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Accession of Richard I


Accession of Richard I., surnamed Coeur-de-Lion, a.d. 1189 - Massacre of the Jews - The Third Crusade.
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No sooner had the monks of Fontevrault committed the body of Henry to the grave, than Richard assumed the sovereign authority, and his first acts were marked with all that energy and determination which afterwards distinguished him. He at once gave orders that the person of Stephen of Tours, seneschal of Anjou, and treasurer of Henry, should be seized. This functionary was thrown into a dungeon, where he was confined with irons on his feet and hands, until ho had given up to the new king, not only all the treasures of the crown, but also his own property. Richard then called to his councils the advisers of his father, and discarded all those men who had supported his own rebellion, not excepting even his most familiar friends. This policy, which has been attributed by some historians to the repentance of Richard, was more probably the result of profound calculation, and was based upon sound reasoning. The men who were ready to plot against one monarch would not hesitate to do the same towards another, when occasion served, or offence was given; while those who had supported the reigning dynasty were the men upon whom the new king might most safely depend.

Messengers were immediately sent to England commanding the release of the Queen Eleanor. On quitting her prison she was temporarily invested with the office of regent, and during the short period of authority which she thus obtained, she occupied herself in works of mercy and benevolence. The long imprisonment she had undergone appeared to have softened her imperious temper; she listened readily to those who had complaints to lay before her, and pardoned many offenders against the crown. Having proceeded to Winchester, where she took possession of the royal treasures, she summoned a great assembly of the barons and ecclesiastics of the country to receive the new monarch and tender him their allegiance. After a delay of two months, Richard crossed the channel, accompanied by his brother John, and landed at Portsmouth. On his arrival at Winchester he caused the gold and jewels of the crown to be weighed in his presence, and an inventory made of them. A similar course was pursued in the cities in which treasures of the late king had been, deposited. Richard was absorbed in the project of a grand expedition to the Holy Land, which should reduce the infidel to permanent submission, and place himself on the highest pinnacle of military renown. To this circumstance we may in some degree attribute the fact that the ambitious John permitted his brother to succeed to the throne without any attempt to dispute his right. John probably calculated that in the king's absence the actual sovereignty would devolve upon himself, and that the impetuous Richard might never return from the dangers of the holy war. Apart from these considerations, however, it is doubtful whether the weak temper of John would have permitted him to rebel openly against his powerful and energetic brother.

On the 3rd of September, Richard was crowned at Westminster, and the ceremonial was conducted with great pomp and splendour. The procession along the aisles of the cathedral was headed by the Earl of Albemarle, who carried the crown. Over the head of Richard was a silken canopy, supported by four lances, each of which was held by one of the great barons of the kingdom. The Bishops of Bath and Durham walked beside the king, whose path to the altar was spread with a rich carpet of Tyrian purple. The ceremony was performed by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Richard took the customary oath to fear God and execute justice. The cloak, or upper clothing, of the king was then taken off, sandals of gold were placed upon his feet, and he was anointed with oil upon the head, breast, and shoulders; afterwards receiving the insignia of Ms rank from the state officers in attendance. Richard was then led to the altar, where he renewed the vows he had taken; and, lifting with his own hands the crown from off the altar, - which he did in token that he received it from God alone, - he gave it to the archbishop, who placed it upon his head.

The day of the new king's coronation was marked by an event which resulted in an attack upon all the Jews assembled in the city, who were barbarously murdered with their wives and children. In the Middle Ages, while the science of finance was in its infancy, and men had not yet learned to associate together for purposes of trade, the Jews were the principal, if not the only, bankers of Christendom. There were no laws in existence to regulate the interest of money, and their profits were frequently enormous. The wealth which they thus obtained, no less than the obnoxious faith to which they firmly adhered, caused them to become objects of hatred to the people; and tins feeling was increased at the date of the new crusade, in consequence of the increased rate of interest they demanded from men who were about to risk their lives in that dangerous journey. During the reign of Henry II. the Jews had enjoyed some degree of protection, and had, accordingly, increased in numbers and wealth. In France, they were less fortunate. On the accession of Philip II. he had issued an edict ordering the banishment of all the Jews from the kingdom, and the confiscation of their property. Hated by the people, the persecuted race had no other hope than in the favour of the prince, and, fearing that Richard might be disposed to follow the example of his ally, the King of France, they determined to secure his protection by presents of great value.

