Updated: Aug 21, 2021
On This Day In History
8 September 1157
👑 Richard was a king of England, although during his 10-year reign he spent only six months in England. He was also Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine & Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, & Nantes, & was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period.
He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader & warrior.
Richard was born on 8 September 1157, probably at Beaumont Palace in Oxford, son of Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine. He possessed considerable political & military ability. However, like his brothers, he fought with his family, joining them in the great rebellion against their father in 1173. In 1183 his brother Henry died, leaving Richard heir to the throne. Henry II wanted to give Aquitaine to his youngest son, John. Richard refused &, in 1189, joined forces with Philip II of France against his father, hounding him to a premature death in July 1189.
As king, Richard's chief ambition was to join the Third Crusade, prompted by Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1187. To finance this, he sold sheriffdoms & other offices & in 1190 he departed for the Holy Land. In May, he reached Cyprus where he married Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre.
Above image: Philip II of France & Richard Lionheart receiving the keys to Acra.
Richard arrived in the Holy Land in June 1191 & Acre fell the following month. In September, his victory at Arsuf gave the crusaders possession of Joppa (now known as Jaffa). Although he came close, Jerusalem, the crusade's main objective, eluded him. Moreover, fierce quarrels among the French, German & English contingents provided further troubles. After a year's stalemate, Richard made a truce with Saladin & started his journey home.
Bad weather drove him ashore near Venice & he was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being handed over to the German emperor Henry VI, who ransomed him for the huge sum of 150,000 marks. The raising of the ransom by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine was a remarkable achievement, his brother John & the French king had actually offered 80,000 marks to the Emperor to hold Richard prisoner.
In February 1194, Richard was released. He returned at once to England & was crowned for a second time, fearing that the ransom payment had compromised his independence. Yet a month later he went to Normandy, never to return. His last five years were spent in intermittent warfare against Philip II. While besieging the castle of Châlus in central France he was fatally wounded & died on 6 April 1199. He was succeeded by his younger brother John who had spent the years of Richard's absence scheming against him.