
Prince John and King Philip had already met in Paris and it was agreed that that Philip would support John in his quest to become the new head of the Angevin empire (with the French king knowing full well that he would be able to manipulate this much weaker man more so than King Richard). Additionally, John was to marry Philip’s sister Alice and return the Norman Vexin (which had been granted to the Angevins by Louis VII years earlier as Alice’s dowry for her marriage to Richard) to French control. John then returned to England to stir up further trouble. But, despite his constant declarations that his brother was dead, and the fact that he was able to seize several castles, most of the most powerful people within the kingdom stuck by King Richard (including Eleanor of Aquitaine) and John’s rebellion was put down easily enough. On the continent, however, Philip swept into the Norman Vexin and conquered most of it. He then marched straight to Rouen, Normandy’s capital, and laid siege to it. The siege did not go well for Philip, and he was ultimately forced to retreat, but he was able to seize several other Norman castles and prove that lands within Richard’s vast empire were far from secure.
Richard and his allies did their best to speed up the final settlement for his release, all while keeping Henry VI content and preventing him from forming a contrary alliance with King Philip. In an attempt to make peace with John, Richard awarded him with several castles in Normandy. But, when the castellans refused to allow John entry, he once again turned to Philip II for assistance, this time offering him substantial portions of the Angevin empire (primarily within Normandy and Touraine) in return for his support, a move that bordered on treason. Philip and John then attempted to woo the emperor to their cause by offering him monthly cash payments to continue to hold Richard. Henry was tempted by these solicitations and, although he did not buy into them, they did give him further bargaining power over Richard in the negotiations for his release. The emperor now demanded that Richard acknowledge him as his overlord for England and that he pay him the required homage fee that went along with the position. This was by no means an ideal situation for Richard, considering the fact that he was already a vassal of King Philip for Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine, but he had little choice in the matter and readily agreed to the deal. With the terms of his release finalized, and with the emperor receiving hostages and a cash down payment, Richard was freed in February 1194 after over a year of captivity.
Knowing of Richard’s pending release, King Philip decided to launch raids in Normandy. Apparently, in his own mind, the French king believed that the previous agreement he had made with King John, where large chunks of the Angevin empire were succeeded to him (with no real authority behind the move), was still valid, despite the fact that Richard was now being released. Whatever Philip’s logic on the matter was, his strategy worked and he succeeded in conquering much of eastern Normandy. For the time being, Richard was in no position to stop his nemesis and, about a month after he was released, he returned to England for the first time in over four years.
When Richard arrived back in England, there were still two castles, Tickhill and Nottingham, that held out in John’s name. Tickhill surrendered easily enough but Nottingham was still skeptical that Richard was alive and did not want to risk betraying John, who could very well be their next king. The king himself took part in the siege that followed and, once the men of the castle realized who they were dealing with, they capitulated. With these minor rebellions quashed, Richard concentrated on a number of necessary administrative tasks, which included: Punishing his brother John and his followers for their rebellious actions; Appointing new men to various governmental positions; Meeting with King William of Scotland; and, most importantly, gathering men and money for his impending voyage back to the continent. Once these tasks were accomplished, Richard, after spending less than two months back in England, departed for Normandy to win back his lands. He was never to see his island kingdom again. This time, the king left the country in the hands of Archbishop Hubert Walter of Canterbury, a man of considerable abilities and who is believed by many historians to be one of most powerful and capable men of church and state in England’s history.
In the short span of time between Richard’s release from captivity and when he travelled back to the continent from England, Philip II had achieved a great deal against his rival king. Not only had the French king succeeded in conquering large parts of Normandy and Touraine (including the entirety of the Norman Vexin), he had also stirred a number of powerful lords within Richard’s duchy of Aquitaine (a task that was far from difficult, making it astonishing that the English king did not face more significant problems in the region up to this point). In order to keep the loyalty of one of his most important allies, Prince John, Philip had awarded him with several castles within the land he had conquered. This strategy, however, was ineffective, for shortly after Richard’s arrival on the continent, John deserted Philip and begged his brother’s forgiveness. In a spurt of generosity, Richard forgave his younger brother and punished him only with the seizure of a number of his lands.
