King Richard Sets Off
page reports on the armies' Slow Progress, Richard's
Rules, a Town of Tents and
King Richard spent time appointing new seneschals over his dominions of Normandy, Anjou, Poitou and Aquitaine before meeting King Philip on 16 March at Nonacourt where they agreed to protect the goods of all crusaders, act in good faith to each other and respect each other's lands in their absence. There was a further delay when the sad news reached King Philip that his wife Queen Isabelle had died in childbirth.
At a council meeting at Chinon, King Richard made his final arrangements for a holy crusade that included a set of rules for maintaining discipline amongst his crusading army.
Town of Tents
Late in May, King Richard visited Bayonne and ensured that his province of Aquitaine would be adequately protected in his absence by renewing his alliance with King Alfonso of Aragon and King Sancho of Navarre. Finally, with his mother Queen Eleanor's agreement, King Richard visited Talmont in Poitou where he founded a house of Augustinian canons dedicated to Our Lord and His Mother the glorious Virgin Mary. Having made his peace with God, our King was now ready to go on his crusade.
At Tours, the King received the symbolic pilgrim's staff but unfortunately when he leaned on it, it broke. Undaunted by this ill-omen, the armies of King Richard and King Philip (seal pictured right) met up at Vezelay where both kings assumed joint command of the crusade - as well as agreeing to share the spoils.
The two armies, housed in an enormous town of tents and grand pavilions, were a magnificent sight and Ambroise, the minstrel accompanying the crusaders, sang this verse: 'In vineyard and on hillside slope, slept many a mother's son and hope.'
Many impatient crusaders, tired of the politics of kings, took their departure and made their own way to the Holy Land. Significantly on the 4 July - the third anniversary of the battle of Hattin when Saladin had utterly destroyed the Christian army of Jerusalem - the two armies struck camp and marched south, the French crusaders wearing red crosses on their surcoats and the English crusaders white.
The two kings rode in front discussing their great journey but at Lyons they ran into their first calamity. The bridge over the river Rhone collapsed under the weight of a hundred or so of Richard's crusaders, tumbling them into the river. Mercifully, only two men drowned and Richard quickly organised a bridge of boats for the rest of the army to cross.
The two armies split at Lyons. King Philip, arranging to meet up with King Richard at Messina in Sicily, carried on to Genoa whilst King Richard and his army marched south to Marseilles. The march was not easy for a foot-soldier carrying all his own gear and sleeping rough. The sun was hot, the road hard and dusty and when the army arrived at Marseilles the fleet was not there - it had been delayed by trouble in Portugal.
After waiting a week for his missing fleet, King Richard's patience ran out and he hired 30 ships from the merchants of Marseilles. Dividing his forces into two separate fleets, he sent one contingent, led by Archbishop Baldwin, Bishop Hubert Walter of Salisbury and Ranulf Glanville, directly to Tyre to relieve the hard-pressed crusaders already besieging Acre.
Richard himself sailed in a more leisurely fashion down the coast of Italy, regularly calling ashore.
Over one hundred crusader ships set sail from England, Normandy, Brittany and Poitou to the Holy Land, hugging the coast of France in case they needed to shelter from a storm.
Unfortunately, the suddenness with which the gale struck them in the Bay of Biscay in the early hours of Ascension Day gave them no time to find a haven and in the darkness they became scattered.
Fortunately, at the height of the storm when everyone was praying for divine deliverance, the martyr St. Thomas appeared to three English sailors (out of the port of London) and assured them that he and two other saints, Edmund of East Anglia and Nicholas, the confessor of Myra, had been charged by God with the safety of the fleet - as long as they behaved themselves.
The storm subsided and the fleet, battered but still afloat, re-grouped just off the coast of Portugal. Some of the ships pulled into Silves for minor repairs where the sailors found a few remaining Saracens who had been allowed to live within the city. Unable to tolerate any infidels living within their midst the sailors immediately attacked them.
The rest of the fleet put into Lisbon and in an excess of Christian zeal the sailors attacked the city's Saracens and Jews, looting their property and burning their houses. Gangs of drunken sailors ran riot in the town raping Saracen women. The King of Portugal threw several hundred of the sailors into prison until such time as they sobered up and behaved themselves. There they languished until the last week in July when they were released and the fleet set sail again.
Sticking close to the coast of Spain, the fleet eventually arrived in Marseilles three weeks late to discover that King Richard had already departed for Sicily.
Never Use Cheap Armour!
Roger Smith, Castle Gate, Nottingham
(Armourer to the Crusaders)