Richard I of England

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Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, and Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and seemed unlikely to become king, but all his brothers except the youngest, John, predeceased their father. Richard is known as Richard Cœur de Lion (Norman French: Le quor de lion) or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior.


  • If it had not been for his malice, forcing me to return, I would have been able to recover the whole of Outremer. Then, when I was in prison he conspired to keep me there so that he could steal my lands.

Quotes about Richard I

  • “Sire, I say with pride
    That my lord is the finest knight
    On earth, and the most skilled to fight.
    Noble is he and generous.
    I count not sins we have in us,
    But if one had your qualities
    United and conjoined with his,
    We say that there could not be found
    In all the world that stretches round
    Any two princes to outvie
    Your every valiant quality.”
    The sultan heard the bishop through,
    And answered: “Well I know ’tis true
    That brave and noble is the king,
    But with what rashness doth he fling
    Himself! Howe’er great prince I be,
    I should prefer to have in me
    Reason and measure and largesse
    Than courage carried to excess.
    • Ambroise, The Crusade of Richard Lion-Heart, translated by Merton Jerome Hubert (1941), pp. 441-442
  • The most shining part of this prince's character are his military talents. No man, even in that romantic age, carried personal courage and intrepidity to a greater height, and this quality gained him the appellation of the lion-hearted, 'Coeur de Lion.' He passionately loved glory, chiefly military glory; and as his conduct in the field was not inferior to his valour, he seems to have possessed every talent necessary for acquiring it. His resentments also were high, his pride unconquerable, and his subjects as well as his neighbours, had therefore reason to apprehend, from the continuance of his reign, a perpetual scene of blood and violence. Of an impetuous and vehement spirit, he was distinguished by all the good as well as the bad qualities incident to that character; he was open, frank, generous, sincere, and brave; he was revengeful, domineering, ambitious, haughty, and cruel; and was thus better calculated to dazzle men by the splendour of his enterprises, than either to promote their happiness or his own grandeur by a sound and well regulated policy.
  • Despite the feats and achievements of his astonishing reign, Henry II is one of the lesser-known Plantagenet kings. Not so his third son, Richard I, 'the Lionheart' who inherited the Plantagenet empire in 1189, during the white heat of Europe's most enthusiastic crusading years. Richard – who spent a surprisingly small amount of time in England given the heroic status he achieved there within decades of his death – devoted his life to expanding the horizons of Plantagenet power. This led him to conquests as far afield of Sicily, Cyprus and the kingdom of Jerusalem during the Third Crusade, before he returned, via an expensive imprisonment in Germany, to fight for his inheritance against the French king Philip II 'Augustus.'
    • Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Kings Who Made England (2012), p. xxxiv
  • Religion, and it can merge into nationalism as orthodoxy does with the Serbs and the Russians, offers both a cause worth dying for and the promise of eternal life. The crusaders did not leave their homes all over Europe and make the long and dangerous journey to the Holy Land just to acquire loot and land. There was more and better to be had much closer to home. They were driven by what they thought was a divine mission, to retrieve the land where Christ had once lived for Christendom. Many crusaders – kings such as Richard I of England, the Lionheart, and Philip II of France and great landed magnates – left behind properties, position and families and many never returned. Egged on by religious leaders such as Pope Gregory VII, who reminded the faithful of the passage from the Book of Jeremiah ‘Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood’, they killed indiscriminately those they thought of as infidels. In the massacres in Jerusalem in 1099 the streets were said to have run with blood, in some places up to the knees of the crusaders’ horses. ‘None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared,’ said a contemporary account.
  • Richard's achievements on the crusade made him one of the outstanding leaders of his age. After King Philip's precipitate return to France in July 1191, Richard was the single most important contingent leader operating in the east. Well before his arrival in the Holy Land, he had shown his mettle as a commander. On his crossing of the Mediterranean from Sicily, he had conquered Cyprus in the space of a few months... On his arrival at the port of Acre in Palestine, he brought to a conclusion, in under four weeks, a siege which had been dragging on for nearly two years, amply justifying his reputation as a master of siege warfare. On campaign in the Holy Land, he showed himself to be more than a match for Saladin... When, after two years, he and Saladin had fought themselves to a standstill, he negotiated a peace which guaranteed free access to the Holy Places and stabilised the crusader kingdoms for another century.
    • Nigel Saul, For Honour and Fame: Chivalry in England, 1066–1500 (2011), p. 225
  • [T]his triumphal and bright shining Starre of Chevalrie.
    • John Speed, The Historie of Great Britaine (1623), p. 544
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