Richard I of England

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History 1500 and before (including Roman Britain); Monarchs of Great Britain

Richard I
By the Grace of God, King of the English, Duke of the Normans and Aquitanians, Count of the Angevins
Image:Richard coeurdelion g.jpg
Reign 6 July 1189 – 6 April 1199
Coronation 3 September 1189
Born 8 September 1157
Birthplace Beaumont Palace, Oxford
Died April 6, 1199 (aged 41)
Place of death Châlus, in Limousin
Buried Fontevraud Abbey, Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, France
Predecessor Henry II
Successor John
Consort Berengaria of Navarre
(c. 1165/ 1170 – 1230)
Issue Died without legitimate posterity
Royal House Plantagenet
Father Henry II ( 1133– 1189)
Mother Eleanor of Aquitaine ( 1124– 1204)

Richard I ( 8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 1189 to 1199. In his own time, the troubadour Bertran de Born called him Òc-e-Non ('Yes-and-No'), while some later writers referred to him as Richard the Lionheart, or Cœur de Leon. Richard spent more years of his reign away from his kingdom, since the greater part of his domain was in France. He also took part in the Third Crusade, with campaigns in Sicily and Cyprus on the way, and afterwards a period under arrest by Leopold V of Austria.


The third legitimate son of King Henry II of England, Richard was never expected to ascend the throne. He is often depicted as having been the favourite son of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Richard was a younger maternal half-brother of Marie de Champagne and Alix of France. He was a younger brother of William, Count of Poitiers, Henry the Young King and Matilda of England. He was also an older brother of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, Leonora of England, Joan Plantagenet and John, Count of Mortain (who succeeded him as king).


Although born at Beaumont Palace, Oxford, England, like most of the Royal Family at the time he was essentially French. When his parents effectively separated, he remained with Eleanor, and was invested with her duchy of Aquitaine in 1168, and county of Poitiers in 1172. Meanwhile, his eldest surviving brother, Henry the Young King, was simultaneously crowned as his father's successor.

Richard was an educated man. He was a man who who composed poetry. He wrote them in French and Occitan, he was said to be very attractive; his hair between red and blond, light-eyed, with a pale complexion. He was apparently of above average height, but since his bones have been lost since at least the French Revolution, his exact height is unknown. By the end of his life, he was somewhat overweight. From an early age he appeared to have significant political and military abilities, became noted for his chivalry and courage, and fought hard to control the rebellious nobles of his own territory. Like his brothers, Richard frequently challenged his father's authority, and his sense of responsibility was open to question.

Eleanor's alleged favouritism of Richard was claimed by Matthew Paris to have been predicted by Merlin: "The eagle of the broken covenant shall rejoice in [Eleanor]'s third nesting." Paris only counted Eleanor's male children in these "nestings", ignoring Richard's older sisters Marie and Alix de France, and Matilda of England.

Revolt against Henry II

In 1170, his elder brother Henry the Young King was crowned king of England as Henry III. Historians know him as Henry "the Young King" so as not to confuse him with the later king of the same name who was his nephew. In 1173, Richard joined his brothers, Henry and Geoffrey, in a revolt against their father. They were planning to dethrone their father and leave the Young King as the only king of England. In the revolt that followed, only Normandy remained faithful to Henry II at first; by August, however, Henry had largely crushed the rebellion in his own lands, and moved on to invade Poitou and Aquitaine, domains of Richard's mother, Eleanor, who was captured and imprisoned towards the end of the year by her husband. At the age of seventeen, Richard was the last of the brothers to hold out against Henry; though, in the end, he refused to fight him face to face and humbly begged his pardon. In 1174, after the end of the failed revolt, Richard gave a new oath of subservience to his father.

English Royalty
House of Plantagenet

Armorial of Plantagenet
Henry II
    William, Count of Poitiers
    Henry, Count of Anjou
   Richard I the Lionheart
    Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany
    Matilda, Duchess of Saxony
    Leonora, Queen of Castile
    Joan, Queen of Sicily
Richard I

Though placated by titles such as Count of Poitou, Richard wanted more. Henry seemed unwilling to entrust any of his sons with resources that could be used against him, for obvious reasons. Second, it was suspected that Henry had appropriated Princess Alys Richard's betrothed, the daughter of Louis VII of France by his second wife, as his mistress. This made a marriage between Richard and Alys technically impossible in the eyes of the church, but Henry prevaricated: Alys's dowry, the Vexin, was valuable. Richard himself was discouraged from renouncing Alys because she was the sister of King Philip II of France, a close ally.

