King of Crusaders Captured in Vienna
English King and medieval crusader Richard Lionheart was one of the most illustrious and legendary personalities of the Middle Ages. Here is his story in brief, and his relationship with Austria.
Supported by his subordinates and the Pope in Rome, Richard Lionheart counted Roman-German Emperor Henry VI and French King Philipp II among his most powerful enemies.
In December 1192, Richard was captured by Babenberg Count Leopold V, an ally of King Henry, in a little tavern in what is today part of Vienna's 3rd district, Erdberg (Erdbergstrasse 41/ Schwalbengasse 17) as he was returning from the Third Crusade. Even though he had disguised himself as a pilgrim, his king-like behaviour was soon spotted by followers of Leopold. However, it was not Leopold who pulled the strings behind this capture but the Roman-German Emperor Henry VI, and King Philipp August of France, for a series of political motives and incidents during the Crusades.
The handsome ransom also played a role: The Roman-German Emperor Henry VI pocketed some 12 tons of silver, along with a series of politically motivated deals, in exchange for Richard. In addition, it can be assumed that Count Leopold V received around 11 tons of silver for his service.
Once the treaty was signed, Emperor Henry's men transferred Richard to German Trifels Castle in Western Germany (Rhineland-Pfalz) where he continued his imprisonment. Richard himself rejected all clauses of the treaty until his enemy French King Philipp II offered to pay and fulfill the treaty in exchange for Richard. Finally, the ransom was made available by Richard's mother Eleonore of Aquitaine who sold all of Richard's goods and more to fund the huge sum.
Nowadays, the Lionheart legend is very much alive in Dürnstein, a tiny village on the Danube in the Wachau Valley where Lionheart had been imprisoned for 14 months. The Wachau boat trip through this UNESCO world heritage site, and visit of the ruin of Dürnstein castle is a beautiful experience. The ascent to the ruin takes between 15 and 20 minutes, from where you will have an excellent view over the Wachau Valley and the river Danube. (Photo: Duernstein on the Danube, with ruin on top, where King Lionheart was thought to have been held.)
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