Heritage > Rulers

Richard I, 1189-1199

Richard the Lionheart, perhaps the most famous warrior King of England was blessed with the physical prowess, skill and charisma necessary to enable him to indulge successfully in his obession with war. This tall, athletic man adept in the knightly arts of the day also had an interest in poetry but spoke little English. he has been described as an absentee King who only seems to have spent around six months in England during his whole reign. Much of his first year as King was spent raising funds to pay for the third crusade which lasted from 1189-1192.

In 1191 he led a successful campaign with Philip of France and Leopold of Austria and captured the city of Acre in Palestine. Richard then quarrelled with Philip and Leopold, who returned home and left him in command of the crusading army. Inspired by his earlier victory Richard decided to march on Jerusalem. Saladin the famous Moslem leader, attacked Richard's army at Arsouf near Jaffa. The crusaders were prepared for battle and resisted the enemy ambush without breaking ranks. Then Richard ordered charge after charge by his knights slaughtering the Moslems. Richard could be a very cruel man, for example all prisoners taken during the siege of Acre were mercilessly killed. Richard failed to win Jerusalem, instead he signed a truce with Saladin in 1192 which allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the city in safety. In Richard's absence his brother John, who jealously coveted the throne, was effectively ruling England with the backing of several barons. These were harsh times for the poor who were often treated like slaves.

The Second Great Seal of Richard I
On his way back from the Holy Land Richard was captured by Leopold of Austria who handed him over to Henry VI of Germany. He was held for over a year until a large ransom could be raised in England to secure his release. England had to pay £100,000 for his ransom ( a similar figure in modern day money would perhaps reach £12 million ). £100,000 was a third of the Gross National Product. Special taxes had to be collected from the people of the country, and this took over a year. In 1194 Richard paid a brief visit to England but his thirst for war drew him overseas again.

In his absence the country was run efficiently by Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Whilst fighting in France he met his death from an arrow during the siege of the castle of Chalus. Legend has it that Richard pardoned the young archer who fired the fatal shot. But after he died from the wound, the poor man was flayed alive under instructions from Richard's mother. Richard lies with his father at Fontevroult Abbey, Anjou.

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