The Third Crusade and its impact on England

Term Paper, 2007

19 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1 Introduction

2. On the Eve of the Third Crusade
2.1. Richard I and his preparations for the Third Crusade

3. The Third Crusade (1189 – 1192)
3.1 Barbarossa´s Crusade
3.2 Richard´s and Phillip´s crusade
3.3 Siège of Acre and Battle of Arsuf
3.4 Negotiations with Saladin and aftermath

4. Impact of the Third Crusade on England

5 Conclusion



1 Introduction

After the failure of the Second Crusade (1145 – 1149) the Zengid dynasty under Nur – ad – Din had control of Damascus and a unified Syria. But as Nur – ad – Din was eager to expand his power he gave the order to his most trusted general, Shirkuh, to set out on a military expedition to the Nile, which was accompanied by the general´s young nephew Saladin.

The military conflict with the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt ultimately resulted in the unification of Egyptian and Syrian forces which gave Nur – ad – Din the possibility to rule over virtually all of Syria and Egypt.

In 1169, general Shirkuh died unexpectedly and was succeeded by his nephew, Salah ad – Din Yusuf, commonly known as Saladin. After the death of Nur – ad – Din in 1174 it was decided that only Saladin was competent enough to defend the two countries and he therefore became sultan of both Egypt and Syria.

Saladin assumed the task of successfully continuing the holy war against the Frankish infidels in succession to Nur – ad – Din. As Oldenbourg (1966:438) points out “Saladin made himself the apostle of reconquest, demanding that every one of his soldiers become a soldier of God”. His main goal was to retake the Holy Land which had formerly belonged to Islam. When the King of Jerusalem Amalric I died in 1174, Saladin saw his chance to recapture the kingdom Jerusalem from the Christians. But Almaric´s successor, his 13 – year old son Baldwin IV, was a skilled military commander and defeated Saladin at the battle of Montgisard in 1177. Nevertheless, Saladin didn´t give up his plans and started a new offensive against the kingdom of Jerusalem ten years after the first one.

In 1187, Saladin and his troops finally defeated the Christians (under the new King Guy of Lusignan) at the Battle of Hattin and by the end of the year Saladin had taken Acre and Jerusalem.

According to some sources Pope Urban III is said to have collapsed and later died upon hearing the news. Other sources claim that at the time of his death, the news of the fall of Jerusalem could not yet have reached him (but he might have been informed about Saladin´s victory in the Battle of Hattin and the fall of Acre).

However, in particular the news of the fall of Jerusalem aroused immense feeling among Christians in Europe and had still greater reverberations than the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. As Oldenbourg (1966:445) explains “While no king had actually taken part in the First Crusade, it was now generally recognized and acknowledged by all that the reconquest of the Holy Places was an absolute duty for every Christian, and for heads of state first and foremost.”

The papacy, whose prestige and authority had been greatly enhanced by the First Crusade, reacted immediately to the fall of Jerusalem by making it a duty for the clergy to preach a new crusade. Pope Urban III´s successor, Gregory VIII, proclaimed that the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin was punishment for the sins of Christians across Europe. Consequently, no king had the right to evade the duty of going on a crusade himself (or at least sending a son or brother with a suitable body of knights instead) in order to retake the Holy Land from Saladin.

In particular the Kings of France, England and Germany couldn´t risk to “suffer the dishonour of seeing their banner absent from those of the armies of God.” (Oldenbourg 1966: 445) Therefore the King of France, Phillip II (Phillip Augustus), and the King of England, Henry II, were urged to renounce their own quarrels and together make a vow to take the cross.[1]

Finally, Philip II and Richard I agreed to go on the Third Crusade together, since each feared that the other one might take advantage of the rival´s absence.

My paper will be concerned with the course of the Third Crusade and I will take a closer look at Richard´s policy prior to his departure in order to show how his foreign – policy decision to go on the Crusade affected the internal political situation of England and the lives of the people in the country.

