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 Richard I (1157–1199), tomb effigy Richard I (1157–1199), tomb effigy
Richard I [called Richard Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lionheart] (1157–1199), king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, was born on 8 September 1157 at Oxford, the third son of and . Richard's early upbringing would have been the responsibility of his mother and of his nurse, Hodierna, to whom he granted a substantial pension as soon as he became king. Although nothing is known of his education, it is clear he obtained a conventionally good one, and not only in the arts of war. He was able to enjoy a Latin joke at the expense of a less learned archbishop of Canterbury. His interest in words and music was such that he became not just a patron of troubadours, but also a songwriter with a poetic voice very much his own. Muslim sources noted his interest in Arabic culture.

Duke of Aquitaine

Richard's association with the duchy of Aquitaine began early. Henry II's conquest of the Quercy at the expense of Raymond (V), count of Toulouse, in 1159 had been preceded by an alliance with the house of Aragon–Barcelona involving Richard's betrothal to a daughter, whose name is unknown, of Raymond-Berengar (IV), count of Barcelona, on the understanding that in due course he would inherit Aquitaine. Until 1196 much of Richard's life was to be shaped by the diplomatic configuration of 1159. The betrothal itself was to prove more ephemeral. By the late 1160s Henry was planning a division of his dominions between his sons and he needed the consent of Louis VII of France. In January 1169, as part of the treaty of Montmirail, Richard's betrothal to Louis's daughter Alix was confirmed and he did homage to Louis for Aquitaine. In June 1172 he was formally installed as duke.

However, the status of his duchy was put in doubt as early as February 1173 when Raymond (V) did homage to Richard's older brother , as well as to both Henry II and Richard. This seemed to presage the permanent absorption of the great duchy of Aquitaine into the Angevin empire. It may explain why when the Young King, for reasons of his own, rebelled, Eleanor herself joined in the rising against her husband and was followed by most of the barons of Poitou and the Angoumois as well as her third and fourth sons, Richard and , whom she sent to join their older brother at the court of her former husband Louis VII. In this crisis Louis knighted Richard, now fifteen years old. In July 1173 he took part in an invasion of eastern Normandy—his first known military action. In the autumn Henry offered Richard four castles and half the revenues of Aquitaine (and similar terms to his brothers). On Louis's advice they rejected this offer and the family war continued. After Eleanor's capture in November 1173, Richard took command of the revolt in Aquitaine, establishing his headquarters at Saintes. Here at Whitsun 1174 he was taken by surprise by his father's sudden attack. He and a few followers managed to escape to Geoffroi de Rancon's formidable castle of Taillebourg and despite the loss of the 60 knights and 400 archers, whom Henry captured at Saintes, he fought on stubbornly. However, when he learned that both Louis VII and the Young King had made peace, further resistance became pointless. On 23 September 1174 he submitted. At a Michaelmas peace conference at Montlouis, Richard and his brothers accepted terms slightly less generous than the ones they rejected the year before; their mother remained her husband's prisoner.

Presumably the young duke's conduct had impressed his father. The following year Richard was given full control of the duchy's armed forces, and orders to punish rebels and to ‘pacify’ Aquitaine, in particular those parts of the duchy that lay south of the more securely governed Poitou. These two tasks were to dominate the next thirteen years of Richard's life; in executing them he acted as his father's agent—as is clear from the written reports that Richard sent his father, which Roger of Howden then included in his history of the Gesta regis Henrici secundi. In 1175 one of Henry's deeds was to cause Aimar, vicomte of Limoges, to join the ranks of the disaffected nobles. As son-in-law of Reginald, earl of Cornwall, Aimar felt disinherited when the earl died that year, and Henry II reserved his estates for his youngest son, . However, Henry II responded generously to Richard's request for the resources to meet this additional threat. In 1176 the young duke rapidly routed the rebels, defeating Brabançons hired by Guillaume, count of Angoulême, in battle at Barbezieux in May, and then capturing both Limoges and Angoulême as well as a number of castles. Guillaume and Aimar surrendered and were dispatched to seek mercy from Henry II. Immediately after Christmas, Richard took up arms against the count of Bigorre and the vicomtes of Dax and Bayonne, capturing their towns and strongholds as far south as the castle of St Pierre at ‘the gate of Spain’ at Cize. In a report sent to his father on 2 February 1177 Richard announced that he had made safe the road to Santiago de Compostela, forced Basques and Navarrese to swear not to molest pilgrims, and had brought peace to all parts of Aquitaine.

But the devastating military success with which Richard carried out his father's policy left resentments, reflected in the words with which the Limousin troubadour Bertran de Born described the duke's treatment of his nobles: ‘he besieges and pursues them, takes their castles, and smashes and burns in every direction’ (Poems, 188–9). Thus there were some regions in which the duke's peace did not last very long: Gascony where Richard campaigned again in 1178 and 1181; and above all the Limousin and Angoumois—the soft underbelly of the Angevin empire. In 1179 Count Vulgrin of Angoulême and Geoffroi de Rancon rebelled again but surrendered their castles after the shock of Richard's capture of Taillebourg in May. According to Ralph de Diceto, the reputedly impregnable castle fell to an assault in which Richard himself fought in the thick of the fray. When Vulgrin died on 29 June 1181 Richard took custody of his heiress daughter. Applying the Anglo-Norman custom of wardship to Angoulême was bound to anger Vulgrin's brothers, Guillaume and Audemar. They rebelled and were joined by Aimar de Limoges. In May 1182 Henry II and his eldest son helped Richard to suppress the revolt, but the Young King was evidently jealous of his younger brother's success and, as they surrendered, the rebels took care to inform him of their grievances. By this channel English historians came to learn something of Richard's style as a ruler. According to Gervase of Canterbury, ‘the great nobles of Aquitaine hated him because of his great cruelty’ (Works of Gervase of Canterbury, 1.303); according to Howden, ‘he carried off his subjects' wives, daughters and kinswomen by force and when he had sated his own lust, handed them down to his soldiers’ (Gesta … Benedicti, 1.292).

At Christmas 1182, as in 1173, Henry II lost control of his family. He asked Richard and Geoffrey to do homage to their elder brother. Richard reluctantly consented to do so as long as it was agreed that Aquitaine should belong to him and his heirs. But the Young King refused to accept Richard's homage on these terms; in a series of explosive quarrels it emerged that he wanted to be duke of Aquitaine himself, and that to this end he had already encouraged Viscount Aimar and other rebels to take up arms again. In the hope of imposing peace on both Aquitaine and his own family, Henry sent Geoffrey to the Limousin to prepare the ground for a conference. Instead Geoffrey joined the rebels. When Henry then allowed his eldest son to go to Limoges, also ostensibly in the role of peacemaker, Richard refused to remain at court any longer. After an angry scene with his father he rode off to fight for his duchy. Aristocratic resentments and fraternal tensions had combined to bring Richard's rule to crisis point.