After his failure to overthrow his father, Richard concentrated on putting down internal revolts by the nobles of Aquitaine, especially the territory of Gascony. The increasing cruelty of his reign led to a major revolt there in 1179. The rebels hoped to dethrone Richard and asked his brothers Henry and Geoffrey to help them succeed. The turning point came in the Charente Valley in spring 1179. The fortress of Taillebourg was extremely well defended and considered impregnable. The castle was surrounded by a cliff on three sides and a town on the fourth side with a three-layer wall. Richard first destroyed and looted the farms and lands surrounding the fortress, leaving its defenders no reinforcements or outs. The inhabitants of the fortress were so afraid of Richard at this point, that they left the safety of their castle and attacked Richard outside its walls. Richard was able to subdue the army and then followed the defenders inside the open gates, where he easily took over the castle in two days. Richard’s victory at Taillebourg deterred many barons thinking of rebelling and forced them to declare their loyalty. It also won Richard a reputation as a skilled military commander.

In 1181- 1182, Richard faced a revolt over the succession to the county of Angoulême. His opponents turned to Philip II of France for support, and the fighting spread through the Limousin and Périgord. Richard was accused of numerous cruelties against his subjects, including rape: "He carried off by force the wives, daughters and female relatives of his free men, and made them his concubines; and after he had extinguished the ardour of his lust on them, he handed them over to his soldiers for whoring." However, with support from his father and from the Young King, Richard succeeded in bringing the Viscount Aimar V of Limoges and Count Elie of Périgord to terms.

After Richard subdued his rebellious barons, he again challenged his father for the throne. From 1180 to 1183 the tension between Henry and Richard grew, as King Henry commanded Richard to pay homage to Henry the Young King, but Richard refused. Finally, in 1183, Henry the Young King and Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany invaded Aquitaine in an attempt to subdue Richard. Richard’s barons joined in the fray and turned against their Duke. However, Richard and his army were able to hold back the invading armies and executed any prisoners. The conflict took a brief pause in June of 1183 when the Young King died. However, Henry II soon gave his youngest son John permission to invade Aquitaine. With the death of Henry the Young King, Richard was now the eldest son and heir to the English crown, but still he continued to fight his father.

To strengthen his position, in 1187 Richard allied himself with Philip II, who was the son of Eleanor's ex-husband Louis VII by his third wife, Adele of Champagne. Roger of Hoveden wrote:

"The King of England was struck with great astonishment, and wondered what [this alliance] could mean, and, taking precautions for the future, frequently sent messengers into France for the purpose of recalling his son Richard; who, pretending that he was peaceably inclined and ready to come to his father, made his way to Chinon, and, in spite of the person who had the custody thereof, carried off the greater part of his father's treasures, and fortified his castles in Poitou with the same, refusing to go to his father."

Hoveden mentions how Richard and King Philip "ate from the same dish and at night slept in one bed" and had a "strong love between them", which some modern writers have construed to imply homosexual intimacy. There are allusions to the book of Samuel's depiction of Jonathan and David in this passage, but the politics of the relationship are Hoveden's chief concern.

In exchange for Philip's help against his father, Richard promised to concede to him his rights to both Normandy and Anjou. Richard did homage to Philip in November of the same year. With news arriving of the battle of Hattin, he took the cross at Tours, in the company of a number of other French nobles.

In 1188 Henry II planned to concede Aquitaine to his youngest son John. The following year, 1189 Richard attempted to take the throne of England for himself by joining Philip's expedition against his father. On 4 July 1189, Richard and Philip’s forces defeated Henry's army at Ballans. Henry, with John's consent, agreed to name Richard his heir. On 6 July Henry II died in Chinon, and Richard I succeeded him as King of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou. Roger of Hoveden claimed that Henry's corpse bled from the nose in Richard's presence, which was taken as a sign that Richard had caused his death. He was officially crowned duke on 20 July and king in Westminster on 3 September.