I will finish my paper by giving a short conclusion on the question whether the Third Crusade was a curse or blessing for the English people…

2. On the Eve of the Third Crusade

2.1. Richard I and his preparations for the Third Crusade

Richard I was born on September 8th 1157 at Beaumont Palace (Oxford) as the third legitimate son of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Although he was born in England he was essentially French - like most of the Royal Family at that time. He was well educated and it was said that he had many outstanding talents ranging from the composition of French poetry to significant political and military abilities. He fought hard to control the rebellious nobles of his own territories and was especially admired for his chivalry and courage.[2]

Like his brothers Richard I frequently challenged his father´s authority. In 1173, Richard I joined his brothers, Henry the Young King and Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, in a revolt against their father. Their plan was to dethrone King Henry II and leave Henry the Young King as the only king of England. But the revolt failed and Richard had to give a new oath of subservience to his father.

After his failure to overthrow his father, Richard concentrated on putting down internal revolts by the nobles of Aquitaine, especially in the territory of Gascony. The increasing cruelty of his reign led to a major revolt there in 1179. But Richard was able to defeat the rebels at Taillebourg and thus gained the reputation of a skilled military commander which deterred many of the rebellious nobles to such an extent that they decided to declare their loyalty to Richard instead of being his enemy.

In 1181 – 1182, Richard faced another major revolt over the succession to the county of Angoulême, which could only be put down with support from Richard´s father, King Henry II, and his elder brother, Henry the Young King.

Despite his father´s support, Richard didn´t give up his plans to dethrone him.

By 1183 the tensions between Richard I and his father had worsened, as Richard I refused his father´s command to pay homage to Henry the Young King. Consequently, Henry the Young King and Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, invaded Richard´s territory Aquitaine in an attempt to subdue their brother. But once again, Richard I proved his abilities as a skilled military commander and was able to hold back the invading armies led by his brothers.

In June 1183, Henry the Young King died and the conflict took a brief pause. With the death of his elder brother, Richard was now the eldest son and heir to the English throne but he still continued to fight his father. To strengthen his position, Richard I even allied himself with the French King, Phillip II.

The tensions between Richard I and his father grew once again when King Henry II planned to concede Aquitaine to his youngest son John in 1188. His father´s decision insulted Richard to such an extent that he decided to join King Phillip´s expedition against Henry II in order to take the throne of England for himself. On July 4th 1189, Richard´s and Phillip´s forces defeated Henry´s army at Ballans. Henry II had little choice but to agree to name Richard I as his heir. Two days later, King Henry II died in Chinon and Richard could finally succeed him as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. Richard was officially crowned duke on July 20th and king in Westminster on September 3rd in 1189.

Although the situation in England had developed to the favour of Richard I as he had now officially succeeded his father Henry II, he had to face further challenges from outside the country.

From the late 1160´s onwards a growing number of appeals for help were coming from the Holy Land as Muslim leaders regained strength and thus threatened the position of the Christians especially in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The appeals were primarily sent to Western Europe and as Mayer (1972: 134) points out “The kings of the West, like the emperor, looked favourably upon the idea of a crusade; they saw it as the crowning moment of their life, as the highest fulfilment of the royal dignity.”

Nevertheless, European leaders had remained quite indifferent to calls for aid at first as the political situation was instable in most of the countries and therefore no leader wanted to turn his back on his home country and thus risk a foreign invasion during his absence.

Both the King of France and the King of England were in a difficult situation. On the one hand there was the strong position of the Church that influenced the public opinion enormously and made a crusade inevitable. On the other hand neither of the two kings could go on a crusade as each of them feared the other one could take the opportunity to invade his opponent´s territory. Moreover – as Mayer (1972: 135) explains - “equally neither could permit the other to go alone because this would result in a loss of prestige for him and a gain in authority for his opponent.” As the problem couldn´t be solved immediately “only” financial help was sent for the moment. In 1166 Henry II levied a general tax on income and movables which had to be paid both by the clergy and the laity. As Mayer (1972: 135) states “This was the first clearly discernible crusading tax in the West.”


[1] But Henry II was never able to fulfill his vow to go on a crusade as he died in 1189. Therefore his son, Richard I, became his successor and went on the Third Crusade as the new English King. Richard I had already taken the cross as Count of Poitou in 1187.

[2] Because of his courage Richard I was later often referred to as “Richard the Lionheart /Coeur de Lion“ by some writers. He is still known under this name in France today.

Excerpt out of 19 pages


The Third Crusade and its impact on England
University of Potsdam
Religious Diversity in Multicultural Britain
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Third, Crusade, England, Religious, Diversity, Multicultural, Britain
Quote paper
Maxi Hinze (Author), 2007, The Third Crusade and its impact on England, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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