Episode 6: Richard I becomes king, plans crusade

Financially tried as he was in holding onto his lands in northern France, Richard the Lionheart undertook the additional great expense of a crusade to the Holy Land. Richard was inaugurated as duke of Normandy at Rouen on 22 May 1189.

In England, Queen Eleanor carried out her son Richard's wishes conveyed from Normandy, by proclaiming an amnesty for all criminals held in jails, and forgave infractions of the forest laws. Richard was welcomed in London soon after, particularly for the release of those folk who had broken the vicious forestry laws. We shall encounter these laws as we get nearer to Magna Carta.

The new king also took the popular step among the baronage of restoring men like Robert de Montfort as earl of Leicester, whose lands and titles Henry II had seized. Roger of Howden tells us that everyone - by which he probably meant the higher caste - got all their property back.

Those lords and officials who had stayed loyal to his father were rewarded. The only ones who were excluded were those who had been in rebellion at Henry II's death. The new king shunned them, no matter that Richard had led the rebellion against his father in the first place.When Richard came to England, his brother John was by far the greatest recipient of the new king's favour: from the Annals of Roger of Howden:

'He gave to his brother John the county of Mortain, and the earldoms of Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Nottingham, Derby, Lancaster, and the castle of Marlborough and of Luggershall, with the forests and all the appurtenances; the honor also of Wallingford, Rickhill, and Eye; he also gave him the earldom of Gloucester, together with the daughter (and heiress) of the late earl, and caused her to be immediately married to him; Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, forbidding it, because they were related by blood in the fourth degree.'

The new king gave the archbishopric of York to his illegitimate brother Geoffrey, a focus of trouble for many years to come. He gave William Marshal the daughter of Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, who had led the English invasion of Ireland in 1169-70. William had recently returned from pilgrimage to the Holy Land where the city of Jerusalem had fallen to the Muslims, led by Sultan Saladin, in 1187.

Instead of staying behind the walls of Jerusalem and weakening Saladin with a long and costly siege, the Christians came out, led by Guy of Lusignan, and were defeated at the unnecessary Battle of Hattin. No doubt Earl William Marshal would be useful to King Richard in advising him of conditions in the Near East, the best means of getting there, paying for it all, and much else. Earl William stood by King John - not uncritically - at Magna Carta and after.

He saw to it that John's son Henry, aged nine, would succeed his father in 1216 as Henry III and served as regent. He pacified the baronage, who had gone to war with John after Magna Carta and drove out the French, who had been called in by the barons in autumn 1215.

On John death in October 1216, the French were occupying about half of England, including London. Much was written about him in his lifetime and later in England and in Europe. He was an all round 'good egg'. As king, Richard had all of his father's treasuries opened and the bullion contents weighed, which were said to total 100,000 marks, at least £30,000, a vast sum.

He was preparing for a crusade to the Holy Land, known as the Third Crusade, and ordered his servants in England, Normandy, and Poitou to visit all the seaports to select the best ships moored in them, together with large freighters. He then crossed over to England, landing at Shoreham, Sussex, and made his way to London where he was crowned king by Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury.

London Jews appeared at the coronation banquet bearing gifts, but for reasons not explained by Roger of Howden, this turned into a form of pogrom that was emulated at York where Benedict, a Jew, was so badly beaten that he converted to Christianity, presumably in hopes of saving his own life. The next day, King Richard ordered the arrest of the perpetrators - not for having attacked the Jews, but for destroying Christian homes in their rioting. They were hanged.

Benedict reverted to Judaism and was remitted to Northampton castle where he died. Next Richard put up for sale much Crown property, including castles, vills, and estates. The bishop of Durham paid 600 marks of pure silver for the manor of Sedbergh. The money would be used to finance the crusade.

Even Richard's half-brother, Geoffrey, archbishop of York, was prevailed upon to part with £3,000 to be 'taken back into favour', as the phrase was at the time for a bribe. I am minded to recall the line from John Milton's Sonnet, which I vary by one word: 'they also serve who only stand and pay.' The king left from Dover for the continent in December 1189.