Anti-Semitic violence

When Richard I was crowned King of England, he barred all Jews and women from the ceremony (apparently a concession to the fact that his coronation was not merely one of a king but of a crusader), but some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king. According to Ralph of Diceto, Richard's courtiers stripped and flogged the Jews, then flung them out of court. When a rumour spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed, the people of London began a massacre. Many Jews were beaten to death, robbed, and burnt alive. Many Jewish homes were burned down and several Jews were forcibly baptised. Some sought sanctuary in the Tower of London, and others managed to escape. Among those killed was Jacob of Orléans, widely regarded as one of the most learned of the age. Roger of Howeden, in his Gesta Regis Ricardi, claimed that the rioting was started by the jealous and bigoted citizens, and that Richard punished the perpetrators, allowing a forcibly converted Jew to return to Judaism. Archbishop of Canterbury Baldwin of Exeter reacted by remarking, "If the King is not God's man, he had better be the devil's," a reference to the supposedly infernal blood in the Angevin line.

Realising that the assaults could destabilize his realm on the eve of his departure on crusade, Richard ordered the execution of those responsible for the most egregious murders and persecutions. (Most of those hanged were rioters who had accidentally burnt down Christian homes.) He distributed a royal writ demanding that the Jews be left alone. However, the edict was loosely enforced, as the following March there was further violence, including a massacre at York.

Crusade plans

Richard had already taken the cross as Count of Poitou in 1187. His father Henry II of England and Philip II of France had done so at Gisors on 21 January 1188, after receiving news of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. Having become king, Richard and Philip agreed to go on the Third Crusade together, since each feared that, during his absence, the other might usurp his territories.

Richard swore an oath to renounce his past wickedness in order to show himself worthy to take the cross. He started to raise and equip a new crusader army. He spent most of his father's treasury (filled with money raised by the Saladin tithe), raised taxes, and even agreed to free King William I of Scotland from his oath of subservience to Richard in exchange for 10,000 marks. To raise even more money he sold official positions, rights, and lands to those interested in them. Even those already appointed were forced to pay huge sums to retain their posts. Even William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and the King's Chancellor, made a show of bidding £3,000 to remain as Chancellor. He was apparently outbid by a certain Reginald the Italian, but his bid was refused.

Richard made some final arrangements on the continent. He reconfirmed his father's appointment of William Fitz Ralph to the important post of seneschal of Normandy. In Anjou, Stephen of Tours was replaced as seneschal and temporarily imprisoned for fiscal mismanagement. Payn de Rochefort, an Angevin knight was elevated to the post of seneschal of Anjou. In Poitou, the ex-provost of Benon, Peter Bertin was made seneschal, and finally in Gascony, the household official Helie de La Celle was picked for the seneschalship there. After repositioning the part of his army he left behind to guard his French possessions, Richard finally set out on the crusade in summer 1190. (His delay was criticised by troubadours such as Bertran de Born). He appointed as regents, Hugh, Bishop of Durham, and William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex, who soon died and was replaced by Richard's chancellor William Longchamp. Richard's brother John was not satisfied by this decision and started scheming against William.

Some writers have criticised Richard for spending only six months of his reign in England and siphoning the kingdom's resources to support his Crusade and campaigns in what is now France. He claimed England was "cold and always raining," and when he was raising funds for his Crusade, was said to declare, "I would have sold London if I could find a buyer." However, England was a minor part of his territories, only important in that it gave him a royal title with which to approach other kings as an equal. Like most of the Plantagenet kings before the 14th century, he had no need to learn the English language. Leaving the country in the hands of various officials he designated (including his mother, at times), Richard was far more concerned with his more extensive French lands.

Effigy on tomb in Fontevrault Abbey
Effigy on tomb in Fontevrault Abbey

Occupation of Sicily

In September 1190 both Richard and Philip arrived in Sicily. After the death of King William II of Sicily, his cousin Tancred of Lecce had seized power and been crowned early in 1190 as King Tancred I of Sicily, although the legal heir was William's aunt Constance, wife of the new Emperor Henry VI. Tancred had imprisoned William's widow, Queen Joan, who was Richard's sister, and did not give her the money she had inherited in William's will. When Richard arrived, he demanded that his sister be released and given her inheritance. The presence of foreign troops also caused unrest: in October, the people of Messina revolted, demanding that the foreigners leave. Richard attacked Messina, capturing it on 4 October 1190. After looting and burning the city Richard established his base there. He remained there until Tancred finally agreed to sign a treaty on 4 March 1191. The treaty was signed by Richard, Philip and Tancred. Its main terms were:

