Richard I

About Richard I

Portrait of Richard I

Commonly referred to as Richard the Lion Heart. Son of Henry II. Born 1157 at Oxford. Crowned at Westminster September 3rd, 1189.

The year following he set out on the Crusade, leaving England without a ruler for nearly four years. Returning home, he was taken prisoner at a village inn near Vienna by Leopold, Duke of Austria, his bitter antagonist in the Holy Land, and by him was delivered up to his feudal superior the Emperor Henry VI., who appraised his prisoner's liberty at a sum not far short of 100,000.

Such sum duly paid, Richard of the Lion Heart reappeared in his kingdom (1194); not without significant warning. "The devil is broken loose; take care of yourself" wrote the French king to Earl John, brother of him who was King Richard devoted to the game of war.

Notwithstanding this frequent absence from his kingdom, it was, on the whole, fairly well governed, according to the fashion of the times, by trusted counsellors in Church and State, of whom William of Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, sometime Justiciar and Papal Legate, was chief. "Heavy taxation" was the universal complaint of the English people-not by a long way the last complaint of that kind to be found in their history.

Richard I. was "a magnificent animal" ... "a great general and a great engineer, who could not only fight but plan campaigns"; a master, in a word, of the art, science, craft, and subtlety of war. "He had power of quick observation and fairly good judgment, and listened to good advisers." He is credited, moreover, with being "devout," as became one who warred against Turks, infidels, and heretics; albeit he confessed to not a little the reverse of spiritual mindedness.

Though lacking his father's administrative ability, Richard I., we gather, was far from being a mere soldier. "A love of adventure, a pride in sheer physical strength, here and there a romantic generosity, jostled roughly with the craft, the unscrupulousness, the violence of his race; but he was at heart a statesman, cool and patient in the execution of his plans as he was bold in their conception." Killed at the siege of Chalus, near Limoges, in Normandy, he, like his father, lies buried at Fontevrault.

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