Born: 8th September 1157 at Beaumont Palace, Oxford
Died: 6th April 1199 at Chalus, Aquitaine
Buried: Fontevrault Abbey, Anjou
Parents: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine
Siblings: William, Henry, Matilda, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan & John
Crowned: 2nd September 1189 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Married: 12th May 1191 at Limassol, Cyprus
Spouse: Berengia daughter of Sancho VI, King of Navarre
Richard Plantagenet (also known as “Richard the lion hearted”) was born on
September 8th in the year 1157 CE. Although born in Oxfordshire England,
Richard was a child of Aquitaine a part of Southern France. His language was
not English and throughout his life he spoke little of it.
He had four brothers and three sisters, the first of which died at a young
age. Of the remainder, Henry was named heir to the English throne, Richard
was to succeed his mother’s Aquitane and Geoffrey was to inherit Brittany.
John was the poorest to fair out receiving nothing from his father. It is
this action that gave him the name John Lackland.
At a young age of twelve, Richard pledged homage to the King of France for
lands of his. At the age of fourteen, Richard was named the Duke of Aquitane
in the church of St. Hillaire at Poitiers (one of the lands made homage to
the French King.) Henry’s sons, who had been given lands but no real power
revolted against their King father aided by their mother. In retaliation King
Henry had Eleanor jailed. She remained there for many years.
Richard’s Mother Eleanor
Eleanor was the daughter and heiress of William X, duke of Aquitaine and
count of Poitiers, who possessed one of the largest domains in
France–larger, in fact, than those held by the French king. Upon William’s
death in 1137 she inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine and in July 1137 married
the heir to the French throne, who succeeded his father, Louis VI, the
following month. Eleanor became queen of France, a title she held for the
next 15 years. Beautiful, capricious, and adored by Louis, Eleanor exerted
considerable influence over him, often goading him into undertaking perilous
From 1147 to 1149 Eleanor accompanied Louis on the Second Crusade to protect
the fragile Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, founded after the First Crusade only
50 years before, from Turkish assault. Eleanor’s conduct during this
expedition, especially at the court of her Uncle Raymond of Poitiers at
Antioch, aroused Louis’s jealousy and marked the beginning of their
estrangement. After their return to France and a short-lived reconciliation,
their marriage was annulled in March 1152. According to feudal customs,
Eleanor then regained possession of Aquitaine, and two months later she
married the grandson of Henry I of England, Henry Plantagenet, and count of
Anjou and duke of Normandy. In 1154 he became, as Henry II, king of England,
with the result that England, Normandy, and the west of France were united
under his rule. Eleanor had only two daughters by Louis VII; to her new
husband she bore five sons and three daughters. The sons were William, who
died at the age of three; Henry; Richard, the Lion-Heart; Geoffrey, duke of
Brittany; and John, surnamed Lackland until, having outlived all his
brothers, he inherited, in 1199, the crown of England. The daughters were
Matilda, who married Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria; Eleanor, who
married Alfonso VIII, king of Castile; and Joan, who married successively
William II, king of Sicily, and Raymond VI, count of Toulouse. Eleanor would
well have deserved to be named the “grandmother of Europe.”
During her childbearing years, she participated actively in the
administration of the realm and even more actively in the management of her
own domains. She was instrumental in turning the court of Poitiers, then
frequented by the most famous troubadours of the time, into a centre of
poetry and a model of courtly life and manners. She was the great patron of
the two dominant poetic movements of the time. The courtly love tradition,
conveyed in the romantic songs of the troubadours, and the historical matire
de Bretagne, or “legends of Britanny,” which originated in Celtic traditions.
In the Historia regum Britanniae, written by the chronicler Geoffrey of
Monmouth some time between 1135 and 1139.
The revolt of her sons against her husband in 1173 put her cultural
activities to a brutal end. Since Eleanor, 11 years her husband’s senior, had
long resented his infidelities, the revolt may have been instigated by her;
in any case, she gave her sons considerable military support. The revolt
failed, and Eleanor was captured while seeking refuge in the kingdom of her
first husband, Louis VII. Her semi-imprisonment in England ended only with
the death of Henry II in 1189. On her release, Eleanor played a greater
political role than ever before. She actively prepared for Richard’s
coronation as king, was administrator of the realm during his crusade to the
Holy Land, and, after his capture by the Duke of Austria on Richard’s return
from the east, collected his ransom and went in person to escort him to
England. During Richard’s absence, she succeeded in keeping his kingdom
intact and in thwarting the intrigues of his brother John Lackland and Philip
II Augustus, king of France, against him.
