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

Preparations for the Crusade

At the time of his accession to the throne, Richard, as has already been remarked, was about thirty-two years of age. On the following page you have a portrait of him, with the crown upon his head.

This portrait is taken from a sculpture on his tomb, and is undoubtedly a good representation of him as he appeared when he was alive.


Portrait of Richard I.

The first thing that Richard turned his attention to, when he found himself securely seated on his throne, was the preparation for a crusade. It had been the height of his ambition for a long time to lead a crusade. It was undoubtedly through the influence of his mother, and of her early conversations with him, that he imbibed his extraordinary eagerness to seek adventures in the Holy Land. She had been a crusader herself during her first marriage, as has already been related in this volume, and she had undoubtedly, in Richard's early life, entertained him with a thousand stories of what she had seen, and of the romantic adventures which she had met with there. These stories, and the various conversations which arose out of them, kindled Richard's youthful imagination with ardent desires to go and distinguish himself on the same field. These desires had been greatly increased as Richard grew up to manhood by observing the exalted military glory to which successful crusaders attained. And then, besides this, Richard was endued with a sort of reckless and lion-like courage, which led him to look upon danger as a sport, and made him long for a field where there were plenty of enemies to fight, and enemies so abhorred by the whole Christian world that he could indulge in the excitement of hatred and rage against them without any restraint whatever. He could there satiate himself, too, with the luxury of killing men without any misgiving of conscience, or, at least, without any condemnation on the part of his fellow-men, for it was understood throughout Christendom that the crimes committed against the Saracens in the Holy Land were committed in the name of Christ. What a strange delusion! To think of honoring the memory of the meek and lowly Jesus by utterly disregarding his peaceful precepts and his loving and gentle example, and going forth in thousands to the work of murder, rapine, and devastation, in order to get possession of his tomb.

In preparing for the crusade, the first and most important thing to be attended to, in Richard's view, was the raising of money. A great deal of money would be required, as has already been intimated, to fit out the expedition on the magnificent scale which Richard intended. There was a fleet of ships to be built and equipped, and stores of provisions to be put on board. There were armies to be levied and paid, and immense expenses were to be incurred in the manufacture of arms and ammunition. The armor and the arms used in those days, especially those worn by knights and noblemen, and the caparisons of the horses, were extremely costly. The armor was fashioned with great labor and skill out of plates or rings of steel, and the helmets, and the bucklers, and the swords, and all the military trappings of the horses and horsemen, being fashioned altogether by hand, required great labor and skill in the artisan who made them; and then, moreover, it was customary to decorate them very profusely with embroidery, and gold, and gems. At the present day, men display their wealth in the costliness of their houses, and the gorgeousness and luxury of the furniture which they contain. It is not considered in good taste—except for ladies—to make a display of wealth upon the person. In those days, however, the reverse was the case. The knights and barons lived in the rudest stone castles, dark and frowning without, and meagerly furnished and comfortless within, while all the means of display which the owners possessed were lavished in arming and decorating themselves and their horses magnificently for the field of battle.

For all these things Richard knew that he should require a large sum of money, and he proceeded at once to carry into effect the most wasteful and reckless measures for obtaining it. His father, Henry the Second, had in various ways acquired a great many estates in different parts of the kingdom, which estates he had added to the royal domains. These Richard at once proceeded to sell to whomsoever would give the most for them. In this manner he disposed of a great number of castles, fortresses, and towns, so as greatly to diminish the value of the crown property. The purchasers of this property, if they had not money enough of their own to pay for what they bought, would borrow of the Jews. Some of the king's counselors remonstrated with him against this wasteful policy, but he replied that he needed money so much for the crusade, that, if necessary, he would sell the city of London itself to raise it, if he could only find a man rich enough to be the purchaser.

After having raised as much money as he could by the sale of the royal lands, the next resource to which Richard turned was the sale of public offices and titles of honor. He looked about the country for wealthy men, and he offered them severally high office on condition of their paying large sums of money into the treasury as a consideration for them. He sold titles of nobility, too, in the same way. If any man who was not rich held a high or important office, he would find some pretext for removing him, and then would offer the office for sale. One of the historians of those times says that at this period Richard's presence-chamber became a regular place of trade—like the counting-room of a merchant or an exchange—where every thing that could be derived from the bounty of the crown or bestowed by the royal prerogative was offered for sale in open market to the man who would give the best bargain for it.

