Richard was a king of England, later known as the 'Lion Heart', and famous for his exploits in the Third Crusade, although during his 10-year reign he spent only six months in England.
Richard was born on 8 September 1157 in Oxford, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He possessed considerable political and military ability. However, like his brothers, he fought with his family, joining them in the great rebellion against their father in 1173. In 1183 his brother Henry died, leaving Richard heir to the throne. Henry II wanted to give Aquitaine to his youngest son, John. Richard refused and, in 1189, joined forces with Philip II of France against his father, hounding him to a premature death in July 1189.
As king, Richard's chief ambition was to join the Third Crusade, prompted by Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1187. To finance this, he sold sheriffdoms and other offices and in 1190 he departed for the Holy Land. In May, he reached Cyprus where he married Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre. Richard arrived in the Holy Land in June 1191 and Acre fell the following month. In September, his victory at Arsuf gave the crusaders possession of Joppa. Although he came close, Jerusalem, the crusade's main objective, eluded him. Moreover, fierce quarrels among the French, German and English contingents provided further troubles. After a year's stalemate, Richard made a truce with Saladin and started his journey home.
Bad weather drove him ashore near Venice and he was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being handed over to the German emperor Henry VI, who ransomed him for the huge sum of 150,000 marks. The raising of the ransom was a remarkable achievement. In February 1194, Richard was released. He returned at once to England and was crowned for a second time, fearing that the ransom payment had compromised his independence. Yet a month later he went to Normandy, never to return. His last five years were spent in intermittent warfare against Philip II. While besieging the castle of Châlus in central France he was fatally wounded and died on 6 April 1199. He was succeeded by his younger brother John, who had spent the years of Richard's absence scheming against him.
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