In 1199 Richard died without leaving an heir to the throne, and John was
crowned king. Eleanor, nearly 80 years old, fearing the disintegration of the
Plantagenet domain, crossed the Pyrenees in 1200 in order to fetch her
granddaughter Blanche from the court of Castile and marry her to the son of
the French king. By this marriage she hoped to insure peace between the
Plantagenets of England and the Capetian kings of France. In the same year
she helped to defend Anjou and Aquitaine against her grandson Arthur of
Brittany, thus securing John’s French possessions. In 1202 John was again in
her debt for holding Mirebeau against Arthur, until John, coming to her
relief, was able to take him prisoner. John’s only victories on the
Continent, therefore, were due to Eleanor.
She died in 1204 at the monastery at Fontevrault, Anjou, where she had
retired after the campaign at Mirebeau. Her contribution to England extended
beyond her own lifetime; after the loss of Normandy (1204), it was her own
ancestral lands and not the old Norman territories that remained loyal to
England. Many French historians who have noted only her youthful frivolity,
ignoring the tenacity, political wisdom, and energy that characterized the
years of her maturity have misjudged her. “She was beautiful and just,
imposing and modest, humble and elegant”; and, as the nuns of Fontevrault
wrote in their necrology: a queen “who surpassed almost all the queens of the
In 1183 the younger Henry died leaving Richard as the heir to the English
throne. Another family dispute occurred when Richard receiving the lands of
his brother. Henry was expected to give his Aquitane to his brother John.
Richard refused to give up the homeland of his mother. While this dispute
over family land raged on, Richard learned of the tragic loss at Hattin,
where the crusaders had lost Jerusalem to the Saracen leader Saladin. Richard
soon took up the cross of the crusades, much against his father’s approval.
In 1189, upon the death of Henry II, Richard was crowned King of England in
Westminster Abbey London. One of his first actions was to free his mother
from prison. His second was to begin to raise funds for his crusade later to
be called the Third Crusade. He imposed a tax on the English people called a
Saladin for the use of aiding his war effort.
A King Imprisoned
After the Third Crusade, Richard began his homeward journey to England.
Put ashore by bad weather he found himself in Austria home of Leopold,
and”their Richard had angered by actions during the crusade. Leopold capture
King Richard and imprisoned him in his castle. Eager for a piece of the
action the Emperor of Germany offered Leopold 75,000 marks for Richard taking
him into custody in Germany.
Rumors ran quickly throughout England over the missing king. There is a
legend that the troubadour Blondel heard his king singing in a castle and
responded with a song that the both of them were sure to know. Whether true
or not the fact remains that two Abbots were soon dispatched to journey for
him through the network of the church. Even Eleanor, Richard’s mother wrote
to the Pope for assistance in the matter. Richard was found and soon a ransom
was set for his return to England. The sum was 150,000 marks and amount equal
to three years of annual income and weighing at three tons in silver.
Return Of the King
Richard returned to England receiving a heroes welcome. He forgave his
brother John, by saying he was manipulated by cunning people and vowed to
punish them and not his brother. Unfortunately for the King he returned to a
land in financial troubles. The cost of the Crusade and his large ransom had
tapped out the finances of the land. This monetary trouble was to destroy him
for his remaining five-year reign. He created a new great seal as a means to
raise funds and made void all documents signed with the old.
Death of A King
For such a brave and noble King Richard’s death came about in a rather
strange way. In Chalus, Aquitane, a peasant plowing his fields came upon a
treasure. This treasure consisted of some gold statues and coins. Richard in
turn claimed the treasure from the lord, who refused. This prompted Richard
to siege the village.
During the siege Richard was riding close to the castle without the
protection of full armor. He spotted an archer with bow in hand on the wall
aiming a shot at him. It is said Richard paused to applaud the Bowman. He was
struck in the shoulder with the arrow and refused treatment for his wound.
Infection set in and Richard the first, the Lionheart died on April the 6th
1199. He was buried in the
Fontvraud Abbey in Anjou France.
K. Norgate, Richard the Lion Heart (1924, reprinted 1969),
F.M. Powicke, The Loss of Normandy, 1189-1204, 2nd ed. (1961),
L. Landon, Itinerary of King Richard I (1935),
S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 3 (1954),
Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (1950),