On 12 February 1183 Richard surprised Aimar's routiers near Limoges and put them to the sword. Belatedly Henry II remembered that his son's view of ducal authority was his own. He joined Richard and they laid siege to the citadel of St Martial at Limoges, where Viscount Aimar was entrenched with virtually all the rebel leaders. At this stage Philip Augustus of France (r. 1180–1223), Raymond (V), count of Toulouse, and Hugues, duke of Burgundy, moved to help the Young King; Alfonso II of Aragon came to the aid of Henry and Richard. A massive showdown seemed to threaten, but the unexpected death of the Young King on 11 June deprived the rebels of their public cause, the replacement of a tyrannical duke by an easy-going one. On 24 June Aimar surrendered to Henry and Richard; other rebels, including Bertran de Born, followed suit and were forced to see their strongholds confiscated or dismantled. In the following years Richard continued to extend ducal authority. By 1189 there were fifteen ducal provostships in Aquitaine compared with ten in 1174.

Uncertain inheritance

Since Richard was now his principal heir, with expectations of inheriting Anjou, England, and Normandy, Henry sought a new family settlement. He reconciled Richard with Geoffrey and then, at Michaelmas 1183, he ordered him to transfer Aquitaine to his youngest brother, John. But it was for Aquitaine that Richard had, in Bertran's words, ‘given and spent so much money, handed out and taken many a blow, and endured so much hunger and thirst and fatigues’ (Poems, 286–7), and he would not do so. From now on Richard's relations with his father were tense. Angrily Henry gave John permission to take the duchy by force. In discussions with Philip Augustus he raised the possibility of the marriage of Alix (who had remained in his custody ever since 1169) with John instead of Richard. During 1184 Richard found himself at war with both John and Geoffrey, while his father negotiated a new marriage for him with a daughter of Frederick Barbarossa—she, however, died before the end of the year. Henry summoned all three brothers to England and in December 1184 they were publicly reconciled. But almost immediately Henry revived the rivalry between Richard and Geoffrey by giving the latter a command in Normandy which seemed to threaten Richard's expectations there. Richard's reaction was to take up arms against Geoffrey. In April 1185 Henry began to muster an army against Richard but then thought better of it, released Eleanor from custody, and commanded Richard to surrender Aquitaine to his mother, the lawful duchess. Richard obeyed. It was likely, after all, to strengthen his own position as well as his mother's. This was followed not only by a confirmation of Richard's betrothal to Alix in March 1186, but also by a renewal of the Aquitanian claim to Toulouse. In April 1186, with a large subsidy from his father and in alliance with Alfonso II, Richard invaded the county and made substantial conquests—in part at least reconquests, since it seems that the rebellions and distractions faced by Richard in and after 1182 had allowed Raymond (V) to recover the territory lost in 1159.

However, now that he was his father's principal heir, Richard found himself increasingly involved with his father's chief opponent: the king of France. Episodes such as Philip's threat to invade if he were not given custody of Geoffrey of Brittany's daughters following their father's death in August 1186 drew Richard north to help with the defence of Normandy. In June 1187 Philip invaded Berry, precipitating a confrontation at Châteauroux which nearly led to a pitched battle. In the event both sides drew back and a two-year truce was agreed. When Philip returned to Paris, Richard rode with him. In Howden's words:
Philip honoured Richard so highly that every day they ate at the same table and shared the same dishes; at night the bed did not separate them. The king of France loved him as his own soul and their mutual love was so great that the lord king of England was stupefied by its vehemence. (Gesta … Benedicti, 2.7)
This political—not sexual—demonstration had the desired effect. Henry promised to grant Richard all that was rightfully his, but Richard, still distrusting his father, rode to Chinon, took possession of the Angevin treasure stored there, and spent it on restocking the castles of Aquitaine. When he was eventually reconciled with his father, he admitted that he had been listening to people (presumably Philip Augustus above all) who were out to sow dissension between them.

That autumn Richard took the cross in response to the news of the catastrophe that had overwhelmed Jerusalem. North of the Alps he was the first prince to do so—the first of many indications of his commitment to the crusading cause. That he took the cross without consulting his father added to the tension between them, so much so that it was alleged that early in 1188 Henry encouraged Geoffroi de Lusignan, Count Audemar of Angoulême, and Geoffroi de Rancon to rebel in order to detain Richard in the West. No sooner had he suppressed this revolt, once again capturing Taillebourg in the process, than a quarrel with Raymond (V) of Toulouse escalated into war. In a brief campaign Richard took no fewer than seventeen castles and installed garrisons in Cahors and Moissac to ensure firm control of the Quercy. Raymond appealed for help to Philip, who invaded Berry in June and captured Châteauroux. Richard then joined his father in Normandy, and cross-border raids and peace conferences followed in swift succession. Philip consistently offered to return his gains in Berry, if Richard would restore his conquests to Raymond. Since the Quercy meant more to Richard than it did to Henry, Philip's offer was shrewdly chosen to drive a wedge between father and son. Diceto believed that Richard had in any case been dismayed by the reports that the recent revolt had been inspired by Henry. Richard began to negotiate directly with Philip. At a conference held at Bonsmoulins on 18 November 1188 Philip offered to return all his gains on condition that Henry gave Alix in marriage to Richard, and had his barons swear an oath of fealty to Richard as heir. Whatever Henry's real intentions, his blunt refusal to do this inevitably appeared to be public confirmation of the rumours that he was planning to disinherit Richard in favour of John. Richard at once did homage to Philip for all the Angevin continental dominions, including his own recent conquests in Toulouse.

War broke out when the truce expired in mid-January 1189. As his barons began to transfer their allegiance to Richard, Henry, now a sick man, favoured John's cause more openly. A papal legate, Giovanni di Anagni, arrived to bring the kings to peace for the sake of Jerusalem, but, at a conference held at Whitsun, Richard said he would not go on crusade unless John went too. Henry's reply was to suggest that John should marry Alix. This brought negotiations to an abrupt end. Philip and Richard attacked at once, and by advancing on Le Mans forced Henry to flee. The capture of Tours on 3 July brought him to submission. Next day he acquiesced in the terms they dictated, including a payment of 20,000 marks to Philip and an agreement that the marriage of Alix and Richard would take place after Richard's return from crusade. On 6 July Henry died at Chinon.

