Richard was born on 8 September 1157 and was the third legitimate son of King Henry II of England. He is believed to have showed military interest and skill from an early age, and even questioned his father’s rule in 1174 (with the support of his brothers Henry and Geoffrey) until the king reasserted his authority.
With his father still in power Richard’s attention turned to his rule over Aquitaine, but tensions rose once more when the king demanded Richard pay homage to his brother Henry. Upon his refusal, Richard’s brothers turned against him in 1183 and four years later he was forced to form an alliance with King Philip II France to boost his allies. Despite forcing Richard to give up his rights over Normandy and Anjou, the alliance proved a valuable one - aided by the death of his brother Henry, Richard joined forces with Philip and gained finally achieved against his father in July 1189.
Upon defeating King Henry II, Richard was named as his rightful heir and was crowned in September of the same year at Westminster Abbey following his father’s death.
After Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187 following a victory at the Battle of Hattin, Pope Gregory VIII ordered a Third Crusade in an attempt to reclaim the Holy Land. King Richard I of England - later known as ‘Coeur de Lion’ or ‘the Lion-hearted’ - was keen to lead the charge. He soon imposed a new tax on all classes across England to raise funds, and even sold of royal land to boost his financial position. He was so keen on raising funds, in fact, that he would “sell the city of London, if he could find a purchaser”.
Joined by King Phillip II of France and his new ally Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Richard I set off on the Third Crusade in 1189, just months after gaining the throne. Sadly, Frederick drowned shortly into the crusade as he marched across Europe, but Richard and Philip continued to march with their armies to Sicily.
It was here where the men took separate paths: Philip sailed to the port of Acre in March 1191 to attempt to reclaim the key port, while Richard did not leave Sicily until April. Shortly after his departure, Richard’s armada was struck by a storm, which resulted in many of his ships running aground and much of his treasure being claimed by Isaac Dukas Comnenus of Cyprus. However, upon meeting with Richard, Isaac agreed to return his treasure and provide 500 soldiers to join him on his journey to the Holy Land. The alliance didn’t last long but it didn’t take long for Richard and his army to capture Cyprus. By July 1191, Richard had finally arrived at the battle in Acre.
Upon Richard’s arrival, Philip decided to retreat and leave Richard’s army to fend for themselves. Without the allegiance with France the army was weakened, and during their journey to Jerusalem they began to suffer from a lack of water and the stifling heat. However, they still managed to win the Battle of Arsuf in September 1191 before settling down for the winter in Jaffa.
In June 1192 to army continued on to Jerusalem, but they were still struggling to cope with the lack of food and water. A testament to the respect between Richard and Saladin, the latter agreed to send fruit and water to the English army when Richard made a plea for help outside the holy city walls. However, the delivery of these provisions allowed Saladin to analyse Richard’s army, and he quickly determined that they were too weak to challenge his rule.
The men agreed to a truce - the pilgrims from the west would be allowed to visit Jerusalem without being bothered by the Muslims, but Saladin would continue to rule the Holy Land. While neither of the leaders was happy with this agreement, widespread exhaustion forced them to accept and Richard set sail for Europe in October 1192, never to return.
Richard did eventually make it home but not before a storm forced him to travel through Austria. It was here where Duke Leopold of Austria, an enemy of the king, captured Richard and help him hostage for two years before a ransom was paid. Richard I eventually returned home in 1194.
See also: The Third Crusade and Saladin
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