  • Joan was to be released, receiving her inheritance and the dowry her father had given to her late husband.
  • Richard and Philip recognized Tancred as King of Sicily and vowed to keep the peace between all three of their kingdoms.
  • Richard officially proclaimed his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey, as his heir, and Tancred promised to marry one of his daughters to Arthur when he came of age.
  • Richard and Tancred exchanged gifts; Richard gave Tancred a sword which he claimed was Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur.

After signing the treaty Richard and Philip left Sicily. The treaty undermined England's relationships with the Holy Roman Empire and caused the revolt of Richard's brother John, who hoped to be proclaimed heir instead of their nephew. Although his revolt failed, John continued to scheme against his brother.

Conquest of Cyprus

In April 1191, while on route to the Third Crusade, Richard stopped on the Byzantine island of Rhodes to avoid the stormy weather. It seems that Richard had previously met his fiancée Berengaria only once, years before their wedding. He had assigned his mother to represent him and convince her father, Sancho VI of Navarre, and her other relatives to agree to the wedding, and to bring the bride to him. Richard came to their rescue when they were shipwrecked on the coast of Cyprus. He left Rhodes in May but a new storm drove Richard's fleet to Cyprus.

On 6 May 1191, Richard's fleet arrived in the port of Lemesos (now Limassol) on Cyprus, and he captured the city. The island's despot Isaac Komnenos arrived too late to stop the Crusaders, and retired to Kolossi. Richard called Isaac to negotiations but Isaac demanded his departure. Richard and his cavalry met Isaac's army in battle at Tremetusia. The few Cypriot Roman Catholics and those nobles who opposed Isaac's rule joined Richard's army. Though Isaac and his men fought bravely, Richard's army was bigger and better equipped, assuring his victory. He also received military assistance from the King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan. Isaac resisted from the castles of Pentadactylos but after the siege of Kantara Castle, he finally surrendered. It was claimed that, once Isaac had been captured Richard had him confined with silver chains, because he had promised that he would not place him in irons. Isaac's young daughter was kept in the household of Berengaria and Joan. Richard looted the island and massacred those trying to resist him. He and most of his army left Cyprus for the Holy Land in early June, having gained for the Crusade a supply base that was not under immediate threat from the Turks as was Tyre.In his absence Cyprus was governed by Richard Camville.

Richard's marriage

Before leaving Cyprus, Richard married Berengaria, first-born daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. The wedding was held in Limassol on 12 May 1191 at the Chapel of St. George. It was attended by his sister Joan, whom Richard had brought from Sicily. It should be noted that when Richard married Berengaria he was still officially betrothed to Alys and that Richard pushed for the match, in order to obtain Navarre as a fief like Aquitaine for his father. Further, Eleanor championed the match, as Navarre bordered on Aquitaine, thereby securing her ancestral lands' borders to the south. Richard took his new wife with him briefly on this episode of the crusade. However, they returned separately. Berengaria had almost as much difficulty in making the journey home as her husband did, and did not see England until after his death. Although after his release from German captivity, Richard showed some degree of regret for his earlier conduct, he was not joined by his wife.

Richard had to be ordered to reunite with and show fidelity to Berengaria in the future, being told to "remember the destruction of Sodom and abstain from illicit acts." This may be further evidence that Richard engaged in homosexual activities, although it is argued that " the sin of Sodom" could be interpreted more broadly: the Biblical story concerns attempted male rape; Richard had already been accused of raping women. Some modern writers, elaborating on the theory, have alleged that Berengaria's own brother, the future Sancho VII, was one of Richard's early lovers. Nevertheless, when Richard died in 1199, Berengaria was greatly distressed, apparently having loved her husband very much (although that does not imply mutuality on Richard's part). The picture is further muddied by the fact that she had to sue the Church to be recognised as his widow. Historians remain divided on the issue.

