One Historic Date Today…

On this date in the year 1199, the third son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine died.

Richard Coeur de Lion, Carlo Marochetti’s statue of Richard I outside the Palace of Westminster, London

Richard the First of England, better known as Coeur de Lion or Lion-Heart, died in his mother’s arms at the age of forty-one in Châlus, Duchy of Aquitaine (now in Limousin, France).

Danny Huston as Richard the Lion Heart

Danny Houston as Richard the Lion Heart in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood

About two weeks before, and foolishly without his chainmail, he was on the perimeter of the castle of Châlus-Chabrol, a fairly insignificant location, which possibly drew Richard’s attention because it might have been the site of buried or lost treasure.

It appears that arrows were fired on occasion, and one struck Richard in the left shoulder. The King tried to pull it out once he was inside his tent, but this failed; the ‘surgeon,’ who was referred to as a ‘butcher,’ “removed it, carelessly mangling the King’s arm in the process.” Gangrene set in. Before dying, Richard forgave the crossbowman (or crossbow boy) named Bertrand or Bertram, and not only allowed him to be freed but gave him 100 shillings. According to some sources, the pardon was ignored upon Richard’s death and the boy was flayed and hung as punishment.

Richard’s heart – which was buried at Rouen, Normandy – was discovered during a nineteenth-century excavation; since then it has become little more than grey-brown powder sealed inside a lead container. In the last four or five years, despite its’ poor condition, it has undergone forensic analysis. It was determined – despite some rumors – that Richard didn’t die from a poisoned arrow. Scientists also found that the heart “had been embalmed with various substances, including frankincense, a symbolically important substance because it had been present both at the birth and embalming of Christ.”

                                                                                                                           Rouen Cathedral – the location of the heart of Richard I

The entrails were entombed at the location where he was killed.

The remainder of his body was buried at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou, the burial place of his father, Henry II, and later the burial site of his indomitable mother. 

In the bottom photograph, you cannot see Henry’s remains, which are at the top, but this means his son is buried at his feet.

The reddish base you’re seeing is the tomb of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard’s mother. Beside Richard is his sister-in-law Isabella of Angoulême, queen to John I, Richard’s successor.

From Find-a-Grave – Image Added by Kieran Smith on                                                       09/22/1999

Thanks to the following online sources:

Richard I of England – Wikipedia Entry (Later Years and Death)

The Daily Mail: Richard the Lionheart’s heart to be examined…812 Years After Mystery Infection Killed Him

English Historical Fiction Writers: The Strange Death of Richard the Lionheart by Nancy Bilyeau

BBC News: Richard the Lion-Heart’s Mummified Heart Analysed 

Scientific Reports: The Embalmed Heart of Richard the Lionheart (1199 A.D.): a Biological and Anthropological Analysis



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