At the coronation of Richard, the chief men of the Jewish race proceeded to Westminster to lay their offerings at his feet. Being apprised of their intention, Richard, who is said to have feared some evil influence (It was a common belief among the people of this superstitious age, that the Jews were guilty of the practice of sorcery.) from their presence, issued a proclamation, forbidding Jews and women to be present at Westminster on that day, either in the church, where he was to receive the crown, or in the hall, where he was to take dinner. Some of the Jews, however, trusting that the object of their errand would excuse the breach of the royal command, attempted to enter the church among the crowd, and were attacked and beaten by the king's servants. A report was then rapidly circulated among the multitude outside, that the king had delivered up the unbelievers to the vengeance of the people. Headed by some of the lower-class of knights and nobles, who were not sorry to get rid of men to whom they owed large sums of money, the crowd surrounded the unhappy Jews, and drove them along the streets with staves and stones, killing many of them before they could reach the doors of their houses. At night the excitement spread throughout the town, and the populace attacked the dwellings of the hated race in every direction. These being strongly barricaded from within, were set on fire by the mob, and all the inmates who were not destroyed in the flames, and who attempted to escape by the doors, were received on the swords of their adversaries.

At the commencement of the riot, the king made some attempt to appease it, by sending the justiciary of the kingdom, Ranulph de Glanville, with other officers, to interpose their authority, They, however, were compelled to fly for their lives, and returned to the king, who seems to have had little real concern about the matter. While the work of carnage was proceeding, he remained seated at the banquet, and he afterwards took no steps to punish the murderers. He, however, issued a proclamation, in which ha declared the Jews to be under the protection of the crown, and forbade any man to molest or plunder them.

Allusion has already been made to the expedition known as the Second Crusade, which was headed by Louis VII. of France and the Emperor Conrad of Germany. Although 200,000 persons perished in this crusade, it is by no means to be ranked in importance with those which preceded and followed it. Although preached with all the zeal of the celebrated St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, who was noted equally for eloquence and piety, its acceptance was confined to France and Germany, and it took the character of a great military expedition rather than of a popular movement. The result of the expedition was disastrous, and the princes returned to England with only the scattered remnant of their noble army. The events of this crusade being in themselves comparatively unimportant, and having only an indirect connection with English history, it has not been considered necessary to relate them in detail. The state of affairs in the East, which induced the kings of France and England to determine upon a third crusade, has been referred to in a preceding chapter.

To raise money for the expedition to Palestine, Richard adopted a policy similar to that which, in the reign of Stephen, had so greatly reduced the revenues of the state. He publicly sold the estates of the crown to the highest bidder - towns, castles, and domains. Many rich Normans of low birth thus became possessed of lands which, at the time of the Conquest, had been distributed among the immediate followers of William; and many men of Saxon race availed themselves of the opportunity to recover the houses of their fathers, and, under a quit rent, became the lawful owners of their places of abode. The towns which concluded these bargains became corporations, and were organised under a municipal government. In the reigns of Richard I. and his successors many of these conventions took place, by which the cities of England gradually redeemed themselves from the condition into which they had fallen at the Norman Conquest (Islam's ''History of the Middle Ages."). In these transactions Richard appears to have been influenced solely by his determination to obtain money; and when some of his courtiers ventured to remonstrate with him, he said that he would sell London itself, if he could find a buyer (Guil. Neubrig.).

