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Reign of Richard I. Part 2

Reign of Richard I. - Departure of the Fleet from the Holy Land-Adventures of Richard in Germany - His Imprisonment - Condition of Affairs in England.
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Richard set sail from Acre in October, 1192, with the queen Berengaria, his sister Joan, and all the knights and prelates who held fealty to the English crown. The proud heart of Coeur-de-Lion would not permit him to visit Jerusalem in the lowly guise of a pilgrim, but he quitted Palestine with feelings of the deepest regret; and he is reported to have stretched out his arms towards the hills, exclaiming, "Most holy land, I commend thee unto God's keeping. May he grant me life and health to return and rescue thee from the infidel! "

A heavy storm arose - attributed by the sailors to the displeasure of Heaven - and overtook the returning fleet, scattering the ships, and casting many of them ashore on the coasts of Barbary and Egypt. The vessel which carried Joan and Berengaria arrived in safety at a port in Sicily. Richard had followed in the same direction, with the intention of landing in southern Gaul; but he suddenly remembered that he had many bitter enemies in that country, in whose power it would be dangerous to trust himself, and he turned back to the Adriatic, dismissing the greater part of his followers, and intending to take his way homeward in disguise through Styria and Germany.

His vessel was attacked by Greek pirates; but he not only succeeded in repelling the attack, but in commanding their services to convey him to shore. Possibly, his name may have had an influence, even with these robbers of the sea; but, whatever were the means employed, it is certain that they placed themselves under his orders, and that he quitted his own ship for one of theirs, in which - the better to secure his disguise - he proceeded to Zara in Dalmatia, and there landed. He was attended by a Norman baron, named Baldwin of Bethune, two chaplains, a few Templars, and some servants. Richard had assumed the dress of a palmer, and, Living suffered his hair and beard to grow, long, went by the name of Hugh the Merchant. He had however, not yet learned prudence, and those who were with him seemed to have been as deficient in this quality as himself. It was necessary to obtain a pass of safe conduct from the lord of the province, who, unfortunately, proved to be a relation of Conrad of Montferrat. The king sent a page for this purpose, desiring him to ask a passport for Baldwin of Bethune and Hugh the Merchant, who were pilgrims returning from Palestine, and ordering him to present to the governor a large ruby ring, which Richard had purchased in Syria from some Pisan merchants. Some of the chroniclers relate that the lord of Zara recognised the ruby, which was a famous stone; but in any case, his suspicions were excited by seeing so valuable a jewel in the hands of men who professed themselves of such low degree. "This ring is the present of a prince, not of a merchant," he said to the messenger. "Thou hast not told the truth; thy master's name is not Hugh: he is King Richard. But since lie has sent me the gift without knowing who I am, tell him from me that I give him back his present, and that he may go in peace."

At this unexpected discovery the king did not hesitate to avail himself of the permission he had received, and, having obtained horses, he quitted the town on the same night. But the governor had no intention of permitting his enemy to escape from the country. He sent off messengers to his brother, the lord of a neighbouring province, to inform him that the dreaded King of England was about to pass through his territory in disguise. Among the retainers of the brother was a Norman knight named Roger, who was employed to go to all the taverns which received travellers, for the purpose of discovering the royal fugitive. For several days the Norman pursued his search without success, but he was stimulated by a vast reward which was promised him, and at length he discovered the king. No sooner, however, had Richard confessed who he was, than the ties of country and the duties of allegiance to his native sovereign overcame the love of money in the breast of the soldier, and instead of seizing him, he brought him a horse, and entreated him to save himself by flight; then, having fallen at the king's feet with tears and begged his forgiveness, he hastened back to his employer, and told him that the story of Richard's arrival was false, and that the pilgrim was of no higher rank than a knight, and was named Baldwin of Bethune. The baron, furious with rage at his disappointment, ordered the arrest of Baldwin, who was cast into prison with several of his companions.