Duke of Normandy, king of England

A courtly king, in Chrétien de Troyes's view, should not show the grief he felt. Richard's reign began in the abbey church of Fontevrault where, in the presence of his father's body, he immediately tackled the business of patronage which was at the heart of politics. He gave generously to those such as André de Chauveny who had consistently supported him, but equally generously to those such as his half-brother Geoffrey (d. 1212) and William (I) Marshal who had stayed with the dying king to the end. Anticipating that the Lord Rhys would attack English castles in Wales as soon as he heard of Henry's death, he dispatched Rhys's cousin Gerald of Wales to south Wales. On 20 July he was formally installed as duke of Normandy at Rouen. Two days later he met Philip, confirmed their treaties, and agreed to pay him an additional 4000 marks; in return he received all his father's continental dominions except for the lordships of Graçay and Issoudun which Philip had held since 1187. He restored to Robert de Breteuil, earl of Leicester (d. 1190), estates of which Henry had disseised him, and promised to do the same for all whom Henry had disinherited. The prospect of a general restoration of rights ensured that jubilation greeted his landing at Portsmouth on 13 August. On 3 September 1189 he was crowned and anointed at Westminster; Howden's account affords the first detailed description of a coronation in English history. However, the celebrations were marred by anti-Jewish riots in Westminster and London; these riots spread after Richard left England and culminated in the massacre at York in March 1190.

In the autumn of 1189 Richard reorganized the government of England, appointing two new justiciars, replacing or reshuffling the sheriffs, confirming old and making new grants. Those who received the offices and privileges they wanted paid for them. He had, in Howden's words, ‘put everything up for sale’ (Gesta … Benedicti, 2.90). This was standard practice; what was not standard was the speed and scale on which it was done in 1189. If a crusade against the great Saladin was to have any chance of success, it had to be properly resourced, and although Richard had taken over the treasure accumulated by his father—some 100,000 marks according to Howden's estimation—the greater the financial resources the better. He is alleged to have said that he would have sold London if he could have found a buyer. But preparing the crusade was more than just filling a war chest, assembling and equipping a fleet and army, though all this was done on a prodigious scale. In addition his frontiers had to be made secure. To this end he sent John to deal with the Lord Rhys, while he met the other Welsh princes at Worcester in September. Although he refused to meet Rhys himself, the fact that no Welsh prince is known to have supported John's revolt while Richard was in prison suggests that the measures taken in 1189 were effective. His dealings with Scotland were even more successful. He met King William at Canterbury in December 1189; in return for 10,000 marks he restored Roxburgh and Berwick and freed the kingdom of Scotland from ‘the heavy yoke of servitude’ (Chronica de Mailros, 98) to which Henry II had subjected it. Far from invading the north in 1193, William contributed 2000 marks towards Richard's ransom. Internal political arrangements presented a more intractable problem; his brother John had not taken the cross and was evidently not going to be satisfied with his lordship of Ireland. Richard's solution was to endow him with great estates while keeping real power—in the shape of castles—in the hands of ministers whom he trusted, above all William de Longchamp and then Walter de Coutances. It did not prevent John from rebelling but probably nothing could have done. On 11 December 1189 Richard crossed from Dover to Calais, and before the end of the year met Philip to confirm that their joint crusade would start from Vézelay on 1 April 1190.

On 15 March Queen Isabella of France died. On 16 March the two kings met again; their departure was postponed. This may well have suited Richard. His frontier with Toulouse also had to be made secure. Alone of all the major French princes, Raymond (V) had not taken the cross, and he was still smarting from the defeats of 1186–8. Richard's solution was to make a marriage alliance with Navarre—not at all easy when his promise to marry Alix had only recently been confirmed, and when to humiliate Philip by publicly discarding his sister would jeopardize the already long-delayed crusade. It might work if he could postpone the Navarre match until the crusade was well under way, but it cannot have been easy to persuade Sancho VI of Navarre to agree that at some future date he would send his daughter to be married somewhere in the Mediterranean to a man who had just broken off another betrothal. Richard had visited Gascony in February, but very probably he needed more time to complete such delicate negotiations; May and early June found him once again close to the border with Navarre. As subsequent events show, somehow or other the terms of the alliance were agreed.

Winter in Sicily, 1190–1191

The two kings left Vézelay on 4 July 1190. It had been agreed that they would share the spoils of war equally between them. At Lyons the two armies separated. Richard had arranged to rendezvous at Marseilles with the huge fleet that he had raised in England, Normandy, Brittany, and Aquitaine, which was to transport his troops to join the Christian army at the siege of Acre. But a drunken spree at Lisbon led to the fleet's being delayed, and, after waiting a week at Marseilles, Richard hired ships to send one contingent on ahead to Outremer (as the crusading settlements in the Levant were known), while he with ten transport ships and twenty galleys took a leisurely trip along the Italian coast, visiting places of interest, including the medical school at Salerno, in order to give his fleet time to meet him at the next rendezvous in Sicily. On 23 September he staged a grand entrance at Messina and conferred with Philip. Since Philip immediately set out for the Holy Land, it seems probable that Richard broached the subject of his revised marriage plans. However, the wind shifted and Philip, to his dismay, was forced to return to Messina.

Richard had family and crusade business in Sicily. King Tancred (r. 1189–94) had held Richard's sister in close confinement ever since the death of her husband, William II, in 1189. By 28 September Richard had secured her release, but Tancred continued to withhold her dower as well as the legacy—money, gold plate, and galleys—that William II had left as a crusade subsidy to Henry II, and which Richard now claimed as his. Tension mounted, exacerbated by friction between the newly arrived troops and the mainly Greek population of Messina. On 2 October Richard unloaded his ships as though planning to take over the island by force. When rioting broke out on 4 October, Richard ordered an assault on the city. It was taken in less time, said the minstrel–historian Ambroise, than it would have taken a priest to say matins. Tancred rapidly came to terms—the treaty of Messina concluded on 6 October 1190. He paid 20,000 ounces of gold in lieu of Joanna's dower, plus a further 20,000 which Richard promised would be settled on Tancred's daughter when she married Arthur of Brittany (d. 1203), now declared his heir presumptive. In return Richard agreed that while he was in Sicily he would help Tancred against any invader—a provision directed against Heinrich VI of Germany (r. 1190–97), in whose eyes Tancred was a usurper. The customary winter closure of shipping lanes in the Mediterranean meant that the crusaders would now have to stay in Sicily until the spring. Presumably at about this time a messenger was sent to Navarre.

The winter months were spent refitting the fleet and building siege-machines. Richard visited Abbot Joachim di Fiore, who prophesied that he would drive the infidels out of the Holy Land. In February 1191 Richard's mother, Eleanor, and Berengaria, escorted by Philippe, count of Flanders, reached Naples. The count was allowed to sail on to Messina but they were detained by Tancred's officials. Howden believed that Philip Augustus, desperate to save Alix, had been feeding Tancred with stories about Richard's designs on Sicily. At a meeting with Tancred on 3 March Richard succeeded in dispelling these fears, and Philip now had to acquiesce in his sister's abandonment. If he had not, wrote Howden, Richard would have produced many witnesses to testify that she had been Henry II's mistress. Faced with this terrible threat to his sister's honour Philip released Richard from his vow. In return for 10,000 marks he allowed Richard to retain the strategically vital district of the Norman Vexin (including the great castle of Gisors) which he had hitherto regarded as his sister's marriage portion. He set sail from Messina on 30 March, a few hours before Eleanor and Berengaria arrived. For the moment the marriage of Richard and Berengaria was postponed; no one could enjoy a good wedding in Lent.

