King Richard I of England was a ruler much more preoccupied with the Middle East war than with his country’s well-being. He was one of the most prominent heroes of the Crusade Epoch. For his nation, Richard embodied purity, wisdom and justice.
The son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, he was born on September 8, 1157.
The Third Crusade
Richard the Lion Heart participated in the Third Crusade. That campaign was originally an act of vengeance. Muslims had conquered Jerusalem, and they did not intend to cede it, even when they encountered the rage and heroism of Richard and his fellows.
What did Lion Heart mean?
Richard got his byname in the Third Crusade, because some of his acts on the Holy Land were remarkable. The capture of Acre contained an episode for which Richard’s heart became known as Lion Heart. The crusaders besieged the city, and after a very long and exhausting siege, Richard’s adversary, sultan Saladin sent the keys of the city fortress. To be exact, it was capitulation rather than capture.
Richard and his allies expected a swap of prisoners. 40 days passed from the capitulation of Acre, and Richard understood that no Christian captives were to come. Richard’s reaction was ruthless: his crusaders led 2700 Muslims out of Acre’s walls and then slaughtered them cold-bloodedly. The first name the Muslims gave to Richard for such act was “the Stone Heart”. Afterwards, some details of that massacre came to light. Richard released poor citizens, curds, women, children and disadvantaged people with no ransom. The full story begot the final name of Richard: the Lion Heart.
Richard’s informal alliance
The Third Crusade engendered a lot of legends about knights. For example, in the Battle at Jaffa which the Crusaders won, Richard’s horse was killed. His opponent, Malik al-Adil, the brother of Sultan Saladin, sent a horse to the king with the words: “My noble enemy must not fight on foot!”. Consequently, Malik al-Adil soon was Richard’s guest in England. They were assuring each other of eternal and genuine friendship.
Once it came across Richard’s mind to make a marriage alliance between Malik al-Adil and Jeanne the Beautiful, the former Queen of Sicily who was Richard’s sister. Based on this marriage, he conceived to solve the Jerusalem problem and establish such peace which would satisfy all parties. Jeanne and Malik would reign over the entire Palestinian shore.
Such Christian-Muslim rule would give way for the Latin clergy to conduct services at the Shrine of the Blessed Lord, while Muslims could continue to pray in their mosques. Saladin and Malik endorsed the project, but Jeanne was strongly against a marriage with a Muslim. So Richard’s wise plan failed.
Stranger in Homeland
Only half a year in a decade of Richard’s formal rule did he spend in Britain. His poor domestic policy involved a huge burden of tributes for military affairs. His acts of bravery in the Holy Land were tremendously expensive. Nonetheless, he remained a kind and fair king in the memory of his nation.