Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Richard the LionHeart's Death

Richard's tomb at Fontevraud Abbey
Richard the Lionheart (1157 - 1199) died from complications after being hit by a crossbow shot by a follower of the Viscount of Limoges. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

In March of 1199, Richard besieged the town of Châlus near Limoges, because the lord of Châlus held a Roman treasure that had just been discovered by a farmer plowing his field. Richard, as overlord of the area (he was the Duke of Aquitaine, after all), demanded the treasure. His demand was refused.

On the evening of 25 or 26 March, an archer shot at Richard—who had neglected to put on his chain mail—while he stood outside the walls, driving the shaft deep into Richard's left shoulder. From this point on, things might have gone differently, but carelessness and circumstance had their way with Richard. In pulling out the crossbow bolt, the shaft broke, leaving the head inside. A surgeon removed the head, but did much additional damage to the wound, and infection set in.

Richard knew he wasn't going to live much longer. A message was sent to his mother (but not his wife), Eleanor of Aquitaine, who rushed to his side. The siege was successful while he lay incapacitated, and the archer was brought before him. Although different chroniclers identify the archer as one of four different men, all stories agree that Richard magnanimously forgave the archer, saying "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day,"and gave him 100 shillings and his freedom. Sadly, for the archer, Richard's followers had other ideas. Richard died on 6 April, and either Richard's captain Mercadier or Richard's sister Joan (depending on which chronicle you read) had the archer flayed alive and then hanged.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. I really wanted to discuss what happened to Richard's body afterward, but I seem to have run out of time. We will look at that subject tomorrow.

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