Monday, March 14, 2011

March a Key Month for Richard the Lionheart

Although Richard the Lionheart has never 'personally' appeared in any of my books, the events surrounding his life and reign have provided background--and often motivation--for my characters. I've spent a good deal of time researching the king, and found an overwhelming amount of factual information that challenges any fictional plot one can imagine.

Often research turns up connections that seem unusual, coincidental, ironic. One such series of coincidences can be found in some of the dates important later in Richard I's life. Filed under the 'fact-stranger-than-fiction' is the odd significance of the months of March and April.

"Look to yourself; the devil is loose." That sentence could be a hook from a modern paranormal novel. In fact, it's a message sent by France's King Phillip for Lord John of England, warning John that his brother, Richard, had reached agreement with some of his captors.

Why should John be warned? He and Phiullip had joined forces in an attempt to usurp Richard's power after the Lionheart was captured returning home from Crusade in 1192. Poor John...Richard's youngest brother devoutly wished to be king, and he'd done everything he could to undermine Richard's control in England while Richard was on Crusade. His efforts increased when Richard subsequently held captive by Austria's Duke Leopold and, later, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI in Germany.

In spite of John's efforts, the huge ransom (150,000 marks) was raised and delivered. Actually, 100,000 marks was delivered with 50,000 owing. To ensure the rest of the money was forthcoming, several hostages remained behind with the captors. (Most were released not long after.)

On Feb. 4, 1194, Richard was released from captivity in Germany and began what seemed to be a leisurely trek home. He didn't actually arrive in England until March 13. He landed at Sandwick to face immediate conflict. John had fled England and loyal troops to ensured surrender of all of John's castles. All but two--Tickhil and Nottingham. As soon as the garrison at Tickhill saw proof the king had returned it surrendered. The castle at Nottingham held out however, and Richard, himself, appeared.

According to Richard scholar, John Gillingham, Lionheart reached the town on March 25, triggering a triumphant (if cruel) demonstration of his power. He established headquarters there and later held a four-day council with his primary advisors. At that meeting it was decided that he would undrgo a 'crown-wearing,' a symbolic second coronation. The ceremoney was set for April 17 at Westminster.

Auspicious dates marking new beginnings for Richard. Yet they ironically reflected his 'ending.'

Five years and a day later on March 26, 1199, he suffered an arrow wound that would lead to his death eleven days later. He was buried on Palm Sunday, April 11.

But his death and burial are another story, stranger than fiction.


  1. Oh, way to leave us hanging. Now I want to know why his death and burial are strange. Interesting post!

  2. Very interesting facts, Barbara. And you posted it on the Ides of March!


  3. Eager to see what "nuggets" you'll be posting about this interesting, historical era. Welcome back to the world of blogging!

    I fully expect to see some handsome bard (minstrels and poets make for romantic tale-tellers) playing your hero in movies some day.

  4. Great post! Did you ever see the New Robin Hood movie with Russel Crowe? I think they took historical liberties with that movie. They had King Richard getting killed off on his way home from the crusades. All the other movies show King Richard showing up suddenly at Nottingham. Wonder why they did that?

  5. Great post, Barbara! This kind of in depth, scholarly exposition reminds me of the historical posts on WordWenches, one of my favorite historical romance authors blogs.

    Looking forward to your next installment!

  6. Love your site and your post Barb. Would you have liked to live in that era?

  7. Very interesting! And you definitely left us wanting more;) Now we have to know about his death and burial.
    Great post!

  8. Wonderful Site design.
    I bacame a follower so I can keep up with future posts. Have read all the previous ones.
    History made interesting. YEA! We really do need to know about the Death and Burial's strange facts.

  9. Great post Barb! I do love history. Keep it up :)