Richard the Lionheart (First Draft)  

LoyaltyandHonor 35M/31F
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5/2/2006 12:39 pm

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5/2/2006 8:09 pm

Richard the Lionheart (First Draft)

Richard the Lionheart became known to some as “the Crusading King,” and to some others as, “the Absent King.” The reasoning for these labels falls on the fact that Richard accomplished some extraordinary achievements for Europe when he went to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade. This is also how he got the term “the Absent King,” because he was not in England very much during his short-time as the King of England.

While there is some speculation as to the sexual preferences of King Richard and to the way he managed his country and family, there is little disputing over the fact that he was a truly magnificent military leader. Richard enjoyed a wide ranger of successes in the Third Crusade. This is what we shall focus on when regarding him since there is too much speculation as to the other aspects of his life.

The Island of Cyprus

Richard set sail from Messina on April 10, 1191 with a fleet nearing 200 vessels destined to go to the Holy Land and recover the recently captured city of Jerusalem from the Saracen’s that controlled it.

On April 24, 1191, some of the ships in Richard’s large fleet crashed on the shores of the island of Cyprus. Isaac Comnenus was the Emperor of the island and ordered that the shipwrecked crusaders be disarmed and taken captive.

Richard arrived on May 6 and immediately asked to have his men released and that their booty be returned along with them. Isaac returned the Kings request with a denial, stating that he was an emperor and did not have to answer to a mere king. As if that was not enough, Isaac added a few insults to go with it.

Being a little hot tempered and passionate for the men that followed him, Richard personally led a siege on the Island to get his men and their booty back. Not only did he travel in the boats with his soldiers but he was the first to jump in the water to begin his movements inland.

After successfully savings his troops and securing the city of Limassol, he had earned himself a beachhead on the island, Richard knew that Isaac would probably attack him very quickly. Thus he had his soldiers work all through the night to get fifty of his horses onto the land and ready for a battle.

At 2 a.m. on May 7, 1191, Richard and his men attacked an outpost of Isaac’s which caused the men to flee towards Isaac’s camp. Despite Richard being tired and the horses beneath him being tired as well, Richard charged Isaac’s encampment which heavily outnumbered Richard’s troops.

King Richard ended up marrying Princess Berengaria on May 12, 1191 at the Temple of St George on the island. The overall campaign took fifteen days for Richard to gain control of the island which secured an unplanned, yet highly resourceful outpost for the Crusading forces.

The Massacre at Acre

After the crusaders secured the city of Acre on July 12, 1191, the Saracen leader, Saladin, did not keep his end of the bargain. Richard met with council and it was decided that all of the Muslim prisoners from Acre were to be executed. On August 20, 1191, between 2,000 and 3,000 Muslim prisoners were executed outside of city.

This tragic event has been something that many people frown upon when they think of King Richard. To those of us who follow the code of honor though, this was a mark of leadership and heroism for several reasons.

Richard was trying to reclaim the Holy Land from what some thought to be “the unbeatable Saladin.” If Richard had allowed Saladin to continue to stall in his end of the bargain, Saladin would have had time to prepare defenses in other cities as well as prove he was a better leader than Richard because Richard was to soft to take action against Saladin’s failures as a leader.

When the Europeans first captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099 they murdered a rough estimate of 30,000 people inhabiting the city. Richard killing between two and three thousand people is considerably less than his ancestors killing thirty thousand or more people when they won their siege.

Richard needed to move and Saladin was stalling because he knew this. Richard most likely knew that he couldn’t travel with an extra two to three thousand people in his army as prisoners and not fighters. He also knew that he could not afford to leave behind a small army to guard them.

Richard was also probably thinking that his homeland was soon to come under attack, which put all the more pressure on him to get moving quickly so that he could return home quicker.

When dealing with so many possibilities, Richard did what nearly any other leader would have done during the time, he had them executed. Not only did this make an example out of him but it made an example out of Saladin as well. Truth be told, Richard took action because Saladin took none.

