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Death of Richard I page 2


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On the return of King Richard to London, and immediately after his second coronation, he commenced preparations for a war in France, which he proposed to undertake in revenge for the injuries he had sustained at the hands of Philip. For this purpose, as well as for his own necessities, money was required, and Richard showed no scruple as to the means by which it was obtained. He at once annulled the sales of royal estates which he had made before his departure for the Holy Land, declaring that they had not been sold, but mortgaged, and that the crown was entitled to their restitution; many high appointments were also resumed in the same manner, and these, as well as the lands, were again sold to the highest bidder.

Impatient to take the field, Richard collected as many troops as could be got together, and passed over into Normandy in May, a.d. 1194. He landed at Barfleur, and as soon as he had set foot upon the beach, he was met by his cowardly brother John, who cowered at his feet and begged forgiveness. His mother, Queen Eleanor, seconded the request with her prayers; and Richard on this occasion showed a magnanimity which was rare indeed in those days. He granted his brother's pardon, and said, "I forgive him; and I hope to forget his injuries as easily as he will forget my pardon." The prince who thus knelt trembling on the beach at Barfleur, had just been guilty of a most foul and treacherous murder. Regardless of the oath he had taken, he determined to desert the cause of Philip, whom he feared less than his brother; before doing so he invited the officers of the garrison placed by the French king at Evreux to an entertainment, and massacred them all without mercy.

The expedition of Richard, hastily undertaken, was attended with only partial success. The French troops were beaten in several engagements, and several towns and castles of Normandy which had been occupied by them, were retaken by Cceur-de-Lion; but his finances were soon exhausted, and the people of Aquitaine broke out into insurrection against him. The campaign came to an end in July by a truce for one year.

While Richard was absent on the Continent, the government of England was confided to Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was appointed chief justiciary of the kingdom (a.d. 1195). As Bishop of Salisbury he had accompanied the king to Palestine, and had there shown great courage and ability, as well in the field of battle as in his interview with Saladin. Coeur-de-Lion knew both how to appreciate and reward the ability shown in his service; great men seldom choose bad instruments, and the new justiciary proved himself fully worthy of the trust reposed in him. Under his administration the country began to recover from its depressed condition, although the constant demands for money made by the king rendered it difficult to relax, in any great degree, the burdens of the people. Hubert, however, appears to have promoted their well-being to the utmost of his power; the taxes were raised with as little violence as possible; commerce was fostered, and justice equitably administered in the courts of law.

It was not long before two of the bitterest enemies of Richard were struck down by death. Leopold, Duke of Austria, was engaged in a tournament, when his horse fell upon him and crushed his foot. The wound mortified; and when he was told that death was approaching, great terror seized him, for he was still under the sentence of excommunication, in whose force he firmly believed. In this temper of mind he ordered the hostages of the English king to be set free, and the money he had received from him to be returned. It does not appear, however, that the restitution was made; for an old traveller, quoted by Mills ("History of the Crusaders," vol. ii, p, 79.), who passed through Germany towards the close of the seventeenth century, says that the money "beautified Vienna; and the two walls round the city, the one old and inward, little considerable at present, were built with the ransom of Richard I."

Tancred, King of Sicily, had died in 1193, and was succeeded by his young son William. As soon as the Emperor Henry had received the ransom of Richard, he expended it in preparations for a second descent upon Italy. In 1195, while Coeur-de-Lion was busily engaged in the war with the French king, Henry marched a vast army into the Sicilian dominions. The people submitted to him by a treaty, the provisions of which he swore to maintain; but he violated his oath with the most barefaced treachery, committed unheard-of cruelties upon the Sicilian noblest and put out the eyes of the young king, the son of Tancred. The perfidious emperor having returned to his own country laden with spoils, collected a still larger army than before, and again marched into Sicily. But in this expedition, so abominable were the deeds committed by his orders, that even his wife Constance turned against him, and took the side of her oppressed countrymen. The incensed Sicilians attacked him with the energy of despair, and he was compelled to seek terms of peace, which he had no sooner obtained than death put an end to his career of cruelty. Like Leopold, he died in the agonies of a fear which is sometimes called repentance, and ordered that the ransom of Richard should be restored to him; but, as might be expected, the command was evaded by his successor to the throne.