The conquest of Cyprus

On 10 April Richard's immense force of some 200 ships and as many as 17,000 soldiers and seamen left Messina. On the third day out a storm blew up and at their first rendezvous off Crete it was discovered that twenty-five ships were missing, including the great ship carrying Joanna and Berengaria. While the main fleet sailed on to Rhodes, the galleys scattered in search of the lost ship. It was found at anchor off Limasol, and in danger of being arrested by Isaac Ducas Komnenos, the self-proclaimed emperor of Cyprus, who had already seized the cargoes and survivors from two wrecked crusader ships. On 6 May Richard arrived on the scene. When Isaac refused to return prisoners and plunder, he ordered—and led—an amphibious assault. Limasol was quickly captured. Isaac announced that he would give battle next day but he had underestimated his opponent. During the night Richard had the horses disembarked and exercised. Before the Cypriots were fully awake, their camp fell to a surprise attack. Isaac managed to get away but he lost arms, treasure, and reputation. On 12 May Richard and Berengaria were married in the chapel of St George at Limasol. Soon afterwards peace talks with Isaac broke down, and Richard set about the conquest of Cyprus. Giving command of the land forces to Gui de Lusignan who had arrived on 11 May with news and troops from Acre, Richard himself took charge of one of the two galley fleets that sailed round the island in opposite directions, seizing ports and shipping. Isaac might well have held out in the mountains, but, when Richard captured his daughter at Kyrenia, he surrendered. He made, it was said, just one condition—that he should not be put in irons; Richard had him fettered in silver. By 1 June Richard was master of the whole island. He imposed a heavy tax on the population in return for confirming their customs. Whether or not the conquest of Cyprus had been planned during the winter months in Messina, it proved to be a strategic masterstroke, vital to the survival of the Latin kingdom.

In the kingdom of Jerusalem: Acre and Arsuf

On 8 June 1191 Richard joined the army that had been besieging Acre for nearly two years. Since his arrival on 20 April the French king had been supporting Gui de Lusignan's bitter rival Conrad de Montferrat, so it was inevitable that the quarrel of the two kings would intensify, as did the military pressure on Acre, once Richard's siege equipment was disembarked and his galleys had completed the blockade. After Saladin's final attempt to take the besiegers' heavily fortified camp by storm was beaten back on 4 July, the exhausted defenders capitulated. Terms were agreed on 12 July: the garrison to be ransomed in return for 200,000 dinars, the release of 1500 of Saladin's prisoners, and the restoration of the relic of the True Cross—all to be found by 20 August. As the banners of the two kings were raised over Acre, so too was a third banner, the standard of Leopold, duke of Austria, leader of the small German contingent. Richard's soldiers tore it down. The two kings had no intention of letting Leopold claim a share of the spoils that they had agreed to divide equally between them. But Philip Augustus was already keen to return to France. Count Philippe of Flanders had died on 1 June, and Philip could now claim possession of Artois. At Acre, Philip was daily outbid by a king whose war chest had been replenished in Cyprus. Richard, as Saladin's secretary Baha ad-Din observed, was greater than Philip in wealth, reputation, and valour. Philip stayed long enough to sit with Richard in judgment on the competing claims of Gui and Conrad; on 28 July they awarded the kingdom to Gui for his lifetime and then to Conrad. On 31 July Philip left Acre. He left Hugues of Burgundy to collect his share of the ransom (on which Richard advanced 5000 marks) and to command those of his followers who chose to remain. Philip's departure eased one problem. In relation to Richard he had been, wrote Richard of Devizes, ‘like a hammer tied to the tail of a cat’ (Chronicon, ed. Appleby, 78). On the other hand, in Leopold and Philip, Richard had made two enemies, and they returned to Europe ahead of him.

By 20 August Saladin had not paid even the first instalment of the ransom; it may be that he could not, or he may have been trying to delay things. The crusaders had to move on towards Jerusalem and Richard and his fellow commanders doubtless calculated that they could not afford to leave 3000 prisoners to be guarded and fed in Acre. In the afternoon the captives were slaughtered, only the garrison commanders being spared. According to Ambroise, the Christian soldiers enjoyed the work of butchery. On 22 August the march south to Jaffa began. The army kept close to the sea, its right flank protected by the fleet, which now included the Egyptian galleys captured in Acre. Heat and incessant harassing by mounted archers meant that the pace was painfully slow, but Saladin could not break their disciplined advance. On 7 September at Arsuf he decided to risk battle. He eventually succeeded in provoking the hospitallers into launching a premature charge, but Richard's swift response conjured victory out of imminent confusion. On 10 September the crusaders reached Jaffa. The soldiers needed a rest and Jaffa's walls, which Saladin had dismantled, had to be rebuilt.

A letter Richard wrote in October shows that he was already thinking in terms of the thirteenth-century maxim that the keys of Jerusalem were to be found in Cairo. Nearly all the troops, however, were passionately in favour of the direct route and not even the victor of Acre and Arsuf enjoyed sufficient prestige to persuade them otherwise. November and December were spent rebuilding the castles on the pilgrims' road from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Soon after Christmas the army reached Beit Nuba, 12 miles from Jerusalem. They could avoid military realities no longer. Even though Richard's patient war of attrition had at last forced Saladin to disband the bulk of his troops, he stayed in Jerusalem; while he was there the crusaders' own logistical problems meant that laying siege to the city was impossibly risky. In any case even if they managed to take Jerusalem, they did not have the numbers to occupy and defend it—especially since many of the most devout crusaders, having fulfilled their pilgrim vows, would at once go home. Reluctantly an army council decided to go to Ascalon, a step in the direction of Egypt which the duke of Burgundy refused to take.

