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Richard I crowned king of England

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

On This Day In History - 3 September 1189

King Richard I's coronation at Westminster Abbey

Richard Coeur de Lion by Carlo Marochetti, an equestrian statue depicting Richard I of England. After its model was displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851, a bronze casting was installed outside the New Palace of Westminster in 1860.
Richard Coeur de Lion

Brief biography of Richard I;

Richard was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England & Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader & warrior. He was King of England from 1189 - 1199, he was 31 at the time of his coronation.

By the age of 16, Richard had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father. Richard was a central Christian commander during the Third Crusade, leading the campaign after the departure of Philip II of France and scoring considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, although he did not retake Jerusalem from Saladin.

He was born in England, where he spent his childhood; before becoming king, however, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England.

Most of his life as king was spent on Crusade, in captivity, or actively defending his lands in France. Rather than regarding his kingdom as a responsibility requiring his presence as ruler, he has been perceived as preferring to use it merely as a source of revenue to support his armies. Nevertheless, he was seen as a pious hero by his subjects. He remains one of the few kings of England remembered by his epithet, rather than regnal number, & is an enduring iconic figure both in England & in France.

He married Berengaria of Navarre. Richard had Berengaria brought to him by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. Since Richard was already on the Third Crusade, having wasted no time in setting off after his coronation, the two women had a long & difficult journey to catch up with him. They arrived at Messina in Sicily during Lent (when the marriage could not take place) in 1191 & were joined by Richard's sister Joan, the widowed Queen of Sicily. The two women became good friends & Berengaria was left in Joan's custody. En-route to the Holy Land, the ship carrying Berengaria & Joan ran aground off the coast of Cyprus, & they were threatened by the island's ruler, Isaac Comnenus. Richard came to their rescue, captured the island, & overthrew Comnenus. Berengaria married Richard the Lionheart on 12 May 1191, in the Chapel of St George at Limassol on Cyprus, & was crowned the same day by the Archbishop of Bordeaux & Bishops of Évreux & Bayonne. They had no children.


Richard died on 6 April 1199 in the arms of his mother, & thus "ended his earthly day". Richard's heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, his entrails in Châlus (where he died), & the rest of his body at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou. In 2012, scientists analysed the remains of Richard's heart & found that it had been embalmed with various substances, including frankincense, a symbolically important substance because it had been present both at the birth and embalming of the Christ.

The Coronation;

Richard was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. At the coronation he stood before the throne, a man at his peak, over 6 foot tall, ceremoniously disrobed down to his shirt & breeches. Slits were made through his shirt for the anointing process. It was Archbishop Baldwin who conducted the service, he would die the following year while on crusade with Richard. Richard was consecrated on the chest & hands, then holy oil was dripped on to his head, which was then carefully bound in a chrismale or linen coif. This would remain on the kings head for eight days so not a single drop of this holy oil was lost.

The king was then dressed in tunic, dalmatic (loose fitting wide-sleeved garment) & the cap of maintenance was pulled over the chrismale. Gold laced sandals were placed on his feet, then came his spurs, sword, stole & mantle. Richard moved to the alter where he promised to uphold the laws of the kingdom (Richard was only in England for about ten months of his ten year reign).

The king then picked the crown from the altar & passed it to the archbishop. The moment of this new kings crowning had come. Baldwin then placed the crown over the cap of maintenance & chrismale. Richard was now King of England. All that remained was for the ring to be placed on his finger, & the sceptre & rod to be placed in his hands, now the new king sat on his throne, ready for his banquet.

Richard had previously said no woman (even his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine) or Jew could attend the coronation, due to the religious superstitions of the times. Unfortunately the Jewish community ignored the request & came to the banquet bearing gifts. The mob outside set upon the jews & many were beaten & killed.& houses burnt to the ground. Richard knew none of this & the ringleaders were duly hanged.

During his banquet Richard asked what was all this commotion outside, the doorkeeper replied that nothing, just boys rejoicing & merry at heart. When Richard heard the truth of the matter, he had the doorkeeper dragged to his death, tied to horses.

Richard left his kingdom three months later for France, where he planned joining forces with King Philip of France & go on a crusade.

Philip of France & Richard I

Tomb of Richard I of England at Rouen Cathedral, France


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