#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.

Research gems: the scallawag, John, King of England

John, King of England

Medieval Lincolnshire has been one focus of research for my upcoming novel. For King and Country takes place in 1193-94 so I dove into several histories on the county. In Lincolnshire in History, and Lincolnshire Worthies, I discovered J. Medcalf’s thoughts on John, who is crowned King of England in 1199. This is a gem worth sharing:

“…John, was such a thorough “skunk” that we feel it, in some sense, a degradation to Lincolnshire to be mentioned in the same paragraph with him. Skunk-like, he has left behind him an odour of meanness, fraud, ferocity, and pusillanimity which the rolling centuries and the successive evolvement of great events have failed since, in any wise, to sweeten. It must be some comfort to the Shire to remember that he caught his last fatal illness on her soil, and that her congenial dampness and mephitic fen atmosphere helped to rid the world (and his country) of a crowned scallawag… We need not wonder than no English monarch has ever thought of christening his baby heir by that hated name, or that the English people have never hankered after a John II.”

See other research gems, including Medcalf’s thoughts on John’s brother King Richard I, the Lionheart. 


Medcalf, J. (1903). Lincolnshire in History, and Lincolnshire Worthies, New York: Ward, Lock & Co., ltd.

Photo credit

John, King of England. By Matthew Paris. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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 2016.

Research Gems: The Murder-Fine

crime-scene-30112_1280I am continually surprised by the fascinating bits of information I uncover while doing research for my medieval fiction. For Book III of Battle Scars I have been reading (or re-reading) biographies of Richard I and John, and stumbled across this gem in England Without Richard, 1189-1199 by John T. Appleby: the “murder-fine.”

This form of justice originated with the Danish invaders per Wikipedia.  Appleby writes that after the Conquest, the Normans adopted the fine when other punishments for murdering a Norman had little effect. He quotes Richard, son of Nigel: “…it was finally decided that the hundred in which a Norman was found killed, without his slayer being known…should be mulcted…”

(Mulct = fine. A new word for my vocabulary!)

In “Presentment of Englishry and the Murder Fine,” Frederick Hamil writes “It was not murder, nor was the murdrum fine enacted, if the slayer was delivered up to justice or the dead man proved to be of English birth.” Apparently, the conquered English weren’t highly regarded in those early years.

However, by the end of the 12th century, the victim could be those with English (i.e., Anglo-Saxon) roots, not just noble Normans. The “murder-fine” extended beyond foul play to include deaths by drowning, starvation, exposure, and more. Itinerant justices heard cases which are reflected in the Pipe Rolls. One such fine levied against the hundred (i.e., community or wapentake) was 20 shillings – a hefty sum in the 12th century. As Hamil notes, the community itself “had certain communal duties and could be fined for neglecting them.”

These murder-fines became a source of much-needed revenue to support King Richard’s war against Philip of France.

Check out my other research gems.

Appley, J.T. England Without Richard, 1189-1199. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1965.

Englishry. (2015, March 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:57, June 6, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Englishry&oldid=649667902

Hamil, F.C. “Presentment of Englishry and the Murder Fine.” Speculum, a Journal of Mediaeval Studies, vol. 12:3 (1937).


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 & Nook and at Smashwords.
Book II of Battle Scars: For King and Country
will be published in 2015.

Research gems: not everyone liked Richard the Lionheart

We know Richard the Lionheart had any number of detractors and outright enemies. In this case, I’m not talking about King Philip of France, Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, John, Count of Mortain (Richard’s brother, the future King John of Magna Carta fame), or other contemporaries of Richard. As I work through through final checks of For King and Country, I’ve been reviewing my notes, following up on some 12th century Lincolnshire history, and discovered this little tidbit. I couldn’t resist sharing this ‘gem’ with you.

Richard the Lionheart
Richard the Lionheart

Mr. Medcalf doesn’t have any kind words about Richard in Lincolnshire in History, and Lincolnshire Worthies, published in 1903:

“But every excuse must be made for the Plantagenets. They claimed to live on the heroic principle of doing what one likes with one’s own, and this realm of England, with all its belongings, including such trifles as Lincoln City and Castle, was of course their ” own.” They had a sort of hereditary family trouble in the way of financial ” shortage,” and had to bend their Royal minds in a certain magnificent style to some vulgar means of “raising the wind.” Besides, Richard was a very pious person, and went a good deal into crusading and getting himself shut up in foreign prisons, with troubadours loafing around and encouraging his melancholy by chanting favourite melodies under his window with a kind of vamp accompaniment on the harp. You couldn’t tell a minstrel in those days to ” move on ” under a county council bye-law, and Richard had to endure it, but it no doubt added much to his well-known irrascibility on his very infrequent visits to the country he was supposed to be governing.” –p.81-82

Do you detect a bit of contempt there?

See other research gems.


