Richard I, the Lionheart, died on April 6, 1199. His brother John was in Brittany at the time visiting a possible rival to the crown, the young Duke Arthur, son of Richard and John’s late brother Geoffrey.
John fled the Breton court secretly after a messenger delivered the news. Had the Bretons heard it earlier, we might never have had a King John.
Philip of France immediately claimed Arthur was the rightful heir to the throne and invaded Normandy. Anjou, Maine, and Touraine declared for Arthur.
John had the support of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had been at Richard’s side when he died. She sent word to William Marshal and Walter, Archbishop of Rouen, who secured support for John from his powerful barons. John secured the treasury at Chinon and in Rouen was girded with the sword as Duke of Normandy. In May he crossed the Narrow Sea and headed to London, where, on the 27th day of May 1199 he was crowned King of England at Westminster.