Two Kings Arrive in Sicily
With thousands of English crusaders camped outside the walls of Messina, the price of bread began to rise and so did tempers. Arguments broke out with local Greek shopkeepers over their inflationary prices and the Longobards living within the town began to show resentment at their foreign invaders. All three sides seemed well practised in the art of insult and verbal abuse and when drunken crusader gangs began staggering about the streets molesting women, brawls broke out.
While King Richard was in talks with Tancred's representatives, skirmishing broke out between the combined Greeks and Longobards against the English crusaders which turned into a full scale riot. When the King went to quell the affray, the Longobards shouted insults at him, enraging him so much that he donned his armour and led his knights in an assault on the town.
The crusaders soon broke down the town gates and stormed through, cutting down all those who resisted - the townspeople stood no chance against an onslaught of experienced soldiers. Eye witnesses reported that some citizens threw themselves from the roofs of their houses so as not to be taken.
Ambroise, the minstrel accompanying the crusaders later sang: 'They had seized Messina long before, a priest had said his matins o'er . . . the town, it speedily was sacked . . . and there were women taken, fair and excellent and debonair.'
King Philip took no part in the storming of the city but demanded a share of the spoils, forcefully reminding King Richard of the agreement they had made at Vezelay to share all plunder on the crusade. Our honourable King had to keep his word and the lilies of France flew beside the golden lions of England on the battlements of Messina, though the minstrel sang: 'lags?'Who has more right to fly his flags, the one who stands aside and lags.'
As a warning to all locals to behave themselves, King Richard built a great wooden castle outside the walls of the town and called it Mategriffon or Death to the Greeks.
King Tancred now made peace overtures to King Richard. If Richard gave up his claims and grievances, Tancred would pay 20,000 ounces of gold, and the same amount again, if one of his daughters, 'unwed, of worth and loveliness,' married Arthur of Brittany, King Richard's 4 years old nephew. Richard agreed, declaring that if he did not have heirs of his own body then Arthur would be his heir and his wife would have the dower of an English queen.
'The gold was weighed and proven right which gave the King no small delight' and the two kings swore peace. Richard generously offered part of the gold and several ships recently arrived from England to King Philip to help smooth their relationship, and also persuaded Joanna to contribute her dower to the crusade, promising to find her a husband and endow her anew when he returned from his crusade. Joanna told her brother that she preferred to accompany him on the crusade.
It was too late in the sailing season to embark safely for the Holy Land so the English and French kings decided to winter in Sicily. Some of the knights complained at the lingering and the extra expense that this would incur but King Richard placated them with gifts of silver bowls, gold cups and a payment of a 100 sous to each pilgrim. The price of bread was fixed at a penny a loaf.
A restless King Richard is now burning with impatience to fulfil his vow - he was the first prince to take the cross - and is eager to lead his knights into battle. Meanwhile, he is feasting in magnificent style on abundant meat from gold and silver plates and drinking wine from finely carved vessels set with precious gems. King Richard does everything in the grandest style.
King Henry II (pictured right) declined to go on crusade despite the King of Jerusalem offering him succession to his crown.