Richard the Lionheart Fitted Tee
“I am born of a rank which recognizes no superior but God”
- King Richard I of England to Emperor Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire
Richard I, third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, ascended to the throne of England upon the death of his father on the 6th of July, 1181. Called “Couer de Leon” or “The Lion Heart”, Richard had a reputation as a fierce warrior and an able politician.
Richard’s brother, known to history as Henry the Young King, wished to reign prematurely over the lands which would become his in the event of Henry’s demise, a desire which would eventually lead three of Henry’s sons into open rebellion against their father. Richard followed his brother to the French court, where he was knighted by Louis VII who offered protection and support for the nascent rebellion. Alas, their forces proved to be no match for Henry’s mercenary army and the revolt was quelled. Richard and his brothers then returned to Henry’s court and sought forgiveness from their father, which they received, along with lands and incomes according to the terms of their surrender. Richard’s mother, who had joined Richard’s rebellion, remained Henry’s hostage until his death, partly as a guarantee of Richard’s good behavior.
In the wake of his failure to depose his father, Richard spent the following years pacifying and punishing the nobles who had joined his brother’s rebellion. It was during this period that he gained his reputation for courage and military prowess, and also his epithet. He would again challenge his father in 1180, drawing the ire of Henry II and Richard’s brothers, who invaded his seat of Aquitaine in an attempt to subdue him, but Richard and his armies successfully repelled the assault. To strengthen his position against his father and brothers, Richard allied himself with Phillip II of France, and joined him in his designs against England. Their combined forces defeated Henry at Ballans, and Henry agreed to name Richard his heir apparent. Two days later, Henry died of complications resulting from a bleeding ulcer, and Richard succeeded his father as King of England.
Shortly after his coronation, Richard received word that Saladin had taken Jerusalem. He and Phillip II agreed to embark upon the third crusade in order to take back the holy land. Richard proceeded to win victories at Cyprus and then Acre, before moving on Saladin’s forces at the battle of Arsuf. Fielding an army comprised of a mixture of French and English forces as well as Hospitaller and Templar knights, Richard’s forces were harassed incessantly by Ayyubid skirmishers until the Hospitallers broke ranks and charged, forcing Richard to order a general counterattack. Despite the prematurity of the advance, Richard’s forces routed Saladin’s to claim victory. Despite a string of crucial victories, the attempts to retake Jerusalem failed, in part due to dissension amongst the leaders of the crusader armies.
During Richard’s return journey, he was captured near Vienna by Duke Leopold of Austria who accused him, among other things, of murdering his cousin Conrad of Montferrat. However, Duke Leopold was subsequently excommunicated by Pope Celestine III for the crime of detaining a crusader, and Richard would continue his imprisonment in the hands of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (also excommunicated for detaining Richard), who planned to ransom Richard in order to fund his military campaign against Italy. Richard’s mother was eventually able to amass a suitable ransom and Richard was finally released.
Unfortunately, Richard’s long absence from England during the crusades and his subsequent capture had permitted Phillip of France and his younger brother John to execute their designs upon the English king’s holdings. He would spend his remaining years warring his way across Europe in a final campaign against his erstwhile ally. On the 25th of March, 1199, Richard was struck by a crossbow bolt while besieging the castle Chalus-Chabrol in southern France. The wound became gangrenous and ultimately became the cause of his death, whereupon the English crown passed to his brother, John.