Richard I

(Richard I of England, Richard the Lionhearted)


Richard the First is one of the most romantic and popular English kings, although he spent very little time in England, sacrificed the interests of England in favor of his own personal military pursuits, and ruled for less than ten years. This is because his career was a series of mostly successful military exploits, which, although they were of no particular strategic importance to England, greatly entertained the populace, and fired their romantic imagination. A great number of heroic deeds were personally attributed to him, his crusading adventures were perceived as piety, his escapades in France were thought to have advanced English interests, and even his imprisonment and subsequent ransom did not deter his popularity.

Richard I
Richard was the third son, born of the stormy marriage between Henry II Plantagenet, and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry was ruler of Normandy as well as England, while Eleanor was heir to Aquitaine, a large region in western France, so the combined Angevin empire consisted of a large portion of France as well as England. He was his mothers favorite, and spent his early life as Duke of Aquitaine, where he joined with his brothers in several civil wars against his father. During these wars, both of his elder brothers were killed and so Richard unexpectedly became heir to the entire Angevin empire, and made peace with his father. Richard's relationship with Philip II Augustus, the scheming king of France was strained from an early time, since there were considerable regions of dispute between the French and Avgevin kingdoms.

Richard came to the throne in 1189 on the death of his father, and was deterred from warring with Philip Augustus only due to a pledge that both kings had made to join the third crusade. He spent his first year as king raising money for the crusade, by selling government offices to the highest bidder and other like schemes, before embarking, by boat, to the Mediterranean. His adventures began well before he reached the Holy Land however. Stopping in Sicily, he assailed Messina in order to force Tancred I of Sicily to restore the fortunes of his sister Joan. He then conquered the island of Cyprus and set it up as a base for the Crusaders, and married a beautiful princess Berengaria of Navarre. Eventually Richard arrived triumphantly at the siege of Acre, and shortly after the town fell to the Christians.

Philip Augustus arrived in the region shortly after Richard I, and the conflict between them immediately became open, and Philip returned to France after only a short stay. After the fall of Acre, Richard led another important victory at Arsouf, but failed to take Jerusalem. The problem, as he saw it, was not that the city could not be taken, but that it could not be held, given the overwhelming superiority in numbers of the Saracens. Richard was additionally concerned that Philip Augustus would start trouble in France in his absence, so he began to try to figure out how he could return to his dominions without appearing to desert the cause. He formed a friendship of sorts with Saladin, the chivalrous leader of the Saracens, and at one point attempted to contract a marriage between his sister and a Saracen prince, but the idea was shot down by clerics from both camps. At any rate the two agreed to a truce, and Richard left the holy land after only sixteen months.

Richards journey home however, was beset by problems. He was shipwrecked and had to return home by land across his enemies' territories. Although he traveled in disguise, he wad found out an imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being ransomed. He returned to England only briefly and spent the final four years of his life campaigning in France, where he was killed while besieging a French castle.

Key events during the life of Richard Coeur de Lion:

Birth of Richard I, as third son of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Installed as Duke of Aquitaine
Joined with his elder brothers in rebellion against his father.
Death of Prince Henry; Richard become heir apparent to the throne of England.
Death of Henry II; Richard ascends to the throne.
Richard raises money for a crusade
Conquered Cyprus en route to the Holy Land
Arrived in Acre and brought siege to a close
Christian victory at Arsouf over the Saracens
Embarked from Palestine on return to his dominions; shipwrecked
Captured and imprisoned by his enemy, Duke Leopold of Austria.
Richard ransomed and returned to England.
Returned to France to fight Philip Augustus for dominions in France
Died in battle, besieging a castle in France.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
King Richard and Blondel  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Richard the Lion-Heart  in  Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary  by  Cambridge Press
Siege of Acre  in  The Crusaders  by  Alfred J. Church
How King Richard Parleyed with Saladin  in  The Crusaders  by  Alfred J. Church
King Richard's Crusade  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
The Meeting of Richard and Saladin  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
Henry the Second and His Sons  in  Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  John H. Haaren
Richard the Lion-Hearted and the Crusades  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Later Crusades  in  The Story of the Middle Ages  by  Samuel B. Harding
How the Kings Fought for Glory and not for Christ in  Stories from the Crusades  by  Janet Harvey Kelman
Richard the Crusader  in  Barbarian and Noble  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Richard the Lion-Hearted  in  Heroes Every Child Should Know  by  H. W. Mabie
Arthur, Prince of Normandy, Disappears  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Story of Richard Coeur de Lion  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Captivity of Richard Coeur de Lion  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris
Third Crusade  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
Richard the Lion-Hearted Leads the Third Crusade  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Story of the Third Crusade  in  The Story of the Crusades  by  by E. M. Wilmot-Butxton

Book Links
Richard I  by  Jacob Abbott

Image Links

Portrait of Richard I
 in Richard I

Richard Coeur de Lion
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

Statue of King Richard I at Westminster
 in Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary

Richard Coeur de Lion assailed by a troop of Turkish horsemen
 in The Crusaders

The fleet of Richard Coeur de Lion attacking a great Turkish ship
 in The Crusaders

Richard in Prison; and Richard Wounded
 in Stories from English History

Statue of Richard Coeur de Lion
 in  The Story of the English

Richard Coeur de Lion and Saladin, ruler of the faithful, entering Jerusalem
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Wherever the battle was hottest, Richard seemed to spring from the ground
 in Stories from the Crusades

Richard Coeur de Lion
 in Barbarian and Noble

Richard leaves the Holy Land
 in Barbarian and Noble

Richard went away to Palestine.
 in Our Island Story

Statue of Richard Coeur de Lion
 in Historical Tales: English

Richard Coeur de Lion
 in European Hero Stories

Short Biography
Henry II Reclaimed kingdoms in England and Normandy after chaotic reign of Stephen. Founded Plantagenet dynasty.
Eleanor of Aquitaine Wife of Henry II, queen of Aquitaine. Led dramatic, adventurous life.
John I Wicked king, murdered his nephew and usurped throne. Forced to sign the Magna Carta.
Blondel Renowned English poet whom legend says helped rescue Richard from imprisonment in Germany.
Saladin Moslem leader who recaptured most Crusader cities including Jerusalem.
Philip II Augustus King of France who expanded his realm by retaking Normandy and Anjou from the Plantagenets.
Duke Leopold Enemy of Richard I, who imprisoned him on his return from the Holy Lands.
Tancred I of Sicily Usurper of the throne of Sicily who siezed lands from Richard I's sister Joan.