Gateway to the Classics: Richard I by Jacob Abbott
Richard I by  Jacob Abbott

Richard Made Captive

It was now late in the season, and the autumnal gales had begun to blow. It was but a very short time after the vessels left the port before so severe a storm came on that the fleet was dispersed, and many of the vessels were driven upon the neighboring coasts and destroyed. The Crusaders that had been left in Acre and Jaffa were rather pleased at this than otherwise. They had been indignant at Richard and the knights who were with him for having left them, to return home, and they said now that the storm was a judgment from Heaven against the men on board the vessels for abandoning their work, and going away from the Holy Land, and leaving the tomb and the cross of Christ unredeemed. Some of the ships, it is said, were thrown on the coasts of Africa, and the seamen and knights, as fast as they escaped to the shore, were seized and made slaves.

Richard's ship, and also the one in which the queens were embarked, being stronger and better manned than the others, weathered the gale. After it was over, the queens' vessel steered for Sicily, where, in due time, they arrived in safety.

Richard did not intend to trust himself to go to any place where he was known. Accordingly, as soon as he found himself fairly separated from all the other vessels, he suddenly changed his course, and turned northward toward the mouth of the Adriatic Sea. He landed at the island of Corfu. Here he dismissed his ship, and took three small galleys instead, to go up to the head of the Adriatic Sea, and thence to make his way homeward by land through the heart of Germany.

He probably thought that this was the safest and best course that he could take. He did not dare to go through France for fear of Philip. To go all the way by sea, which would require him to sail out through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Atlantic, would require altogether too long and dangerous a voyage for so late a season of the year. The only alternative left was to attempt to pass through Germany; and, as the German powers were hostile to him, it was not safe for him to undertake this unless he went in disguise.

So he sailed in the three galleys which he procured in Corfu to the head of the Adriatic Sea, and landed at a place called Zara. Here he put on the dress of a pilgrim. He had suffered his hair and beard to grow long, and this, with the flowing robes of his pilgrim's dress, and the crosier which he bore in his hand, completed his disguise.

But, though he might make himself look  like a pilgrim, he could not act like one. He was well provided with money, and his mode of spending it, though it might have been, perhaps, very sparing for a king, was very lavish for a pilgrim; and the people, as he passed along, wondered who the party of strangers could be. Partly to account for the comparative ease and comfort with which he traveled, Richard pretended that he was a merchant, and, though making his pilgrimage on foot, was by no means poor.

Richard knew very well that he was incurring a great risk in attempting to pass through Germany in this way, for the country was full of his foes. The Emperor of Germany was his special enemy, on account of his having supported Tancred's cause in Sicily, the emperor himself, as the husband of the Lady Constance, having been designated by the former King of Sicily as his successor. Richard's route led, too, through the dominions of the Archduke of Austria, whom he had quarreled with and incensed so bitterly in the Holy Land. Besides this, there were various chieftains in that part of the country, relatives of Conrad of Montferrat, whom every body believed that Richard had caused to be murdered.

Richard was thus passing through a country full of enemies, and he might naturally be supposed to feel some anxiety about the result; but, instead of proceeding cautiously, and watching against the dangers that beset him, he went on quite at his ease, believing that his good fortune would carry him safely through.

He went on for some days, traveling by lonely roads through the mountains, until at length he approached a large town. The governor of the town was a man named Maynard, a near relative of Conrad, and it seems that in some way or other he had learned that Richard was returning to England, and had reason to suppose that he might endeavor to pass that way. Richard did not think it prudent to attempt to go through the town without a passport, so he sent forward a page whom he had in his party to get one. He gave the page a very valuable ruby ring to present to the governor, directing him to say that it was a present from a pilgrim merchant, who, with a priest and a few other attendants, was traveling through the country, and wished for permission to go through his town.

The governor took the ring, and after examining it attentively and observing its value, he said to the page,

"This is not the present of a pilgrim, but of a prince. Tell your master that I know who he is. He is Richard, King of England. Nevertheless, he may come and go in peace."

Richard was very much alarmed when the page brought back the message. That very night he procured horses for himself and one or two others, and drove on as fast as he could go, leaving the rest of the party behind. The next day those that were left were all taken prisoners, and the news was noised abroad over the country that King Richard was passing through in disguise, and a large reward was offered by the government for his apprehension. Of course, now every body was on the watch for him.

