#OTD 6 April 1199 – Richard the Lionheart dies


Richard was crowned king in September 1189, succeeding his father Henry II. He ruled less than 10 years. Histories written in the 19th-20th centuries complain he spent only 6 months of his reign in England, but Richard was a man of his times and should be judged according to 12th century standards. His realm stretched from the Pyrenees to the Scottish border and there were major issues that kept him away from England:

1) He took the Cross in 1188, answering the Pope’s call to free Jerusalem, which had fallen to Saladin’s army and was on crusade from spring 1190 – October 1192; and

2) He was captured by Leopold of Austria in December 1192 and subsequently imprisoned until February 1194 by Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, on his way back from the Holy Land.

3) King Philip of France took advantage of – even encouraged, along with Richard’s brother John – Richard’s imprisonment, by attacking and capturing many of Richard’s holdings on the continent. Richard had to deal with rebellious castellans in England in March 1194, and then returned to Normandy to take back and defend his lands.

Richard was a warrior king who fought on the front lines. He appointed capable administrators (for the most part) who kept England running during his absence. The last 5 years of his life were spent defending his birthright on the continent against King Philip. He died during the siege at Chalus-Chabrol after being struck by a crossbow bolt 10 days earlier.

His contemporaries thought well of him, as seen in this tome from the 13th century biographer of William Marshal:

But Fortune, ever quick to bring down
good men and raise the fortunes of the bad,
had no wish to let things rest for so long;
she overwhelms and destroys
everyone in a trice.
King Richard . . . went straight to the Limousin,
where the viscount was launching an assault
on his castles. What a pity they were ever built!
… Richard went to Lautron and laid siege to it,
but he had not been there very long at all
when a demon, a traitor,
a servant of the devil,
up there on the top of the castle walls,
fired a poisoned bolt
which inflicted such a wound
on the best prince in the world
that his death was the inescapable outcome.
That was a source of grief to all.
…the noble King Richard died,
a man of high enterprise, a conqueror,
who had he lived, would have won for himself
all the renowned going in this world. . . 
Marshal was on the point of retiring. . .
when the news arrived,
news which struck him to the quick.
He was in a state of violent grief. . .


Gillingham, J. (2002). Richard I. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Holden, A.J., ed., (2002). History of William Marshal [L’Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal. French and English]. London: published by the Anglo-Norman Text Society: Birkbeck College.

Image credit

Effigy of Richard I at Fontevrault Abbey – by Adam Bishop – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17048652

men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

#OTD 29 March 1194 – Richard the Lionheart visits Sherwood Forest

2010 sherwood

The siege of Nottingham ended, so what’s a king to do? Relax! Go hunting in Sherwood Forest. 

“On the twenty-ninth day of March, Richard, king of England, went to Clipston and the forests of Sherwood, which he had never seen before, and they pleased him greatly; after which, on the same day, he returned to Nottingham.” 
–from The Annals of Roger de Hoveden

Stretching north from Nottingham to Yorkshire, 12th century Sherwood Forest covered about 100,000 acres. The visitor today must drive about 20 miles north of Nottingham to see Sherwood’s 1,000+ acres. It is extremely lovely and serene, well worth the visit.

Sherwood Forest is frequently associated with Robin Hood. Did King Richard meet Robin there? Did King John have the Sheriff of Nottingham chasing Robin and his band of Merry Men through the greenwood? No – Robin is just a character in legends, though most agree Robin may have been based on a real man or men. But the fictional tales of Robin continue to delight us. Not all stories take place in Sherwood. I use Sherwood and Nottingham in my novel, For King and Country, but many place Robin in Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire during the reign of Edward II in the 14th century.


Clipston (i.e., Clipstone) is the home of what we now call King John’s Palace, a site that first appears in records during the reign of Richard’s father, King Henry II. Twenty pounds was spent on work there in 1164, possibly on the building of a hunting lodge. In the 1170s, Henry spent £500 on the site, a huge sum. By the mid-14th century, the large complex was referred to as the King’s Houses and dozens of buildings occupied over 7 acres of land.

