Richard I Coeur de Lion Plantagenet King

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Plantagenet Monarchs

Richard I Coeur de Lion 1157-1199

Richard I was a Plantagenet King, son of Henry II, born 1157, reigned as King of England 1189-1199. He was the 3rd son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was intended that as the 3rd son he should inherit his mother’s duchy and from an early age he was closely aligned with the duchy of Aquitaine. Richard’s mother was a force to be reckoned with in her own right, she was far from a woman under the thumb of a feudalistic husband, even if he was a King. She actively encouraged Richard to rebel against his father.

  • 1173-1174 he joined his mother’s revolt against Henry II but was subsequently pardoned and entrusted with Acquitaine.
  • 1183 His father (Henry II) helped Richard put down his eldest son’s rebellion, Henry The Young King.
  • Henry II favours youngest son John Subsequently Henry II started to favour his youngest son John (later King John)  to the detriment of Richard.
  • 1189 Richard with his base in Aquitaine turned to Philip II Augustus known as a shrewd and effective King of France. This was also a shrewd move by Richard helping to safeguard and ensure that he of all the sons would inherit the Angevin Empire rather than Henry the Younger King or John.
  • 1189 Richard sets his own rule of law for Crusaders travelling by Sea to Jerusalem the transcription can be found via this link on the Yale Law School Avalon Project.
  • 1190 he set out on the 3rd Crusade conquering Cyprus in May 1191
    • It was then on the island of Cyprus at Limassol he married Berengaria (daughter of Sancho VI of Navarre)
    • Sealing the protection of Angevin’s southern borders during his absence on the Crusades.
    • Navarre, was a province set between Castille and Aragon on the southern borders of the Angevin empire.
    • The marriage arrangements were complicated and controversial, it meant a break with Philip II Augustus, given Richard had been betrothed to Philip’s sister since 1169.
    • Henry II had held this unfortunate woman in custody for almost 20 years and it was widely believed she had been seduced by him.
  • 1191 Muslim Acre soon capitulated after Richard’s arrival, Philip II immediately left leaving Richard saddled with the key decisions and overall responsibility for subsequent events;
    • Massacre of the prisoners of Acre
    • Victory over Saladin at Arsuf
    • Decision largely on logistical basis not to besiege Jerusalem
    • The grant of Cyprus to Guy of Lusignan
    • The selection of a new King of Jerusalem
  • 1192 Despite the failure to recover the Holy City itself Richard did negotiate terms with Saladin which enabled the hard-pressed crusader state to survive for another century or more.
  • 1192 December, Whilst making his way home Richard was taken hostage by Leopald of Austria, they had quarreled at Acre. But despite this prolonged delay Richard’s arrangements for ensuring the safety of his Kingdom stood-up well.
  • John rebelled against his brother Richard as an absent ruler but this was contained by the Barons and the ransom for king Richard was paid.
  • 1194 Meanwhile Philip II had captured some important frontier castles and Richard would spend the rest of his life seeking to recover them from this date when he was freed after the ransom had been paid.
  • 1194 Richard establishes Portsmouth in Hampshire and gives it his Royal Charter since Henry I Kings had used Portsmouth nd earby Portchester Castle as a strategic base but Tichard is the first to establish Portsmouth as a Naval base.
  • Richard built the great fortress of Chateau-Gaillard, south-east of Rouen, it was almost complete when he was fatally wounded at Chalus by a Crossbow wound that became infected and gangrenous. He had been engaged in supressing the Viscount’s rebellion and had taken residence in a castle which belonged to the rebel Viscount of Liomoges in 1199.
  • He is buried in Fontevraud Abbey France with others of the Plantagenet line including his father and Eleanor, in whose arms he died and together with his sister.



Richard I was a legend in his own and other’s lifetimes, he was an educated man, a songwriter he understood the power of Words and he deliberately cultivated his Lionheart image. The opinion of historians has oscillated over time, as he left England, spent little time there and focused on his wider interests. The reality appears to be that his responsibilities were wide ranging and that he sought to execute them diligently and prioritising where he needed to focus most. His father had not been much of an example in Kingship and Richard had followed his commitments to his lands dominions and the Church, he may have neglected England but he believed he was making the right choices in difficult times. What history may not forgive him was the failure to secure his own line of succession, leaving the despotic John to rule England who almost by accident rather than design gives us Magna Carta, perhaps the only positive outcome from him sitting on the England’s throne? Sounds harsh, read on here for more about King John.
Find out more about the British Kings and Queens here or explore our 12th century collection further.



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