Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Richard and the Saracens

Richard left Cyprus as soon as he had married Berengaria, and sailed on to Acre, a stronghold on the coast of Palestine which the crusaders had vainly besieged for two years. There he was warmly welcomed by the Christian host; but he was so much braver than any of the other princes that they soon grew jealous of him.

Although the city of Acre was very strongly fortified, Richard made such daring attacks upon it that the inhabitants finally promised to surrender in forty days and to give back the cross to the Christians. But, hearing that their famous chief Saladin had come with an army, and that he had hemmed in the Christians around the city, the people of Acre did not keep their word. When the forty days were over, and Richard saw that they had deceived him, he ordered the heads of three thousand Saracen prisoners to be struck off in the presence of their friends on the city walls.

When Saladin heard this, he had as many Christian captives slain, and the war was renewed more furiously than ever. Richard was very brave, but he was neither humane nor gentle, and he soon quarrelled with the King of France and the Duke of Austria. Although they remained with him, these two princes secretly hated him, and tried to hinder him in every way.

For months the fighting went on, and as Richard was always in the thickest of the fight, his name became the terror of the country. Saracen mothers used to threaten naughty children by saying, "Look out; King Richard will catch you; "and when a horse shied, the Saracen warrior would cry, "Dost think King Richard is behind yon bush?"

The Saracens, however, were worthy foes for the Christian knights; and their leader Saladin was just as brave, just as generous, and just as cruel, at times, as the famous Richard himself. We are told that these two leaders once had an interview, in which each showed his skill in handling the sword. While Richard cut a huge bar of iron in two with one mighty stroke, Saladin deftly divided a down and silk pillow and a floating veil of gauzy tissue, which were equally difficult feats.

Once, during the war, Richard fell seriously ill with fever. When Saladin heard that his enemy was sick, he made a truce; and as long as the disease lasted, he daily sent Richard fresh fruit, and ice and snow which were brought down from the top of Mount Lebanon.

The Christians, however, were in the meantime sorely afraid of the Saracens, for the latter had the aid of the chief of the Assassin tribe, called "the Old Man of the Mountain." The subjects of this chief were so devoted to him that they would obey him blindly, and he trained a number of the youngest and strongest among them to go among the Christians and suddenly stab them with poisoned daggers. Because these Assassins never appeared among the Christians except to commit murder thus, their name has become a common term for one who treacherously kills a fellow-being.

Acre was finally taken by the Christians, who now began to quarrel among themselves about the naming of a king for Jerusalem, which they hoped soon to win also. Richard sided with one party, the French king and the Duke of Austria with another. The man chosen by the latter party was murdered by one of the Assassins, but they accused Richard of having had a share in the crime.

The French king, angry and jealous because Richard was reaping all the honours, prepared to return home. Before he left the crusaders he solemnly promised not to make any attempt to take Richard's lands or to do him any harm during his absence. But as soon as he arrived in Rome, he began to complain about Richard to the pope. The pope, however, would not listen to any of Philip's accusations, for he knew that without Richard the crusaders would soon have to give up all hope of taking Jerusalem.

Richard, in the meantime, had won a brilliant victory over the Saracens at Arsuf, where many of the forty thousand slain fell by his powerful hand. He next wished to march on to Jerusalem; but his soldiers were weary of fighting, and refused to go farther.

Richard therefore retreated to Ascalon, where he helped the Christians rebuild their fortifications, carrying stone and mortar with his own hands. This conduct was viewed with scorn by the Duke of Austria, who insolently remarked that his father had not been a bricklayer. Some historians say that it was this remark which caused a final breach between the leaders, and report that Richard resented it by kicking the lazy and impudent duke. Others say that it was a dispute about a flag. However this may be, Leopold of Austria left the army soon after this, and went home, vowing he would be revenged some day.