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

12th century gems

“…there is none of the above stock [i.e., livestock] there now except for the 2 plough-teams. John, the clerk, who was at that time Thomas fitz Bernard’s steward, transferred 40 hoggets [i.e., 2-year-old male sheep] to the vill of Whitfield at the feast of Saint Martin (11 November) and unjustly took as many good ewes for them at Easter together with their lambs.” — Walmsley, p. 45

[The bracketed words are mine (based on the editor/translator’s footnotes & text), added for clarification.] The quote is from Widows, Heirs, and Heiresses of the Late Twelfth Century and goes on to say that John took many casks of beer and an ox. I wonder what became of John the clerk… Now you’re wondering why I’m perusing this tome, right? I stumbled across it via a footnote in another book. Widows didn’t turn out to be what I expected, but it is a fascinating resource: a translation of a primary text published in 1185, the Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis. The entries in the original rolls reflect a report of 4 itinerant justices gathering information on widows and wardships in 12 counties in England. A king must know what his subjects’ lands and properties are worth to have an “adequate flow of income and services from royal and non-royal sources.” (Walmsley, p. ix.)  And a writer of 12th century English historical fiction must understand what widowhood meant to a woman. Widowhood, of course, was preceded by marriage. 🙂 Marriages were often arranged when the prospective bride and/or groom were children. In the second half of the 12th century, the Church decreed that consent was the basis for a marriage. Whilst a girl and boy might be contracted to marry by their parents, the age of consent was reasoned to be 12 for girls and 14 for boys. However, this didn’t mean children weren’t married:

“Richard Neville was aged six when he married Anne Beauchamp, the daughter of Richard, earl of Warwick…” –Ward, p.13

Once married, a girl/young woman went from her father’s house to her husband’s and was subject to his will. Medieval women may have run their estates, but they had no legal  rights in the eyes of the law. If widowed, that changed:

“…the widow…was regarded as an independent figure able to plead in the courts and act as head of her household and estates.” –Ward, p.34

On a widow remarrying:

“According to the 1225 issue of Magna Carta no widow should be distrained to remarry while she wished to live without a husband, but she had to give security that she would not remarry without the king’s consent if she was a tenant-in-chief or without the consent of the lord of whom she held her lands.” –Ward, p. 40

While the law might reflect one thing, politics, land, money, or other reasons were at issue and some women were forced to take a second (or third, etc.) husband. There are also tales of women abducted by prospective suitors!  Once remarried, the former widow relinquished her rights and her new husband took over responsibility for her property, and he would hold them if she died.

Fascinating, isn’t it? And ladies… aren’t you glad you live in the 21st century?

======= Sources Walmsley, J. (2006). Widows, Heirs, and Heiresses of the Late Twelfth Century. Aldershot: SCOLAR. Ward, J. C. (1992). English noblewomen in the later Middle Ages. London: Longman.


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Fifty shades of…12th century England

research books
one pile of my 12th century research materials

Forgive the “fifty shades” reference. I almost called this “fifty shades of de Grey” – de Grey being the surname of main character Sir Henry in Men of the Cross, but I thought better of it. 🙂  I’ve intended this to spark interest/amazement/horror for those who aren’t so familiar with the 12th century, and I’ve included a number of facts related to the Third Crusade. Enjoy these bits of trivia:

