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Reign of Richard I. Part 1 page 3


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Saladin, who kept watch from the mountains upon all the movements of the crusaders, perceived the disorganised condition of the army, and chose that moment for an attack upon Jaffa, which he captured with little resistance. On learning the news, Richard at once dispatched by land the troops who remained with him, while he, with a small body of knights, proceeded by sea to the relief of the town. Coeur-de-Lion never showed his splendid military talents more strikingly than on this occasion, On arriving opposite the town, he found a vast host of the Saracens drawn up on the shore to receive him. His companions counselled him to turn back, saying that it was little else than madness to attack such overwhelming numbers; but Coeur-de-Lion knew that to dare is to reach half-way to victory, and he had learned to despise the nice calculation of probabilities. He leaped into the water, and cried, "Cursed for ever be he who follows me not!" At such a call no knight who desired to keep his spurs would dare to hang back, and one and all followed their leader to the shore, threw themselves upon the thick ranks of the enemy, and put them to flight. The gallant band of Richard then entered Jaffa, where they were joined by the troops who had marched by land.

On the following day the main body of the Saracen army, with Saladin at their head, advanced upon the town, Richard went forth to meet them on the plain, and a pitched battle ensued, in which, after many hours of hard fighting, he defeated them with great slaughter. It is scarcely too much to say that this success against a vastly superior force was due, in a great measure, to the extraordinary exertions of Coeur-de-Lion himself. Wherever he stretched out his ponderous battle-axe, horse and man went down before him; and it is said that such was the terror he inspired that whole bodies of the Saracen troops would turn and fly at his approach. Although the expedition to the Holy Land was not destined to attain its object, the fame of its leader was raised both in the East and in the West to ( a height which has never been equalled. For hundreds of years the name of Richard Coeur-de-Lion was employed by Syrian mothers to silence their infants; and if a horse suddenly started from the way, his rider was wont to exclaim, "Dost thou think King Richard is in that bush?" (Gibbon.)

The battle of Jaffa was Coeur-de-Lion's last victory in the Holy Land. His exertions on that day brought on a violent fever, and the state of his health, as well as the necessity of a return to England, induced him to conclude a treaty with his gallant enemy, on terms which Saladin was glad to accept. A truce was proclaimed for three years, three months, three days, and three hours; the towns of Jaffa and Tyre were to remain in the hands of the Christians, and they were to be permitted at all times to visit Jerusalem as pilgrims, without persecution or injury. To the French, who had refused to take part in the battle of Jaffa, Richard denied the benefits of this treaty, and told them that since they had held back from the fight, they v.-ere not worthy to enter the Holy City. The remaining portions of the army, casting aside their weapons of war, made the pilgrimage in safety, protected from all molestation by the pledge of Saladin. And yet the massacre of Acre was fresh in the memory of the Moslems, and many of the kinsmen of those who had perished there threw themselves at the feet of their chief, and implored him to take vengeance for the ruthless deed upon the Christians now in his power. But the soldan refused to listen to their entreaties, and replied that he had passed his word, which was sacred and unchangeable.

The third body of pilgrims which entered Jerusalem was headed by the Bishop of Salisbury, who was received with great honour, and was admitted to' a long interview with Saladin. Many questions were put to him by his royal entertainer, who, among other matters, desired to know in what light he was regarded among the Christians. "What do they say," he asked, "of your king, and what of me?" The bishop answered boldly, "My king stands unrivalled among all men for deeds of might and gifts of generosity; but your fame also is high, and were you but converted to the true faith, there would not be two such princes as you and he in all the world." Saladin replied in a speech as wise as it was generous. He readily gave his tribute of admiration to the brilliant valour of Richard, but said that he was too rash and impetuous, and that, for his own part, he would rather be famed for skill and prudence than for mere audacity. At the request of the bishop, Saladin granted his permission that the Latin clergy should be allowed to have separate establishments at Jerusalem, as had previously been the case with the eastern churches.

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Pictures for Reign of Richard I. Part 1 page 3

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