Richard I, called coeur de lion, or ‘Lionheart’, by his people, was one of the most savage and charismatic English kings. He inherited some of his father’s administrative ability, but his true passion was warfare – and he nearly bankrupted his vast empire to support his endless battles. He was the favorite child of his mother, the equally charismatic Eleanor of Aquitaine, and spent most of his formative years in her French duchy. And though he ruled England for a decade, he spent only six months of his reign in the country. His entire life was spent in search of a grand cause, a chance to win immortal glory upon the battlefield. To that end, he answered the call of the Crusades, leaving for the Holy Land in 1191. The crusade was successful in many ways (and during his journey he married Berengaria of Navarre), but it ended in unmitigated disaster. Richard was captured while returning home to England, and spent two years in a dank German prison. His mother raised the funds to ransom him, a surprisingly popular cause which reflected the esteem of his English subjects. Richard had captured imaginations as the perfect English knight – brave, fearless, and dedicated to high ideals. His brutal slaughter of Muslim women and children during the crusade did nothing to diminish his reputation.
His ransom successfully paid, Richard returned to England at last. But soon enough he was engaged in more skirmishes; this time, however, he faced his fellow king and crusader, Philip II Augustus of France. Philip was eager to break the Plantagenet hold on their European dominions, and he encouraged Richard’s vassals to rebel. Richard’s luck was soon at an end and he died during a minor battle with an Aquitanian lord.
It is said that Richard died during a squalid battle over a few Roman coins. His Aquitanian vassal apparently found a few old Roman coins on his property and, by the time news reached Richard, the few coins had become an enormous golden treasure. The king demanded the treasure be given to him and, when it wasn’t forthcoming (for the simple reason that it didn’t exist), he laid siege to the lord’s castle. And so he died. It was an ignominious end for a king who so thoroughly embodied the ideals of chivalry.
Richard’s primary accomplishment during the crusade (known to history as the Third Crusade) was his victory at Arsuf against the great Saladin. As a result, the crusaders held the city of Joppa. And, while on his way to the crusade, Richard conquered both Messina and Cyprus. Such exploits and success ensured his fame, but his marriage to Berengaria of Navarre produced no children; when Richard died, the throne passed to his brother, John, count of Mortain, and called ‘Lackland’.
Today, Richard’s biographers fiercely debate the king’s sexual orientation, and many believe Richard to have been homosexual. They base this upon two observations – he preferred the company of men to women (hardly surprising since he was a career soldier) and his marriage was childless. Such reasoning is flawed at best, and misleading at worst.
The coronation of Richard I,
by Roger of Hovedon
First came the bishops, abbots, and large numbers of the clergy, wearing silken hoods, preceded by the cross, taper-bearers, censers, and holy water, as far as the door of the king’s inner chamber; where they received the before-named duke, and escorted him to the church of Westminster, as far as the high altar, in solemn procession, with chants of praise, while all the way along which they went, from the door of the king’s chamber to the altar, was covered with woolen cloth.The order of the procession was as follows: first came the clergy in their robes, carrying holy water, and the cross, tapers, and censers. Next came the priors, then the abbots, and then the bishops, in the midst of whom walked four barons, bearing four candlesticks of gold; after whom came Godfrey de Lucy, bearing the king’s cap and John Marshal by him, carrying two great and massive spurs of gold. After these came William Marshal, earl of Striguil, bearing the royal scepter of gold, on the top of which was a cross of gold, and by him William Fitz-Patrick, earl of Salisbury, bearing a rod of gold, having on its top a dove of gold. After them came David, earl of Huntingdon, brother of the king of Scotland, John, earl of Mortaigne, the duke’s brother, and Robert, earl of Leicester, carrying three golden swords from the king’s treasury, the scabbards of which were worked all over with gold; the earl of Mortaigne walking in the middle. Next came six earls and six barons, carrying on their shoulders a very large chequer, upon which were placed the royal arms and robes; and after them William de Mandeville, earl of Aumarle, carrying a great and massive crown of gold, decorated on every side with precious stones. Next came Richard, duke of Normandy, Hugh, bishop of Durham, walking at his right hand, and Reginald, bishop of Bath, at his left, and four barons holding over them a canopy of silk on four lofty spears.
Then followed a great number of earls, barons, knights, and others, both clergy and laity, as far as the porch of the church, and dressed in their robes, entered with the duke, and proceeded as far as the choir.