Before-the truce between Richard and Philip had expired, war again broke out, and continued, without any important advantage to either side, until the end of the year, when a temporary peace was once more concluded. The citizens of London had for some time complained of the unequal manner In which the taxes were levied, the poor being made to pay much more, in proportion to their means, than the rich. In the year 1195, the movement took a new form, headed by a man named William Fitz-Osbert, called "Longbeard," from the length of the beard which he wore to make himself look like a true Saxon. His first act, which showed no sign of disloyalty, was to visit Richard in Normandy, and lay before him the grievance of which the people complained. The king made a courteous reply, and promised that the matter should be inquired into. Months passed away, however, without any redress being obtained, and in 1196 Longbeard formed a secret association, which was said to number 52,000 persons, all of whom swore to obey the "Saviour of the Poor," as he was called. Frequent assemblies of the citizens took place at St. Paul's Cross, where their leader delivered political orations, couched in obscure language, and usually prefaced by some text from Scripture. The passions of the people were becoming daily more excited, and it was evident that these meetings could not go on without danger to the public peace. Longbeard was summoned to appear before a council composed of the barons and higher ecclesiastics, where the strange accusation was brought against him that he had excited among the lower classes of the people the love of liberty and happiness. He attended the council- but so large a concourse of his adherents escorted him there, that it was not considered prudent to take proceedings against him. Great efforts were made to counteract the effects of his teaching, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose virtues were recognised and respected by all classes, went personally among the poorest of the citizens, and prevailed upon many of them to give their promise to keep the peace, and to deliver their children into his hands as hostages for their good faith. Two citizens now presented themselves to the council, and since it was dangerous to arrest Long-beard openly, offered to take him by surprise. The offer was accepted, and these men were employed to dog his footsteps, and watch an opportunity of seizing him. At length they found him with only a few companions, and having called to their assistance some armed men whom they had in readiness, they advanced and laid hands upon him. Longbeard immediately drew a knife and stabbed one of them to the heart; then with his companions he effected his escape to the Church of St. Mary of Arches, in the tower of which he barricaded himself. Here for several days he maintained his position, but at length the tower was set on fire, and Longbeard and his friends were driven out by the flames. They were immediately seized and bound, but at that moment a youth, the son of the citizen who was killed, approached Longbeard, and plunged a knife into his bowels. The wound did not cause death, and the soldiers - to whom pity would seem to have been unknown - tied the wounded man to the tail of a horse, and dragged him in this manner to the Tower of London, whence, by sentence of the chief justiciary, he was taken to West Smithfield and was there hung, together with his companions.

During this cruel torture of their leader the citizens remained passive, making no attempt to rescue him; and yet no sooner was he dead, than they proclaimed him to be a saint and a martyr, and cut up the gibbet on which ho was hung into relics, which were preserved with a religious veneration. The fame of the "King of the Poor" had travelled far and wide, and the peasantry from remote parts of the kingdom made pilgrimages to Smithfield, in the belief that miracles would be wrought on the spot where h-fell. So great was the popular enthusiasm that it became necessary to maintain a guard of soldiers on the spot, and some of the more troublesome pilgrims were imprisoned and scourged. Even these severe measures were only successful after a considerable lapse of time, so enthusiastic were the people in their attachment to the memory of one whom they believed had died in their cause, but whom in his death-agony they raised no arm to save.

In the year 1197, hostilities again commenced between Richard and Philip, the latter of whom derived support from the disaffection of the English king's Continental subjects. The people of Brittany - ever impetuous and eager for liberty - joined the standard of Philip, or fought separately against his enemy, without reflecting that their efforts, if successful, would tend only to a change of masters, and not to establishing their independence. The men of Aquitaine had risen in insurrection, headed by the same Bertrand of Born who had formerly excited Richard to rebellion against his father, and who now, by his old expedients of biting satires and lampoons, occupied himself in fomenting dissensions between his former ally and Philip. The Earl of Flanders in the north, and the Earl of Toulouse in the south, simultaneously declared war against Richard, and raised large bodies of troops in their territories. The war continued in a desultory manner, fortune leaning now to this side, now to that; but wherever Cceur-de-Lion showed himself in person, he maintained his reputation, and overcame his opponents. The king ultimately secured the adherence of the Earl of Toulouse, by giving him the hand of his sister Joan, the Queen Dowager of Sicily, who, with the Queen Berengaria, had returned to Aquitaine.

In this campaign the Bishop of Beauvais, a powerful prelate, who had evinced great enmity to Richard, was captured by Marchadee, a captain of the Brabanters in the king's service. He was taken in complete armour, fighting sword in hand, contrary to the canons of the Church. By direction of Richard he was consigned to a dungeon in the castle of Rouen. Two of his priests presented themselves before the king, to beg that their bishop might no longer be subjected to such harsh treatment. Richard replied that they themselves should judge if he deserved it. "This man," said he, "has done me many wrongs, one of which is not to be forgotten. When I was a prisoner, in the hands of the emperor, and when, in consideration of my royal birth, they began to treat me with some little respect, your master arrived and used his influence to my injury. He spoke to the emperor over-night, and the next morning I was made to wear a chain such as a horse could hardly bear. Say, now, what he merits at my hands, and answer justly." The priests are said to have made no reply, and quitted the royal presence. Efforts were then made in a more influential quarter on behalf of the bishop. He appealed to Pope Celestine, who replied that in such a case he could not use his pontifical authority, but would address his request to Richard as a friend. He did so, and sent the king a letter, in which he implored mercy for his "dear son, the Bishop of Beauvais." Richard replied by sending to the Pope the bishop's coat of mail, which was covered with blood, and attaching to it a scroll containing the following verse from the Old Testament - "This have we found; know now whether it be thy son's coat or no?" Celestine, who appears to have relished the joke, replied, "No; it is the coat of a son of Mars. Let Mars deliver him if he can." On this occasion Richard proved implacable; he refused the large sum of 10,000 marks which were offered as a ransom; and until the king's death the Bishop of Beauvais remained in the dungeon in chains.