Meanwhile, Coeur-de-Lion hastened on his way through Germany, attended only by a single knight, and by a boy who spoke the English language, then very similar to the Saxon dialect of the Continent. For three days and nights they travelled without food among mountains covered with snow, not knowing in which direction they were going. They entered the province which had formed the eastern boundary of the old empire of the Franks, and was called Ostrik or CEstreich, which means the East Country. This country, known to us by the name of Austria, was subject to the Emperor of Germany, and was governed by a duke, whose capital was Vienna, on the Danube. This duke was the same Leopold whom Richard had insulted at Ascalon, and with whom also, on a former occasion, he had a serious quarrel. This occurrence took place at Acre, where the duke having presumed to raise his standard on a portion of the walls, Coeur-de-Lion seized the flag, and trampled it under foot.

Richard and his companions arrived at a small town near Vienna, exhausted with fatigue and fasting. It is not probable that the king could have proceeded so near the city without knowing where he was, but Ms immediate necessities were too pressing to leave any room for hesitation. Having taken a lodging, he sent the boy into the market-place to buy provisions; but here the same imprudence which had led to the former discovery was again exhibited. The boy was dressed in costly clothes, and these, together with the large sums of money which he exhibited, excited the suspicions of the citizens; but he made excuse that he was the servant of a rich merchant who was to arrive within three days at Vienna. When he returned to the king, he related what had happened, and begged him to escape while there was yet time. Richard, however, little accustomed to anticipate danger, and fatigued with his journey, determined to remain some days longer.

Meanwhile, Duke Leopold heard the rumour of the landing of his enemy at Zara, and, incited at once by feelings of revenge and by the hope of the large ransom which such a prisoner would command, sent out spies and armed men in all directions to search for him. As the duke was scarcely likely to anticipate the presence of the fugitive so near the capital, the search was made without success, and Coeur-de-Lion would doubtless have escaped undiscovered, if another strange act of carelessness had not drawn suspicion upon him. One day, when the same boy who had before been arrested was again in the market-place, he was observed to carry in his girdle some embroidered gloves, such as were only worn by princes and great nobles on occasions of ceremony. He was again seized, and the torture was employed to bring him to confession. He revealed the truth, and pointed out the house in which King Richard was lodging. Coeur-de-Lion was in a deep sleep when the room in which he lay was entered by Austrian soldiers. He immediately sprang up, and seizing his sword, which lay beside him, he kept them at bay, vowing that he would surrender to none but their chief. The soldiers, superior as their numbers were, hesitated to undertake the task of disarming him, and the Duke of Austria having been sent for, Coeur-de-Lion gave up the sword into his hands. Leopold received it with a bitter smile of triumph, and said, "You are fortunate in not having fallen prisoner to the friends of the Marquis Conrad; for had you done so, you were but a dead man, if you had a thousand lives." The duke then caused him to be imprisoned in the castle of Turnsteign, where soldiers were appointed to guard the caged lion day and night with drawn swords.

No sooner did the Emperor Henry VI, of Germany learn the news of the arrest of Coeur-de-Lion, than he sent to the Duke of Austria, his vassal, commanding him to give up his prisoner. "A duke," said he, "has no right to imprison a king; that is the privilege only of an emperor." This strange proposition does not seem to have been denied by Leopold, who resigned the custody of the English king, on condition of receiving a portion of his ransom. The agreement having been concluded, Richard was removed from Vienna at Easter, a.d. 1193, and was confined in one of the imperial castles at Worms.

The two German princes, of whom it is difficult to say which appears to us in the most despicable light, entertained an equal hatred for their noble prisoner. How high the brilliant valour and abilities of Richard had placed him above his contemporaries, is evident from the jealousy with which they all regarded him; but the chief cause of the enmity of the emperor was the alliance which had been formed between Coeur-de-Lion and Tancred of Sicily. It will be remembered that at the time when the army of the Crusaders visited Sicily, Henry was preparing for a descent upon that kingdom, for the purpose of enforcing those claims to the throne which he held in right of his wife Constance, the heiress of William the Good. Soon after the departure of Richard from Messina (a.d. 11.91), Henry Appeared with a vast army before the walls of Naples, which city made a gallant defence against the invader. The emperor, although the immediate descendant of the great Frederic Barbarossa, was as deficient in military skill as in other manly qualities, and he saw his troops fall thickly around him, cut off by the fevers of that unaccustomed climate, without venturing to make a combined attack upon the city. At length he fell ill himself, and then he immediately raised the siege, and retreated. At the time when Coeur-de-Lion fell into his power, he was preparing for a second expedition to Italy, and the captivity of the English king afforded him greatly increased chances of success; for Richard was accustomed to adhere to his engagements, and it is probable that, had he been in possession of his kingdom, he would have interfered to prevent the destruction of his ally. It appears that after that shameful bargain by which the person of the royal prisoner was transferred to the custody of the emperor, the place of his confinement was kept carefully concealed, and was for many months a matter of speculation not only in England, but in Germany. Before we follow further the fortunes of this adventurous king, it is necessary to go back to the period of his departure for the Holy Land, and to trace the course of events in England during his absence.

