Prompted by Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1187, King Richard I of England’s key ambition was to join the Third Crusade to regain the Holy Land for the Christians.
Richard, the third legitimate son of King Henry II of England, was born on 8 September, 1157 and showed skill in military endeavours from an early age. In 1174, Richard and two of his siblings, Henry and Geoffrey, rebelled against their father's rule, losing quickly. This loss forced Richard to return his attentions to his rule over Aquitaine. Tensions rose again between Richard and his father when it was suggested that Richard pay homage to his brother Henry. Richard refused and was attacked by Henry and Geoffrey in 1183. Richard formed an alliance with King Philip II of France in 1187 to help in his quest against his brothers and father, despite his sibling Henry having died in 1183. Richard gave up the rights to Normandy and Anjou as part of this alliance and went on to win against his father in July 1189 as a united front. His father agreed to name Richard as his heir, and he was crowned in September 1189 at Westminster Abbey, following Henry’s death.
The pope, Gregory VIII, ordered the Third Crusade following Saladin’s defeat of the King of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin, and Richard – later given the 'Coeur de Lion', the ‘Lion-hearted,’ title for his heroism – was keen to lead the Crusade. He raised money for the mission by imposing a tax upon all classes and selling off royal lands. So keen was he to raise the funding needed that he declared he would “sell the city of London, if he could find a purchaser.”
The Crusade – led by Richard, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany and King Philip II of France – began in 1189. Frederick drowned as he marched across Europe, so Richard, Philip and their armies continued their journey onto Sicily. Philip sailed to the port of Acre in March of 1191, which was controlled at the time by the Muslims and was key to the Crusade as it was the closest major port to Jerusalem. Richard’s men joined the fight and captured Acre in July 1191, having first successfully captured Cyprus. It was at this point that Philip decided to return to France, leaving Richard and his men to fend for themselves. Richard marched south to Jerusalem, but his men suffered on the way due to a lack of fresh water and the stifling heat. His men won the Battle of Arsur in September 1191, and from there spend the winter resting in Jaffa before marching on to Jerusalem in June 1192.
A testament to the respect between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin and also to Saladin’s canniness, was Saladin’s agreement to send fruit and water to Richard’s men when they requested it in their time of need. Saladin found that Richard only had a small army and would have little chance of taking the Holy Land. The men agreed to a truce - pilgrims from the west would be permitted to visit Jerusalem without being troubled by the Muslims. Neither man was happy with the truce but both accepted they were exhausted and it was the right solution. Richard sailed for western Europe in October 1192, and never returned to the Holy Land.
On his journey home, Richard’s ship got caught in a storm, forcing him to travel through Austria, which was controlled by Duke Leopold of Austria, an enemy of Richard. Richard had ridiculed Leopold – who had initially been one of the leaders of the Third Crusade – and Leopold saw this as the perfect opportunity to wreak his revenge. Leopold held Richard captive for two years before a large ransom was paid for him, which finally allowed Richard to travel home in 1194.
"Richard the Lionheart". HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2014. Web.