Richard the Lionheart
September 8, 1157 - April 6, 1199
The English Warrior King who led the Third Crusadeby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
If the history of England were to count how long a king was in his country, Richard the Lionheart would probably have one of the lowest numbers, for he spent only 6 months in England as king.
Richard Plantagenet, born in 1157, in Oxford, England, was one of the greatest kings in the English history. His father, King Henry II, and his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, were both of French birth, which was why Richard’s native language was French rather than English. He was the third eldest son of seven siblings, and he was Eleanor’s favorite son. At age 14, he was named Duke of Aquitaine, with his mother’s help. In 1173, he joined the revolt to overthrow his father and make his older brother Henry the “young king” the only king in England, but it turned out to be a failure. Even though it failed, this experience gave Richard experience as a warrior. The revolt ended when Henry the young king died, leaving Richard with the right to be the crowned king. Few years later, in 1189, after a few family debates, Richard was crowned king after his father’s death, and so began the reign on Richard I, or otherwise known as Richard the Lionheart.
Richard I did not concentrate in ruling England, instead he went to other nations to fight, earning himself the name Richard the Lionheart, or Coeur de Lion. He left his mother or a trustworthy friend to be a regent, and went out to fight. As soon as he began his rule, he started to recruit men for a crusade. His main reason was for his fame, glory, and a guaranteed place in heaven. Once he was ready, he made Phillip II of France join the crusade so there wouldn't be an enemy to attack England. In September 1190, the Crusaders made their way toward the Holy city with Richard as their leader.
The Third Crusade, formed by Richard, Phillip, and Fredrick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, marched toward the region of Palestine. On their way, Richard conquered Sicily and Cyprus, but Fredrick Barbarossa died. In June of 1191, the Third Crusade arrived at the city of Acre, their first target. Richard was a brilliant tactician whom even Saladin feared. Soon, Acre was in the hands of the crusaders, and Richard massacred 2,700 Muslims. Leopold V of Austria and Phillip II deserted with their armies due to the arguments about the territory such as the future ownership of Jerusalem. Despite having lost his allies, Richard won a victory against Saladin at Arsuf, and led the crusade a few miles from Jerusalem. When Richard heard news that Phillip and his brother John were trying to overthrow him, he signed a peace treaty with Saladin in the autumn of 1192, and retreated from Palestine.
On his way back, Richard had to go by land because of the bad weather. He was captured by Leopold V of Austria, whom he had eariler insulted on his way to Jerusalem. He was kept in Dürenstein until he was turned over to Henry VI of the Holy Roman Empire in 1193, who disliked Richard for helping with the revolt of Henry the Lion. Richard was finally returned to England in 1194, after his mother and his regent paid a huge ransom to free him. When Richard returned to England as a hero, he forgave John, his brother who had tried to seize the throne, and even crowned him his successor. Soon after his return, Richard raised funds for war again.
The last few years of Richard’s reign were hard. He had financial problems due to the crusade and his ransom. But despite all this, Richard concentrated in retaking his land from the French. He poured his devotion and mind into the continental part of Europe. He left England for the last time, and fought Phillip of France for the rest of his years. Richard was wounded by a crossbow bolt while investigating a castle in southern France. The wound became fatal, and Richard I died in April 6th 1199, leaving the throne to his brother John.
Richard’s characteristics contained both admirable ones and shameful ones. One of Saladin’s court officials praised "A very powerful man, of great courage and spirit. He fought great battles and showed a burning passion for war. The king was indeed a man of wisdom, experience, courage and energy. . . excitable, brave and clever." But it is also said "Richard was not a good king. He cared only for his soldiers…..”  Even though he was a benevolent warrior king, his motives for the crusade made his people suffer from the war, and caused financial problems. Richard to showed mercy on some people, even to the man who killed him. Even though he was careless about his kingdom and brutal to his enemies, Richard the Lionheart is remembered as a brave and merciful king in the history.
1) "Richard." The Third Crusade. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/third_crusade.htm>.