King Philip of France and John, brother of King Richard I (the Lionheart), colluded to keep Richard a prisoner of Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. Sounds like fiction, doesn’t it? Something out of Hollywood? Hard to believe, but it’s true.
Roger de Hoveden, a contemporary chronicler, wrote about the evil conspirators’ offer to the emperor:
“In the year of grace 1194, being the second year of the captivity of Richard, king of England, the said Richard was still in the custody of the emperor of the Romans, at Spires, in Germany, on the day of the Nativity of our Lord, which took place on a Saturday; and there he remained until the time of his liberation which the emperor had appointed for him, that is to say, the second day of the week after the expiration of three weeks from the day of the Nativity of our Lord. After the emperor had arrived there, together with the archbishops, bishops, dukes, and nobles of his empire, and had discussed at length the liberation of the king of England, there came to the emperor envoys from the king of France, and envoys from John, earl of Mortaigne, brother of the king of England; and they made offer to the emperor, on behalf of the king of France, of fifty thousand marks of silver, and on behalf of earl John of fifty thousand marks of silver, on condition that he should keep the king of England in his custody until the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel next ensuing; or, if the emperor should prefer it, they would pay him at the end of every month, so long as he should detain the king of England in his custody, one thousand pounds of silver; or, again, if the emperor should prefer it, the king of France would give him one hundred thousand marks of silver, and the earl John would give him fifty thousand marks of silver, on condition that he would deliver up to them the king of England, or at least detain him in his custody for the space of one year from that time. Behold, how they loved him!”
Henry VI did consider taking the silver offered by Philip and John. He delayed Richard’s release though Richard’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had arrived with the originally-agreed-upon ransom. Fortunately, advisors to the emperor – bishops, archbishops, dukes, earls and other nobles of his empire – chastised him for even considering Philip and John’s offer. Common sense prevailed! The emperor realized he would rather have Richard as an ally than Philip, and Richard was officially released on 4 February 1194 after being held prisoner for more than thirteen months.
If you are interested in King Richard’s harrowing journey home from the Crusades, don’t miss my post “Pirates, shipwreck, and the capture of a king…December 1192.”
Hoveden, Roger of, d. 1201?; Riley, Henry T. (Henry Thomas), 1816-1878. The annals of Roger de Hoveden : Comprising the history of England and of other countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201. Translated from the Latin, with notes and illus. by Henry T. Riley (Kindle Locations 5989-5993). London : H.G. Bohn.
Durstein Castle by Airin – Own work, CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2956779