Richard in Outremer

King Richard arrived at Acre in June 1191. He gave his support to his Poitevin vassal Guy of Lusignan, who had brought troops to help him in Cyprus. Guy was the widower of his father's cousin Sibylla of Jerusalem, and was trying to retain the kingship of Jerusalem, despite his wife's death during the siege of Acre the previous year. Guy's claim was challenged by Conrad of Montferrat, second husband of Sibylla's half-sister, Isabella: Conrad, whose defence of Tyre had saved the kingdom in 1187, was supported by Philip of France, son of his first cousin Louis VII of France, and by another cousin, Duke Leopold V of Austria. Richard also allied with Humphrey IV of Toron, Isabella's first husband, from whom she had been forcibly divorced in 1190. Humphrey was loyal to Guy, and spoke Arabic fluently, so Richard used him as a translator and negotiator.

Richard and his forces aided in the capture of Acre, despite the king's serious illness. At one point, while sick from scurvy, Richard is said to have picked off guards on the walls with a crossbow, while being carried on a stretcher. Eventually, Conrad of Montferrat concluded the surrender negotiations with Saladin, and raised the banners of the kings in the city. Richard quarrelled with Leopold V of Austria over the deposition of Isaac Komnenos (related to Leopold's Byzantine mother) and his position within the Crusade. Leopold's banner had been raised alongside the English and French standards. This was interpreted as arrogance by both Richard and Philip, as Leopold was a vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor (although he was now the highest-ranking surviving leader of the imperial forces). Richard's men tore the flag down and threw it in the moat of Acre. Leopold left the Crusade immediately. Philip also left soon afterwards, in poor health and after further disputes with Richard over the status of Cyprus (Philip demanded half the island) and the kingship of Jerusalem. Richard suddenly found himself without allies.

Richard had kept 2700 Muslim prisoners as hostages against Saladin fulfilling all the terms of the surrender of the lands around Acre. Philip, before leaving, had entrusted his prisoners to Conrad, but Richard forced him to hand them over to him. Richard feared his forces being bottled up in Acre, as he believed his campaign could not advance with the prisoners in train. He therefore ordered all the prisoners killed. He then moved south, defeating Saladin's forces at the battle of Arsuf on 7 September. He attempted to negotiate with Saladin, offering his widowed sister, Joan of Sicily, as a bride for Saladin's brother Al-Adil, but this was unsuccessful. In the first half of 1192, he and his troops refortified Ascalon.

An election forced Richard to accept Conrad of Montferrat as King of Jerusalem, and he sold Cyprus to his defeated protégé, Guy. However, only days later, on 28 April 1192, Conrad was stabbed to death by Hashshashin (Assassins) before he could be crowned. Eight days later, Richard's own nephew, Henry II of Champagne was married to the widowed Isabella, although she was carrying Conrad's child. The murder has never been conclusively solved, and Richard's contemporaries widely suspected his involvement.

Realising that he had no hope of holding Jerusalem even if he took it, Richard ordered a retreat. There then commenced a period of minor skirmishes with Saladin's forces while Richard and Saladin negotiated a settlement to the conflict, as both realized that their respective positions were growing untenable. Richard knew that both Philip and his own brother John were starting to plot against him. However, Saladin insisted on the razing of Ascalon's fortifications, which Richard's men had rebuilt, and a few other points. Richard made one last attempt to strengthen his bargaining position by attempting to invade Egypt — Saladin's chief supply-base — but failed. In the end, time ran out for Richard. He realised that his return could be postponed no longer, since both Philip and John were taking advantage of his absence. He and Saladin finally came to a settlement on 2 September 1192 — this included the provisions demanding the destruction of Ascalon's wall as well as an agreement allowing Christian access to and presence in Jerusalem. It also included a three-year truce.

Captivity and return

Castle ruins at Durnstein
Castle ruins at Durnstein

Bad weather forced Richard's ship to put in at Corfu, in the lands of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, who objected to Richard's annexation of Cyprus, formerly Byzantine territory. Disguised as a Knight Templar, Richard sailed from Corfu with four attendants, but his ship was wrecked near Aquileia, forcing Richard and his party into a dangerous land route through central Europe. On his way to the territory of Henry of Saxony, his brother-in-law, Richard was captured shortly before Christmas 1192, near Vienna, by Leopold V of Austria, who accused Richard of arranging the murder of his cousin Conrad of Montferrat. Richard and his retainers had been travelling in disguise as low-ranking pilgrims, but he was identified either because he was wearing an expensive ring, or because of his insistence on eating roast chicken, an aristocratic delicacy. The Duke handed him over as a prisoner to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor after being held captive at Dürnstein. It was here that he wrote Ja nus hons pris or Ja nuls om pres, a song in French and Occitan versions, expressing his feelings of abandonment by his people. However, the conditions of his captivity were not severe. Richard declared to the emperor, "I am born of a rank which recognizes no superior but God".

