4 February 1194: Richard the Lionheart is ransomed

Having fallen into the hands of the Duke of Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor, King Richard I of England was freed from captivity on this day in 1194.

England's Crusader king, Richard I, was proud and arrogant, and had a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. His support of King Tancred of Sicily angered the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI, who rather fancied the Mediterranean island for himself.And in Germany, Richard's nephews were getting a little too close to the Dutch and the Danish for the Emperor's liking.

So it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise that while making his way home through Europe following a jaunt in the Middle East in 1192, Richard the Lionheart become Richard the Imprisoned. His captor was Leopold V, Duke of Austria.

The Holy Roman Emperor leapt at the chance to get his hands on Richard. If Leopold would hand over his worthy prize, Henry would give Leopold a share of the ransom money that he would demand for Richard's release. Leopold accepted the deal and delivered Richard to Henry in February 1193.

Henry had Richard squirming on the end of his hook. In order to extract the biggestransom possible, hedangled Richard before the greedy eyes of the French king, Philip II.Philip had his own score to settle with Richard. Just a few months before, the English king had reneged on his agreement to marry Philip's sister, Alys.

But this was an age of chivalry and there were rules. Pope Celestine III took a dim view of Leopold and Henry's imprisonment of a Crusader king, and both were excommunicated, which you might have thought would be slightly embarrassing for a Holy Roman Emperor.

But business is business, after all, and in June 1193 at Worms, the ransom was set at 150,000 silver marks, which was up to three times the annual income for the English Crown.

Back in England, Richard's dutiful mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, began to scrape together the money. The clergy and laymen were taxed to the value of a quarter of their properties; church gold and silver was seized, and additional taxes were raised on knights (scutage) and land (carucage). The King of France offered Henry 80,000 marks to keepRichard, but Henry turned down the request.

The money raised, Richard was released from captivity in Mainz in Germany on 4 February 1194. Henry used the windfall to launch his longed-for invasion of Sicily.

Recommended

28 May 1937: the Volkswagen car company is formed
This day in history

28 May 1937: the Volkswagen car company is formed

On this day in 1937, Volkswagen, now the world's second-biggest vehicle-maker, was founded as the 'Society to Prepare the German People’s Car'.
28 May 2021
1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain
This day in history

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain

On this day in 1999, the national minimum wage was introduced in Britain, bringing an instant pay rise to 1.9 million low-paid workers.
1 Apr 2021
20 March 1602: Dutch East India Company formed
This day in history

20 March 1602: Dutch East India Company formed

The Dutch East India Company – considered by many to be the world’s first multinational company – was founded on his day in 1602.
20 Mar 2021
27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party
This day in history

27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party

Responding to the need for a single political party to represent the trade unions, the Labour Party was formed on this day in 1900.
27 Feb 2021

Most Popular

Ask for a pay rise – everyone else is
Inflation

Ask for a pay rise – everyone else is

As inflation bites and the labour market remains tight, many of the nation's employees are asking for a pay rise. Merryn Somerset Webb explains why yo…
17 Jan 2022
Temple Bar’s Ian Lance and Nick Purves: the essence of value investing
Investment strategy

Temple Bar’s Ian Lance and Nick Purves: the essence of value investing

Ian Lance and Nick Purves of the Temple Bar investment trust explain the essence of “value investing” – buying something for less than its intrinsic v…
14 Jan 2022
Interest rates might rise faster than expected – what does that mean for your money?
Global Economy

Interest rates might rise faster than expected – what does that mean for your money?

The idea that the US Federal Reserve could raise interest rates much earlier than anticipated has upset the markets. John Stepek explains why, and wha…
6 Jan 2022