The end of the crusade

Richard reached Ascalon on 20 January 1192, and its rebuilding began—mostly at his expense. As a base from which caravans travelling between Syria and Egypt could be raided, it should in due course be a source of profit for its new lord, Richard's old enemy, Geoffroi de Lusignan. Hugues of Burgundy then appeared wanting to borrow more money; when Richard refused, he withdrew to Acre and in alliance with Conrad de Montferrat and the Genoese tried to seize control of the city. Gui's allies, the Pisans, kept them at bay until they fled to Tyre on hearing that Richard was on his way. He remained at Acre for six weeks, managing to reconcile the Pisans and Genoese, but failing to shift Conrad from the policy of non co-operation which he had pursued ever since Philip's departure. On 15 April, two weeks after his return to Ascalon, Richard received disquieting news which forced him to think about returning to his dominions and hence about what would happen if he left behind a kingdom torn apart by faction. Recognizing that Gui would be no match for a politician as clever and ambitious as Conrad, he summoned a council to pronounce in favour of Conrad as king; he compensated Gui by selling him Cyprus in return for a down payment of 60,000 bezants. He then sent Count Henri of Champagne to Tyre to inform the new king of his good fortune. No sooner had this been done than, on 28 April, Conrad was murdered by two Assassins. Local chronicles give the simplest explanation of the murder as the outcome of a quarrel between Conrad and Rashid al-Din Sinan, the head of the Syrian branch of the Assassins. Naturally, however, rumours abounded. Many people said Richard had bribed Sinan, the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’; others said Saladin had; yet another candidate for this secret role was Humphrey de Toron, the discarded first husband of Conrad's wife, Isabella. As the most favoured claimant to the title of queen of Jerusalem, Isabella could not remain without a third husband for long. On 5 May she was married to Henri of Champagne. As nephew of both Richard and Philip Augustus he was well placed to reconcile the factions—as was shown when both he and Duke Hugues answered Richard's summons to the siege of Darum, 20 miles south of Ascalon. In the event Richard captured it on 22 May, the day before they arrived.

A week later reliable news came to Richard of his brother's treasonable dealings with Philip. To complicate matters further, a meeting of the army council decided to make another attempt on Jerusalem. Faced by impossible choices Richard retired to his tent for several days before announcing that he was ready to stay until next Easter and would go with them to Jerusalem. (As it happened, Eleanor held John in check, and his own nobles restrained Philip.) By 29 June the entire crusader army was at Beit Nuba again. Confronted by the realities, the army hesitated. Richard urged an attack on Egypt. According to Ambroise, on one patrol he rode to the top of a hill from which he saw Jerusalem. In later legend it was said that he covered his eyes with his shield so that he did not see what he could not take. A committee of twenty (five templars, five hospitallers, five barons of Outremer, and five of France) was set up; it was agreed that all would abide by its decision. But when it opted for Egypt the duke of Burgundy refused. Hopelessly split, the army could only retreat.

Richard reopened negotiations with Saladin, dismantled Darum, and strengthened Ascalon, before returning to Acre on 26 July. Next day Saladin launched a surprise attack on Jaffa. Richard sailed south as soon as he heard, but by the time his galleys reached Jaffa (1 August) the town had been captured and only the citadel was still holding out. Richard himself led the assault up the beach and into the town. That day, said Ambroise (and not for the first time), his prowess exceeded Roland's at Roncesvaux. Three days later when Saladin attacked again, Richard combined spearmen and crossbowmen in a solid defensive formation which the Muslim cavalry could not break. By now both sides were weary, and Richard himself fell seriously ill. A three-year truce was agreed on 2 September; Richard had to hand back Ascalon and Darum; Saladin granted Christian pilgrims free access to Jerusalem. Many crusaders took advantage of this facility, but not Richard. Finally he was well enough to set sail on 9 October, worryingly late in the year. He had failed to take Jerusalem, but the entire coast from Tyre to Jaffa was now in Christian hands; and so was Cyprus. Considered as an administrative, political, and military exercise, his crusade had been an astonishing success.

Prisoner in Germany

By mid-November 1192 Richard had reached Corfu. There, if not before, he must have calculated that the enmity of Raymond (V) and Emperor Heinrich VI (and the latter's alliances with Pisa and Genoa) had in effect barred the most promising route back to his own dominions via Barcelona. Weather conditions at sea now meant that the most plausible alternative was to travel through eastern Germany, where a group of princes led by Richard's brother-in-law Henry the Lion, formerly duke of Saxony and Bavaria, was in opposition to Heinrich VI. It was a gamble because it involved passing through the territory of Leopold of Austria, but at least he would be going where he was not expected. At Corfu he hired galleys and went north with a handful of trusted companions. They survived shipwreck on the Istrian coast and then headed for Moravia disguised as pilgrims. Suspicions were soon aroused and, although they evaded the hunt for three days, they were finally captured near Vienna (only 50 miles from safety). By 28 December the emperor had been informed that Leopold held the king of England prisoner in the castle of Dürnstein. Heinrich wrote to Philip, ‘We know this news will bring you great joy’ (Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hovedene, 3.195–6). By mid-January 1193 John also knew, and hastened to do homage to Philip. The church claimed to protect returning crusaders and the pope excommunicated Leopold, but no one took any notice. For more than a year kings and princes haggled over the price of Richard's freedom. Heinrich and Leopold agreed terms on 14 February 1193 and Richard was then transferred to the emperor's custody. At an imperial court held at Speyer (21–25 March) he had to defend himself against charges of betraying the Holy Land and plotting the death of Conrad de Montferrat. Even his enemies were impressed by his self-possessed bearing. In the words of Guillaume le Breton, Richard ‘spoke so eloquently and regally, in so lionhearted a manner, it was as though he were seated on an ancestral throne at Lincoln or Caen’ (Delaborde, 2.112). The charges were dropped, but fortune had dealt Heinrich—who had been in considerable political difficulties—a trump card and he had no intention of giving it away. At Speyer, Richard agreed to pay a ransom of 100,000 marks and to supply the emperor with 50 galleys and 200 knights for a year.

Had Richard returned safely early in 1193 he would have found the Angevin empire in good shape. In England the justiciar, Longchamp, had failed to survive a political crisis orchestrated by John in the autumn of 1191 but, to John's chagrin, Longchamp had been replaced by the archbishop of Rouen, Walter de Coutances, whom Richard had sent back from Sicily earlier that summer in order to take care of just such an eventuality. In 1192 Philip and Raymond (V) managed to stir up rebellion in Aquitaine, but Richard's marriage alliance proved its worth. With the aid of Berengaria's brother, Sancho of Navarre, the seneschal Elie de la Celle was able to suppress the revolt and launch a punitive raid against Toulouse. Another Aquitanian rebellion early in 1193 was also suppressed, and its leader, Count Audemar of Angoulême, captured. But on 12 April 1193 Philip at last inflicted a severe blow when the castellan of Gisors, Gilbert de Vascoeuil, surrendered without a fight. Presumably Gilbert calculated that John, Philip's eager ally, would soon be duke of Normandy, and that he had best align himself with the likely victors. In this sense John's rebellion against his brother, though it had small success in England, turned out to be critical. Philip arranged to meet Heinrich VI on 25 June, an indication that Richard's position was continuing to deteriorate. To persuade the emperor to cancel the conference with Philip, Richard had to renegotiate his ransom terms; he would now be released only after 100,000 marks had been paid and hostages for an additional 50,000 handed over. (However, the emperor's promise to remit the 50,000 if Richard could persuade Henry the Lion to make peace on acceptable terms indicates the extent to which, even in captivity, Richard had political weight and the diplomatic skill to make it count—as indeed he had already demonstrated in bringing about a reconciliation between the emperor and some of his other opponents.)

