Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

Richard the Lion-Heart and his Brave Deeds

This story is about king Richard the First, one of the bravest of our kings. He was a big, golden-haired, handsome man, and as he was very brave, he was called Richard the Lion-Heart.

When he came to the throne, he made up his mind to go to the Holy Land to fight against the Turks. These people had taken the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had died and had been buried. For many years past, pilgrims had traŽvelled from all parts of Europe, to worship and pray at the Holy City.

But the Turks hated Christians, and would not let them visit the Holy Places; so, many of the bravest kings and princes of western Europe started the crusades or wars of the Cross. They were so called because everyone taking part in them wore a cross on his arm or breast.

Richard I


Richard and the king of France met together, and with a fine army of 100,000 men set out to capture the Holy City. On their way they stopped and took the strong town of Acre.

As Richard had done most of the fighting, he planted his flag on the wall of the captured town. So did another crusader, the duke of Austria, who set up his flag close to that of king Richard. The Lion-Heart thought the duke very forward in doing this, and in a great temper he tore down the Austrian flag. The duke did not forget this insult as we shall see later.

From Acre, the soldiers of the Cross went on, taking strong towns, and fighting fierce battles. Everyone was talking of the wonderful deeds of the Lion-Hearted king. It is said that no one but himself could lift his great battle-axe. The sight of this great warrior, mounted on his powerful war horse, was quite enough to make the Turks flee.

Richard in third crusade


In spite of all this, Richard was not able to take Jerusalem. The king of France and other princes were jealous of our king, and returned to their own lands, leaving him with only a small army. The Lion-Heart was now only a few miles from Jerusalem; but, to his great sorrow, he had to make peace with the leader of the Turks.

When Richard found that he could not take Jerusalem, he would not even look at it, but hid his face in his cloak. Soon, we find him, with what was left of his army, returning by sea to England.

On the way, a great storm wrecked many of his ships. So the king resolved to set out on foot; but, unluckily for him, he had to pass through the lands of the duke of Austria. Now, Richard felt quite sure that, if the duke knew he was passing through his country, he would try to take him prisoner.

So, instead of travelling like a king, he dressed himself as a merchant, and took with him only a little boy. One day the king and his little page were passing through a small town. Richard stopped to rest at an inn, and sent the boy into the market place to buy some food. Now the lad was carrying a very fine purse, and in his belt there were some very costly gloves.

Several people noticed this, and thought that his master must be of very high rank. The news soon reached the ears of the duke of Austria, who felt quite sure that the boy's master must be his old enemy, the famous king Richard.

So he sent some soldiers to the place where the king was staying, and took him prisoner. Richard was now shut up in a strong castle, and for a long time his friends in England did not know where he was. Very likely many of them thought he was dead.

There is a pretty story telling how the king was found. Years before, Richard had been very fond of a minstrel named Blondel, who now resolved to find out what had become of the Lion-Hearted king. So, harp in hand, he travelled about from castle to castle. He stopped at every one, and sang some of the songs his master loved.

One day, after singing the first verse of a song, he was delighted to hear a voice, inside the castle, singing the second verse. He felt quite sure that this must be the king, and, full of joy, he returned to England with the good news.

Everyone in our country was very angry to think that the bravest warrior of the day should have been treated thus. But, for all that, a great sum of money had to be paid before Richard was set free.

In a short time the king was able to return to his native land; but, a few years afterwards, he was killed while trying to take a castle in France. We are told that, on his death bed, he freely forgave the archer who shot him.

Thus died Richard the Lion-Heart, who, although not a great king, was a fine model of a brave, true-hearted knight.