|Richard's tomb at Fontevraud
England's King Richard I is more often referred to as Richard the Lionheart. He died in France on April 6th 1199 - fatally infected by an arrow wound. Afterwards, his entrails were buried at Châlus (where he died), his heart went to Rouen Cathedral in Normandy and the rest of his body was buried at Fontevraud Abbey in the Anjou region.
Though King of England for ten years, Richard spent most of this time abroad living a complicated life of intrigue that involved military pacts and disagreements, land claims and land sales, affairs with both men and women, marriage, the building of castles, family schisms, religious observance and last but not least active participation in The Third Crusade.
|Richard's heart tomb at
Now I admit that I am no historian, even though things historical fascinate me. To create this blogpost I have had to undertake some research - driven by curiosity about both Richard the Lionheart and his involvement in The Crusades. When my parents acquired our first television set in 1957 I soon became a fan of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Richard Greene and throughout that series in which evil John presided over national affairs, I noted occasional references to his brother good King Richard who was away in "The Holy Land" fighting in "The Crusades". One of his biggest fans was the outlaw Robin Hood himself.
But what were they, these so-called "crusades"?
The first crusade (1096-99), promoted by Pope Urban II, occurred in response to the rise of Islam which in various guises was threatening to overwhelm the Byzantine Empire and hinder Christian access to The Holy Land. Its aim was to suppress this growing Muslim power - for economic as well as religious reasons. Essentially, the first crusade failed so it was followed by further crusades that drew thousands of fighters and noblemen from all over Europe - seeking their fortunes or religious merit, focussed on defeating the threat that Islam was posing. Of course they were all costly enterprises.
|Richard's stone effigy at Châlus
Historians tell us that the final crusade happened in the middle of the fifteenth century so by my calculations, the crusades were in process for over three hundred and fifty years. Richard I was a significant figure in The Third Crusade of 1189-92 sometimes called The Kings' Crusade which sought to crush Saladin and reconquer The Holy Land.
The remains of various crusaders can still be found in Christian English churches and I imagine in other Western European churches too. But that is not all that remains of the battles they fought long ago against the champions of Islam. Echoes could be heard ricocheting about the streets of Paris on Friday evening as innocent civilians were massacred by cowards with kalashnikovs. And of course these horrors are not over - not by a long way - so perhaps we must all be lionhearted now.