King Richard visited Clipstone twice – the day after the siege ended (March 29), and again on April 3 when he met with the Scottish king William the Lion.

Image credits 

Sherwood Forest photos by me, from a visit in 2010. CC BY-SA.

King John’s Palace ruins by JPWarchaeology – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16741588


Wright, J. A Palace for Our Kings. Triskele Publishing, 2016.


men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.






#OTD 26 March 1199 – Richard the Lionheart wounded at Chalus

Richard the LionheartRichard I of England had been at war with the French since his return from the Crusades and his captivity in Germany. While a truce had been signed with King Philip of France, Richard marched south to lay siege to the Viscount of Limoges’ castle at Chalus-Chabrol and to others at nearby Nontron and Montagut. This area of Aquitaine had been an ongoing source of rebellion against Richard as Duke of Aquitaine and Viscount Aimar of Limoges was a supporter of Philip’s. That fact appears to have been overshadowed by stories that Richard only went to Chalus to claim a treasure of Roman coins that had been unearthed nearby. (No treasure ever surfaced.)

Several days into the siege, Richard ventured from his command tent without his armor to inspect progress on the undermining of the castle walls. Chroniclers claim that a defender on the battlements who was using a frying pan as a shield took a shot at the king. Richard supposedly applauded the man, but did not move quickly enough – he was struck by a crossbow bolt to the shoulder.


Roger de Hoveden writes

“…the king of England and [Mercadier] were reconnoitering the castle on all sides, and examining in which spot it would be most advisable to make the assault, a certain arbalister, Bertram de Gurdun by name, aimed an arrow from the castle, and struck the king on the arm, inflicting an incurable wound. The king, on being wounded, mounted his horse and rode to his quarters, and issued orders to . . . make assaults on the castle without intermission, until it should be taken; which was accordingly done. After its capture, the king ordered all the people to be hanged, him alone excepted who had wounded him, whom, as we may reasonably suppose, he would have condemned to a most shocking death if he had recovered. After this, the king gave himself into the hands of a physician . . . who, after attempting to extract the iron head, extracted the wood only, while the iron remained in the flesh; but after this butcher had carelessly mangled the king’s arm in every part, he at last extracted the arrow.”

(FYI… I’ve seen both 25 March and 26 March as the date in biographies of Richard.)

Image Credits

Richard the Lionheart – by Merry-Joseph Blondel – [1] The original uploader was Kelson at French Wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79279

Chalus-Chabrol – by Fonquebure – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5716785


men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

#OTD 25 March 1194 – Richard the Lionheart arrives at the Siege of Nottingham

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle, circa 1250

King Richard I, the Lionheart, had taken the Cross and journeyed to the Holy Land in 1190. He led his army of approx. 15,000 men to within 12 miles of Jerusalem, but did not re-take the holy city. After a truce with Salah-al-Din, Richard attempted to return home, but was faced with enemies on his path. He was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria outside Vienna around the 20th of December 1192, and by early spring 1193, had been turned over to Heinrich VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. The emperor demanded a huge ransom of 150,000 silver marks – more than twice the annual income of England!

Richard was kept imprisoned while his brother Prince John plotted with King Philip of France – the two of them offered the emperor monies to keep Richard in prison for another year! Despite their subterfuge, Richard finally was freed from his German prison in February 1194.

Prince John’s supporters in England capitulated on hearing this news, with the exception of the castles at Tickhill and Nottingham. However, when word spread that Richard had landed on English soil in early March, the castellans at Tickhill verified the story and then surrendered. Nottingham was a different story…

“The garrison, however, of the castle of Nottingham did not send any of their number to meet the king. The king, being consequently much exasperated, came to Nottingham . . .with such a vast multitude of men, and such a clanger of trumpets and clarions, that those who were in the castle, on hearing and seeing this were astonished, and were confounded and alarmed . . . but still they could not believe the king had come, and supposed that the whole of this was done by the chiefs of the army for the purpose of deceiving them. The king, however, took up his quarters near to the castle, so that the archers of the castle pierced the king’s men at his very feet.”
–The Annals of Roger de Hoveden

For Richard’s incredible journey back from the Holy Land see my post on the English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) blog, Richard the Lionheart’s Ordeal, October – December 1192. A second contribution on EHFA details the siege of Nottingham.


men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Michaelmas in Medieval Britain

Today I am participating in a blog hop to celebrate the release of volume 2 of Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard. See the information at the end of this post to order this treasure. Participating blogs in this hop have chosen a custom or tradition from the past to highlight. Follow the links below to read them all.

