Two Kings Arrive in Sicily

It was late September 1190 when King Richard and King Philip arrived in Sicily.
Queen Joanna
  • Magnificently dressed and standing on a raised platform so that all could see him, King Richard grandly sailed into the port of Messina. Jumping ashore he embraced King Philip who had slipped into town unnoticed a week earlier.
  • Our King's good humour soon disappeared when he learned that the new king of Sicily, Tancred of Lecce, was holding his sister Queen Joanna (picture left) a prisoner at Palermo.
  • Richard, not standing for any of this, demanded that Tancred release Joanna immediately. Tancred complied by sending her to Richard under royal escort but refused to give up her dower and her late husband's legacy.
  • Queen Joanna's husband William II, the previous King of Sicily, died last year leaving her a large dower which Tancred was withholding.
  • The new Sicilian king was also holding a large legacy of a golden table, a large silk tent, 24 gold cups and plates and a hundred armed galleys that Joanna's husband had bequeathed to King Richard's father, Henry II, to help finance his crusade.
  • Of copurse, King Henry never went on crusade, so as his eldest son and heir, King Richard claimed it as his inheritance.
  • This page reports a Riot and an Agreed Peace

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.

Agreed Peace

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.

King Henry IIA 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.

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
Sherwood Times