Richard the Lionheart

Richard I or Richard the Lionheart was King of England and the central figure during the Third Crusade. He was also Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, Count of Anjou, Nantes, Poitiers, Maine, Lord of Cyprus and Overlord of Brittany. Richard was an extremely able military leader who is famous for his several victories in the battlefield.

His most noted and celebrated victories were against Saladin, the Muslim leader during the Third Crusade. During his reign, Richard campaigned tirelessly and was hardly ever present in his country to look after the day to day running of the state. Regardless, he remains a much loved and revered figure in England and France.

Richard the Lionheart

Early Life: Richard was born on September 8, 1157 in Oxford, England. His father was King Henry II of England and his mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was the third son of King Henry and was the favorite of his mother, Eleanor. After his birth, Richard was raised in England and was taken to Normandy by his mother in 1165. He was an educated man who loved to write poetry. Richard took keen interest in matters pertaining to military and was amazingly talented.

He took over the command of his own army at a young age of only sixteen and fought rebels in Poitou. Henry II decided to distribute his kingdom among his three elder surviving sons. In 1170, Richard’s elder brother, Henry the Young King was crowned as the Titular King of England. At the time of his appointment, Richard was only thirteen years of age. Henry II had planned to award England, Normandy and Anjou to Henry, Aquitaine and Poitiers to Richard and Brittany to his third son, Geoffrey. Henry II, however; had plans to exercise authority over his sons.

he Great Revolt: In 1173, Henry the Young King, who was getting impatient to rule independently the territories given to him, revolted against his father and went to France to seek assistance from Louis VII, King of France. His brothers including Richard also followed him and were soon made vassals of Louis. They started to gather support of barons and nobles both in England and France against Henry II.

However, Henry II put down the revolt and Richard and his brothers were back in England, seeking Henry’s forgiveness. After this revolt, Richard ruled in Aquitaine and strengthened his control over his holdings. In 1183, Henry the Young King died and Richard became the eldest surviving son and heir to the English throne.

He however, had a fractured relationship with his father who wanted him to surrender duchy of Aquitaine to his younger brother John. Richard refused and joined hands with Philip II, son of Louis VII and again revolted against Henry II. Richard and Philip’s army defeated Henry’s forces near Ballans, France in 1189 and Henry II appointed him as heir apparent. Only two days later Henry II died of a bleeding ulcer and Richard became King of England.

Reign: During his ten years long reign Richard remained busy in military campaigns and the Third Crusade. Interestingly he spent only six months of his reign in England. Early days of his reign were marred by violence against Jews. Soon after, Richard and Philip II of France decided to go on the Crusade. Richard started preparations and collecting funds for the campaign.

He started off his military campaigns in 1190 by occupying Sicily and Conquering Cyprus in 1191. The same year he landed in Holy Land. Richard won a series of battles against the famed Muslim general, Saladin at Acre and Arsuf but subsequent battles ended in a stalemate and Richard could not take Jerusalem from Saladin. By now, Philip withdrew from the crusade and went back. Richard was worried about any mischief on his part and after agreeing to a three year truce with Saladin, headed back.

He was captured near Vienna in 1192 by Duke of Austria, Leopold V, while traveling back through Central Europe. In 1193, Richard was handed over to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who released him in 1194 after charging a hefty ransom. In his absence, his brother John revolted and usurped power with the help of Philip II. Richard then struggled against internal strife till he breathed his last.

Later Life and Death: Richard died on April 6, 1199. He was attacked by a crossbow man of his own army who wanted to take revenge from Richard for killing his family. The wound turned gangrenous and finally led to Richard’s death. Richard forgave his attacker as a last act of Mercy and freed him. He was succeeded by his brother John Lackland.