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Richard I
Richard I

Richard I (1157-1199) ruled from 1189 to 1199. He is known in history as Richard the Lion-Hearted, or Richard Coeur de Lion. He was a son of Henry II, the first king of the Plantagenet dynasty (see PLANTAGENET). After Richard became king, he joined Philip Augustus of France in a crusade to the Holy Land. Richard captured Acre (now called Akko). He tried to retake Jerusalem, but failed.

During the crusade, Richard aroused the hatred of Leopold V, Duke of Austria. In 1192, while Richard was on his journey home, Leopold seized him. Leopold kept Richard in a castle on the Danube River as a prisoner of the Holy Roman emperor, Henry VI. It is said that while Richard lay in prison his favourite minstrel, Blondel, made himself known to his master by singing outside the castle. Richard was later taken to Henry, who released him in 1194 after a ransom was paid.

Richard returned to England in 1194, but did not really rule. He left the government to the care of a minister and fought in a war with Philip Augustus of France. In 1199, Richard was killed during the siege of a French castle, and his brother John became king.

During his entire reign, Richard spent little more than six months in England, and he performed no real service for the good of his country. He was a brave and vigorous man who was sometimes cruel, but was often gallant and generous. Richard was a troubadour (lyric poet), and some of his songs have been preserved.