Richard the Lionheart Captured
The 20th of December 1192 AD
The capture and ransom of Richard the Lionheart as he returned from the Holy Land encapsulates the in-fighting and treachery of the Third Crusade .
In spite of being within sight of Jerusalem the Crusade had no chance of taking and holding the city. Phillip of France left the cause, and though Richard stayed longer he too bowed to the inevitable, quitting the Holy Land in October 1192. Richard was faced with a perilous journey, having made enemies of the Byzantine Emperor, of Philip of France, and Duke Leopold of Austria, whose standard had insultingly been flung from the battlements of Acre and whose cousin Conrad of Montferrat had very probably been murdered on Richard’s orders.
Richard was shipwrecked near Venice, and boldly – or stupidly - made for the safety of his brother-in-law’s territory in Saxony. This took him through Austria, where his party, supposedly disguised as poor pilgrims, was spotted and captured. Legend has it that Richard tried to evade his enemies by pretending to be a kitchen hand in the inn at Erdberg where his payment with gold Byzantine coins for regal roast chicken betrayed his identity.
It was illegal per the Pope’s ruling to capture and ransom crusaders. Leopold took no notice. He soon sold Richard on to the Hold Roman Emperor, who eventually demanded 150,000 marks as ransom, perhaps a quarter of England’s wealth. Richard agreed. His brother John , acting as regent, offered money for Richard to be kept prisoner! But Eleanor of Aquitaine arranged the payment, and Richard returned to England for a few weeks before departing to fight another useless war.
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