King Richard I is best remembered as Richard the Lionheart. How did Richard earn this title and what is he the most famous for?
Richard the Lionheart is most famous for his series of victories in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, against Saladin. Despite his successes, Richard was unable to capture Jerusalem, the main objective of the Crusade.
For more on Richard the Lionheart and how he earned his name, read on.
Richard was born in Oxford, England, on September 8, 1157. He was the son of Henry II, who became King of England, and Eleanor of Aquitane. Henry and Eleanor had eight children, with Richard’s older brother Henry in line to the throne.
Richard was a talented diplomat and military leader and proved as much when he joined his brothers in rebelling against their father in 1173. The rebellion was motivated by opposition to Henry II’s intention to divide his titles evenly between his sons.
Richard’s brother, Henry, who became known as the Young King, led the rebellion in an attempt to ensure he would inherit as much of his father’s realm as possible. The rebellion lasted a year, with Henry II facing opposition from the kings of Scotland and France, as well as many of his own barons.
Henry II was ultimately victorious, but the issues between the father and his sons remained. Almost a decade later, in 1182, war broke out again, this time in Aquitane in modern-day France.
Henry the Young King fell ill during the war and died, leaving Richard as heir to the English throne. At their mother’s behest, Richard and his brothers continued waging war against their father
King of England
Unlike his older brother, Richard defeated his father’s forces in battle and Henry II surrendered to him. On July 5. 1189, Richard became King Richard I of England and the Duke of Normandy. Despite becoming King of England, Richard would spend very little of his reign in the country, and divided his time between France and the crusades.
Richard had already vowed to partake in the crusades before his coronation, and he soon sailed to the Middle East as part of the Third Crusade. Their goal was recapturing the Holy Land, which had been conquered by Saladin two years earlier in 1187.
On his way to the Holy Land, Richard spent the winter in Sicily. Richard’s mother visited him with Berengaria of Navarre, a potential bride who Richard showed little interest in.
He continued on his journey and lost part of his fleet in a wreck off the coast of Cyprus. On hearing that the survivors of the wrecked ships had been treated poorly by the ruler of Cyprus, Isaac I, Richard sailed back to the island and conquered it.
While in Cyprus, Richard married Berengaria, who became Queen of England and Cyprus, an unexpected combination. He eventually made his delayed arrival in the Middle East.
In June 1191, Richard captured the city of Acre, in modern-day Israel. The achievement made him a heroic figure across the Catholic world but the true goal of any crusade was recapturing Jerusalem from Saladin, which was not accomplished.
Richard negotiated a peace treaty with Saladin and set sail toward his home kingdom. During the voyage home, Richard suffered the same fate as part of his fleet had earlier and was wrecked on the Adriatic Sea.
Richard was captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria and ransomed. The ransom was enormous, requiring a quarter of every man’s income in Richard’s kingdom for a year in order to pay. After a difficult journey, Richard returned to England.
His stay would be brief and Richard soon sailed for France, attempting to hold his domain together through a series of conflicts.
During a siege at Chalus in France, Richard was shot by a crossbowman, with the bolt hitting his shoulder. Richard’s wound soon became gangrenous and he fell gravely ill.
Richard had the crossbowman, Bertram de Gurdun, brought to see him. Bertram was given a hundred shillings and set free. Richard died shortly after at 41 years old, with his titles passing to his brother, who became King John.
Despite Richard’s show of benevolence to the man who killed him, Bertram did not escape unscathed. He was executed in a gruesome manner.
In a decade as King of England, Richard the Lionheart spent less than a year in the country and likely couldn’t speak English.