Meanwhile, Philip was, for the second time, in the process of laying siege to the major fortress of Verneuil (he had previously attempted to take the fortress just after his unsuccessful siege of Rouen), and was coming very close to capturing the city. He was distracted, however, by John, who took the town of Evreux (ironically one of the towns that Philip had awarded to John in an attempt to keep him loyal) and held it in Richard’s name. Philip immediately departed the siege and sacked Evreux but, to his misfortune, his army left Verneuil, allowing Richard to march into the town unopposed. The English king kept up the pressure and took back castle after castle, re-conquering all of Touraine in the process. Richard’s next priority was to march into Aquitaine and deal with the rebels there. As he marched south, Richard was shadowed by Philip’s army. Unfortunately for the French, Richard was well aware of their strategy and he was able to chase them away near Freteval. Philip II was able to escape but much of the treasure and supplies his army had been carrying were taken by the English. After this embarrassing defeat, Philip had no choice but to retreat north and Richard was free to subdue the rebel lords in Aquitaine, which he was quickly able to do.
Richard was undoubtedly pleased with the progress that he was making, but there was still much work to do done, particularly in Normandy. Even after his cowardly (yet essential) retreat north, Philip was able to prove that he was no spent force by routing an army, led by Prince John, which was in the process of besieging the castle of Vaudreuil. By this point, both sides were beginning to feel the physical and financial strain of constant warfare. Therefore, in July 1194, representatives from Richard and Philip agreed to the Truce of Tillieres, which was to last until November of the following year. Under the terms of the agreement both sides were to maintain control of the lands that they currently held, meaning that, for the time being, Philip was to retain control of large portions of Richard’s territories in Normandy. For this reason, the truce was an uneasy one and when, in the following summer, Philip heard rumors (quite possibly unsubstantiated) that Richard was planning on forming an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor against him, open war seemed on the verge of renewal. Philip assured this when he invited Richard to a staged meeting, claiming that he was interested in agreeing to a more lengthy peace treaty. While this “peace conference” was going on, Philip’s men were in the process of destroying the castle of Vaudreuil. Once Richard realized that he had been duped, he was, understandably, infuriated, but was unable to take out his anger on Philip, who had stormed away in the confusion. With the peace soundly broken, a period of confused warfare broke out with both sides reporting gains and losses.
There were occasions where talks of peace arose and niceties were exchanged (Richard returned Philip’s sister Alice to his custody and Philip absolved Richard of the murder of Conrad of Montferrat), but no real progress was made. Philip, however, made a grave mistake when he attempted to lay siege to the castle of Issoudun (within the disputed county of Berry). Richard swiftly came to the castle’s aid and Philip, outnumbered, had no choice but to surrender. As the main stipulation in the resulting Peace of Louviers, Philip was forced to return all of the parts of Normandy that he had previously conquered (excepting the Vexin and several other scattered castles).
With peace achieved for the moment, Richard decided to concentrate his attentions on another disputed territory: Brittany. Brittany was under the control of Richard’s nephew (and supposed heir) Arthur, a boy of only nine, and the latter’s mother Constance, the widow of the king’s deceased brother Geoffrey. Richard wanted to be recognized as the duchy’s overlord (just as his father had been), and therefore invited Constance to his court so that he may cajole her into accepting him as such. But, Constance was kidnapped by her own husband, the Earl of Chester, along the way and the duchess held Richard responsible. Duke Arthur was then put into the custody of King Philip, which automatically renewed hostilities between the latter and Richard. The two kings then set back to trading gains and losses, with Philip seizing Aumale and Richard taking (and then losing) the castle of Nonancourt. One significant gain on the English side though, was the fortress of Gamaches (in the heavily disputed Norman Vexin), which was taken by Prince John. It would be this area that Richard would seek to set his attentions on next.
In order to achieve his goal of taking from Philip the final two regions which he believed were rightfully his (the Norman Vexin and the county of Berry), King Richard employed a two-pronged strategy which revolved around the building of castles and the winning over of new political allies. The first part of this strategy, castle building, was achieved primarily by the building of Richard’s grand fortress in Normandy: Chateau-Gaillard. Not only was this castle to serve as the main defender against attacks on Normandy, but it was to be one of King Richard’s favorite residences for the remainder of his life. Construction was begun on the castle in late 1196 after Richard obtained the land from Archbishop Walter of Rouen. The archbishop originally did not want to give up the land (located on the river Seine) because it had become very profitable to him after he set up a toll booth at the river. After an appeal to the Pope, an agreement was reached and Richard happily compensated the archbishop with other lands. Construction of the castle was remarkably fast for a time before heavy machinery and it is believed that Richard himself supervised much of the work. By the summer of 1198, the king’s masterpiece was complete.