In the following year (a.d. 1198) the truce again expired, and war broke out once more, and for the last time, between the two kings. The prolonged contest seemed to have increased their hatred, and led them to wreak their vengeance upon their unhappy prisoners who fell into their hands. Great cruelties were practised by both armies, who, as they passed through their enemy's territory, burned up the homesteads of the people, and laid waste the fields. A pitched battle took place near Gisors, in which Richard obtained a complete victory, and Philip, in his retreat, had a narrow escape from drowning in the river Epte, the bridge over which he crossed breaking down under the weight of his troops. Richard then exclaimed, exultingly, that he had made the French king drink deeply of the waters of the Epte. During the engagement Cceur-de-Lion exhibited all his old prowess. It is related that he rode unattended against three knights, whom he struck down one after the other and made prisoners. This was Coeur-de-Lion's last exploit in the field. A truce was declared between the obstinate belligerents, and was solemnly ratified for the term of five years. In those times an oath of truce or a kingly pledge was little else than a ceremony, and passion or self-interest continually broke down the most solemn vows and attestations. Thus the truce for five years was infringed in as many weeks; but the difference was a trivial one, and was concluded without further hostilities. Richard then marched a body of troops against the insurgents of Aquitaine.

For some time previously the minstrels of the south had been heard to introduce among their love songs a ballad of more gloomy portent. This ballad contained a prophecy that in Limousin an arrow was making by which the tyrant King of England should die. Such proved to be, indeed, the manner of Richard's death, and the previous existence of the prophecy would seem to indicate a conspiracy to assassinate him. These were the men who, as already related, had attempted the life of Henry II., by shooting arrows at him; and it is not improbable that they should have determined among themselves to get rid of his son in the same manner. The circumstances of Richard's death, however, seem to have had no connection with such a conspiracy; it was provoked by his own spirit of revenge, and by the reckless indifference with which he exposed himself | to danger. The story most commonly received is to the following effect: - Vidomar, the Viscount of Limoges, had found a considerable treasure, which Richard, as his feudal lord, demanded. The viscount offered one-half, and no more; and the king, who wanted money, and seldom listened to argument in such cases, besieged the rebellious noble in his castle of Chaluz. Famine soon appeared among the garrison, and they sent to the king to tender their submission, on the condition only that their lives might be spared. Richard refused the request, and swore he would storm the castle, and hang the whole garrison on the battlements. The unhappy men of Chaluz had received this reply, which seemed to cut them off from hope, and they were consulting together with despairing looks, when they observed the king, attended by Marchadee, approaching the castle walls to reconnoitre and determine where the attack should be made. A youth named Bertrand de Gurdun, who stood upon the ramparts, then took a bow, and directing an arrow at the king, lodged it in his left shoulder. The castle was then carried by assault, and the whole of the garrison were massacred except Bertrand, who was led into the presence of Richard, to learn that more horrible fate which it was supposed would await him. Meanwhile, the arrow-head had been extracted with great difficulty by the surgeon, and it was evident that the wound would prove mortal. In the presence of death none but the most depraved minds retain their animosities; and the dying king looked calmly on his murderer, while the youth, for his part, bore an undaunted brow. "What have I done to thee," Coeur-de-Lion said, "that thou shouldst seek my life?" The youth answered, "Thou hast killed with thine own hand my father and my two brothers, and myself thou wouldst hang. Let me die in torture if thou wilt; I care not, so that thou, the tyrant, diest with me." Such a speech found an echo in the breast of him of the Lion-Heart: "Youth," he said, "I forgive thee. Let him go free, and give him a hundred shillings." The command was not obeyed, for it is related that Marchadee retained the prisoner, and after the king's death caused him to be flayed alive, and then to be hung. Like others of the princes his contemporaries, Richard expressed contrition and remorse at the prospect of death, and in his last moments courted the offices of the Church. He died on the 6th of April, 1199, at the age of forty-two, having reigned, or rather worn the crown, for nearly ten years; during which, with the exception of a few months, he was absent from England. He had no children to succeed to the throne, and he left a will, in which he appointed his successor, and gave directions as to the disposal of his remains. "Take my heart," he said, "to Rouen, and let my body lie at my father's feet in the abbey of Fontevrault."

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