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Richard Coeur de Lion

The Death of the Lionheart in 1199

In 1152, Eleanor, heiress of the Duchy of Aquitaine, recently separated from her first husband, Louis VII, King of France, married Henry Plantagenet of the powerful House of Anjou. She brought to the future King of England the Duchy of Aquitaine which included, notably, Limousin and Perigord.

Born at Oxford on 8th September, 1157, Richard was the third son of Henry II, King of England, and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine.

He was crowned Duke of Aquitaine at Poitiers in April 1169; in 1171, during a symbolic ceremony in the cathedral of Limoges, he put on his finger the ring of the mythical St Valerie, said to have been the daughter of one of the first dukes of Aquitaine.

For some years, the region had suffered the consequences of the rivalries and wars between the King of England and his sons. Since his oldest brother, Henry the Young King, had died in 1183, Richard became King of England on the death of his father in 1189. In December of the same year he left for the Third Crusade.

Taken prisoner by the Archduke of Austria on his return to Europe, he was only set free in 1194 in exchange for a huge ransom, largely collected by his mother. After returning to England, he began to take back the castles and land usurped by his brother, John Lackland.

In 1199, he marched against the Viscounty of Limoges to punish his vassal Adhémar V for siding with the King of France. He therefore laid siege to the Viscount’s castle at Châlus. On 26th March 1199 he was hit in the neck by an arrow fired from the keep. He died from the consequences of this injury on 6th April, in the arms of his mother Eleanor to whom he made his final requests: “That my body be buried at Fontevrault, my heart in the cathedral at Rouen and as for my entrails, that they remain in Châlus.”  

Thus, at the end of the 12th century, Châlus was witness to an event of European importance. From the very beginning, stories began to embroider the facts; it was probably during the Renaissance that there arose the legend that Richard had in fact come to Châlus to recover a treasure of life-size gold statues representing a prince and his household.

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