The king returns

The cancellation of his conference led Philip to believe that, as he wrote to John, ‘the devil is loosed’ (Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hovedene, 3.216–17). Even so the terms of the treaty of Mantes (9 July 1193), which he negotiated with Richard's agents, show just how strong the French king's position was. He insisted on the release of Count Audemar, kept all his gains, and in addition was given four key castles—Loches, Châtillon-sur-Indre, Drincourt, and Arques—as security for Richard's promise to pay him 20,000 marks. In the event not until Christmas did the emperor receive enough of the ransom to fix a day for Richard's release: 17 January 1194. Philip and John at once put in a counter-offer. Heinrich was tempted and summoned the German princes to an assembly at Mainz on 2 February 1194. Here Richard's good relations with the princes bore fruit. On 4 February he was set free; two of Henry the Lion's sons were among the hostages he provided. On his mother's advice he resigned his kingdom to Heinrich VI and received it back as an imperial fief. In return emperor and princes wrote to Philip and John, threatening war if they did not restore all they had taken. On his way back to England, Richard renewed his alliances with the major princes of the Rhineland. On 13 March he landed at Sandwich and then, after visiting the shrines of Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds, went to Nottingham where the last of John's garrisons still held out. After some fierce fighting the castle surrendered on 28 March. On 17 April at Winchester, Richard wore his crown in state. On 12 May he sailed to Normandy, never to return, leaving the government of England in the remarkably capable hands of Hubert Walter (d. 1205), with whom he had become well acquainted on crusade, and whom in 1193—while in prison—he had appointed archbishop of Canterbury and justiciar.

Unlike England, the duchy was in a parlous state. In January 1194 John had granted Philip the castle of Vaudreuil and the lands south and east of the River Itun, as well as the whole of the duchy east of the Seine except for Rouen itself. By the time Richard landed at Barfleur, Philip had succeeded in taking possession of much of this territory, including channel ports such as Dieppe and Le Tréport in the lordships of Arques and Eu. Yet, although the tide of war in Normandy appeared to be flowing in Philip's favour, no sooner had Richard returned than John rushed to beg—and receive—forgiveness. On 29 May Richard raised Philip's siege of Verneuil, then moved south to enter Tours (which John had also given away) on 11 June, before taking Loches with the help of Navarrese troops on 13 June. Philip followed Richard into the Loire valley in the hope of inhibiting his freedom of movement but, as soon as Richard threatened to engage him in battle, at Fréteval on 4 July, he took flight, losing his entire baggage train, including treasure and archives. Richard now had a free hand to deal with Philip's friends in Aquitaine. On 22 July he sent a boastfully laconic note to Hubert Walter:
Know that by God's grace which in all things upholds the right, we have captured Taillebourg and Marcillac and the whole land of Geoffroi de Rancon; also the city of Angoulême, Châteauneuf-sur-Charente, Montignac, Lachaise and all the other castles and the whole land of the count of Angoulême; the city and citadel of Angoulême we captured in a single evening; in all we took 300 knights and 40,000 soldiers. (Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hovedene, 3.256–7)

War for Normandy

So emphatic a restoration of Angevin authority could not be achieved in Normandy. The Norman castles of the Seine valley and the Vexin were of such importance to the French king at Paris that a campaign to wrest them from his grasp would require massive and expensive preparation. Hence Richard's acceptance until 1 November 1195 of the truce that his representatives in Normandy negotiated on 23 July 1194. In fact the truce was always poorly kept and by the summer of 1195 full-scale war had broken out. Richard's strategy involved pressure both in Normandy and in the Auvergne and Berry where his forces captured Issoudun. To add to Philip's worries, Heinrich VI, enriched by the spoils of Sicily which he had conquered with Richard's money, announced his intention of helping his vassal. By August Philip was ready to restore virtually all his conquests in return for a marriage treaty between his heir, Louis, and Richard's niece Eleanor, which would guarantee him secure possession of the Vexin; indeed, realizing he could not hold castles like Vaudreuil, he had begun to dismantle them. Although completion of peace talks was deferred until the emperor had been consulted, Richard returned Alix to Philip who promptly (20 August) gave her in marriage to the count of Ponthieu with Eu and Arques as her dowry. In consequence the struggle for Dieppe was renewed and the port sacked in November 1195. Later that month Philip laid siege to Issoudun, but was outmanoeuvred by Richard's speed of response and had to agree to the treaty of Louviers in January 1196. Not only did Philip resign all his conquests except the Norman Vexin and six castles elsewhere on the Norman–Capetian border; he was also forced to abandon the new count of Toulouse, Raymond (VI). This paved the way for the diplomatic revolution finalized at Rouen in October 1196 when Richard renounced his claim to Toulouse, restored the Quercy, and gave his sister Joanna, together with the Agenais as her dowry, in marriage to Raymond (VI). This, wrote William of Newburgh, marked the end of an exhausting forty years' war and freed Richard to concentrate his resources on the struggle against Philip.

This was just as well, since elsewhere 1196 went badly for Richard. The threat to his control of the channel posed by Philip's allies, the counts of Ponthieu and Boulogne, was increased when Philip won over the new count of Flanders, Baudouin (IX). Then the commercially vital shipping lanes to Poitou were put at risk, when the Bretons responded to Richard's demand for custody of his nine-year-old nephew by appealing for help to Philip. A massive invasion of Brittany by naval and land forces in April 1196 countered that threat, but not before Arthur had been given asylum by the king of France. In the war that followed Richard suffered set-backs. He was wounded in the knee by a crossbow bolt while vainly besieging Gaillon; he was defeated by Philip and Baudouin when he tried to lift their siege of Aumale. When Aumale surrendered late in August it cost him 3000 marks to ransom the garrison. Yet by July 1197 Philip's most valuable ally had been persuaded to change sides. Richard first imposed a crippling embargo on Flemish trade and then rewarded Count Baudouin's new allegiance with generous gifts of cash and wine. From then on the tide of diplomacy and war flowed strongly in Richard's favour. While he campaigned in Berry, capturing Vierzon and other castles, Baudouin invaded Artois, taking the rich town of Douai. A truce based on the status quo of September 1197 meant that Philip had lost territory on two fronts. In February 1198 a group of German princes, at Richard's suggestion, elected his nephew Otto, son of his sister , as king in succession to Heinrich VI. Some of Philip's most powerful vassals, the counts of Boulogne, St Pol, Perche, and Blois, decided that the time had come to join the winning side.