The creation of Chateau-Gaillard, which would remain a major Norman castle until its destruction near the end of the sixteenth century, was undoubtedly a substantial achievement for Richard, but it was nothing compared to some of the alliances he would make during the time of the castle’s construction. By the middle of 1198, Richard could boast of siphoning three powerful lords (as well as a number of lesser barons) from their previous allegiances to King Philip. These men were Counts Raymond VI of Toulouse; Baldwin IX of Flanders; and Renaud of Boulogne. All three counts stood to profit (literally and figuratively) from breaking their allegiance to the French king and joining forces with Richard. Count Raymond of Toulouse, for example, wanted nothing more than to engage in a smooth and trouble free wine trade with the city of Bordeaux, located within the confines of Richard’s duchy of Aquitaine. Richard agreed to drop all claims to the county of Toulouse (which had, for some time now, been considered by the Dukes of Aquitaine to be a fief under their control), including those of the disputed area of the Quercy. In the case of Count Baldwin of Flanders, Richard was able to prevail (after previously raiding the his lands) by convincing the count that Philip had betrayed him by seizing Artois (an area that was supposed to be a major part of the inheritance of the Counts of Flanders). This was undoubtedly a fact and it is highly possible that Baldwin had been planning for some time to turn on the French king. Additionally, an end to the trade embargo (which had been going on for several years now) was another benefit that came with an Anglo-Flemish alliance and the countries resumed the profitable wool trade that enriched them so greatly. Count Renaud’s reasons for defecting from Philip are not as clear, but they undoubtedly revolved around money.
Through these alliances (on top of the election of his nephew Otto’s election as King of Germany), Richard now had King Philip in a highly tenuous position. In the summer of 1197, Baldwin launched an attack on Artois. While Philip went to deal with this problem, Richard succeeded in conquering parts of Berry and the Norman Vexin. A truce was made shortly after, but war resumed in September 1198 when Baldwin and Richard again launched respective attacks on Artois and the Vexin, where the latter was successful in conquering further towns. Philip marched into the Vexin with a large force, but was surprised by Richard’s army (which seems to have expected their arrival). The French were forced to engage in yet another cowardly retreat and Philip himself was nearly drowned in the river Epte (where a number of knights died) on his way to Gisors, the last major French stronghold in the Vexin. After this humiliating defeat at the Battle of Gisors, Philip had no choice but to sue for peace on Richard’s terms. Philip requested that he keep the castle of Gisors, with Richard holding the rest of the Norman Vexin, a suggestion that was promptly rejected, resulting in a temporary truce. Peace talks were resumed in January 1199 and a five-year truce was agreed to, but it was never properly ratified.
Talks continued between the two kings during the opening months of 1199 and, although a definitive agreement was never made, both sides agreed to keep the peace for the time being. With the war with Philip now in a lull, Richard decided to focus his attentions on some of the smaller rebellions that were occurring in Aquitaine, one of which was being conducted by one of the English king’s oldest enemies, Viscount Aimer of Limoges (who was almost certainly acting with King Philip’s blessing). The fact that it was lent did not prevent Richard from ravaging his enemy’s lands until he came to the small castle of Chalus-Chabrol, in the Limousin, and laid siege to it. Certain chroniclers at the time claim that there was some sort of hidden treasure at the castle and that Richard had gone to retrieve it, but these rumors are completely unsubstantiated and it must be assumed that the king’s intentions were primarily to bring his rebellious vassal to heel. Whatever his reasons may have been for besieging this insignificant fortress, Richard had no idea whatsoever as to what lay in store for him.
As the king surveyed the progress of the siege one evening (foolishly, without his full armor on), a man with a crossbow occasionally fired arrows in his direction. Considering the fact that the man was using a frying pan as a shield, Richard did not take him seriously and even applauded him for being so brave as to fire in his vicinity. Unfortunately, one of the arrows struck the king in the shoulder, forcing him to retreat into his tent to have it tended to. Although the wound did not appear fatal at first, the surgeon did not handle the arrow’s removal well and ended up doing more harm than good. Over the following days, the wound became infected and developed gangrene. It was now crystal clear that Richard’s days were numbered. The king summoned his beloved mother Eleanor to his side and, as a last sign of good will before he departed the world, forgave the man who had fired the arrow that killed him (though the man would be brutally executed as soon as Richard died anyway). On April 6, 1199, Richard the lionheart died at the age of forty-one after a reign of just nine years. He was succeeded as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou by his brother John, whom Richard had, supposedly, named as his official heir while on his deathbed.
