Richard the Lionheart was the King of England from 1189 to 1199. He also remained the ruler of different continental territories of England before his ascension to the English throne.
During his reign as King of England, he directly participated in the Crusades meant to liberate Jerusalem from the hands of Saladin. He earned his epithet due to his valour on the battlefield and his success against Muslim armies in many encounters even if he couldn’t free Jerusalem.
Portrait of the Great Muslim Leader Saladin
Richard before Kingship
Henry II was the English monarch and Richard the Lionheart was his third son. During Henry II’s lifetime, he faced a rebellion from a number of his sons including Richard. After the failure of the rebellion, Henry II forgave Richard and made him king of the Duchy of Aquitaine which was a part of England’s Continental territories.
King Henry II
Richard’s disagreements with Henry resurfaced later and he aligned himself with the French king Philip in a bid to withstand his father’s power. In time, Richard stood victorious in his conflict with Henry II and was named successor by Henry just before his death in 1189.
Richard the Lionheart Preparations for Crusade
In 1188, Jerusalem had fallen to the forces of Saladin. Richard had vowed to participate in the effort to liberate the city before his coronation. After he ascended the throne, he launched a large-scale effort to bring together a suitable army and fleet for the Third Crusade.
Christian armies attack Saladins armies in the third crusades
In gathering the funds for the Crusade, Richard sold notable official positions and even imposed the Saladin tithe to bring sufficient money in the treasury. After bringing together a sufficiently large army, Richard set out to join the Third Crusade in 1190. He was joined in his campaign by Philip II of France.
Philip II of France
Richard the Lionheart as a Crusader
The earliest victories for Richard the Lionheart and the accompanying Crusader forces came in 1191 when Acre fell to their control. His forces later won a significant victory over the forces of Saladin in the Battle of Arsuf the same year. Another major victory for the Crusader army under Richard came at the Battle of Jaffa.
Siege of Acre 1291
However, despite these victories, Richard couldn’t sufficiently deflate Saladin’s hold of the Holy Land and the two leaders were eventually forces to negotiate the terms of settlement. As a result of these negotiations, Christian fortifications in Ascalon had to be razed while Muslim forces in Jerusalem allowed the travel of Christian pilgrims and merchants to the city.
Saladin in Full Military Dress ready for battle with the Crusaders
Capture and Return to England
On his way back, Richard fell into the hands of Leopold V of Austria when his ship was wrecked and he had to take a land route through Europe. Leopold V eventually handed over Richard to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. He remained a prisoner of Henry VI from 1993 to early 1194. During this period, a large ransom was brought together in an attempt spearheaded by his mother Eleanor to have the king released.
Medieval King of England King Henry VI Portrait painting
Eventually, 100,000 pounds of silver were paid as ransom for Richard and he was released in February 1194. After his release, he regained the land lost by England to France during his absence and named his brother John as his successor.
Statue of Richard the Lionheart outside Westminster parliament