Reconquest of the Vexin

When the truce expired in September 1198 Richard at last set about the systematic recovery of the Vexin. This Philip had to prevent; in consequence Baudouin, given a free hand in Artois, was able to take Aire and St Omer. And by forcing Philip to march to the relief of his castles Richard had him where he wanted him. Twice Philip had to run for safety. On the second occasion, on 28 September, so hot was Richard's pursuit that the bridge of Gisors collapsed under the weight of knights struggling to reach safety. Philip himself was dragged out of the river, but more than 120 Capetian knights were drowned or captured. ‘We ourselves unhorsed three knights with a single lance’ wrote Richard (Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hovedene, 4.58). After this Philip was left with little but Gisors. The reconquest had been well prepared. For this Richard had embarked on the greatest building project of his life at Les Andelys—not just the castle, Château Gaillard, high on the Rock of Andelys, but also a new river-port, a new town (Petit-Andelys), and the new palace (on the Isle of Andelys), which became his favourite residence. Recorded expenditure here for the two years ending September 1198 was more than recorded expenditure on all royal castles in England during his entire reign. Merely to acquire the site he had to bully the church of Rouen into accepting two manors and Dieppe in exchange. But Andelys was vital, for it constituted one end of the strategic lifeline of the Angevin empire; at the other lay Richard's new port, palace, and town of Portsmouth. Linked to the arsenal at Rouen by cart and barge—the latter sailing under the protection of galleys—it was the great forward base, only 5 miles from Philip's castle of Gaillon, from which the recovery of the Vexin had been organized.


Richard had always proclaimed his intention of returning to the East once he had regained his own lands. Now Pope Innocent III (r. 1198–1216) summoned a new crusade and sent a legate to make peace. On 13 January 1199 the kings met and agreed to a five-year truce. Philip was ready to hand back everything else in return for a marriage treaty that left Gisors securely in the hands of his heir. In March, while negotiations continued, Richard took an army to the south. On 26 March he was wounded in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt while reconnoitring Châlus-Chabrol, a small castle belonging to Aimar de Limoges. When the wound turned gangrenous, Richard named John as his heir, bequeathed his jewels to Otto, and forgave the man who shot him. He died on 6 April and was buried at Fontevrault, beside his father (his heart was buried in Rouen Cathedral). The rumour spread—and was reported by a number of French and English historians—that he had gone to Châlus to claim treasure trove. However, Bernard Itier, the local historian from the abbey of St Martial at Limoges, certainly better informed about the circumstances that led to his death than any other reporter, had not a word to say about treasure. Once again Richard had been drawn to the Limousin in order to suppress a rebellion encouraged by King Philip and led by the vicomte of Limoges and the count of Angoulême. He had not been killed in a trivial sideshow, but in confronting what had long been the most serious problem in the politics of Aquitaine.

The sinews of war

Opinions were divided as to the justice of the wars that Richard fought as duke, but there was no division of opinion within the Angevin empire about the wars he undertook as king. All agreed that they were just wars fought for the recovery of legitimate rights, whether in Outremer or in the West. For his crusade, for his ransom, and then for his war against Philip, he made heavy financial demands on his subjects everywhere, from Cyprus to England. Although the records do not permit useful global estimates to be given, it is clear that huge sums were raised. On crusade Richard was, in the words of a German chronicler, greater in wealth and resources than all other kings. The bulk of his ransom must have been raised by an extraordinary 25 per cent levy of the value of all rents and moveables (the highest rate in the history of this tax), but after his release more traditional fiscal methods were generally employed: scutages, carucages, reliefs, and the profits of royal patronage.

It was done systematically and with a ruthless efficiency which at times smacked of chicanery. Men who thought they had bought their offices in 1189 were dismayed to be told in 1194 that in reality they had only leased them for a term of years, that the term had expired, and that new bids were now in order. In 1198 charters granted under the king's seal were declared void unless renewed under a new seal. In Coggeshall's opinion, Richard's cupidity endangered his soul; ‘no age can remember or history tell of any king who demanded and took so much money from his kingdom as this king extorted and amassed within the five years after his return from his captivity’ (Chronicon Anglicanum, 93). Yet there was a grudging acceptance that the money was raised for honourable causes and efficiently expended. Hence Newburgh's comment that, although Richard taxed more heavily than his father had done, people complained less. Whereas English historians give the impression that English taxpayers bore the brunt, a comparison of the Norman and English exchequer rolls suggests that the Norman taxpayers were particularly hard-pressed.

The fact that such vast sums were raised suggests an efficient administration, and implies that, when appointing chief ministers, Richard generally chose competent men for his continental dominions—men such as Robert of Thornham (d. 1211) in Anjou, Geoffroi de la Celle in Aquitaine, and William Fitzralph in Normandy—as well as for England. In England no new assizes were issued while he was on crusade and in Germany (though routine judicial and financial government continued), but once he was back in his dominions administrative innovation resumed. Unquestionably much of the credit for this must go to Hubert Walter, one of the ablest ministers in English history, but it was the king who made him justiciar and who, against mounting ecclesiastical pressure, persuaded the archbishop to stay in government office until 1198. It was the king who, when Hubert resigned the justiciarship, found a highly competent replacement in Geoffrey fitz Peter (d. 1213). Political and military obligations and pressures meant that Richard's presence was required not in England but on the continent and in the Mediterranean. However, like other masterful kings of England, he found no difficulty in governing it from abroad. He intervened frequently and decisively in English secular and ecclesiastical business, even during Hubert Walter's justiciarship, and there is certainly no evidence that he neglected his duties. In 1189, according to Howden, after he had imposed a settlement on the long-drawn-out dispute between the archbishop and monks of Canterbury, provided for Scotland and for his brother John, ‘everyone went home commending and praising the king's great deeds’ (Gesta … Benedicti, 2.99). It is not surprising that hopeful English litigants visited him even when in Sicily or in prison. There is no evidence that anyone thought him addicted, as were many of his contemporaries, to the pleasures of the chase or the tournament, though he appreciated the latter's value as training for real war, and by organizing the holding of tournaments in England—and charging fees for them—he broke with the cautious custom of his predecessors.