His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, worked to raise the ransom of 150,000 marks (perhaps five times the annual income for the English Crown under Richard) demanded by Henry. Both clergy and laymen were taxed for a quarter of the value of their property, the gold and silver treasures of the churches were confiscated, and money was raised from the scutage and the carucage taxes. The emperor demanded that 100,000 marks be delivered to him before he would release the king, the same amount raised by the Saladin tithe only a few years earlier. At the same time, John, Richard's brother, and King Philip of France offered 80,000 marks for the Emperor to hold Richard prisoner until Michaelmas 1194. The emperor turned down the offer. The money to rescue the King was transferred to Germany by the emperor's ambassadors, but "at the king's peril" (had it been lost along the way, Richard would have been held responsible), and finally, on 4 February 1194 Richard was released. Philip sent a message to John: "Look to yourself; the devil is loose."

Later years and death

Tomb at Fontevraud
Tomb at Fontevraud

During his absence, John had come close to seizing the throne. Richard forgave him when they met again, and, bowing to political necessity, named him as his heir in place of Arthur, whose mother Constance of Britanny was perhaps already open to the overtures of Philip II. Richard came into conflict with Philip. When the latter attacked Richard's fortress, Chateau-Gaillard ('The Saucy Castle'), he boasted that "if its walls were iron, yet would I take it," to which Richard replied, "If these walls were butter, yet would I hold them!"

Tomb at Rouen Cathedral
Tomb at Rouen Cathedral

Determined to resist Philip's designs on contested Angevin lands such as the Vexin and Berry, Richard poured all his military expertise and vast resources into war on the French King. He constructed an alliance against Philip, including Baldwin IX of Flanders, Renaud, Count of Boulogne, and his father-in-law King Sancho VI of Navarre, who raided Philip's lands from the south. Most importantly, he managed to secure the Welf inheritance in Saxony for his nephew, Henry the Lion's son Otto of Poitou, who was elected Otto IV of Germany in 1198.

Partly as a result of these and other intrigues, Richard won several victories over Philip. At Freteval in 1194, just after Richard's return from captivity and money-raising in England to France, Philip fled, leaving his entire archive of financial audits and documents to be captured by Richard. At the battle of Gisors (sometimes called Courcelles) in 1198 Richard took "Dieu et mon Droit" "God and my Right" as his motto, (still used by British Monarchs today) echoing his earlier boast to the Emperor Henry that his rank acknowledged no superior but God.

In March 1199, Richard was in the Limousin, suppressing a revolt by Viscount Aimar V of Limoges. Although it was Lent, he "devastated the Viscount's land with fire and sword". He besieged the puny, virtually unarmed castle of Chalus-Chabrol. Some chroniclers claimed that this was because a local peasant had uncovered a treasure trove of Roman gold, which Richard claimed from Aimar in his position of feudal overlord: however, modern historians are sceptical of the story, which has the flavour of an exemplum, or moralising fable.

In the early evening of the 25 March 1199, Richard was walking around the castle perimeter without his chainmail, investigating the progress of sappers on the castle walls. Arrows were occasionally fired from the castle walls, but these were given little attention. One defender in particular was of great amusement to the King - a man standing on the walls, crossbow in one hand, the other clutching a frying pan which he had been using all day as a shield to beat off missiles. He deliberately aimed an arrow at the King, which the King applauded. However, another arrow then struck him in the left shoulder near the neck. He tried to pull this out in the privacy of his tent, but failed; a surgeon, called a 'butcher' by Hoveden, removed it, 'carelessly mangling' the King's arm in the process. However, the wound swiftly became gangrenous. Accordingly, Richard asked to have the crossbowman brought before him; called alternatively Peter Basile, John Sabroz, Dudo and Bertran de Gurdun by chroniclers, the man proved a boy. This boy claimed that Richard had slain the boy's father and two brothers, and that he had slain Richard in vengeance. The boy expected to be slain; Richard, as a last act of mercy, forgave the boy his crime, saying, "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day," before ordering the boy to be freed and sent away with 100 shillings. Richard then set his affairs in order, bequeathing all his territory to his brother John and his jewels to his nephew Otto.

