#OTD 8 June 1191 – King Richard I’s fleet arrives in Acre

Siege of Acre

What a momentous day it must have been when Richard the Lionheart’s fleet finally sailed into the harbor at Acre in the Holy Land.

Many of the crusaders (called ‘pilgrims’ in their own time) had been on the journey for more than a year. King Richard’s troops had gathered in Tours in present-day France to begin the journey in March 1190. By late September, thousands of men had arrived in Sicily. The Mediterranean sailing season was coming to an end, so Richard, King Philip of France, and their supporters settled in and spent the winter there. The following April, Richard’s fleet had grown to some 200 strong and set sail for the East. Storms battered and separated their ships; some were lost. Richard’s betrothed, Berengaria of Navarre, and his sister Joanna, the dowager queen of Sicily, were nearly captured at Cyprus, but Richard and his men battled King Isaac Komnenos and conquered the island. Richard and Berengaria married on May 12 and on June 5 sailed for Acre.

Here is what Sir Henry and Sir Stephan see in the scene from Men of the Cross…

The galley drew into the harbour. The city of Acre had been under siege nearly two years. The pounding of the stone throwers drew Henry’s eye. Jerusalem’s fall had been the rallying cry for this call to arms, but the crusaders needed to secure Acre as a gateway. Without the great port, the desire to hold the Holy City in Christian hands would be nothing more than a dream. Henry saw the smoke darkening Acre’s late morning skies. His mood blackened…

The sun crept higher, barely a quarter above the horizon. It was not yet midsummer’s day, but the bright orb beat down like fire as the ships edged slowly into Acre’s harbour. Black smoke billowed from a dozen places in the city, dark and ominous, like an oncoming storm…

Acre jutted out into the sea like a thumb on a hand. Water surrounded surrounded it on three sides. Mountains to the north, plains sweeping towards forested hills in the east and southeast…

“Saracens to the north,” Stephan said, and then nodded his head to the east and southeast, “and more of the infidels there.”

Henry shivered. Tents of every shape and size scarred the landscape, boasting the colours of sunsets and clouds. It was nothing like his first sighting of the king’s camp back in Tours. Here, Saladin’s army surrounded the crusaders.


Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.

Char also writes science fiction. Echoes of the Storm was published in July 2020.

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