King Richard I
|Robin Hood and his men paying homage to King Richard in the Greenwood.
King Richard I was born in Oxford, England to parents who held power on the continent as well as England but there was little mutual cohesion between the lands that King Henry held and so he attempted to unite his posessions by assigning his children to the territories they were to govern and to this end he allowed them to be brought up among the people they would ultimately rule. To Richard he allotted the territories in the South of France that belonged to his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and so Richard spent his childhood there. By the time he was sixteen he had been inducted as Duke of Aquitaine and he had gained an appalling reputation by committing rapes and murders. It is said, “He seized and raped the daughters and relatives of free men and when the violence of his lust had been quenched he handed them over to his soldiers to use.” His younger brother John it was decided should be King of England.
There were quarrels and Richard I cared much more for his mother who bitterly resented her husband's infidelities than he did for his father. Family considerations influenced much of his life and he fought alongside his brothers Prince Henry and Geoffrey in their rebellion of 1173-4 against his father, then he fought for his father against his brothers when they supported an 1183 revolt in Aquitane; and then he joined Philip II of France whose astuteness contrived to implicate Henry's favourite son John. When the old king saw his sons name he died broken-hearted, 6 July, 1189.
Richard took possession of the English crown and one of the first things he did after his fathers death was to make peace with his opponents who had been loyal to his father and far from showing himself vindictive he actually rewarded their fidelity for he had a chivalrous respect of loyalty. It was in this spirit that he pardoned William Marshall who had stood by the old king till the end and had unhorsed Richard and nearly caused his death in the recent fighting. Not only that but in accordance with his father’s wishes he gave him in marriage one of the richest of the Crown heiresses, Isabel, daughter of Richard of Clare, earl of Pembroke and from being an impecunious (poor) knight errant the Marshall became one of the most powerful of the English barons. He extended the same generous treatment to his brothers and he was the only member of his family who attended his father at his deathbed.
His staunch loyalty to his younger brother John was shown when he gave him the profits from the archbishopric of York which had been vacant for the last eight years and in one year alone (1182) had rendered a solid net profit of over £1,750 and this was only a drop in the ocean compared to the possessions he had given his brother at home and abroad. King Richard I was received for his coronation with great enthusiasm when he landed in England in the summer of 1189 for he had thrown open the prison doors and liberated all who had been arbitrarily or unjustly imprisoned, especially for offences against forest law. He couldn’t speak any English.
King Richard in an Inn, in Germany, in disguise, fleeing for his life.
His priority was to embark on the third crusade for which finance was needed and the leaders of London’s Jews came to his court bearing valuable gifts, but as Jews were not allowed there they were beaten up and there were general anti-Jewish riots. Richard was profoundly disturbed at the idiocy of attacking people who could give him what he needed. He raised money for his Crusade by selling anything he could. Hugh de Puiset gave 2,000 marks for the sheriffdom of Northumberland and another 1,000 marks for the justiciarship on condition he was released from the crusade. The King’s half brother Geoffrey had to pay £3,000 for the archbishopric of York, William Longchamp Bishop of Ely was made chancellor on payment of 3,000 marks. Burgesses (freemen) purchased their right to have their cities at fee farm (without homage or fealty) varying from £100 in the case of Northampton and 40 marks in the case of Shrewsbury. The sheriffs were nearly all dismissed and if they were allowed to regain their position, they did so only on payment of fees. The generalisation of a contemporary writer was that, “everything was for sale, powers, lordships, earldoms, shrievalties, castles, towns, manors, and suchlike” was indeed not far from the truth. King Richard had famously said that he would sell off London to anyone who was prepared to buy it. The largest contribution for the crusade fund came from William the Lion, King of Scots who for 10,000 marks (£6,600) bought his release from the covenants of the treaty of Falaise effectively gaining Scotland’s independence from England. William the Lion refused to countenance the nefarious plans of Joh