46 Richard and the Road to Outremer

Richard set off from Sicily probably intending to go straight to the Holy Land. But a chance storm enforced a landing at Cyprus, where the locals were not friendly. Which meant that Richard ended up conquering the place in it's entirety, putting it's ruler Isaac Comnenus in chains of silver, and selling the island to the Templars. 

 46 Richard and the Road to Outremer

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An uncomfortable arrival in Sicily 

Well, bringing 25 ships full of soldiers to Messina was probably always going to cause problems – and so it proved, with a series of running battles with the locals. But Richard didn't want trouble on this occasion, so he managed to get things calmed down. He built a wooden castle called Mategriffon – which alloed him to be safe, but also allowed him to stockpile provisions for his army, so they didn't go stealing off the locals. So tempers were eased – though since Nategriffon meant 'Death to the Greeks' I doubt this was the basis for a new, loving relationship…

Sorting out the housekeeping in Sicily

Richard had a few bits of housekeeping to sort out in Sicily when he arrived there in 1190: 

  • Get the army ready – his men spent 4 months building siege engines. They grumbled. 
  • Sort things out with Philip of France – the Treay of Messina 1190. Richard finally 'fessed up to the fact that he had no intention of marrying Philip's sister Alice; and swore that he could bring any number of witnesses who would prove that Alice had not only been sleeping with Henry, but had had his child. Philip was forced to release him. But he made sure he got off the island before Richard's new betrothed arrived, Berengaria of Navarre. 
  • Bring Tancred to book: Tancred was the ruler of Sicily, usurping the throne after the death of the previous ruler William. Richard had no beef with a bit of usurpation – but as it happens, William had been married to Richard's sister Joan, and Tancred had refused to return her dower. So Tancred agreed to repay. 

The conquest of Cyprus

Isaac ComnenusPart of Richard's fleet got lost in a storm, and took refuge in Cyprus. The locals were not friendly; they imprisonned all who landed and took their possessions. 

Richad was having none of that. He turned his part of the fleet around, landed with some knights and laid about him until Isaac and his army ran. In for a penny and so on, so Richard then proceeded to conquer all the coastal towns, with the locals deserting the unpopular Isaac in droves. 

Isaac though wasn't fussed, becuase he had a plan. Richard was on his way to the Holy Land – so as long as he could sit things out safely somewhere he could just wait for Richard to leave. Cyprus is blessed with plenty of impregnable mountain castles…

Kantara CastleBut Isaac had figured without his daughter – she was captured in Kyrenia castle. Now Isaac might have been a vicious tyrant, but he qs a big softie when it came to his daughter, so he threw himself on Richard's mercy, and surrendered on condition that Richard didn't clap him in irons. 

So Richard had a silver chain made for him. How Isaac laughed. 

It's not clear if Richard evey planned to conquer Cyprus. But it's conquest was a significant part of the succes of the Third Crusade. It remained in Christian hands for 4 centuries, and be a vital source of support for Outremer. Initially Richard sold it to the Templars, but later sold it instead to the ousted King of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan. 

Marriage with Berengaria

St Georges Chapel LimassolRichard and Berengaria were married in May 1191 in the chapel of St George in Limassol, and then she was crowned by the Bishop of Evreux. There's no evidence of any great romance here – and of course no children. But equally there's no evidence to suggest that the couple didn't get on. Berengaria is quoted as being the only queen of England never to set foot in England, since she set up shop in Le Mans. I mean why would she visit, it's wet there afterall. It may be that she did visit England  after Richard's death… but that measn she still qualifies. Good pub quiz question. 

10 thoughts on “46 Richard and the Road to Outremer

  1. Lars Brownworth’s excellent Norman Centuries podcast has recently moved to the Sicilian side of the Normans and narrates the issues with William, Tancred, Roger, etc from the Sicilian point of view. http://normancenturies.com/
    Although I consider myself an amateur historian I sometimes find that Hollywood influences me a bit too much. While Kingdom of Heaven does a wonderful job of showing the culture of Jerusalem before the Third Crusade, its story is mostly fictional. When I listened to this episode I couldn’t quite square the image of Guy de Lusignan with the character in the movie. (He was not very nice in the movie.) When history and Hollywood collide, Hollywood must go.

  2. The Brownworth podcast is one that I considered when looking for an English History podcast. It was difficult to concentrate on what he was actually reading, due to his voice/accent and intonation. (I have chosen to read his written words) I picked yours because you had a pleasing voice/accent and style. I’m so glad I did, because you have brought me so many hours of pleasure.
    This morning, Picture Britain on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PictureBritain) asked, “what is your favorite website about Britain”, I mentioned your excellent blog/podcast.

  3. I think the character of Guy is definitely open to interpretation – but there’ll be more on him in the next two weeks. The way I’ve read it is that Guy was basically a rather weak character pulled around by stronger characters; his behaviour at the lead up to Hattin suggests this. But other options are available! From memory, Kingdom of Heaven basically had him as an aggressive fool. Both would explain why he lost the confidence of the barons of Outremer I think.

  4. Ha! Caught up at last! I’m up to date in my listening, now. It’s been very enjoyable so far.
    Had to have a wee chuckle at your expense this time, though, after hearing you solemnly swear to proceed at a snail’s pace, only to then go galloping away at the usual breathless speed. No worries, though- I’ve become accustomed to it, and there’s always the rewind button if I don’t catch something. (Like that bit about “lighting the blue touch paper”, which I had to look up- apparently that one never made it over to this side of the pond.) Come to think of it, if I myself were recording a podcast, I’d find it terribly difficult to change the pace of my speech for very long, without stumbling or sounding weird. So do go on and continue being yourself- I love the sound and cadence of your voice, actually.
    So, about the hundred thousand bezants, and how much a bezant was worth… You’d think I’d have some inkling of that, being the resident coin guy around here, but no. I was clueless, beyond the fact that a bezant was a gold coin, and a hundred thousand gold coins is a bloody great pile o’ money in any era. (I guess that’s all we need to know.)
    This Wikipedia article does shed a little light. (As I’d suspected, the word “bezant” derives from “Byzantine”.)
    Speaking of coins, it was fun seeing the coin giveaway bring you some comments. We’ll do it again, with an older coin next time- something more contemporary to the episode at hand. At some point between Edward I through Elizabeth and the Tudors, I should be able to produce a more historically interesting giveaway. It’ll be fun.

  5. Hi Rob
    Yes, actually I have to admit I myself had a laugh at my own expense also . I keep a record of the number of words and length for each episode (I suffer from a degree of obsessive behaviour), and the normal average is about 2.9 words per second. I entered the data for episode 46 with great confidence and saw….2.87. Rats. BUT you’ll be pleased to know that episode 47 is at 2.65 words per second – tell me if it makes a difference.
    Somewhere on Wikipedia (to my distress I now forget where) someone had done a calculation about the weight and value of the gold which I thought was quite clever. But whatever way you look at at 100,000 of anything has got to equal a hill of beans!

  6. absolutely loving the podcast! Wish I had found it sooner, but better late than never.
    Also, I loved how a few episodes back you mentioned Geoffrey Parker. He was one of my guest lecturers in history at the University of Illinois when I was there several years ago. I find it fascinating that you and I on different sides of the Atlantic would have enjoyed the same professor.
    Keep up the good work!

  7. I’m still a long way off catching up, but loving the whole series so far. It’s been very noticeable, the switch from the Anglo Saxon period, covering decades per episode to the current period which is far more detailed.
    Keep up the good work David.

  8. thanks greatly…learning lots…eg to most brits Cyprus is [sometimes] a holiday destination…little do they know!

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