All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher. — Lucretius

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Death of Richard

When it first became generally known that Richard was about to be released from the prison where he had lain in captivity about eighteen months, many people were terrified. The most frightened of all were John, the captive's brother, and Philip, King of France. The latter, finding he could not induce the German emperor to detain Richard any longer, sent this message to John: "Take care of yourself, for the devil is unchained."

Richard Coeur de Lion.

When Richard arrived in England, he was recrowned, to efface the stain of his captivity. He found that many things had gone wrong in his absence, and that as the officers he had appointed had not done their duty, there had been much crime. The castles were occupied by robber barons, and the forests swarmed with bands of thieves or outlaws, headed by such chiefs as the famous Robin Hood.

This bold outlaw is said to have lived in Sherwood Forest, and such wonderful stories have been told about him in old ballads, that it is very hard to know what in his adventures was real and what was made up. From these old tales we find that Robin Hood was good to the poor and robbed only the rich. The spoil which he got he hid away in the forest. Hence the woods were known as Robin Hood's barn; and when people want to say that they took a roundabout road to get anywhere, they still exclaim, "I went all around Robin Hood's barn."

Although Richard tried to suppress the disorders in his kingdom, he was much greater as a warrior than as a statesman; so he did not stay in England long, but crossed over to Normandy to make war against Philip.

When John heard that his brother was coming, he did not dare fight, so he went to meet Richard, and, falling at his feet, begged his pardon for having tried to steal his kingdom during his absence. Richard generously forgave his brother, but showed that he did not believe John's penitence sincere by remarking soon afterwards: "I wish I may forget my brother's injuries as soon as he will forget my pardon of them."

During the next four years Richard was busy making war against his French rival; but at the end of that time both kings made up their minds to cease fighting and to sign a truce. Then, hearing that one of his vassals had dug up a treasure on his lands, Richard sent to claim it; for the law decreed that buried treasures belonged to the crown. The Lord of Chalus, however, would not give up the gold, so Richard besieged him in his castle.

As Chalus was a strong fortress, like those we have already described, Richard could not take it, in spite of all his bravery, and at the end of two months he was so angry at being detained, that he vowed he would yet hang every man in it. Because of this vow, he refused to accept the count's terms of surrender a few days later, and ordered a new assault. But in this attack Richard was wounded by an arrow; and although the hurt seemed trifling at first, the doctors, in cutting out the arrow, made the wound so much worse that the king soon saw that he must die.

While he lay in his tent, awaiting the end, his men took the castle, and, by Richard's order, they killed all its defenders, except the man whose arrow had wounded him. This archer was brought before Richard, who asked, "What harm have I done to you, that you should thus have attempted my death?"

"You killed my father and brother with your own hand," answered the archer, "and intended to kill me. I am ready to suffer with joy any torments you can invent, since I have been so lucky as to kill one who has brought so many miseries upon mankind."

When Richard heard this he ordered that the man should be set free; but, as the king breathed his last a few minutes later, his infuriated men fell upon the archer and flayed him alive. The dead king's body was buried in Rouen, and on his tomb you can see a full-length stone effigy of this man, who could be in turn gallant, brave, and generous, and mean, selfish, and cruel.

Many stories have been written about Richard and his adventures, and there are writers who have made a hero of him. But a real hero would have thought more of the welfare of his people, and when called upon to fight would have acted just as bravely, but with less cruelty.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee