King Richard Captured in Germany

After failing to rescue the Holy City from Saladin and negotiating an agreement, King Richard ended his crusade by sailing out of Acre in an unescorted ship.
  • This page reports on King Richard being first blown off course, then shipwrecked near Venice. After taking a risky route through Germany, he is Arrested by Duke Leopold's men just outside Vienna.
  • Duke Leopold hands King Richard over to Holy Roman Emperor Henry for 75,000 marks, and the Emperor triumphantly writes to King Philip of France.
  • Emperor Henry Ransoms Richard for 150,000 marks.
  • Queen Mother Eleanor brings the ransom to Mainz and on Richard's Release.
  • Mother and son triumphantly journey home to England where thousands turn out to welcome home a hero.

Aboard the Franche-Nef, a ship big enough to sail in all weather conditions, Richard he and his few companions made good time to Corfu. After a short stay, they set off for Marseilles, only to be blown off course by a storm. Fatefully, it was then that King Richard decided to hire two Greek pirate ships as an escort and set a northerly course through the Adriatic.

They were caught yet again by another storm and shipwrecked a few miles west of Venice. Fortunately none of the crusaders came to any harm. From there his most direct, but risky, route home overland was through Austria and Germany - not only would he have to undertake the Alpine passes with winter looming, but would have to travel through the domains of two of his bitter enemies, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry and Duke Leopold of Austria.

On his way to the Holy Land, King Richard had allied himself with King Tancred of Sicily, and Sicily was an island to which Emperor Henry had laid claim. And the Duke of Austria believed King Richard had insulted him by tearing down his banner from the town wall during the siege of Acre. The route through Germany had one single advantage in that it took him through Saxony. Henry 'the Lion' of Saxony is a close friend and relative of King Richard's, being married to his eldest sister Matilda. He is also Emperor Henry's deadly enemy.

The King took the route through Germany but decided to travel incognito with his few companions. Disguised as a merchant, he was supposedly just one of a party of pilgrims returning from the Holy Land. This should have been no problem since pilgrims and crusaders come under the protection of the Pope and should be given safe passage to their homes. The King Richard's problem was that he couldn't help being every inch a king and doing everything in his usual grand style. He spent money so lavishly that he aroused suspicions straightaway and a local lord, hearing of this strange band of pilgrims, arrested some of Richard's party.

Richard and three others in his party escaped, riding north as fast as possible without stopping for three days and nights. Hunger eventually caught up with them and they had to stop at a village just outside Vienna to find a meal. It was here that Duke Leopold's men found him and arrested him.

Emperor Henry Ransoms Richard

An Austrian report said that King Richard disguised himself as a cook in menial clothes and while stirring a cooking pot, the huge ruby ring on his finger gave him away. Anyone who knows King Richard's grand regal manner knows that he could never pass himself off as a cook. It was his lavish tip of a gold coin to a servant that aroused Austrian suspicions.

Duke Leopold now avenged himself for being insulted at Acre by imprisoning our King in Durnstein Castle (pictured top left). Holy Roman Emperor Henry was the first to be informed of King Richard's capture and wrote triumphantly to King Philip of France: 'Leopold, Duke of Austria, has captured King Richard in a humble house in the vicinity of Vienna . . . and the King has always done his utmost for your annoyance and disturbance . . . and his capture will afford most abundant joy to your feelings.'

King Philip wrote back asking that King Richard ought not to be released without first consulting him. It was then that Duke Leopold, for the sum of 75,000 marks, handed our King over to Emperor Henry who ransomed him for over 150,000 marks.


It was not until 2 February that Emperor Henry called a meeting with his princes of Germany at Mainz to finalise the terms for King Richard's release. Richard's friends among the princes persuaded Henry to moderate his greed and the ransom was definitely set at 150,000 marks though the Emperor added one more condition - Richard had to agree to hold the Kingdom of England as a vassal of Henry and pay him 5,000 marks a year. Queen Mother Eleanor, who had been invited to the meeting, wisely advised her son to agree and only then did Emperor Henry finally release our King.

King Richard and his mother Queen Eleanor then began their triumphal journey home by voyaging down the Rhine, and those princes with whom Richard had made alliances received them with honour whenever the couple stepped ashore. At Cologne, Richard was lavishly entertained by the Archbishop and crowds turned out in their thousands to welcome back a hero from the crusade - accounts of his valiant deeds and victories in the Holy Land had travelled ahead of the couple.

Setting sail from Antwerp in a vessel sent from Rye, the royal couple were held up for a week by gales in the mouth of the Scheldt but eventually arriving at Sandwich on 14 March. The radiance of the bright sunny morning was taken as a good omen by the cheering, welcoming crowd.

Ed's View

'He's just returned from crusade and his wife is out!'

King Richard Sets Off
Two Kings in Sicily
Siege of Acre
Marriage Arranged
King Richard Weds
Arrival at Acre
Acre Falls
Battle of Arsuf
Retreat from Holy City
King Richard's Crusade


Saladin Defeated at Jaffa
King Richard Captured
Eleanor of Aquitaine
William Marshall
Earl John
Chancellor Longchamps
Double Dealing
Attack on Nottm. Castle

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