Sunday, May 8, 2011

Researching Richard-Finding Mercadier

During the research for my books set against the story of parts of Richard the Lionheart’s decade-long reign, I came across several intriguing figures. One of them was the mercenary, Mercadier.

Mercadier served as one of Richard’s top commanders, heading several campaigns during the Lionheart’s long war against Phillip of France. According to one source, he fought with the king before Richard I went on Crusade, then rejoined him once the king was freed from captivity in 1194. Richard valued his service so much, he awarded him lands. Mercadier apparently didn’t spend much time there, however, for sources show him playing prominent roles in battles across Europe.

After Lord John threw himself on his brother’s mercy in 1194 and received pardon, historians say he fought with Richard loyally. (Some of us wonder, however. Still, history says….) Nevertheless, historians also report that Mercadier joined John in a few military excursions for Richard during these last years of the 1100s.

Following Richard’s death, at least one historical source credits Mercadier with ignoring the king’s order of pardon for the crossbowman who shot the bolt that eventually led to the king’s death. According to that source, Mercadier ordered the man flayed.

Later reports indicate Mercadier then served King John in his battles against Phillip. Unfortunately, his loyalty led to his eventual death. According to one account, Mercadier had gone to visit Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1200 when he was waylaid and murdered by another of John’s mercenaries.

Mercenaries were men--often knights--sometimes younger sons--who fought for hire (free-lances). They often act as romantic figures to many of us who write historicals, although at the time, they were generally treated with dread because they could be cruel and ruthless. My ‘Knights of the Phoenix’ series deals with a small band of ‘good’ mercenaries, loosely connected to Mercadier, including Giles of Silverhawk and Stephen of The Black Dagger.

I like to think Mercadier was one of the ‘good’ mercenaries, who gave his loyalty to Richard and later, unfortunately, to John.

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