On this day in history : 4th February 1194 – 100,000 pounds of silver are handed over as ransom to free the kidnapped King Richard I….

Effigy of Richard I of England in the church of Fontevraud Abbey – Adam Bishop – own work CC BY-SA 3.0

Richard the Lionheart was on his way home after fighting in the Third Crusade when bad weather forced his ship to take refuge in Corfu…. Being part of the kingdom of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angeles (who was angry with Richard for taking the Byzantine territory of Cyprus) Richard was disguised as a knight of the Templar to avoid recognition….

On attempting to sail from Corfu his ship was wrecked – and he had to embark on a dangerous land journey to try and reach the lands of his brother-in-law, Henry the ‘Lion’…. Only he was captured near to Vienna in December 1192 by Leopold of Austria – who accused Richard of murdering his cousin Conrad de Montferrat….

Richard was imprisoned at Durnstein Castle – and then on the 28th of March 1193 he was handed over to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI in Speyer, who kept him at Trifels Castle…. Henry VI needed to raise money to fund an army with which to capture Southern Italy – and so he demanded a 150,000 mark (100,000 pounds of silver) ransom for the release of Richard…. This amounted to two of three times the total annual income of the English Crown….

Trifels Castle – R. Wallenstein at German Wikipedia – own work – CC BY SA 2.0 de

Richard’s mother, Eleanor, set about raising the ransom…. Taxes were raised to crippling levels, gold and silver was confiscated from churches, clergy and laymen saw a tax of a quarter of the value levied upon their properties….

It took a year to raise the money…. It was then despatched to Germany and finally Richard was released on the 4th of February 1194….

Richard the Lionheart – Bill Tyne via Flickr

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