Richard Coeur de lion’s Crusade

The Third Crusade

By Tom Clay

 

            The origins of the Third Crusade lie in the Battle of Hattin and the loss of Jerusalem to Salah al-Din.  This begins the Third Crusade in a round about way.  The news delivered to the Pope in October 1187 was immediately followed by the death of Urban III.  This did not start the call for crusade.  Urban III was replaced by Gregory VIII.  Likewise, this was not a direct cause of the crusade.  Gregory VIII issued a papal bull calling for crusade.  Gregory VIII called for secular leaders (i.e. kings) to lead this crusade instead of church leaders like Peter the Hermit.  Many secular leaders respond.  Yet one leader upon his arrival in the Crusader kingdoms becomes the Crusade.  The Third Crusade becomes Richard Coeur de Lion’s Crusade.

            The archbishop of Tyre followed the news of the loss of Jerusalem to spread the word.  In an unplanned but effective move, the archbishop of Tyre backed Gregory VIII’s papal bull with his pleas.  In 1188, the archbishop headed north to specifically seek the help of England and France.  Henry II and Philip meet to set up peace.  Richard of Aquitaine broke this peace before it could start by trying to settle disputes with Raymond of Toulouse.  The peace did not come about until Richard I succeeded Henry to the throne.  Finally in 1190, Richard I and Philip settled enough differences to agree together to crusade.  The muster of troops had to be delayed due to the death of Philip’s wife in child birth.[1]

            Richard I and Philip were not the only kings to respond to the call for crusade.  First to respond, King William of Sicily sent supplies and reinforcements to Tyre and Tripoli.  Between this and the efforts of Conrad of Montferrat, Tyre survived Salah al-Din’s siege.  After taking the cross for a second time in March 1188, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa responded by gathering troops and marching toward Outremer in May 1189.  Among the thousands of crusaders with Frederick Barbarossa marched Frederick of Swabia, the heir, and Leopold of Austria.  Delayed and hassled by Isaac Angelus, Barbarossa’s forces dissipated upon Frederick’s death in the River Saleph.[2] 

Frederick of Swabia assumed command of those Germans who remained and with more losses to Seljuks marched on to Acre.  Joining Guy d’Lusignan’s siege to Acre, Frederick of Swabia died in 1191.  Count Leopold of Austria, being the senior sovereign remaining, assumed command of the siege, but failed to make any progress.[3]

Back in France, Philip and Richard I mustered their armies at Vezelay in July 1190.  Due to the large numbers of troops, Philip and Richard I then separated and marched for different ports of embarkation.  Philip set sail from Genoa, while Richard met his fleet in Marseilles.  After meeting in Sicily to finalize terms, Philip and Richard set sail for Outremer.[4]

Philip and his forces arrived in Outremer before Richard, setting up camp outside Acre on 20 April 1991.  Yet Philip and his French forces failed to budge either defenders or Salah al-Din.  In fact, the appearance of Philip’s force put to rest rumors of a great army of Franks coming to Acre and gave Salah al-Din’s forces “great encouragement.”[5]

Richard’s arrival at Acre following a whirlwind of victories (Messina, Cyprus, and on 7 June 1191 capture of reinforcements and supply ships bound for the besieged in Acre) on 8 June 1191 gave cause for celebration among the Crusaders.  Muslims recorded their depression at the sight of the ‘vast amounts of equipment’ brought by Richard and his twenty five ship navy. [6]  The rest of Richard’s fleet, the majority by far, arrived once favorable winds let them out of Tyre a few weeks later.[7]  By late June, the additional siege engines brought by Richard had joined those of the Templars, Hospitalers, Hugh of Burgundy, as well as Philip’s in battering down the walls.  Yet, just before victory could be grasped, both Richard and Philip fell ill.  The attack faltered until Richard insisted upon being carried in a litter to where he could direct the siege.  Diplomatic efforts by Richard also were hindered by his illness.[8]  To get the attack on the fast track, Richard began offering incentive pay for the first to bring him a stone from the Accursed Tower.  By 11 July, the besieged recognized the futility of any further resistance.  Terms were reached on 12 July 1191.[9]

Yet following this victory, the Crusade seemed to collapse, at least on the surface.  Leopold of Austria, along with many German crusaders sold their armor and weapons or simply left.  By 22 July, Philip announced his intention to leave and return to France to settle the estate of Count Philip of Flanders[10].  Yet the Crusade did not collapse.  Instead, Richard took charge.