The March from Acre to Jaffa and the Battle of Arsuf

Richard did one very specific thing that it appears none of the crusading leaders before him could do, he got the crusaders organized! The march from Acre to Jaffa is the first and best example of this organization.

Richard had to move his army from Acre to Jaffa while being attacked by the Saracen army all along the way. To do this, Richard used the Sea to aid his army. He had his army travel alongside the Ocean for the entire trip (except where it was not possible). The Templars and Hospitallers kept his front and rear guards. A line of infantry held the flankguard (the area closest to the land), followed by a small line open in the center so that his commanders and himself could travel up and down the ranks to give orders. The center held mounted knights and archers and behind them (closest to the beach) were the baggage train with some infantry and boats in the Sea.

From August 22 till September 6, 1191, the crusading army marched while under rather constant harassment from Saladin and the Saracen army. Richard was cautious about the morale and physical state of his army and allowed on several occasions to let them rest for an extra day. Due to the heat, Richard also began marches very early in the mornings to help avoid the excruciating afternoon heat. Finally, on September 7, Saladin unleashed a full-scale battle on the marching crusaders.

Despite being outnumbered, the crusader army kept its ranks through a series of early attempts by the Saracens to get them to break ranks or scatter in complete fear by having their cavalry charge at them and then break off at the last minute before a fight broke out.

The details of the actual battle do not need explanation as the battle was remarkable but not as remarkable as the unification of the crusader army. As expected, Richard again fought in the battle with his fellow crusaders; in the end, the crusaders beat off the Saracens and made it to their destination, Jaffa on September 10, 1191.

The Siege of Jerusalem

As expected, the overall point of the Third Crusade was to recapture the Holy City of Jerusalem like the first crusade had done. Richard never actually did attack or take control of the city of Jerusalem because he found it to be way too risky of a venture.

Richard wanted to take Jerusalem back but didn’t want to take it back if the Crusaders could not hold the city afterwards. The people who think of Richard as a failure in his overall crusade are people who feel that he should have attacked the city regardless of whether or not the crusaders could hold on to it. Sure, if he had taken Jerusalem it would have accomplished his mission but as a knight and a king, it also would have meant he was a failure as a leader and soldier.

To place your troops in danger when winning is possible is perfectly fine but not if you may win and then loose a battle that results from that victory. Richard did not have enough soldiers to fully attack the city and most certainly did not have enough soldiers to defend the city if he did siege it. Considering Saladin poisoned or destroyed the local watering holes, the crusaders probably wouldn’t have even been able to survive a siege unless the city fell very quickly. Richard did at one point agree to help in a siege of Jerusalem be he outright refused to lead the siege.

Richard settled on the “overall picture,” and decided to secure Christendom so that crusaders could come in the future and possibly take the city. For this reason, the army withdrew and focused on outlying cities that were of tactical advantage to future crusades.

The largest problem that the crusaders encountered while fighting was that everyone had a different reason for fighting and this led to many diplomatic disputes that Richard often got caught in the middle of since he was a King and had great influence. Truth be told, he probably had to fight more political disputes while in the Holy Land than he did Saracen attacks.

A person can not even begin to imagine the real stresses that had been laid upon the King’s shoulders. With all that he had to deal with, yet keeping a level mind shows his greatness and success in the battle for Jerusalem. While he did not take control of the Holy City, he did end up agreeing to a three year truce with Saladin before he left the Holy Land to go back to England where his country was being taken from him.

The Battle of Jaffa

After almost attacking Jerusalem, the crusaders turned around and decided to focus on strengthening what they controlled. This is where Richard made one very large mistake that ended up resulting in a battle that has echoed through history.

Richard headed back to the city of Acre on July 21, 1192 from Jaffa. He needed his army with him and thus left a rather small garrison of troops to defend Jaffa, which were all mostly wounded or sick soldiers.

Saladin got news of Richard leaving with his army and seized the opportunity to attack Jaffa. On July 27, 1192 Saladin began a siege on the city assuming that he would take it without much (if any) resistance.

