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Richard, the Lion

Richard I (1157 A.D. - 1199 A.D.), King of England, known as Coeur de Lion, was the hero and model of the Crusaders just as Sir Philip Sidney, four centuries later, was to become the hero and model of chivalry. Two men less alike it would be difficult to imagine, and the fact that each was a beau ideal of chivalry shows how much knighthood was altered between the Twelfth Century and the Sixteenth Century. Richard was more French that English, a great, powerful fellow, with red-gold hair to his shoulders, a French beard, with arms of prodigious strength, wild, moody, untamed, and almost completely ignorant. His mother was Eleanor of Guinnee divorced wife of Louis who had abandoned the crusade of 1149 because of her; her second husband was Henry of Anjou, who had been adjudged guilty of the murder of Thomas a Becket. Richard married Berengaria of Navarre, but neglected her as long as he lived. He went off as a crusader to the Holy Land after he became King of England; he had no reason to do so, he had no just right to bankrupt his country to pay the expenses for so harum scarum an adventure, and he betrayed his complete lack of any sense of the realities by leaving his treacherous brother John behind in England. When Richard arrived at Acre where the Crusaders were in the midst of their long siege of the city he was ill in bed, but he had himself carried within sight of the walls; and as soon as he was able to stay on his feet went into the thick of the unmerciful fighting. From then until the evening of the time for the attack on Jerusalem he flashed everywhere like a meteor, of suicidal courage and with miraculous skill, tore into the Moslem lines alone, fought in water to his neck, ambushed a caravan in the night after it had traveled from Egypt and captured the whole of it, tore Acre apart, won impossible battles, and became a hero even to his enemies, including Saladin, who named him Malik Ric. Historians can never agree on Richard because he was a bundle of contradictions--even to himself. He was the world's best warrior yet self-admittedly was a failure as a general. He could face twenty-five Saracens single-handed yet trembled if he lost a goodluck charm. No punctilio of chivalry was too small for him to observe, yet he slaughtered hundreds of civilians peaceably leading their caravan in the dark. On one day he cold-bloodedly massacred hundreds of unarmed prisoners for whose safety he had pledged his word; the next he sent to ask of Saladin a personal favor. He risked his life a hundred times to rescue the Holy Sepulcher, yet proposed to marry off his sister Joanna to a Saracen general. After leading his army to the walls of Jerusalem he abruptly stopped and went back home. On his return voyage he suddenly, and out of whim, decided to go back overland through Hungary; it is believed that he was captured there and was for long held a prisoner, but the facts of the matter have never been discovered, and probably never will be. Not long after his return to England he was killed in a castle brawl. Was he by nature and at bottom a brawler? Did he owe his fame to his large and handsome physique? Scott's picture of the jousting Richard in Ivanhoe is wholly fiction; but a historian cannot help but fear that sny other pieture of this Christianized barbarian may be equally a fiction. He is the complete enigma. (King Richard was called Richard the Lion. In later generations, and possibly by the Freneh in their old tales of chivalry, he nvas given the nickname of Richard the Lion-Hearted, or Coeur de Lion.)

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