49 Travel Chaos

Richard set off from Outremer right at the end of the sailing season – October. He knew the Duke of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor, Count of Toulouse and King of France were out to get him, so very sensibly tried to slip across their lands in disguise. Rubbish plan, predictable result. Meanwhile back in England John was making a bit for power, Phillip making his first attempt to bring down the Angevin Empire – and Robin Hood might have been hanging out in Sherwood Forest. Richard eventually arrived home at the start of 1194.

49 Travel Chaos


Taken Hostage

Richard's scheme to travel across Europe under disguise sounds like the act of a madman, or of a king suffering from delusional levels of confidence. But in point of fact Richard had little choice, and lots of bad luck. He couldn't just sail straight to England – no one would sail on the Atlantic at that time of year. The Count of Toulouse had a reception party ready for him if he came back the way he went. So really his options were linited. And the odd shipwreck or two reduced any chances he might have had. 

Durnstein CastleOnce he'd been caught in a village outside Vienna, Leopold of Austria took him to Durnstein Castle. The legend of Blondel (Blondel de Nesle? Jean de Nesle?) is that Blondel toured round all the castles looking for Richard by singng a song only he and Richard knew. At last outside Durnstein, he heard Richard signing the  second verse. For a flavour of the songs of Blondel, here's a handy YouTube link. 

Meanwhile Eleanor strived might and main to get him released. There's a superb letter from her toi the Pope, which you can read on my Historical Documents site

In point of fact there was no secret about where Richard was.  Henry VIth, Holy Roman Emperor, was beside himself with joy, and soon too, Richard from Leopold. It's a remarkable situation – the most poerful King of Western Europe held to ransom. After a year, Richard was finally released for 100,000 marks, just possibly £2bn in today's money. Throughout the period, Richard was said to be calm and affable. 

John's Treachery

Brother John was keen to take control of England, and had 2 goes at it. In 1191, John positioned himself as the leader of baronial England against the upsatart Justiciar William Longchamps. So much so, that William is run out of town. The replacement though is not John but Walter  of Coutances, who came with letters from Richard and ran the country with Eleanor and a council of the realm. 

The second attempt is 1193-4 while Richard is in prison. John makes an agreement with Philip Augustus of France, and raises the standard of rebellion while Phillip attacks into Normandy. Phillip is quite successful, being joined by several barons from the north and East of Normandy, and taking the castle of Gisors. But  John is a loser, with no English Barons of note joining him. 

Richard's return

Richard comes back in March 1194. He immediately reduces the last of John's castles holding out against him – which is, you guessed it, Nottingham. John has feld to Normandy, and a council of the realm stripped him of all his land as a rebel. Richard focusses on preparing his army, and rebuilding Portsmout as his supply line ot France; and then in May sets sail for Normandy and war. 

The Legend of Robin Hood

It is entirely possible that there was an equivalent of Robin Hood in the 1190's but we'll probably never know. All that we do know is that the legend has changed and evolved to mee the needs of different centuries, and in that regard all the stories are valid. 

But for a good website with all the facts, go to Boldoutlaw

And for my favourite bit of my favourtite Robin Hood movie, click on this link to Alan Rickman


5 thoughts on “49 Travel Chaos

  1. Great podcast David – really enjoying listening to it at the moment. Just wondered if you could briefly go through the state of Europe as a whole at the time of the Angevins. For example, what’s going on in Spain and Portugal at this time and further East past Germany? Also, what are the Scandinavian countries doing – why have they suddenly (i.e. since 1066ish) completely fallen out of the story?

  2. That’s a dangerously tempting suggestion, Harry. I’d love to do that…not sure what it would do to the narrative of England, and what it’d do to my time (research and all), but it’s a really good idea. I’ll think about adding it to a podcast episode…

  3. Thank you David! I had not realised until last night that you have been making these podcasts since 2010 (the year I graduated high school!). I began studying at university in 2011 and did a unit on Medieval Europe. Had I known about these podcasts then, this would have benefitted me in my studies! I have a huge passion for English history, particularly medieval times. I completed my honours in 2017 doing my thesis with a focus on space and place of 13th century medieval castles in England. However, there is so much to know about England’s history. I benefitted from learning about Anglo Saxon history and the earlier kings. Keep up the podcasts. I hope you never stop making them! I am hoping when you reach the period of the 18th century, you do a particular deep focus on Napoleon. You’ve inspired me to make my own podcasts although I doubt that will happen as you have covered everything and I couldn’t compete with you!

    Best of luck and can’t wait to listen to more podcasts (I’m currently on episode 49, about Richard the Lionheart).

    1. Hi Rasita, and thank you so much for getting in touch! I had never done very much on medieval history until I went to university, so I was a latecomer, but found it such a fascinating subject. It’s almost rather sad now that I have arrived at early modern times – everything’s rather more familiar, though there are great stories too. I hope you keep enjoying it – and good luck with the podcast, let me know more!

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