Richard I

Richard I (1157-1199), called the Lion-hearted, reigned as king of England from 1189 to 1199. He is famous for his exploits on the Third Crusade.

Born on Sept. 8, 1157, Richard I was the third son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. From an early age he was regarded as his mother's heir and from 1168 lived with her in her duchy, chiefly at Poitiers. He was enthroned as duke in 1172; in the next year he and his brothers allied with the king of France against their father in a wide-ranging conspiracy. They were defeated, but Henry left Richard in Aquitaine, where he made his reputation as a soldier suppressing local risings. The death of his elder brother (1183) made Richard heir to the throne. He resisted by force his father's proposed transfer of Aquitaine to his brother John, being determined to keep for himself all his father's French lands. In November 1188 he did homage for them to Philip II of France and campaigned with him against Henry II. Henry was defeated and had to grant all their demands before his death (July 6, 1189).

Richard succeeded his father without difficulty; he was installed as Duke of Normandy (July 20) and crowned king of England on September 3. His principal object was now to raise money for a crusade; everything was for sale, including offices and privileges, and Richard even released the king of Scots from vassalage for 10,000 marks.

Leaving England to a council of regency, Richard set out in 1190, traveling through Sicily. There he recognized Tancred as king, offending Emperor Henry VI, who was claiming the throne in the right of his wife. On his way east Richard seized Cyprus from its Greek ruler and there married Berengaria of Navarre. Richard twice defeated Saladin, at Arsuf (Sept. 7, 1191) and Jaffa (July 1192), and twice got within 12 miles of Jerusalem, but his military skill was offset by his quarrels with the other leaders. The crusade failed to reestablish the Latin kingdom, and Richard, deeply disappointed, left Palestine (September 1192) after concluding a truce that gave the Christians a narrow coastal strip and access as pilgrims to the holy places. On his way home he was captured and handed over to the Emperor, who demanded £100,000 as ransom and kept him a prisoner till February 1194, when a large part of the money was handed over.

The last years of Richard's life were spent in France, meeting the attacks of the King. Philip made no headway against Richard's superior generalship, but Richard's early death (April 6, 1199) in a minor foray opened the way for the conquest of Normandy and Anjou a few years later.


Further Reading on Richard I

The standard biography of Richard I is Kate Norgate, Richard the Lion Heart (1924). A popular account is by Philip Henderson, Richard Coeur de Lion (1959). Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 2 (1952), describes Richard's crusade. A contemporary account is translated by Merton Jerome Hubert, The Crusade of Richard Lion Heart, by Ambroise (1941). A short account of Richard's activities in France by F.M. Powicke is in The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 6 (1929); and Austin L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (1955), describes the government of England.