King Richard The Lionhearted

Richard the Lionhearted, king of England only spent six months in his country.

The Crusades were a series of wars fought in Europe from 1096 to 1271. The Moslem Turks were controlling the beautiful land that Christ once lived in. Tremendous armies formed in order to capture the Holy Land back and protect it from further incursion. As the years past, thousands of men made the long trek to Palestine and Asia Minor to fight in the crusades. Many of them died in battle, never seeing their families again.

The First Crusade started in 1096 and ended in a great victory for the Christians. Asia Minor, Palestine, and Jerusalem were taken back from the "infidels" or Turks. Then in 1187 Saladin, the Turkish sultan seized Jerusalem. The Pope called for another crusade and sent ambassadors to all the courts of Europe. Richard I of England was among the superior kings and princes who took crusading vows and left to fight for the Holy Land.

Richard was called the Lion-Hearted because of his strength and bravery. Richard was born in 1157 and was the third son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Richard's father died in 1189 making Richard king of England since his two older brothers had already died. The new king at once began preparing for the long and difficult crusade. He sold royal land and taxed his people greatly in order to raise large sums of money for his army.

When not preparing or engaged in war the handsome king was known as a talented minstrel who enjoyed writing songs and poems. But his majesty was known to be the happiest when he was in warfare. It seems the king was a bit hot-tempered and could sometimes be known as downright cruel. By the summer of 1190 Richard's army was powerful and ready to join the crusades. Richard at the age of 33 years old led his mighty army to war. Along the way they suffered many obstacles and almost a year later Richard's army arrived in the city of Acre. Acre was known as Saladin's fortress lying on the coast of Palestine.

For two years Acre had been under attack by Phillip II of France along with other European monarchs. Their armies were devastated with disease and hunger when Richard's fresh troops arrived to save the day. They cheered, shouted and ran to meet them with great joy. Almost starved to death they fell down as they tried to run to meet their hero, Richard the Lionhearted. In a little over four weeks the sultan realizing he was beaten surrendered the city. Richard's army continued to fight and win more victories but was still unable to recapture the Holy City of Jerusalem.

While Richard's bravery was earning him an outstanding reputation his younger brother John was in England trying to snatch Richard's throne. Once Richard found out he signed a three-year truce with Saladin the sultan and set sail for England. Since Richard had many enemies throughout Europe he could not let the course of his journey be known. Along the way a terrible storm blew up and wrecked his ship on the Adriatic Sea. Richard continued his journey by land, disguising himself for protection.

Somehow his enemy, the Duke of Austria, discovered the location of Richard. He captured him and turned him over to the new German emperor, Henry VI. The German Emperor demanded 100,000 marks of silver as ransom for Richard, King of England. Although this was a great sum of money the English pledged to raise it in order to get back their courageous king. Within a year's time they had managed to raise the ransom and delivered it to Henry VI and Richard the Lionhearted was set free. Once he was in London his people rejoiced and sent thanks up to heaven for bringing their mighty king home again. Richard was not in his homeland long before more trouble broke out.

Philip II of France was causing problems again and this time he invaded Normandy. Since Normandy was under English possession Richard went to defend the English land. During this time Richard built Chateau-Gaillard to protect the valley of the Seine River. At that time it became known as one of the most magnificent fortresses ever. The war continued for three years and neither of the two kings ever claimed an apparent victory.

Toward the end of the war, the Viscount of Limoges, one of Richard's vassals, discovered a valuable gold treasure in a field near his own castle. Since the Viscount was his vassal, Richard claimed the treasure. When the Viscount refused to give it up Richard lay siege to his castle.

On the fourth day of the siege Richard was riding near the castle walls when a swift arrow struck him in the shoulder. His mother along with his men rushed to his side. As the great king lay dying he called for the archer who had shot the deadly arrow. Richard wanted him to know that he forgave him.

The great and powerful king died at the age of 42 in 1199. He was buried in France at Fontevrault near the grave of his father. His heart was removed and taken to Rouen and buried beside his brothers. During the ten-year period he ruled England, the famous king known as Richard the Lion-Hearted spent only six months in his own country.

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