Richard died on Tuesday, 6 April 1199 in the arms of his mother; it was later said that "As the day was closing, he ended his earthly day." His death was later referred to as 'the Lion [that] by the Ant was slain'. His last act of chivalry proved pointless: as soon as Richard was dead, his most infamous mercenary captain Mercadier had the boy who fired the fatal arrow flayed alive and then hanged.

Richard's brain was buried at the abbey of Charroux in Poitou (for the land's perfidy towards him), his heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, while the rest of his body was buried at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou, on his deathbed he beqeathed all his possessions to his brother John, having no legitimate heir.


This bronze equestrian statue of Richard I brandishing his sword by Carlo Marochetti stands outside the Palace of Westminster in London.
This bronze equestrian statue of Richard I brandishing his sword by Carlo Marochetti stands outside the Palace of Westminster in London.

Richard produced no legitimate heirs, and acknowledged only one illegitimate son, Philip of Cognac. As a result, he was succeeded by his brother John as King of England. However, his French territories initially rejected John as a successor, preferring his nephew Arthur of Brittany, the son of their late brother Geoffrey, whose claim is by modern standards better than John's. Significantly, the lack of any direct heirs from Richard was the first step in the dissolution of the Angevin Empire. While Kings of England continued to press claims to properties on the continent, they would never again command the territories Richard I inherited.

Richard's legacy comprised several parts. First, he captured Cyprus, which proved immensely valuable in keeping the Frankish kingdoms in the Holy Land viable for another century. Second, his absence from the English political landscape meant that the highly efficient government created by his father was allowed to entrench itself, though King John would later abuse it to the breaking point. The last part of Richard's legacy was romantic and literary. No matter the facts of his reign, he left an indelible imprint on the imagination extending to the present, in large part because of his military exploits. This is reflected in Steven Runciman's final verdict of Richard I: "he was a bad son, a bad husband and a bad king, but a gallant and splendid soldier."

Medieval folklore

By the 1260s a legend had developed that, after Richard's capture, his minstrel Blondel travelled Europe from castle to castle, loudly singing a song known only to the two of them (they had composed it together). Eventually, he came to the place where Richard was being held, and heard the song answered with the appropriate refrain, thus revealing where the king was incarcerated. The story was the basis of André Ernest Modeste Grétry's opera Richard Coeur-de-Lion (1784) and seems to be the inspiration for the opening to Richard Thorpe's film version of Ivanhoe (1952). It seems unconnected to the real Jean 'Blondel' de Nesle, an aristocratic trouvère.

In the Arabic world, Richard became something of a bogeyman after his death. The mid-thirteenth-century Old French Continuation of William of Tyre claimed that Arab mothers would occasionally threaten unruly children with the admonition "King Richard will get you".

Later literature

Richard has appeared frequently in fiction, as a result of the 'chivalric revival' of the Romantic era. In 1822, he was the subject of Eleanor Anne Porden's epic poem, Cœur de Lion. After Ivanhoe, where he is depicted as initially adopting the pseudonym of Le Noir Fainéant ("The Black Sluggard"), Sir Walter Scott portrayed Richard in The Talisman, a highly fictionalised treatment of the Third Crusade. He is also a major character in James Goldman's play The Lion in Winter, which depicts him as homosexual. He features in Graham Shelby's The Kings of Vain Intent and, more centrally, in The Devil is Loose, Norah Lofts' The Lute-Player, and Jean Plaidy ( Eleanor Hibbert)'s The Heart of the Lion. He is portrayed as a merciless Muslim killer in a novel that follows Arn Magnusson in his Crusade Trilogy written by Swedish author Jan Guillou. He is seen as the reluctant husband of Berengaria of Navarre, and as Crusader, in Rachel Bard's Queen Without a Country. He is generally represented in a heroic role in children's fiction, such as Ronald Welch's Knight Crusader.

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