(In this post I will discuss the background of Richard, his final battles with his father, Henry II, and his accession to the throne along with his coronation which resulted in a wave of anti-semitic violence.)
Richard I (September 8, 1157 – April 6, 1199) was King of England from 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was overlord of Brittanyat various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior.
Richard was born on September 8, 1157, probably at Beaumont Palace, in Oxford, England, son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was a younger brother of Count William IX of Poitiers, Henry the Young King and Duchess Matilda of Saxony. As the third legitimate son of King Henry II, he was not expected to ascend to the throne. He was also an elder brother of Duke Geoffrey II of Brittany; Queen Eleanor of Castile; Queen Joan of Sicily; and Count John of Mortain, who succeeded him as king. Richard was the younger maternal half-brother of Countess Marie of Champagne and Countess Alix of Blois.
Richard I, King of England, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes.
The eldest son of Henry II and Eleanor, William, died in 1156, before Richard’s birth. Richard is often depicted as having been the favourite son of his mother. His father was Angevin-Norman and great-grandson of William the Conqueror. Contemporary historian Ralph of Diceto traced his family’s lineage through Matilda of Scotland to the Anglo-Saxonkings of England and Alfred the Great.
Accession to the throne.
The relationship between Henry II and Richard finally dissolved into violence shortly before Henry’s death. Philippe II Augustus, the new King of France, held a peace conference in November 1188, making a public offer of a generous long-term peace settlement with Henry, conceding to his various territorial demands, if Henry would finally marry Richard and Alys and announce Richard as his recognised heir. Henry refused the proposal, whereupon Richard himself spoke up, demanding to be recognised as Henry’s successor. Henry remained silent and Richard then publicly changed sides at the conference and gave formal homage to Philip in front of the assembled nobles.
The papacy intervened once again to try to produce a last-minute peace deal, resulting in a fresh conference at La Ferté-Bernard in 1189. By now king Henry II was suffering from a bleeding ulcer that would ultimately prove fatal. The discussions achieved little, although Henry is alleged to have offered Philippe II that John, rather than Richard, could marry Alys, reflecting the rumours circulating over the summer that Henry was considering openly disinheriting Richard.
Henry II, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Maine, and Nante.
Henry II was caught by surprise at Le Mans but made a forced march north to Alençon, from where he could escape into the safety of Normandy. Suddenly, Henry turned back south towards Anjou, against the advice of his officials. The weather was extremely hot, the King was increasingly ill and he appears to have wanted to die peacefully in Anjou rather than fight yet another campaign. Henry evaded the enemy forces on his way south and collapsed in his castle at Chinon. Philippe and Richard were making good progress, not least because it was now obvious that Henry was dying and that Richard would be the next king, and the pair offered negotiations.
Philippe II Augustus, King of France
They met at Ballan, where Henry, only just able to remain seated on his horse, agreed to a complete surrender: he would do homage to Philippe; he would give up Alys to a guardian and she would marry Richard at the end of the coming crusade; he would recognise Richard as his heir; he would pay Philippe compensation, and key castles would be given to Philippe as a guarantee.
Henry was carried back to Chinon on a litter, where he was informed that John had publicly sided with Richard in the conflict. This desertion proved the final shock and he finally collapsed into a fever, regaining consciousness only for a few moments, during which he gave confession. Henry died on July 6, 1189, aged 56; and was succeeded on the throne by Richard. King Henry II had wished to be interred at Grandmont Abbey in the Limousin, but the hot weather made transporting his body impractical and he was instead buried at the nearby Fontevraud Abbey.
Richard I was officially invested as Duke of Normandy on 20 July 1189 and crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on September 3, 1189. Tradition barred all Jews and women from the investiture, but some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king. According to Ralph of Diceto, Richard’s courtiers stripped and flogged the Jews, then flung them out of court.
When a rumour spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed, the people of London attacked the Jewish population. Many Jewish homes were destroyed by arsonists, and several Jews were forcibly baptised. Some sought sanctuary in the Tower of London, and others managed to escape. Among those killed was Jacob of Orléans, a respected Jewish scholar. Roger of Howden, in his Gesta Regis Ricardi, claimed that the jealous and bigoted citizens started the rioting, and that Richard punished the perpetrators, allowing a forcibly converted Jew to return to his native religion. Baldwin of Forde, Archbishop of Canterbury, reacted by remarking, “If the King is not God’s man, he had better be the Devil’s.”
Realising that the assaults could destabilise his realm on the eve of his departure on crusade, Richard ordered the execution of those responsible for the most egregious murders and persecutions, including rioters who had accidentally burned down Christian homes. He distributed a royal writdemanding that the Jews be left alone. The edict was only loosely enforced, however, and the following March further violence occurred, including a massacre at York.