Titles and offices of state were also sold without scruple. Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham, purchased the earldom of Northumberland, and also obtained, for a payment of 1,000 marks, the chief justiciarship of the kingdom. It has been already related that, at the time of Richard's accession, this office was held by Ranulph de Glanville, a man of great ability and undoubted probity. One account tells us that Glanville resigned the office for the purpose of joining the crusade; but other historians relate that he was driven from it by the king, who was willing to obtain money even by the disgrace of an old and valuable servant of the crown. Vacant ecclesiastical benefices were filled up by the appointment of those who could best afford to pay for them. In addition to the sums raised by these measures, Richard obtained 20,000 marks from the King of Scotland, who in return was released from the obligation of servitude to the English crown.

While Richard thus appeared to be making every preparation for the expedition to the Holy Land, he showed no hurry to leave his new kingdom; and Philip of France, with whom he had engaged to join his forces, sent ambassadors to England to announce his intention, to depart at the ensuing Easter. Richard then convoked an assembly of the nobles of the kingdom, and declared his intention to proceed to the Holy Land in company with his brother of France. He placed the regency in the hands of William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, and Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham; the former of whom succeeded, not long afterwards, in securing the entire authority into his own hands. Prince John was thus deprived of the position which ho had calculated would fall to him, and he received, by way of compensation, a pension of 4,000 marks, the territory of Mortaigne in Normandy, and the earldoms of Derby, Nottingham, Gloucester, Somerset, and Lancaster in England. These estates comprised a third part of the kingdom.

Early in the following year (1190) Richard crossed the Channel into Normandy, and soon afterwards a meeting took place between the two kings of France and England, at which they bound themselves to a compact of brotherhood and alliance, each swearing to maintain the life and honour of the other as he would his own. The death of the young Queen of France caused a delay in the departure of the expedition, and it was not until Midsummer that the armies of the two kings assembled for that purpose. The allied forces are said to have numbered 100,000, and having been united on the plains of Vezelai, they marched in company to Lyons. At this point the two kings separated. Philip, who possessed no fleet or seaport town on the Mediterranean, proceeded by land to Genoa, that powerful republic having agreed to furnish a fleet of transports for the convoy of his troops. Richard was in possession of the powerful fleet by his father for the voyage to Palestine, as well as of trading vessels which he had himself selected from different seaports, and he, therefore, had no need to make the journey across the Alps. He proceeded from Lyons to Marseilles, where he proposed to embark.

The fleet, however, had not arrived when the king reached the coast. On leaving England the ships were placed under the care of two bishops and three knights, who received the title of constables. In crossing the Bay of Biscay, they encountered a violent storm, which caused them considerable damage, and at length compelled them to put into the Tagus, where they arrived successively. The King of Portugal was then at war with the Moors, and having obtained the assistance of a body of the Crusaders, he compelled the enemy to retreat. The king, however^ soon had reason to dread the presence of his friends almost as much as that of his enemies. The soldiers of the fleet landed at Lisbon, where they indulged, in their customary manner, in plunder and licentiousness. The inhabitants took up arms for the defence of their wives and property, and various encounters, attended with bloodshed, occurred between them and the Crusaders. Sancho, the reigning king, then closed the gates of the town, and made prisoners such of the Crusaders as were within the walls. The English retaliated by seizing any of the Portuguese who came in their way. An agreement was then entered into, by which hostilities were suspended, the prisoners were released, and the Crusaders set sail from Lisbon. The fleet, which now numbered more than one hundred sail, arrived in four weeks at Marseilles, whither it proceeded to Messina.

Meanwhile Richard, whoso impetuous nature could ill endure delay, had hired a number of vessels at Marseilles, in which he embarked a body of his troops; and after visiting Genoa, where he met the King of France, he arrived at Naples. It would appear that Coeur-de-Lion was at this time not without some sort of religious feeling, since it is recorded that, during his stay at Naples, he paid a voluntary act of devotion to the patron saint of that city. Having visited the sanctuary of St. Januarius, he entered a crypt, and told his orisons, surrounded by the bodies of the dead, which were arranged in niches around the walls. These ghastly figures, dry and shrivelled, were arrayed in their usual dresses, and in the deep gloom of the crypt, appeared as if they were alive.

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