The king, however, succeeded in avoiding observation and going on some distance farther, until at length, at a certain town where he stopped, he was seen by a knight who had known him in Normandy. The knight at once recognized him, but would not betray him. On the contrary, he concealed him for the night, and provided for him a fresh horse the next day. This horse was a fleet one, so that Richard could gallop away upon him and make his escape, in case of any sudden surprise. Here Richard dismissed all his remaining attendants except his page, and they two set out together.

They traveled three days and three nights, pursuing the most retired roads that they could find, and not entering any house during all that time. The only rest that they got was by halting at lonely places by the road side, in the forests, or among the mountains. In these places Richard would remain concealed, while the boy went to a village, if there was any village near, to buy food. He generally got very little, and sometimes none at all. The horse ate whatever he could find. Thus, at the end of the three days, they were all nearly starved.

Besides this, they had lost their way, and were now drawing near to the great city of Vienna, the most dangerous place for Richard to approach in all the land. He was, however, exhausted with hunger and fatigue, and from these and other causes he fell sick, so that he could proceed no farther. So he went into a small village near the town, and sent the boy in to the market to buy something to eat, and also to procure some other comforts which he greatly needed. The people in the town observed the peculiar dress of the boy, and his foreign air, and their attention was still more excited by noticing how plentifully he was supplied with money. They asked him who he was. He said he was the servant of a foreign merchant who was traveling through the country, and who had been taken sick near by.

The people seemed satisfied with this explanation, and so they let the boy go.

Richard was so exhausted and so sick that he could not travel again immediately, and so he had occasion, in a day or two, to send the boy into town again. This continued for some days, and the curiosity of the people became more and more awakened. At last they observed about the page some articles of dress such as were only worn by attendants upon kings. It is surprising that Richard should have been so thoughtless as to have allowed him to wear them. But such was his character. The people finally seized the boy, and the authorities ordered him to be whipped to make him tell who he was. The boy bore the pain very heroically, but at length they threatened to put him to the torture, and, among other things, to cut out his tongue, if he did not tell. He was so terrified by this that at last he confessed the truth and told them where they might find the king.

A band of soldiers was immediately sent to seize him. The story is that Richard, at the time when the soldiers arrived, was in the kitchen turning the spit to roast the dinner. After surrounding the house to prevent the possibility of an escape, the soldiers demanded at the door if King Richard was there. The man answered, "No, not unless the Templar was he who was turning the spit in the kitchen." So the soldiers went in to see. The leader exclaimed, "Yes, that is he: take him!" But Richard seized his sword, and, rushing to a position where he could defend himself, declared to the soldiers that he would not surrender to any but their chief. So the soldiers, deeming it desirable to take him alive, paused until they could send for the archduke. The archduke had left the Holy Land and returned home some time before. Richard, however, did not probably know that he was passing through his dominions.

When the archduke came, Richard, knowing that resistance would be of no avail, delivered up his sword and became a prisoner.

"You are very fortunate," said Leopold. "In becoming my prisoner, you ought to consider yourself as having fallen into the hands of a deliverer rather than an enemy. If you had been taken by any of Conrad's friends, who are hunting for you every where, you would have been instantly torn to pieces, they are so indignant against you."

When the archduke had thus secured Richard, he sent him, for safe keeping, to a castle in the country belonging to one of his barons, and gave notice to the emperor of what had occurred. The name of the castle in which Richard was confined was Tiernsteign.


Castle and Town of Tiernsteign.

As soon as the emperor heard that Richard was taken he was overjoyed. He immediately sent to Leopold, the archduke, and claimed the prisoner as his.

"You  can not rightfully hold him," said he. "A duke can not presume to imprison a king; that duty belongs to an emperor."

But the archduke was not willing to give Richard up. A negotiation was, however, opened, and finally he consented to sell his prisoner for a large sum of money. The emperor took him away, and what he did with him for a long time nobody knew.

In the mean while, during the period occupied by the voyage of Richard up the Adriatic, by his long and slow journey by land, and by the time of his imprisonment in Tiernsteign, the winter had passed away, and it was now the spring of 1193.

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