Richard I Coeur de Lion (1189 - 1199 AD)
Richard was one of the sons of Henry II, and succeeded to several of his father’s titles: Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Ireland, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes and Overlord of Brittany. His landholdings in France were sizable and he spent most of his time in Aquitaine (Gascony, the Basque region of France), regarding England as a convenient tax-base for his military and political exploits. Although he spoke little or no English, his soubriquet coeur de lion is forever associated with his English name: ‘Richard the Lionheart’. He had several brothers and sisters of royal blood, although his dealings with John, Count of Mortain – later King John of England – are best remembered.
Richard was involved in many challenges to his father’s authority, frequently aligning himself with rivals in his younger days and there was some suspicion that the prince had somehow procured his father’s death. Richard acceded to a portion of Henry’s realm, but it was clear early in his career that military campaigns were his main interest: his name is forever associated with the crusades, but his exploits were not confined to the Mediterranean and Near East. In 1191, he married Berengaria, daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre at Limassol, Cyprus.; Navarre bordered Aquitaine and it is probable that the match was intended to extend the king’s territory. Berengaria accompanied her husband on some of his campaigns, but did not reach England until after his death. The king was famously captured by Duke Leopold of Austria in 1192 and held to ransom; Richard’s mother, Eleanor, drove the economy hard and even pawned the crown jewels to raise the required sum to free him, which Leopold used to fund the expansion of his major city of Vienna.
Richard’s protracted absence gave his brother the opportunity to act first as regent, then later as king; Richard acknowledged his brother’s claim and named him as his heir. For such an imposing figure, his death is almost comical: while besieging an unimportant fort at Chalus-Chabrol, France, he was struck by a stray crossbow bolt. The wound festered and the king soon succumbed to gangrene and died.