When the duke had come to the altar, in presence of the archbishops, bishops, clergy, and people, kneeling before the altar, with the holy Evangelists placed before him, and many relics of the saints, according to custom, he swore that he would all the days of his life observe peace, honor, and reverence towards God, the Holy Church, and its ordinances. He also swore that he would exercise true justice and equity towards the people committed to his charge. He also swore that he would abrogate bad laws and unjust customs, if any such had been introduced into his kingdom, and would enact good laws, and observe the same without fraud or evil intent. After this they took off all his clothes from the waist upwards, except his shirt and breeches; his shirt having been previously separated over the shoulders; after which they shod him with sandals embroidered with gold. Then Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, pouring holy oil upon his head, anointed him king in three places, on his head, breast, and arms, which signifies glory, valor, and knowledge, with suitable prayers for the occasion; after which the said archbishop placed a consecrated linen cloth on his head, and upon that the cap which Geoffrey de Lucy had carried.
They then clothed him in the royal robes, first a tunic, and then a dalmatic; after which the said archbishop delivered to him the sword of rule, with which to crush evildoers against the Church: this done, two earls placed the spurs upon his feet, which John Marshal had carried. After this being robed in a mantle, he was led to the altar, where the said archbishop forbade him, in the name of Almighty God, to presume to take upon him this dignity, unless he had the full intention inviolably to observe the oaths and vows before mentioned which he had made; to which he made answer that, with God’s assistance, he would without reservation observe them all.
After this, he himself took the crown from the altar and gave it to the archbishop; on which, the archbishop delivered it to him, and placed it upon his head, it being supported by two earls in consequence of its extreme weight. After this, the archbishop delivered to him the scepter to hold in his right hand, while he held the rod of royalty in his left; and, having been thus crowned, the king was led back to his seat by the before-named bishops of Durham and Bath, preceded by the taper-bearers and the three swords before-mentioned.
After this, the mass of our Lord was commenced, and, when they came to the offertory, the before-named bishops led him to the altar, where he offered one mark of the purest gold, such being the proper offering for the king at each coronation; after which, the bishops before-named led him back to his seat. The mass having been concluded, and all things solemnly performed, the two bishops before-named, one on the right hand the other on the left, led him back from the church to his chamber, crowned, and carrying a scepter in his right hand and the the rod of royalty in his left, the procession going in the same order as before. Then the procession returned to the choir, and our lord the king put off his royal crown and robes of royalty, and put on a crown and robes that were lighter; and, thus crowned, went to dine; on which the archbishops and bishops took their seats with him at the table, each according to his rank and dignity. The earls and barons also served in the king’s palace, according to their several dignities; while the citizens of London served in the cellars, and the citizens of Winchester in the kitchen.
Richard I claims the throne of England,
from Ralph of Diceto’s Images of History
Richard count of Poitou, after arranging matters the best to ensure peace and tranquility in Aquitaine, Anjou, Touraine and Maine, arrived in Normandy three weeks after his father’s death, on 6 July 1189, and met the archbishops of Canterbury and Rouen at Seez. He asked and received pardon from them for his offense in taking up arms against his own father after the launching of the crusade. He came thence to Rouen where he received the sword and standard of the duchy of Normandy from the hands of the archbishop of Rouen, before the high altar in the church of the Blessed Virgin, while a great crowd of nobles looked on.He then went on to England and was received with stately ceremony at Winchester on 15 August. Queen Eleanor, who for many years had been under close guard, was entrusted with the power of acting as regent by her son. Indeed he issued instructions to the princes of the realm, almost in the style of a general edict, that the queen’s word should be law in all matters.
Since Richard had resisted his father and had, as it seemed, done much to stir up the French factions that were hostile to the Normans, he had earned the disapproval of good and wise men. Now, however, he sought to make up for all his past excesses by doing all he could to show honor to his mother. He hoped that his obedience to his mother would atone for his offense against his father.
These events revealed the truth of a prophecy which had puzzled all by its obscurity: ‘The eagle of the broken bond shall rejoice in the third nestling’. They called the queen the eagle because she stretched out her wings, as it were, over two kingdoms – France and England. She had been separated from her French relatives through divorce, while the English had separated her from her marriage bed by confining her to prison (she was imprisoned for sixteen years altogether.) Thus for both lands she was ‘the eagle of the broken bond’. The second part of the prophecy, ‘shall rejoice in the third nestling’, you may understand as follows: Eleanor’s first born son was William, who died while still a child. Henry, her second son, was raised to the estate of king but took up arms against his own father and paid his debt to nature. Richard, her third son – and thus the third nestling – was the one who would raise his mother’s name to great glory. Queen Eleanor, learning that King Henry II’s horses had been kept in the stables of the abbeys, distributed them as gifts with pious liberality. She contained the depredations of those sheriffs who were charged with the care of the forests, intimidating them with the threat of severe penalties.
On the summons of the archbishop of Canterbury the other bishops gathered at London on 3 September for the new king’s coronation; the abbots and priors of the monasteries also came. Queen Eleanor, the count’s mother, was asked at the request of the earls, barons, and sheriffs. It is impossible to list all the bishops, but the archbishops of Canterbury, Treves, and Dublin were there.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Richard I – The Lion Heart" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/richard-i/, January 12, 2022