  1. Henry I (reigned 1100-1135) named his daughter Matilda (aka Empress Maud) as his successor, but his nobles chose to name Matilda’s cousin Stephen as king on Henry’s death.
  2. The Anarchy, aka “when Christ and his saints slept” (which is a translated quote from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), lasted from 1135 – 1154 when Matilda (mother of Henry II) and her cousin Stephen fought to reign over England (see #1).
  3. The crown did not automatically pass to the oldest child: Stephan (reigned 1135-1154) passed over his eldest surviving son and named Henry (son of his rival Matilda) as his successor.
  4. Women could inherit property.
  5. The nobility were generally of Norman descent. (Remember William the Conqueror, 1066?)
  6. “Corn” was any cereal grain (not maize, which wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 15th or 16th century). Corn = wheat, barley, rye, etc.
  7. Many manor houses were built of timber. Stone was for the wealthiest landowners and saw increased use after the Norman Conquest as the new Norman rulers built their castles as symbols of their power.
  8. Below the nobility, church officials, and knights, there were some freeman, but a large percentage of the population were villeins, including serfs (slaves), who owed service to the lord of the manor. Service, which varied from place to place, usually included 3 days of work per week (more during harvest) for the right to live & work their own plots of land.
  9. A warhorse (aka destrier) might cost in excess of 50 shillings. Mail for the knight: 100 shillings.
  10. William, Henry, Roger, John and Geoffrey were very popular boys’ names.
  11. William, Henry, Geoffrey, and John were Richard the Lionheart’s brothers; Henry (the II) was his father.
  12. Henry II’s illegitimate sons were also named Geoffrey and William.
  13. Richard I was born in Oxford, England. Neither of his parents were English: Henry II was French from Anjou; Eleanor was from Aquitaine.
  14. Maud, Alice, Margaret, Joan and Isabel were popular women’s names.
  15. Taxes were too high (even back then!)
  16. A baron (like Henry de Grey’s father in Men of the Cross) might owe the crown £100 a year for scuttage, which might be paid in cash, in service and/or in crops/goods.
  17. Ermine Street ran from London to York (via Lincoln); it had been constructed during the Roman occupation hundreds of years earlier. (It was one of 4 major royal roads, which novelist Patricia Bracewell just wrote about on EHFA.)
  18. Traveling 40 miles a day was quite a feat on horseback. Whilst running from Duke Leopold in Austria, Richard I traveled 50 miles a day for 3 days in an attempt to reach the safety of the Moravian border. Imagine an army with hundreds of supply wagons, men on foot, and knights: in the Holy Land, Richard’s army of approximately 15,000 traveled anywhere from 2 – 13 miles per day.
  19. The language of the upper classes was Anglo-Norman, a French dialect.
  20. Peasants spoke what we’d call Old English though the influences of the Norman language led to the transformation to Middle English.
  21. Latin was the language used for official written records.
  22. It was a mortal sin to have sex that was not specifically meant for procreation; however, a trip to the confessional would get you a penance of a few Pater Nosters or a small fine.
  23. It was a mortal sin to have sex in any position except man-on-top/woman-on-bottom (see above for penance).
  24. There were no civil laws on the books against homosexuality in England until the second half of the 13th century. [Note: I’ve lost my reference for this: if you can point me to it I would appreciate it!].
  25. Bathing was more common in the Middle Ages than in the 19th century: many towns  had public bath houses. It was reported that when King John (reigned 1199-1216) traveled around his kingdom, he took a bathtub with him.
  26. The most dysfunctional family of the 12th century surely must have been Henry II, Eleanor, and their brood.
  27. Henry II imprisoned his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, from 1173-1189 for her role in his sons’ rebellion.
  28. Eleanor was 9 years older than Henry; they married after her marriage to the king of France was annulled.
  29. John, young Henry, and Geoffrey speaking to their brother Richard: “Mom always liked you best!”
  30. Henry II (reigned 1154-1189) could not read.
  31. Henry II crowned his successor Henry while he still lived. Henry was known as “the young king.” He died in 1183, a victim of dysentery.
  32. Eleanor accompanied her first husband Louis VII of France on the Second Crusade in the 1140s.
  33. Eleanor outlived  8 of her 10 children (2 by 1st marriage to Louis VII; 8 by Henry II; only son John and daughter Eleanor (by Henry) survived her.
  34. Thomas Becket, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry II, was murdered in December 1170 by four of Henry II’s overzealous knights after Henry reputedly said “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” (or something along that line dependent on which biography you read).
  35. King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart, ruled 1189-1199) spent only 6 months in England during his reign.
  36. Richard set out for the Holy Land in 1190, marching his army to Marseille to rendezvous with the fleet to sail to the Holy Land in the summer of 1190.
  37. Most of Richard’s fleet failed to meet him in Marseille: they’d been arrested whilst in Portugal for too much wine, women and gambling.
  38. Some legends of Robin Hood place him with Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade.
  39. Whilst the armies of Richard of England and Philip of France wintered in Messina, Sicily in 1190/1191, gambling by ordinary soldiers and sailors was banned except in the presence of their officers.
  40. The price of bread in Messina during the fall & winter of 1190/1191 was fixed by the kings (Richard, Philip, and Tancred) at 1 penny per loaf.
  41. Richard was betrothed to Alais (Alys or Alice), sister of King Philip of France, in 1169; they never tied the knot, Richard claiming his father slept with Alys. She was raised as Henry II’s ward in England from the age of 8 for about 22 years, until Richard married Berengaria of Navarre in May 1191 in Cyprus.
  42. Richard’s fleet finally arrived in the Holy Land in June, laid siege to, and captured Acre by mid-July. Richard insulted Duke Leopold of Austria whilst in Acre by ordering the Duke’s banner removed from the city ramparts. Richard’s men trampled the Duke’s banner. Leopold would not forget this insult.
  43. The Muslim chronicler Baha’ al-Din wrote that Richard was “a man of great courage and spirit.”
  44. The deadliest battle of the Third Crusade was the Battle of Arsuf on 7 Sept 1191 – casualties were estimated at 700 Christians and 7,000 Muslims.
  45. Washer-women were the only women allowed to accompany the army on the march to Jerusalem (August 1191-July 1192). However, Richard did bring his queen Berengaria and his sister Joanna to Jaffa in mid-fall 1191 when that town was secured.
  46. The crusader army came within 12 miles of Jerusalem – twice – but never laid siege to, or re-took, it from Muslim hands.
  47. A 3 year truce was signed between Richard I and Salah al-Din in September 1192. The Christians did maintain control of many coastal cities lost to the Muslims in the 1180s and Christian pilgrims were allowed into the Holy City.
  48. Duke Leopold’s soldiers captured Richard near Vienna, Austria, on 20 December 1192. According to a German chronicler, Richard was caught in the kitchen roasting meat and wearing a magnificent ring, though this tale is disputed by English chroniclers.
  49. Bows of composite wood, horn, and sinew replaced all wood bows; this increased the weapon’s power and range.
  50. John, younger brother of Richard I, plotted with King Philip of France to usurp Richard’s throne whilst he was on Crusade. John and Philip offered the Holy Roman Emperor money to keep Richard imprisoned rather than release him when the ransom of 150,000 marks was paid.


Get swept away to the 12th century

Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite

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