Richard was now in Acre when a messenger came to tell him that Jaffa was under attack. As we have seen from Richard’s previous actions, he is very quick to act and somehow does not pay a serious price for it. In this situation, it is no different and Richard immediately took action.

Richard arrived at Jaffa on August 1, 1192 with a very small force (nothing close to the previous crusading army) compared to the Saracen army. As with the attack on the island of Cyprus, Richard was off in the water with his men immediately to secure a beachhead. Fighting side by side with his troops, and very heavily outnumbered. In only a short time, the crusaders achieved a short victory by making Saladin and his army pull back.

Negotiations were opened between Richard and Saladin after the initial battle that lasted for three days. Instead of continuing the negotiations, Saladin saw an opportunity to kill or kidnap Richard and seized the moment.

Saladin had two forces split up, one to attack the city and the other to attack the area specifically where Richard was camped, which was outside of the city walls. The hope was that the group attacking the city could either kill the soldiers in the city or that the group could distract them long enough to increase the chance of his other group kidnapping or killing King Richard.

The initial attack failed, which allowed Richard and his men to regroup and stand together as one instead of initially being two. Saladin should have withdrew after this failure and tried to plan something new. Perhaps he had such a temporary hatred for Richard and the crusaders for causing him so much trouble about Jaffa that he forgot what Richard’s greatest skills were; thinking, organizing and fighting under very chaotic circumstances are three things Richard was a master of.

In the time that it took Saladin to reorganize his forces, Richard also organized his. The Lionheart mobilized the small number of soldiers he had so that he had pikemen in the front with their pikes in the sand as a shield while kneeling together thigh to thigh, crossbowmen in the second row, soldiers to reload crossbows in the third row, and a few mounted knights stood in reserve.

This combination utterly demolished the Saracens that got to close. The pikes in the sand kept them from trampling them and the crossbowman fired a nonstop stream of arrows since they had a group of soldiers reloading the crossbows for them at a fast rate.

Richard and his soldiers walked away from this with merely a few scratches while the Saracen’s were dealt a heavy death count of both their soldiers and horses. Richard walked away winning a battle he should have never won and Saladin suffered a defeat from a battle he never should have lost.

Conversations with Saladin

On a few occasions, Richard and Saladin met or exchanged personal messages. The most noted being what was said right before Richard left to return to Europe.

Richard made it clear to Saladin that he planned on returning to the Holy Land as soon as he had dealt with the issues in Europe. He intended to bring more men and money with him so that when he did return, he could destroy Saladin and return Jerusalem to the crusaders.

Saladin simply replied, if anyone was to beat his army and him, he would be greatly honored if it was Richard who defeated him because Richard was the greatest king and warrior that Saladin had ever seen.

When Richard finally left, the Saracen’s had such great fear of him that it is rumored that when a Saracen child wept or disobeyed their parent’s, the parent’s would simply tell them to stop crying and behave because “the King of England is coming.”


Richard fought amongst his men (like many kings did as well before him), which is something that our modern leaders don’t do. In today’s world, our leaders sit behind a desk and order the death’s of soldiers who defend their country. While some military general’s may fight, others stay in the back (out of harms way) and issue commands to the men who then carry out the orders they are given.

Richard also labored with his soldiers, which is something that modern leaders also don’t do. In his time, there were more kings’ that didn’t help their soldiers than those who did help with manual labor and assisted them on the battlefield. By doing such things with his men and for his men, it was inspiring to them, which can no doubt account for why they loved him and followed him even into the most dangerous and disastrous of situations.

For his time, Richard organized the largest naval campaign that ever took place. He also administered one of the first Codes of Conduct ever recorded on a naval vessel. These feats paved the way for future crusaders and also paved the way for how many militaries handle their navies now.

Richard the Lionheart is a perfect example of what any knight (soldier) and king (leader) should be like when given the task of fighting. Fight with your men or do not ask them to fight. Work with your men or do not ask them to work. Accomplishing just these two feats can make all the difference between friends and soldiers who are willing to follow you to the death or friends that will follow you until danger becomes present and then they will abandon you.

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