The popular feeling which had been excited against the Jews at the time of Richard's coronation, and which he had done so little to repress, found vent in persecutions and massacres throughout the country. In those turbulent times there were among the people a certain number of lawless characters, who, ever eager for plunder, were doubly so when they could obtain it by means which were encouraged by their superiors, and permitted secretly, if not openly, by the clergy. To kill a Jew was regarded not only as no crime, but as a deed acceptable to God; and in England, as in Palestine, the pure and holy religion of peace was believed to give its sanction to acts of merciless bloodshed and plunder. In February, a.d. 1190, a number of Jews were butchered in the streets of Lynn, in Norfolk, and immediately afterwards, as though by a preconcerted movement, similar bloody scenes were enacted at Norwich, Lincoln, St. Edmondsbury, Stamford, and York.

The massacre of York, which took place in March, a.d. 1190, was remarkable no less for the number of victims who were sacrificed than for the circumstances of horror which attended it. At nightfall, on the 16th of the month, a company of strangers, armed to the teeth, entered the city, and attacked the house of a rich Jew who had been killed in London at the coronation, His widow and children, however, still remained, and these the ruffians put to the sword, carrying off whatever property the house contained. On the following day the rest of the Jews in York, anticipating the fate which awaited them, appeared before the governor, and entreated permission to seek safety for themselves and their families within the walls of the castle. The request was granted, and the people of the persecuted race, to the number of not less than 1,000 men, women, and children, were received into the fortress, within whose strong walls they might hope to find shelter from their enemies. But for some reason or other the governor passed outside the gates, and returned attended by a great number of the populace. The Jews, whose misfortunes had made them suspicious, feared that they had been permitted to enter the castle only as into a slaughter-house, and refused to admit the governor, excusing their disobedience by their dread of the mob, who, it was evident, would enter with him if the drawbridge were lowered. The governor refused to listen to such an argument, reasonable as it was; and, whatever may have been his original intention, he now gave orders to the rabble to attack the rebellious Israelites. The command was willingly obeyed, and the populace, whose numbers were continually increased by all the vagabonds and ruffians of the neighbourhood, laid siege to the castle, and made preparations for taking it by assault.

It is related that the governor became alarmed at the tumult he had raised, and that he recalled his order, and endeavoured to calm the excitement of the people; if so, his efforts were unsuccessful. Few things are easier than to rouse the passions of men - nothing more difficult than to quell them. The unhappy Jews heard the loud shouts of vengeance without the walls, and, foreseeing that they could make little or no defence against the force brought against them, slew first their wives and children, and afterwards, with a few exceptions, themselves.

Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, the chancellor of the kingdom, expressed his indignation at the war of extermination which seemed to be commenced against the Jews. He proceeded to York with a body of troops, displaced the governor from his office, and laid a heavy fine upon the rich men of the city. It does not appear, however, that the punishment was in any degree proportioned to the crime, or that it fell upon the actual perpetrators. The men upon whom the fine was levied were probably innocent of the outrage; but Longchamp was in want of money to transmit to his royal master in Normandy, and he, no doubt, was glad of the pretext thus afforded him for obtaining it.

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Pictures for Reign of Richard I. Part 2

The Bishop of Salisbury
The Bishop of Salisbury >>>>
Richard Coeur-de-Lion surprised by the Austrian Soldiers
Richard Coeur-de-Lion surprised by the Austrian Soldiers >>>>
Longchamp and Hugh Pudsey
Longchamp and Hugh Pudsey >>>>
Richard Coeur-de-Lion before the Diet of the German Empire
Richard Coeur-de-Lion before the Diet of the German Empire >>>>
John kneeling for forgiveness before his brother Richard
John kneeling for forgiveness before his brother Richard >>>>

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