Richard’s first task turned out to be deciding the succession for the throne of Jerusalem.  With Philip throwing in the towel, Conrad of Montferrat had little choice but to yield to Richard’s decision, and also apologizing for following Philip’s suggestion and refusing entry to Tyre to Richard back in June.  Guy d’Lusignan, widowed husband of the heir Sybilla, received Richard’s vote for the throne.  As the husband of a cousin and vassal to Richard in his own right, Guy did receive the crown.  Yet as diplomat, Richard did not cut Conrad off.  As husband to Isabella, Sybilla’s half sister, Richard named Conrad and Isabella to be Guy d’Lusignan’s heirs.  Philip had no choice but to follow Richard’s decision since Philip had announced his impending departure.[11]

Through charisma and generous use of plunder and titles, Richard not only retained an army in Outremer, but built it into a real force.  Tiring of waiting on a ransom Richard feared would never appear and eager to quell the restlessness of his encamped troops, Richard ordered the killing of the 3,000 hostages/prisoners from Acre.  With this, he decisively cut ties with the encampment around Acre and made ready to march south towards Jerusalem.  Setting his tent outside the trenches around Acre, Richard formed his army for movement.  On 25 August 1191, the march to Jaffa began with eventual capture of Ascalon in Richard’s plans.[12]

Richard broke with traditional military strategies on this march.  The norm of the day involved carrying everything along in a baggage train of carts and wagons, lengthening the column immensely.  The logistics of food would have been handled by foraging parties.  With Salah al-Din’s numerically superior force in the area, Richard saw this as an invitation to disaster. 

Instead, Richard utilized his fleet as a mobile supply base and hospital for sick and wounded.  The baggage train was limited to tents and other immediate necessities and moved from the traditional back of the column to inside the column.  Templars led out and Hospitalers brought up the rear.  Infantry guarded the trains and in turn were guarded by cavalry on their left flank.  The Mediterranean guarded the column’s right flank.[13]  Thus by greatly reducing the baggage train and removing the need for foraging, Richard maximized the defensive power of his column and minimized its vulnerability. 

This defeated Salah al-Din’s plans.  The shortened baggage train moved to inside the column prevented raiding of the baggage train.  By not sending out foraging parties, Richard removed Salah al-Din’s chance to attack them also.  By staying solidly to the coast, Salah al-Din’s horse archers could not swarm around the column.  Thus Richard forced Salah al-Din to seek an open set battle.  On 7 September 1191, at Arsuf, Salah al-Din attacked.[14]

Salah al-Din’s forces attacked in typical Turkish cavalry style, trying to lure Richard’s heavy horse into a charge.  Richard refused to rise to the bait.  Instead, Richard had his forces face the oncoming Muslims and hold position until Richard called the charge of the entire column of knights.  With the infantry arrayed in front to hold the defensive line, the entire force of knights was to charge through together only when Salah al-Din’s cavalry was too close to wheel.  The Knights Templar held the right flank (southern end) and the Knights Hospitaler held the left flank.  Richard moved back and forth, holding his line ready to charge.[15]

What happened next varies slightly with the teller of the tail.  Either a few of the Hospitalers or Templars could no longer wait to charge.[16]  Regardless of which military order was too eager, Richard reacted immediately and not only called the charge but regained the lead and controlled the charge (at least until the lines clashed).  While the Turkish cavalry tactic of Salah al-Din’s forces was to break around a charge like that and sweep around to the rear, Richard had held the charge long enough to prevent that.  Richard and his forces broke through the Muslim light horse cavalry, then keeping together, wheeled and charged back through the regrouping Muslims.  One of Salah al-Din’s advisors recorded that Richard turned what Salah al-Din’s forces expected to be a certain victory into a chaotic retreat.[17]  The deciding point that turned the day for the Crusaders was a series of particularly intense charges led by Richard personally.[18]

Both Salah al-Din and Richard kept their forces from breaking down.  While Salah al-Din’s troops did flee, Salah al-Din kept their camp from being overrun.  Richard, in turn, kept his force consolidated.  Having won the day, Richard reformed his column and did not even keep the field of battle so none of his force could be separated and killed or captured while looting the bodies.[19]

Three days later, Richard led the Crusader army to encamp around Jaffa.  In nineteen days, the Crusaders had marched 81 miles from Acre and stopped for a day to do battle.  From 11 September 1191 to January 1192, Richard and his army built the fortifications at Jaffa back up.  Supplies for a campaign toward Jerusalem were stockpiled[20].  Salah al-Din gave the Crusaders a break while encamped outside Jaffa by mistaking Richard’s immediate goal for Ascalon.  After tearing down the fortifications at Ascalon to prevent Richard from having a usable position there, Salah al-Din realized Richard would not be proceeding to Ascalon (yet) and instead had build defenses at Jaffa.[21]  Some of the French knights who were vassals of Philip and many remaining German knights tired of working in Jaffa and returned to Acre’s pleasures and from there many returned to Europe.[22]