Michaelmas in Medieval Britain
The 29th day of September is the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, also known as Michaelmas. In medieval times, it signified the end of the agricultural year. Harvest – hopefully a good one – was in. It was a time to celebrate.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 43 : l'évêque Odon bénit le banquet.
Tapisserie de Bayeux – Scène 43 : l’évêque Odon bénit le banquet. (public domain)

In England, it was custom to eat a goose, which was supposed to protect against money problems for the coming year. With the end of the harvest, servants were hired and debts were paid. Geese may have been given to the lord of the manor to appease him when payment might be late or in lieu of payment. Apparently, Michaelmas also became a time when officials were elected.

Horse races – with prizes – were popular in Scotland. (St Michael was also the patron saint of horses and horsemen.) Scots also celebrated by having the eldest daughter cook a Struan Micheil – a large scone-like cake – made of oats moistened with sheep’s milk, and cooked on lamb skin, on Michaelmas Eve. The Old Foodie has a recipe for oatmeal bannock if you’d like to give it a whirl. Traditionally, he says,

“The dough is then placed on a “struan-flag” – a large stone which your menfolk brought in from one of yon bonnie banks earlier in the day – and is placed before the fire. During the baking three layers of a batter of cream, eggs, and butter is daubed over the dough to enrich and engolden it.”

Old Foodie cautions that any leftover flour must be saved, to be used on Michaelmas Day to sprinkle on your sheep and your land as a way to offer a blessing for the harvest.

So go cook your goose! Follow The Old Foodie’s recipe. Stuff your goose with carrots, along with apples, butter, spices and herbs, and add it to a pot of broth. Cook her good. But do put aside a few carrots. They should be tied together with red yarn, given as gift to any visitors who pop in.

Lastly, it was critical that your blackberries were picked no later than October 10, which was Old Michaelmas Day. Did you know Lucifer fell from heaven that day and landed on a blackberry bush? He wasn’t a happy camper and scorched and spat upon them, making them unfit to eat.

“On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries.”
–old Irish Proverb

Sir Henry and Sir Stephan will be celebrating Michaelmas in For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars. Watch this space for publication updates. 

This is a blog hop!  Check out all these wonderful posts, including editor Debra Brown’s Crazy Customs from the Past Blog Hop and Book Release.

Michaelmas. Encyclopædia Brittanica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Michaelmas
Michaelmas. Historic UK. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/michaelmas/
Michaelmas Eve. The Old Foodie. http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2006/09/michaelmas-eve.html
Michaelmas Day. The Old Foodiehttp://www.theoldfoodie.com/2006/09/michaelmas-day.html

Castles, Customs, and Kings, vol. 2New Release!

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, Volume 2
Edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

Purchase links:

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817

Third Crusade history – my guest post on English Historical Fiction Authors

Schlacht_von_Arsuf-2In the year 1191, on the 7th day of September, a decisive battle was fought between Christian and Muslim armies. On this 824th anniversary, join me on English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) for “The Bloodiest Day of the Third Crusade: Richard I and Saladin at the Battle of Arsuf.

Photo By Eloi Firmin Feron (1802-1876) (de:wiki) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest post on English Historical Fiction Authors

Siege of Acre

Join me at English Historical Fiction Authors for my guest post: War Crime, or a Strategic Military Decision? The Massacre at Acre, August 20, 1191.


Siege of Acre By Blofeld of SPECTRE at en.wikipedia (Transfered from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASiege_of_Acre.jpg

(This post originally appeared on EHFA on Aug. 21, 2015. It was chosen as an Editor’s Choice and re-posted on Aug. 21, 2016.)


Get swept away to the 12th centurySweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it from Amazon
Book II of Battle Scars: For King and Country
will be published in 2015.