Another of the modes which the king adopted for raising money, and in some respects the worst of all, was to impose fines as a punishment for crime, and then, in order to make the fines produce as much as possible, every imaginable pretext was resorted to to charge wealthy persons with offenses, with a view of exacting large sums from them as the penalty. It was said that a great officer of state was charged with some offense, and was put in prison and not released until he had paid a fine of three thousand pounds.

One of the worst of these cases was that of his half-brother Geoffrey, the son of Rosamond. Geoffrey had been appointed Archbishop of York in accordance with the wish that his father Henry had expressed on his death-bed. Richard pretended to be displeased with this. Perhaps he wished to have had that office to dispose of like the rest. At any rate, he exacted a very large sum from Geoffrey as the condition on which he would "grant him his peace," as he termed it, and Geoffrey paid the money.

When, by these and other similar means, Richard had raised all that he could in England, he prepared to cross the Channel into Normandy, in order to see what more he could do there. Before he went, however, he had first to make arrangements for a regency to govern England while he should be away. This is always the custom in monarchical countries. Whenever, for any reason, the true sovereign can not personally exercise the supreme power, whether from minority, insanity, long-continued sickness, or protracted absence from the realm, a regency, as it is called, is created to govern the kingdom in his stead. The person appointed to act as regent is usually some near relation of the king. Richard's brother John hoped to be made regent, but this did not suit Richard's views, for he wished to make this office the means, as all the others had been, of raising money, and John had no money to give. For the same reason, he could not appoint his mother, who in other respects would have been, a very suitable person. So Richard contrived a sort of middle course. He sold the nominal regency to two wealthy courtiers, whom he associated together for the purpose. One was a bishop, and the other was an earl. It may, perhaps, be too much to say that he directly sold them the office, but, at any rate, he appointed them jointly to it, and under the arrangement that was made he received a large sum of money. He, however, stipulated that John, and also his mother, should have a large share of influence in deciding upon all the measures of the government. John would have been by no means satisfied with this divided and uncertain share of power were it not that he was so desirous of favoring the expedition in every possible way, in hopes that if Richard could once get to the Holy Land he would soon perish there, and that then he should be king altogether. It was of comparatively little consequence who was regent in the mean time. So he resolved to make no objection to any plan that the king might propose.

Richard was now ready to cross to Normandy; but just before he went there came a deputation from Philip to consult with him in respect to the plans of the crusade, and to fix upon the time for setting out. The time proposed by Philip was the latter part of March. It was now late in the fall. It would not be safe to set out before March on account of the inclemency of the season, and Richard supposed that he should have ample time to complete his preparations by the time that Philip named. So both parties agreed to it, and they took a solemn oath on both sides that they would all be ready without fail.

Soon after this Richard took leave of his friends, and, accompanied by a long retinue of earls, barons, knights, and other adventurers who were to accompany him to the Holy Land, he left England, and crossed the Channel to Normandy.

In such cases as this there are always a great many last words to be said and a great many last arrangements to be made, and Richard found it necessary to see his mother and his brother John again before finally taking his departure from Europe. So he sent for them to come to Normandy, and there another great council of state was held, at which every thing in relation to the internal affairs of his dominions was finally arranged. There was still one other danger to be guarded against, and that was some treachery on the part of Philip himself. So little reliance did these valiant champions of Christianity place in each other in those days, that both Richard and Philip, in joining together to form this expedition, had many misgivings and suspicions in respect to each other's honesty. Undoubtedly neither of them would have thought it safe to leave his dominions and go on a crusade unless the other had been going too. The one left behind would have been sure to have found some pretext, during the absence of his neighbor, to invade his dominions and plunder him of some of his possessions. This was one reason why the two kings had agreed to go together; and now, as an additional safeguard, they made a formal treaty of alliance and fraternity, in which they bound themselves by the most solemn oaths to stand by each other, and to be faithful and true to each other to the last. They agreed that each would defend the life and honor of the other on all occasions; that neither would desert the other in the hour of danger; and that, in respect to the dominions that they were respectively to leave behind them, neither would form any designs against the other, but that Philip would cherish and protect the rights of Richard even as he would protect his own city of Paris, and that Richard would do the like by Philip, even as he would protect his own city of Rouen.

It is a curious circumstance that in this treaty Richard should name Rouen, and not London, as his principal capital. It confirms what is known in many other ways, that the kings of this line, reigning over both Normandy and England, considered Normandy as the chief centre of their power, and England as subordinate. It may be, however, that one reason why Rouen was named in this instance may have been because it was nearer to the dominions of the King of France, and so better known to him.

This treaty was signed in February, and the preparations were now nearly complete for setting forth on the expedition in March, at the appointed time.

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