November 1191 found Salah al-Din releasing half his forces to return home.  The remainder retired to winter quarters.[23]  Richard held council and, against his better judgment, reluctantly agreed to try for Jerusalem.[24]  The Crusaders formed up and moved toward Jerusalem.  Salah al-Din, with reinforcements from Egypt, moved back into Jerusalem.  Richard understood this made Jerusalem an impossibility.  Between the limitations the terrain dictated, the number of defenders, and the number of attackers, capturing Jerusalem would have taxed even Richard’s abilities.  Holding Jerusalem would have been impossible as many of the crusaders would go home once Jerusalem was captured.  A force large enough to hold against Salah al-Din just did not exist in the Crusader kingdoms.  Yet in November 1191, Richard was obliged to advance on Jerusalem by his troops.  Richard took the crusader army within twelve miles of Jerusalem, before the crusaders understood Jerusalem was out this time.[25]

With Salah al-Din and his army firmly entrenched behind Jerusalem’s walls, in January 1192, Richard turned from Ramla to Ascalon.  With the defenses torn down by Salah al-Din back in September, Richard understood that Ascalon would be an easy victory.  From Ascalon, the caravan route to Egypt was within reach of Richard’s knights.  Richard’s navy might even be used to attack Egypt proper and remove the threat from the Crusaders’ list of problems.  Yet this decision not to lay siege to Jerusalem did not ride well with many crusaders. [26]  Jerusalem was the entire purpose of the Crusade and turning away was a divisive point among the knights.  More French knights returned to Acre.[27]

Richard sent part of the army back to Jaffa and the remainder rebuilt the defenses of Ascalon.  Richard’s troops and those loyal to Henry of Champaign remained in Ascalon till June 1192.  While there, Richard personally led raids on the caravans going between Salah al-Din and Egypt.  While no serious harm was done to Salah al-Din through this raiding, the raids kept the threat of an invasion of Egypt in Salah al-Din’s mind.[28]

Yet raiding and fighting could not keep Richard from the problems of being leader and king.  While in Ascalon, Richard realized Guy d’ Lusignan  would not work as King of Jerusalem.  Conrad Montferrat's cooperation was needed[29].  Richard conceded to the council of barons and prelates.  Conrad received the appointment as King of Jerusalem with word being delivered to Conrad and Isabella by Henry of Champaign.[30]  Before the coronation could take place, Rashid al-Din Sinan intervened   Assassins met Conrad on the way home from Philip of Dreux, the Bishop of Beauvais’s house in Tyre.

Not only was Conrad dead, but supporter of Philip Augustus of France blamed Richard on the attack[31].  Rashid al-Din Sinan purportedly wrote a denial to Philip clearing Richard of responsibility.  Muslim sources even attribute the assassination to a contract placed by Salah al-Din himself.  Richard supposedly was also covered by the contract.[32]

Guy, formerly king, was not left in the cold by Richard.  The Knights Templar had failed to pay off the mortgage on Cyprus.  Richard sold Cyprus to Guy for the remaining 60,000 bezants.  Guy also paid the Templars 40,000 marks reimbursement for what had been paid to Richard.  (Gillingham uses bezants in naming the price in one place and marks in another.  Apparently the records show the figure, but the recorder assumed the currency would be known.)[33]

Conrad’s death and Henry’s favor with Richard (and possibly Henry’s proximity to Isabella) led to Richard naming Henry of Champaign the new King of Jerusalem.  Henry never actually assumed the royal title though.  Yet Richard did not worry himself about this.  Instead he ordered the new king to bring his forces south.  On 7 June 1192, the combined army set forth towards Jerusalem again.  Henry was dispatched to Acre to round up the knights whoring about up there.  20 June brought Richard word of a major caravan bringing supplies to Salah al-Din.  By 29 June Richard was back waiting on Henry, now richer by 3,00 horses, 3,000 camels, 500 prisoners, and a large amount of supplies.  Salah al-Din also did not sit idle.  While Richard waited on Henry and the French knights, Turkish cavalry raided Richard’s supply lines to Jaffa.  Richard fell back to Ramla and there held council.  Richard spoke for invading Egypt.  The French knights refused and left for Acre by way of Jaffa.  Richard resorted to razing Darum’s fortifications, strengthening Ascalon and on 26 July 1192, leaving for Acre also.[34]

