Notwithstanding the several blunders that he had made during his reign, King Richard I still remains amongst the most remembered and admired king in the English history. This essay paper covers the life and time of King Richard I and his contribution to the western civilization.
Life and times of King Richard I
King Richard I was the first-born son of king Henry 11 and his wife Eleanor. Henry had married Eleanor as his second wife who was eleven years older than him and their marriage was in rocks. Born on 8th September 1157, Richard was his mother’s favorite and many people thought he was spoilt because of being pampered around. However, he was very smart in matters of politics and experienced in the theatre of war as well.
He was learned and used to write poems and songs and many people liked him (Snell). The crisis in King Henry’s marriage worsened when married a mistress Rosanda and this angered Eleanor that she took Richard and went back to her country in France. Later in 1172, Richard joined his brother Henry in rebelling against their father. When his mother Eleanor joined them, she was captured and imprisoned (English Monarchs). The rebellion eventually failed. Richard’s brother, Henry was the named heir after his father but he died at a young age thus Richard took over when his father died.
King Richard’s contribution to western civilization
When Richard got into the throne, he swore that he would fight to rescue Jerusalem from Saladin, a Muslim leader who had captured it. He also ordered for immediate release of his mother Eleanor. To honor his father’ wishes, Richard had his half brother, Geoffrey appointed the Archbishop of York. Though talented and hardworking, Geoffrey was very high tempered and did not want any negotiations and this always led to arguments with canons. He was sent for by Pope but he ignored and was fired. He went back to Richard to ask him to negotiate for his return to York but eventually they fell out (English Monarchs).
To honor his pledge, Richard had to engage himself in the crusade to fight Saladin so as to get the holy land back. According to Sell, he sold most of the properties including land, offices and lord so as to get funds to form a strong army. Philip, the king of France who had now become a close ally of Richard agreed that he would join Richard in the crusade. However, things between them were not well since they both had conflicting interests.
While King Richard was aiming at rescuing the captured land, King Philip on his side wanted to take over some land that had earlier been possessed by King Henry since he believed that the land belonged to French people. King Richard however was not ready to bow out and he was prepared for anything. Nonetheless this did not deter them and they did not want a fight to arise amongst them as they were being looked up to by their army men.
King Richard had put so much effort into the crusade so Philip saw no point of persisting with the argument. Furthermore, Richard had to give in to the promises that Philip made, one being that Richard would marry Alice, Philip’s sister whom she had earlier met while he was in France with her mother. While on their way to Jerusalem in July 1190, they made a stop at Sicily as Richard had some issues he needed to iron out with King Tancred.
King Tancred had held captive Joan, who was Richard’s sister and a widow to Tancred’s predecessor, and more so, Tancred had refused to give Richard a gift that had been given to his father by the late king. Richard captured the Messina city and this forced Tancred to surrender. While at Sicily, Richard’s mother came along with a new bride for Richard, Berengaria of Navarre instead of Philip’s Sister Alice. This angered Philip so much and further jeopardized their friendship though but there was nothing that the he could do (Snell).
In April 1991, they again set out for Jerusalem. Along them were the two ladies, Joan and Richard’s fiancée Berengaria. Unfortunately, when they reached Cyprus, they encountered a fierce storm in the sea and some of the people they were with drowned. The ship carrying Joan and Berengaria went missing for some time but they were later rescued. Goods were stolen by the people from Cyprus and some of them were even taken in as captives.
Richard sent out a word to Isaac Ducas, the then emperor of Cyprus to release his people and the stolen goods, an order that the emperor rudely ignored. This triggered Richard to mobilize his remaining troops and they invaded the island. To his great success, Richard won and he took over Cyprus which was of great advantage to him as it would offer a link between England and Jerusalem especially for transportation of goods.
On reaching the holy land, Richard’s success was boosted when he captured the city of Acre forcing the Muslims to surrender to Christians. Despite their success however, Richard, Philip and Leopold who was the then German leader conflicted on how they wound share their fortune. This lead to Richard insulting Leopold, an action that he later came to pay for dearly (English Monarchs). By now, Richard was still devising ways of capturing Jerusalem.
He and Saladin made an agreement to exchange prisoners from Acre. After a while, Richard felt that Saladin was intentionally delaying the deal and therefore he ordered killing of all Muslim prisoners in acre. This brutal act seriously ruined his reputation. The fight to obtain Jerusalem intensified and by January 1192, the army was already at the foothills of the city.
By then, they were overly exhausted and lacked proper military strategy forcing them to retreat. A treaty was made between the two leaders with Richard proposing that Saladin’s nephew, Saphadin would marry Joan and in turn, Saladin would give the Holy Land to the new couple. However, this did not come to be as Joan was opposed to marrying a Muslim, an action that brought tension in the family. Finally, Richard came to realization that it would be difficult to conquer the holy land and was forced to make an agreement with Saladin. They agreed that the Christians should keep Acre and have limited access to Jerusalem.
On his way to England, Richard was captured by the army of king Leopold whom he had earlier insulted. Snell notes that to negotiate his release, England had to pay a heavy ransom. In the mean time, Richard’s brother John had already formed an alliance with King Philip of France to overthrow Richard. When John heard that Richard had been released, he abandoned Philip who could not counter Richard alone, forcing him to retreat as well. In 1199 march a heated argument ensued over a treasure that had been discoverer at Limoges.
Richard is said to have claimed the treasure to be his but lord Archard of Chalus who had the treasure in his possession refused to give it to him and this triggered a siege (English Monarchs).It is while on inspection of the siege that Richard was short on the shoulder with an arrow. Though the operation to remove the arrow shaft was successful, the wound worsened and this eventually led to his death on 6th April 1199.richard was later buried according to his wish, near his father’s grave.
As a strong and outstanding leader, King Richard can be said to have so much influence on western civilization, whether positively or negatively. First the crusaders are said to have inflicted so much suffering on the people and lands that they raided, most of whom were Muslims (Abbot, 150). Moreover, the slashing of Muslim prisoners by King Richard over the delayed implementation of the truce between him and with Saladin was a fatal action. According to Abbot, this brought about a bad blood between Christians and Muslims and up to date, the Muslims still remain suspicious of the west. The crusaders also suffered a lot on their journey to the holy land with some dying on the way. Sometimes, they had to go for days without food and yet they were expected to fight, and this in the long run demoralized them.
The crusaders’ invasion of the east had some positive impact which cannot be overlooked. The interaction of Christians and Muslims brought about coalitions in the trading world. Europe’s economic growth grew as a result of the trade between the two parties. The crusaders brought with them spices that they used to preserve food as well as cloths that were made in the east (Abbot, 152). These trade relations have existed since then and have brought many benefits to both parties. Other than the material things that they brought along, the building style in England greatly improved from the inception of the ideas copied from the east.
Although Richard did not spend so much time in England, his prowess was admired by many people since he always fought to make sure that his people received the best he could offer. Indeed he made efforts to make sure that he left his people in secure hands and it is said that England thrived most during his time in power.
Abbot, Jacob. History of King Richard I of England: Makers of History. Cosimo incl., 2009.
English Monarchs. Richard I the Lionheart. Plantagenet, 2004-2005. Web.
Snell, Melissa. Richard the Lionheart: A biography of King Richard I of England. Medieval history guide, n.d. Web.