Assessment and Analysis
For hundreds of years, English historians have attempted to pass definitive judgment on Richard the lionheart. Was he a good and just king, or just a rash and fickle adventurer who cared nothing for governing his own lands? The question is a complex one which becomes even more difficult to answer by the fact that Richard reigned for just nine years. If he would have lived at least until the age his father had lived to, history may have a very different view of King Richard.
Firstly, it must be stated that Richard’s courage and leadership abilities were never in doubt. Though he was not able to conquer the city of Jerusalem during his journey to the Holy Land, the progress he made, and with only nominal aid, was quite the accomplishment. Richard will always be remembered as the brave crusader, who won the Battles of Arsuf and Jaffa and gave the great Saladin a run for his money. Even after the crusade, Richard was able to compete against one of the greatest French rulers of his time, Philip Augustus, and was on the verge of defeating his fellow monarch at the time of his premature death.
The question then becomes: Do military escapades and successes make a good king? While it would be a task to find a historian that believes that Richard was not a successful general, there are an abundance of those who believe he was a neglectful ruler. After all, during his nine-year reign, he only spent about six months in England. Even his time spent in his continental territories of Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine was short and was mainly occupied with putting down rebellions. Like his father, Richard had a good amount of success in keeping these regions under control and in dealing with constant attacks by the French king. But, to the naked eye, it seems as if he did very little leading outside of the battlefield.
In the king’s defense though, in the few times when he actually did take part in administrative duties, he seems to have gained somewhat of a reputation for being a wise and just leader and a competent administrator. Richard was a master at bringing in revenues and did not do so simply by taxing his subjects into oblivion. While it is true that a large portion of the money used for Richard’s crusade to the Holy Land and for the war with France when he returned came from the pockets of his common subjects, the king’s strategy of selling offices and crown lands to some his wealthier and more affluent lords created a situation where everyone was satisfied in the end. Richard also seemed to have a knack for choosing able men to fill his shoes in his absence. It is nothing short of astonishing that volatile areas within Aquitaine, or even Normandy and Anjou, were kept under relative control during the king’s crusade and captivity. It was only when rumors started flying about that Richard was dead that his subjects began to show any sort of restlessness. In England, while it is true that John was able to depose chancellor Longchamp, it must be remembered that, if Richard were to die in the Holy Land, or never be released from his captivity, John would be his most likely successor, and many people within England were anxious to stay on his good side, even if they did not particularly care for him. When he departed England for the second and final time during his reign, he left the kingdom in the care of Archbishop Walter, a much more capable man.
Despite his long absences and his seeming negligence towards his subjects, Richard was a man who commanded respect and loyalty, just as his father had done before him and in direct opposition to his brother John after him. The question that inevitably follows is: Why was King Richard able to command such loyalty and respect? After all, he did have a deceitful and ruthless side, shown by the fact that he had twice betrayed his father, had slaughtered two thousand Muslim captives and had at least been accused of some heinous crimes while he ruled as Duke of Aquitaine. But, Richard seemed to know when to be cruel and when to be merciful. He seemed to be able to combine deceit and ruthlessness with honor and mercy. The king, on several occasions, had his opponents down and out and decided to show an unprecedented display of leniency for the time. Whether it was Tancred of Sicily, Conrad of Montferrat, Saladin or his own brother John, Richard made the choice to compromise and come to an agreement rather than to crush these ambitious men. When, over three hundred years later, Machiavelli wrote that leaders should be both loved and feared by their people, Richard was undoubtedly the type of man he had in mind.
All in all though, Richard’s relatively short tenure as King of England revolves around a series of ironies. It is ironic that, despite the fact that he spent only six months within his island kingdom, he is revered as one of the greatest English kings of all time. This irony is brought to the next level by the fact that, although he was born in Oxford, Richard spoke very little English and knew very little about English culture. It is also ironic that, despite the fact that he did not achieve his goal of bringing the city of Jerusalem back to the Christians, he is considered one of the greatest crusaders of all time. But, in the end, the most ironic aspect of the life of Richard the lionheart was, indeed, his death. After crushing the great Saladin at Arsuf and Jaffa, after repelling the crafty Philip Augustus and winning back much of the land that had been taken from him, the brave crusader, the great lion-hearted King of England met his end via an arrow strike, shot by a mere civilian using a frying pan as a shield, while laying siege to the minor and insignificant castle of a petty, upstart baron. This, one may say, is not the way for a great man to die. Yet, this is exactly how Richard the lionheart met his maker.
John Gillingham, Richard I