During Richard’s time in Jaffa and Ascalon, Richard and Salah al-Din had negotiated.  The raids and attacks did not stop that.  Between the terms Richard had offered and the mood of Salah al-Din’s Mamluks July 1192 found Salah al-Din ready to agree.  Richard however did not agree to one of Salah al-Din’s demands, the dismantling of the defenses at Ascalon.[35]

When Salah al-Din learned of Richard’s move to Acre, he pushed his disgruntled Mamluks out of Jerusalem and on to Jaffa.  The capture was not easy, but after 3 days, the garrison sought terms.  Richard, hearing of the attack, quickly sailed back with a small force.  With the garrison commanders in Salah al-Din’s tent ready to sign, Richard sailed up near the citadel.  Notified of the situation, again the personal leadership of the fight by Richard helped win the day.[36]  The Mamluks, having lost Jaffa, lost the booty gained in Jaffa to Salah al-Din as punishment.[37]

5 August 1192 found Richard outside Jaffa to escape the stench of the dead from the two recent battles.  Salah al-Din attacked.  Richard had fifty four knights able to fight, with only fifteen horses.  But a large number of Richard’s 2,000 infantry soldiers were crossbowmen.  Richard planted the tents’ stakes out in front of his lines and had the shields planted partially into the ground to form a wall.  Salah al-Din sent seven separate waves of over a thousand soldiers each at Richard and his small force.  All the attacks were beaten back.[38]   Some of the failure is blamed on the loss of spirit by the Mamluks when Salah al-Din confiscated their spoils.[39]  Either way, Richard and his forces remained unbroken.  That afternoon, no longer content to stand behind a shield wall, Richard led his force in a counter charge.  Salah al-Din was amazed and when Richard had his mount killed from under him, Salah al-Din sent two replacement horses to Richard during the battle as a foe so gallant should not fight afoot.[40]  Richard, again through personal display of valor, won the day.

Yet no sooner was the victory secured than Richard fell ill again.  Salah al-Din’s army was broken, yet not routed.  Richard turned to negotiating in earnest.  By 2 September 1192, a treaty both sides could agree on was reached.  Richard had not won Jerusalem, but did guarantee the right of free passage of pilgrims to Jerusalem.  On 9 October 1192, Richard set sail for home.[41]  Before fighting season began again in the spring, Salah al-Din died.[42]  The Third Crusade was over.

Through display of his valor and leadership, Richard had regained the coast for the Latin states.  He settled the disputed succession.  Through his skills in war, Richard had won the respect of his foe.  With this respect, Richard won a treaty.[43]  Yet trouble elsewhere called Richard back home.

The Third Crusade had been a call for military leadership.  Kings and counts responded by taking the cross.  Yet only one could be said to lead the Crusade.  Frederick Barbarossa died on the way.  Frederick of Swabia died conducting the siege of Acre.  Philip Augustus of France used the first excuse he could to leave.  Leopold of Austria could not rise above hurt feelings and left.  Richard Coeur de Lion may not have risen to the occasion, but he did show himself able to handle the situation.  Without Richard I, the Third Crusade would have remained bogged down outside Acre.  With him, the Latin states were secured.


 

[1] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 123 ff.

[2] Brehier, Louis. ”The Crusades” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I

(www.newadvent.org/cathen/ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm) 11 June 2005.

[3] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[4] Thurston, Hurbert. “Richard I, King of England” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I

(www.newadvent.org/cathen/ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm) 11 June 2005.

[5] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 156.

[6] Ibid. p 158.

[7] Ibid. p 159.

[8] Ibid. p 160.

[9] Ibid. p 162.

[10] Ibid p 163.

[11] Ibid. p 164.

[12] Ibid. p 172.

[13] Ibid. p 172.

[14] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[15] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 176.

[16] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 177 blames the Hospitalers while Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005 places the blame on the Templars.

[17] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 177.

[18] Ibid. p 178.

[19] Ibid. p 178.

[20] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[21] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 179.

[22] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 75.

[23] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[24] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 179.

[25] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 76.

[26] Ibid. p 78.

[27] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 194.

[28] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 79.

[29] Ibid. p 79.

[30] Ibid. p 80.

[31] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[32] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 80.

[33] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 197.

[34] Ibid. p 203.

[35] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 83.

[36] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[37] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 84.

[38] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[39] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 84.

[40] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[41] Wolff, R.L.; Hazard, H.W.(ed) “The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart and Philip

Augustus” The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 1969. p 85.

[42] Knox, E.L.  “The Third Crusade” The Crusades (http://crusades.boisestate.edu/

http://crusades.boisestate.edu/3rd/) 27 May 2005.

[43] Gillingham, John. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1999. p 219.

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