In France, Richard and Philip II met at V Saint Remy to make an everlasting peace, as they were both about to go on crusade, and went through the usual Plantagenet and Capetian mummery of respecting each other's dominions.

These were treaties, sworn on holy relics, which neither was expected to keep and everyone knew it. Richard's campaign in the Holy Land has resonance for England. In Henry II's time, Richard had proved himself a good military commander, and his enemies were frightened of him. This reputation gained much lustre in the Holy Land, and must have kept in check any resentment felt by his English and French barons for his financial exactions.

No baron, especially those in England, wanted Richard turning up outside his castle with an army. It would have been almost certain death to take on the Lionheart. Philip II of France arrived outside Acre (now in modern Israel) in April 1191. Richard did not arrive until 8 June, being delayed in Cyprus where he deposed the king and sold the kingdom to the Templars. Cyprus would remain a useful Christian outpost until 1699.

Philip was brought on ships belonging to the Genoese, under Admiral Simone Doria, one of the ruling family in the oligarchy that was Genoa. Richard brought a hundred of his own ships and eight thousand men. Saladin, the Kurdish Muslim leader, had forged an alliance of the willing or the conquered which created an arc to the south (Egypt), east, and north of Jerusalem.

The Christians were confined to ports along the Mediterranean littoral, so the kingdom of Jerusalem, established in 1099, was considerably attenuated. Duke Leopold V of Austria, with a small force, had taken command of the Christians besieging Acre, and was displaced by the arrival of the two kings from England and France. When Richard's ships hove into view at Acre, a large Muslim galley arrived bringing reinforcements to the city.

Promising his soldiers all the booty if they disabled this boat, they sank it, though probably in shallow water as loot was had by the men and Saladin's relief force was slaughtered, causing panic among the defenders of Acre. On 12 July 1191, the Muslims at Acre surrendered to Richard, and the king's name resounded around Europe as the great conqueror, as indeed he was. Royal banners, including those of Philip of France, fluttered from the walls, except for the Duke of Austria's.

Richard had had that torn down over some unknown quarrel. Richard would regret this. Misunderstandings and mistrust on Muslim and Christian sides broke a plan to exchange prisoners, and Richard had the entire Muslim garrison of the city - upto three thousand - beheaded. They were also disembowelled for the gold and silver coins they had swallowed. The English also cut out their gall bladders for medical purposes, Roger of Howden tells us. He was there with Richard. Saladin responded by executing his Christian prisoners. Both sides spared their valuable prisoners for ransom.

Using the lame excuse of having to determine the succession to the County of Champagne, Philip II returned to France 31 1191 July and immediately started to plot with Prince John against Richard. The Lionheart put affairs in order in the Levant, defeating Saladin near Joppa, causing the sultan to abandon that port city and Ascalon.

He captured Haifa and reinforced Tyre, the pricipal port on the Levant coast after Antioch. He never re-conquered Jerusalem, which would remain in Muslim hands until 1918, when Field Marshal Lord Allenby and T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) took it for the British. To make life more difficult for his adversary, King Philip had all French ports on the French Mediterranean, closed to Richard.

Foolishly, Richard took ship up the Adriatic, disembarking somewhere near modern Rijeka (formerly Fiume, Croatia), and hoped to cross through Austria, then through southern Germany, probably to Flanders, north-east of Normandy. He was captured near Vienna by Duke Leopold's soldiers and taken prisoner.

How Richard must have wished he had not publicly humiliated this 'little pip-squeak' before thousands of crusaders outside Acre. Leopold was not strong enough to manage such a king alone and, in return for a share of the ransom, conveyed the Richard to the Holy Roman Emperor Otto.

Richard had arranged for ships to be waiting for him in Marseille, not then part of France, together with siege engines and mercenaries, and then set sail down the leg of Italy, calling in at various ports, before arriving in Sicily where his sister was married to King Tancred. He also married Princess Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre, picking her up at Brindisi.

© Robert Smith, Manorial Society of Great Britain