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King Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart)

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Richard the Lionheart

Image source: Wikimedia: Mattbuck | License

Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade

Richard became king of England in 1189 and was the third son of King Henry II and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. He spent most of his childhood in England but spent most of his adult life in south-west France where he was more concerned with defending his French lands and properties. He also spent time on Crusade in the Holy Land where he commanded the Third Crusade after Philip II of France returned home.

Although Richard had a great reputation as a mighty warrior and a just and fair man, he used England to fund the Third Crusade against muslim leader Saladin. He raised taxes, took a great deal of money from the royal treasury and sold vast amounts of land and honours to fund the venture. The population at the time really believed that King Richard I had virtually no interest in England at all.

Richard left for the Holy Land in July 1190 and travelled by way of Sicily and Cyprus where he married Berengaria of Navarre. When he arrived he found that the crusaders had been besieging Acre for over two years without success. Acre was garrisoned by Muslim fighters who were holding out without great difficulty. After Richard's arrival outside Acre his army was soon trapped by the other forces of Saladin who surrounded him from the rear. However, King Richard's knights fought a long series of fierce battles with Saladin's forces and eventually managed to break the siege. Saladin offered a truce and King Richard I and his armies marched into Acre.

Of the thousands of Muslim prisoners taken, many were executed as no ransoms had been paid by Saladin. This was the point when King Philip, in poor health, returned to France and Duke Leopold, who had been insulted by Richard after seeing his flag torn down in Acre and wanted revenge, departed as they were against the killings and Richard' treatment of them. Richard knew that both Philip and his own brother John were starting to plot against him and was now alone in command of the Third Crusade whose intention was to recapture Jerusalem.

King Richard and his depleted army marched across the desert onward to Jerusalem. There were many skirmishes with Saladin's forces along the way and Richard's army arrived outside Jerusalem tired and exhausted. The Third Crusade was now not in any fit condition to take the city.

When King Philip arrived back in France he forced Richard to accept a truce from Saladin by attacking his lands and property. Duke Leopold was still angry with the insults from Richard and had him captured in 1192 as he was returning home. He was imprisoned for 14 months in Dürnstein Castle and Trifels Castle until most of a huge ransom (100,000 pounds of silver) was paid. Richard finally returned home to his lands in France in 1194.

King Richard I died in April 1199 after being wounded in the shoulder by a crossbowman as he was walking without his chainmail. His heart was buried in Rouen and his body in Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou.

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