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Apr 7 Richard The Lionheart

Today in 1199 King Richard I, the "Lionheart," died at the age of 41 in the arms of his mother in France, and thus "ended his earthly day." We look at his short but consequential Reign. His relationship with Jerusalem and Saladin. He became an icon representing Christian Chivalry and a just kingship and his statue can be found outside of the Houses of Parliament in London.

He had been hit in the shoulder by a crossbow, and the wound turned gangrenous. Dying in bed, Richard asked to have the crossbowman brought before him; and was surprised when he turned out to be a boy. Richard had a reputation as a great military leader and warrior. The boy bravely said that he had killed Richard in revenge., for Richard had killed his father and two brothers, and that he expected to be executed. To the surprise of everyone, as a final act of mercy Richard forgave him, saying "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day", before he ordered the boy to be freed and sent away with 100 shillings. Because of the nature of Richard's death, it was later described in verse as "the Lion by the Ant was slain". Sadly, however, according to one chronicler, Richard's last act of chivalry proved fruitless when the infamous mercenary captain Mercadier had the boy flayed alive and hanged as soon as Richard died.

Richard had been crowned king in Westminster Abbey on 3 September 1189, and although chivalrous was no saint. There is some debated about his antisemitism, which was widespread at the time. Tradition barred all Jews and women from his coronation, but some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king. According to Ralph of Diceto, Richard's courtiers stripped and flogged the Jews, then flung them out of court. A rumour spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed, the people of London attacked the Jewish population. Many Jewish homes were destroyed by arsonists, some sought sanctuary in the Tower of London, and others managed to escape. Among those killed was Jacob of Orléans, a respected Jewish scholar. However, some historians don’t think it is fair to lay the blame at Richards feet. Roger of Howden, in his Gesta Regis Ricardi, claimed that the jealous and bigoted citizens started the rioting, and that Richard punished the perpetrators, allowing a forcibly converted Jew to return to his native religion. Richard distributed a royal writ demanding that the Jews be left alone. The edict was only loosely enforced, however, and the following March further violence occurred, including a massacre at York. Baldwin of Forde, Archbishop of Canterbury, reacted by remarking, "If the King is not God's man, he had better be the devil's".

After receiving news of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin, he and Philip of Spain agreed to go on the Third Crusade together, since each feared that during his absence the other might usurp his territories. Richard swore an oath to renounce his past wickedness in order to show himself worthy to take the cross. He started to raise and equip a new crusader army, freeing King William of Scotland from his oath of subservience to in exchange for 10,000 marks (£6,500). To raise still more revenue he sold the right to hold official positions, lands, and other privileges to those interested in them, William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and the King's chancellor, made a show of bidding £3,000 to remain as Chancellor. When Richard was raising funds for his crusade, he was said to declare, "I would have sold London if I could find a buyer’ On his way to the coast of Israel a storm dispersed his large fleet.

After some searching, it was discovered that the ship carrying his sister Joan and his new fiancée, Berengaria of Navarre, was anchored on the south coast of Cyprus, along with the wrecks of several other vessels, including the treasure ship, many had been taken prisoner. The rapid conquest of the island by Richard was of strategic importance. The island occupied a key strategic position on the maritime lanes to the Holy Land, whose occupation by the Christians could not continue without support from the sea. The ruler of the island Isaac was confined with silver chains because Richard had promised that he would not place him in irons.

Baha' al-Din, a contemporary Muslim soldier and biographer of Saladin, recorded a tribute to Richard's martial prowess at one of the battles fought in the Holy Land: "On that day the king of England, lance in hand, rode along the whole length of our army from right to left, not one of our soldiers left the ranks to attack him. The Sultan was wroth thereat and left the battlefield in anger” Unable to defeat Saladin, as one of the three leaders of the Third Crusade, Richard negotiated Christian access to Jerusalem (and initiated a three-year truce.


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