The character of a legend

It was entirely in character that Richard should have been fatally wounded while engaged in close reconnaissance. From 1173 onwards a series of wars dominated his life. Although good-quality armour could make participation in war a safer pursuit than hunting, the fact that he was prepared to plunge into the thick of the fray meant that at times he took his life in his hands. Even an admirer as fervent as Ambroise could imagine that Saladin would judge Richard to possess ‘courage carried to excess’ (Crusade of Richard Lionheart, l.12,152). It was not, however, mindless courage. In part it was based upon a morality of command. Hence the words attributed to him when, against advice, he went to the rescue of a foraging party in difficulties: ‘I sent those men there. If they die without me, may I never again be called a king’ (ibid., ll.7345–8). In part it was based upon a commander's perception of morale. Knowing that he would share the risks they ran, his men, in the words of Richard of Devizes, ‘would wade in blood to the Pillars of Hercules if he so desired’ (Chronicon, ed. Appleby, 21). In planning and organizing wars on the scale of the crusade or the recovery of his dominions in France he was a cool and patient strategist, as much a master of sea power as of land forces. Defeated opponents commonly complained that he had cunningly taken them by surprise. But friends and rivals alike testified to his individual prowess and valour. In his lifetime he was already known as Coeur de Lion. These qualities endangered his life, but they impressed enemy troops as well as his own, and while he lived they made him a supremely effective soldier. After his death they ensured that the image of the legendary warrior–hero lived on. Understanding the value of a legendary reputation, he preached what he practised. The letters in which he inflated his own achievements were intended for wide circulation. He consciously associated himself with the world of romance, as when he rode out of Vézelay bearing Excalibur. But he was also a businesslike king; in Sicily he exchanged King Arthur's sword for four transport ships and fifteen galleys.

The evidence is too fragmentary and contradictory to give a reliable impression of Richard's physical appearance. The effigy on his tomb at Fontevrault dates from several decades after his death. The chronicler Ralph Coggeshall, who vividly remembered the ferocious look and tone with which Richard greeted anyone who interrupted him at work, implies that by 1199 he was running to fat; if so he still remained a fighting knight. On several occasions the magnificence of his dress drew admiring comment—another aspect of his awareness of the impact of display. (He is the first king of England whose charters employed the royal ‘we’ of majesty.) He participated in the music of the royal chapel and took the ritual of the church seriously—it was, after all, a ritual that exalted kings, an ecclesiastical drama in which the king, enthroned, played a central role. On crusade Richard insisted on playing a starring role, but he was also deeply committed to the religious obligation to recover the patrimony of Christ; it happened to coincide with his duty as family man and lord to restore the kingdom of Jerusalem to his cousins, the junior branch of the Angevin family, and to its rightful king, Gui de Lusignan, one of his own vassals. He founded several religious houses: a Premonstratensian abbey (Le-Lieu-Dieu-en-Jard) and a Benedictine priory (Gourfailles) in the Vendée; and an abbey for the Cistercians, with whom he had a close relationship, at Bonport in Normandy.

William of Newburgh assumed that Richard would find pleasure in his marriage to Berengaria. But they seem to have spent little time together after 1192 and they had no children. He had an illegitimate son, Philip, to whom he gave the lordship of Cognac. Contemporaries and near contemporaries clearly assumed he was heterosexual. The late twentieth-century idea that he was homosexual is based upon an anachronistic interpretation of the evidence, though in the final analysis his sexuality must remain unknown. He comes across as an intelligent man—famous for his pointed witticisms—and as a ruler driven by the tasks he had to deal with. Even his songs were composed with politics in mind. His main sin was arrogance, the confident assumption that there was no problem he could not solve: in consequence he sometimes made enemies casually, but he then faced them, even when in prison, in a calm and self-possessed manner.


Inevitably historians attached to the courts of Philip Augustus and his allies took a hostile view, but not even Philip's panegyrist conceals his underlying admiration for Richard. According to Guillaume le Breton, had Richard been more God-fearing, and had he not fought against his lord, Philip of France, England would never have had a better king. Some English historians such as Coggeshall and William of Newburgh mix praise with criticism. Newburgh disapproves of Longchamp and thinks Richard overgenerous to John. A German contemporary, Walther von der Vogelweide, believes that it was precisely Richard's generosity that made his subjects willing to raise a king's ransom on his behalf. Richard's reputation, above all as a crusader, meant that the tone of contemporaries and near contemporaries, whether writing in the West or the Middle East, was overwhelmingly favourable. According to Baha ad-Din, Richard was a man of wisdom, experience, courage, and energy. Ibn al-Athir judges him the most remarkable ruler of his time for courage, shrewdness, energy, and patience. In France St Louis's biographer Joinville portrays Richard as a model for St Louis to follow. In England he became a standard by which later kings were judged. Even in Scotland, thanks to the quitclaim of Canterbury, he won a high place in historical tradition; according to John Fordun, he was ‘that noble king so friendly to the Scots’ (Chronica gentis Scottorum, 2.271).

For at least four centuries Richard remained what he had always been: a model king. Holinshed in his Chronicles calls him ‘a notable example to all princes’ (R. Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Irelande, 1578, 2.266); for John Speed he is ‘this triumphal and bright shining star of chivalry’ (J. Speed, The Historie of Great Britain, 1611, 481). The first serious note of dissent comes from the Stuart courtier–poet and historian Samuel Daniel who criticizes Richard for wasting English resources on the crusade and other foreign projects—‘gleaning out what possible this kingdom could yield, to consume the same in his business of France’ (S. Daniel, The Collection of the History of England, 1621 edn, 105). In later centuries Daniel's remarkably original and consciously anachronistic interpretation gradually became the common opinion of scholars. David Hume, for example, the most influential eighteenth-century historian of England, breaking with Scottish tradition, describes Richard as ‘better calculated to dazzle men by the splendour of his enterprises, than either to promote their happiness or his own grandeur by a sound and well-regulated policy’ (D. Hume, History of England, 1871 reprint of 1786 edn, 1.279). In consequence, although works of literary fiction, most notably Ivanhoe (1819) and The Talisman (1825) by Walter Scott, continued to present a glamorous image of Richard I, one given lasting visual form by the equestrian statue of the king by Carlo Marochetti which was financed by public subscription and placed outside the houses of parliament in 1860, virtually all historians came to think of Richard as ‘a bad ruler’ (Stubbs, Gesta, xxvii), an absentee king who neglected his kingdom. This perception came to be so powerful that the early twentieth-century historians who worked in most detail on his reign, Kate Norgate and Maurice Powicke, challenged it only by implication. At a popular level the idea of a king who was ‘never there’ was reinforced by Richard's legendary association with Robin Hood. The ‘Little England’ view of Richard is summed up by A. L. Poole in the Oxford History of England. ‘He used England as a bank on which to draw and overdraw in order to finance his ambitious exploits abroad’ (From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 2nd edn, 1955, 350). Since 1978 this insular approach has been increasingly questioned. It is now more widely acknowledged that Richard was head of a dynasty with far wider responsibilities than merely English ones, and that in judging a ruler's political acumen more weight might be attached to contemporary opinion than to views which occurred to no one until many centuries after his death.

John Gillingham


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tomb effigy, 13th cent., Rouen Cathedral · Proud, line engraving, BM, NPG · coins · line engraving, NPG · seals · tomb effigy, Fontevrault Abbey, Maine-et-Loire, France [see illus.] · wax seal, BM, TNA: PRO