Richard The Lionheart (1157 – 1199) and Berengaria of Navarre (1165-1230)

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Richard Plantagenet- Richard I of England- “Richard the Lionheart,” Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou and Maine, and Berengaria of Navarre, Queen consort of England.

Richard the Lionheart was the 3rd son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was also the first son to ascend the throne after his father’s death. As he was a third son, it was not expected that he would become King of England. Surplus sons were either groomed for the Church or the Military. Richard was groomed to become a commander of soldiers (knights). Richard was given the titles of his mother’s vast domains that she held in her own right, as he was her favorite. Eleanor of Aquitaine had one of the most richest and most powerful duchies in the Europe. This favoritism was said to have caused a rift between Richard and his brothers (at least with the younger ones).

At the tender age of eight years old, Richard was sent to rule over Aquitaine in his mothers name. It was there that he grew up, the language and culture of the Franks that he embraced. Richard’s education was primarily a military one, as it was expected that he would remain a Duke and Count. As such he would be responsible of governing his provinces, extinguishing rebellions and unrest in his domains, and providing soldiers for the King of France (at least as a vassal of France that was what was expected). It was not stressed for him to learn the English language fluently, the culture, or politics. This would cause him some troubles later on.

From a very young age, Richard proved to be an apt military commander. He was also considered fair in looks and the ladies liked him. When Richard was 15 years old he was formally acknowledged as the Duke of Aquitaine. When Richard’s older brother Henry (crowned King by his father in his own lifetime) rebelled against their father, Richard joined his brother. Eleanor the Queen, their mother, encouraged this rebellion of her children against their father. However, young Henry and Richard also went to the French King, the enemy of England and their father, and received support for the rebellion. They were married or betrothed to Louis VII of France’s daughters. Even their younger brother Geoffrey was among them. Only the youngest, John, who was a young child, remained with his father.

It was a blessing for a King to have many children. Not only did Henry II he have 4 living sons, but he had 3 daughters with whom he could forage alliances with. He was the envy of all other Prince’s, some who were lucky to have a prince or two live to adulthood and maybe a couple of princesses. Infant mortality was high during these times. But, in King Henry’s case, too many sons became a curse. Henry II spent a lot of money and lost a lot of men fighting in rebellions against his unruly sons. It’s only natural that the baby, John, became his favorite, too young to do such things.

Henry II squashed the French and his sons rebellion and sent Richard running to one of his territories. Henry II returned to England with a handful of men, his wife, sons wives/betroths as prisoners. All the blood shed ended with a treaty with France. Of course, as it always was between France and England, a short lived one. In the end, Richard came to his father and begged him to forgive his disobedience, and father forgave son. Henry and Geoffrey followed suit shortly after. Their mother however, was kept a prisoner for her role in the rebellion until Henry II died.

Richard returned to Aquitaine, with half the power and wealth he once had. His father held the rest. It was during this time that Richard learned that his father had made his betrothed, the French Princess Alys, his mistress while she was under his guardianship. She was more like the King of England’s prisoner or political hostage more than anything else. It must have been hard to refuse the King’s advances under those circumstances. It’s not known for a fact that Princess Alys had any romantic feelings or attraction for the aged King. The affair ruined the Princess when it was discovered. Victim or not, the church could not allow for a incestuous union now that Alys had been Richard’s father’s lover. At the same time, the King did not want to return Alys dowry or offend the French King, so he did not want to break the betrothal. Richard understandably did not want to marry Alys because her honor was compromised. Tensions grew once again between father and son, and even Richard’s brothers turned against him. Henry and John wanted to gain Aquitainian land and titles. (Geoffrey had died from an illness before this rebellion.)

Richard allied with Alys brother, Philip II of France. During this rebellion, Richard’s brother Young Henry died, leaving Richard the heir to the throne. Shortly after, Henry II died and Richard became King. The first thing he did was free his dear mother.

The first main event for Richard as King was the Third Crusade. It appeared that Richard had no love for England. He seemed more in tune with the French than the English. He only spent some months in England as King before he took off on the Crusade, draining the royal treasury to fund it. The people were not pleased.

During the crusade, (which eventually ended by a agreement or treaty between the crusaders and Saladin I), Richard had his betrothal to Alys formally repudiated. He then conquered Cyprus. It was in Cyprus that he married Berengaria of Navarre, daughter of Sancho VI of Navarre, and Sancha of Castile. She was brought to Navarre by his mother Eleanor, who had arranged the marriage. No one knows if the marriage was ever consummated. Berengaria did not conceive a child during the early days of her marriage on the crusade. Also shortly after the marriage, Richard was captured by Germans and held for ransom. Even after Richard was released, he remained separated from his wife, for the most part. This led to many rumors that Richard I was a homosexual. This is not clear, for he had no known male companion, and he had affairs with women on campaign. He also had at least one illegitimate child. It’s very odd, because there is also no evidence that Richard did not like Berengaria. She was said to be very beautiful, graceful, and serene. Perhaps he was a man who lacked that sort of passion. No one knows why. There is no proof one way or the other.

While Richard was away on Crusade, his baby brother John, was home in England trying to take his brother’s place. When Richard returned he forgave his brother. John as the baby, all his life up until that point, used the excuse of being young and ill advised. Richard was not buying it any more and took power from John. Richard spent most of his time in his overseas territories in Normandy and Aquitaine, constantly putting down rebellions. The English people really had not affection for their absentee King. It was during one of these endless rebellions that Richard died, when he was hit by an arrow. He was not shot by an enemy, but by one his own Knights playing around. What a way to go… by some stupid accident. The wound became infected and he died in his mother’s arms. His little brother John, known as Bad King John, succeeded him.

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