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

The Departure from Palestine

One of the chief objects which Richard had in view in concluding the truce with Saladin was to be able to have an honorable pretext for leaving the Holy Land and setting out on his return to England. He had received many letters from his mother urging him to come, and giving him alarming accounts of the state of things both in England and Normandy.

In England, the reader will perhaps recollect that Richard, when he set out on the Crusade, had appointed his brother John regent, in connection with his mother Eleanora, but that he had also, in order to raise money, appointed several noblemen of high standing and influence to offices of responsibility, which they were to exercise, in a great measure, independent of John. And, not content with appointing a suitable number of these officers, he multiplied them unnecessarily, and in some instances conveyed the same jurisdiction, as it were, to different persons, thus virtually selling the same office to two different men. Of course, this was not done openly and avowedly. The transactions were more or less covered up and concealed under different disguises. For example, after selling the post of chief justiciary, which was an office of great power and emolument, to one nobleman, and receiving as much money for it as the nobleman was willing to pay, he afterward appointed other noblemen as assistant justiciaries, exacting, of course, a large sum of money from each of them, and granting them, in consideration of it, much the same powers as he had bestowed upon the chief justiciary. Of course, such a proceeding as this could only result in continual contentions and quarrels among the appointees, to break out as soon as Richard should be gone. But the king cared little for that, so long as he could get the money.

The quarrels did break out immediately after Richard sailed. There were various parties to them. There were Eleanora and John, each claiming to be the regent. Then there were two powerful noblemen, both maintaining that they had been invested with the supreme power by virtue of the offices which they held. The name of one of them was Longchamp. He contrived to place himself, for a time, quite at the head of affairs, and the whole country was distracted by the wars which were waged between him and his partisans and the partisans of John. Longchamp was at last defeated, and was obliged to fly from the kingdom in disguise. He was found one day by some fishermen's wives, on the beach near Dover, in the disguise of an old woman, with a roll of cloth under his arm, and a yard-stick in his hand. He was waiting for a boat which was to take him across the Channel into France. He disguised himself in that way that he might not be known, and when seen from behind the metamorphosis was almost complete. The women, however, observed something suspicious in the appearance of the figure, and so contrived to come nearer and get a peep under the bonnet, and there they saw the black beard and whiskers of a man.

Notwithstanding this discovery, Longchamp succeeded in making his escape.

As to Normandy, Richard's interests were in still greater danger than in England. King Philip had taken the most solemn oaths before he left the Holy Land, by which he bound himself not to molest any of Richard's dominions, or to take any steps hostile to him, while he—that is, Richard—remained away; and that if he should have any cause of quarrel against him, he would abstain from all attempts to enforce his rights until at least six months after Richard's return. It was only on condition of this agreement that Richard would consent to remain in Palestine in command of the Crusade, and allow Philip to return.

But, notwithstanding this solemn agreement, and all the oaths by which it was confirmed, no sooner was Philip safe in France than he commenced operations against Richard's dominions. He began to make arrangements for an invasion of some of Richard's territories in Normandy, under pretext of taking possession again of Alice's dower, which it was agreed, by the treaty made at Messina, should be restored to him. But it had also been agreed at that treaty that the time for the restoration of the dowry should be after Richard's return, so that the plans of invasion which Philip was now forming involved clearly a very gross breach of faith, committed without any pretense or justification whatever. This instance, and multitudes of others like it to be found in the histories of those times, show how little there was that was genuine and reliable in the lofty sense of honor often so highly lauded as one of the characteristics of chivalry.

In justice, however, to all concerned, it must be stated that Philip's knights and nobles remonstrated so earnestly against this breach of faith, that Philip was compelled to give up his plan, and to content himself in his operations against Richard with secret intrigues instead of open war. As he knew that John was endeavoring to supplant Richard in his kingdom, he sent to him and proposed to join him in this plan, and to help him carry it into execution; and he offered him the hand of Alice, the princess whom Richard had discarded, to seal and secure the alliance. John was quite pleased with this proposal; and information of these intrigues, more or less definite, came to Richard in Palestine about the time of the battle of Jaffa, from Eleanora, who contrived in some way to find out what was going on. The tidings threw Richard into a fever of anxiety to leave Palestine and return home.

It was about the first of October that Richard set sail from Acre on his return, with a small squadron containing his immediate attendants. He himself embarked in a war-ship. The queens, taking with them the captive princess of Cyprus and the other members of their family, went as they came, in a vessel specially arranged for them, and under the care of their old protector, Stephen of Turnham. The queens embarked first in their vessel and sailed away. Richard followed soon afterward. His plan was to leave the coast as quietly and in as private a manner as possible. If it were to be understood in France and England that he was on his return, he did not know what plans might be formed to intercept him. So he kept his departure as much as possible a secret, and the more completely to carry out this design, he gave up for the voyage all his royal style and pretensions, and dressed himself as a simple knight.

The vessels slipped away from the coast, one after another, in the evening, in a manner to attract as little attention as possible. They made but little progress during the night. In the morning the shore was still in view, though fast disappearing. Richard gazed upon it as he stood on the deck of his galley, and then took leave of it by stretching out his hands and exclaiming,

"Most holy land, farewell! I commend thee to God's keeping and care. May He give me life and health to return and rescue thee from the hands of the infidel."

The effect of this apostrophe on the by-standers, and on those to whom the by-standers reported it, was excellent, and it was probably for the sake of this effect that Richard uttered it.

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