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Crusade, Third

The aftershocks of the loss of Jerusalem from Christian hands in 1187 rocked Europe. News of the city’s fall reached the Europeans in 1188. A Third Crusade was launched by European nobles in 1189. This Crusade was initially led by Europe’s three most powerful kings: Henry II of England, Philip II of France, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. King William II of Sicily also joined the Third Crusade and assisted the Crusaders with his navy. The real hero of the Third Crusade was King Richard the Lionheart, the rebellious son of Henry II of England. The Third Crusade which lasted from 1189 up to 1192 ended with no clear winner.  The Third Crusade is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time. It ended with the Treaty of Jaffa which was signed by both Saladin and Richard in 1192.

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In late 1187, a ship with black sails landed on the shores of Italy. The ship carried the elderly Archbishop Joscius of Tyre who immediately appealed to King William II of Sicily and Pope Gregory VIII for help. He had brought the news that the Ayyubid ruler of Egypt, Saladin, had conquered most of Holy Land. It included the city of Jerusalem which now returned to Muslim hands after many years under Christian rulers.

The news came as a shock to Pope Gregory VIII who immediately issued a papal bull called Audata Tremendi (“We have heard things that make us tremble”). He then sent Archbishop Joscius and Cardinal Henry of Albano to deliver the papal bull to the noblemen of Europe. Count Richard of Poitiers and King William II of Sicily were some of the first to respond to the call of taking back the Holy Land from Muslim hands. Next were Henry II of England and Philip II of France who agreed to set aside their border wars to launch the Third Crusade. The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa also answered the call and prepared his army to leave for Jerusalem. The three kings agreed to leave for the east on Easter of 1189.

“Ruins of Dürnstein Castle, where Richard was kept captive”

Henry II and Philip II: War Between Kings

But the preparations of 1188 were put on hold because of Henry II’s problems with his son Richard and his long-time enemy, Philip II of France. Richard had sided with Philip II, and insisted to his father that he make him the heir to the throne of England instead of his brother John. The three men negotiated, but it broke down into shouting matches and drawn swords. Nobody was injured, but Henry II fell sick afterwards. Many of his own knights sided with Philip II and Richard, including his heir John. Henry had no choice but to give up and announce Richard as the next king of England. He died in July of 1189, but not before expressing his anger and disappointment toward his sons.

Richard rose to become England’s king in 1189. He was given the title of “Lionheart” because of his bravery in battle. Since his father was dead, it was up to him to continue the preparations for the Crusade. He announced his commitment to the Crusade after his coronation. However, his fundraising methods drained England’s treasury. Philip II and Richard the Lionheart left the coast of France for the Holy Land on mid-August 1190.

The Death of Frederick Barbarossa

The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa left Europe with his German troops in spring of 1189. Hungarian, Bosnian, and Serbian soldiers joined them on the way. When they arrived in Constantinople, the appearance of a large army frightened the Byzantine king Isaac II Angelos. He was afraid that instead of taking back the Holy Land, Frederick Barbarossa might try and conquer the rest of the Byzantine lands. So the Byzantine king sent men to harass the European troops. The attack angered Frederick Barbarossa. He sent some of his men to confront Isaac II Angelos. The Byzantine king had them imprisoned which made the Holy Roman Emperor angrier. Frederick then sent a letter to the Pope and asked for his permission to wage a holy war against Constantinople so he could retaliate.

With the threat of a war he could not afford, Isaac II Angelos finally let the European troops pass into Armenia. When Frederick Barbarossa and his soldiers arrived in Cilician Armenia in 1190, he heard that the king wanted to welcome him. So he went ahead and crossed the shallow waters of the Saleph River. Unfortunately, he fell from his horse and drowned. He probably suffered a fatal heart attack, but this event put his soldiers into chaos. Some of the soldiers went back to Germany while those who continued the march to the Holy Land suffered from sickness and died on the way.


Those who did not die continued to Acre to help Guy (Lusignan) of Jerusalem. He was one of the noblemen free by Saladin after the disastrous Battle of Hattin. Guy promised Saladin that he would not attack any of his territories. However, he broke it when the new Crusaders arrived and besieged Acre. The German soldiers who survived death on the way to Acre were not as helpful to Guy in conquering the city. Philip II and his French troops arrived in spring of 1191, but they were not of much help either. Richard the Lionheart was delayed after he was shipwrecked in Cyprus. He arrived in Acre in June of 1191 only after he had conquered the island.

The soldiers who camped outside of Acre rejoiced when they saw Richard and his fleet on the coast. The only one who seemed unhappy was Philip II who became sick during the Third Crusade. The fact that it was Richard who had conquered Cyprus and not Philip did not sit well with him either. The two kings barely talked while Richard was attacking a part of Acre, Philip was inside it negotiating with its leaders. The leaders knew that they would not hold out for much longer, so they sent a message to Saladin that they would surrender the city.

Saladin approved the surrender on the condition that the Crusaders would let the prisoners leave the city unharmed. But for some reason, Richard broke the treaty and killed thousands of prisoners. When Saladin saw this, he immediately ordered his army to prepare for war. But Philip II had already left the Holy Land for France so that Richard was left to lead the Crusader army. Back in Europe, the relationship between the two kings had soured so completely that Philip II dared to ask the Pope the permission to attack Richard’s lands in France. The Pope refused his request, so Philip asked Emperor Henry VI to capture Richard just in case he passed through Germany on his way back to England.

Stalemate and Richard’s Return to Europe

Back in the Holy Land, Richard remained unaware of Philip’s plans against him. He continued the Crusade and led the March of the Crusaders into Jaffa in 1191. Saladin, Richard, and their troops met in battle in the same year. Crusaders defeated Saladin’s army in the Battle of Arsuf. The battles and negotiations continued until the next year while both sides remained strong. Little by little, reports of Philip’s schemes in France reached Richard in the Holy Land, so he decided to wrap up the Third Crusade and return to Europe. He negotiated with Saladin and finally, they reached a truce at Ramla in 1192.

The result was the Treaty of Jaffa which they finalized in September of 1192. The conditions of the treaty included:

  1. A three-year peace between the Crusaders and Saladin’s army.
  1. The return of captured territories to Saladin. Christian cities and towns on the Mediterranean coast would remain under Crusader rule.
  1. Muslims must also allow Christians to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land without fear of harassment from them.

Richard also permitted Guy to rule the Kingdom of Jerusalem. What made this arrangement strange was that it was the Kingdom of Jerusalem in name only. Its capital was in Acre, and it did not even include Jerusalem itself. He also gave Cyprus for Guy to rule, and returned with his men to Europe. He did not receive a hero’s welcome in Europe as the Emperor Henry VI imprisoned Richard when he and his soldiers passed through Germany. Henry VI even asked for a hefty sum of seventy thousand marks of silver so that Richard would be freed. Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and other English nobles hastily gathered that amount of money so the king would be freed.

Richard was ransomed and freed in 1194. He immediately attacked Philip and his own brother who sided with the king of France when Richard was in the Holy Land. Philip negotiated for a five-year peace in 1199. Richard died soon after it was finalized – An argument between Richard and a local nobleman turned into a siege after the latter refused to give up treasures he discovered in his own land. Richard and his troops besieged the nobleman’s castle, but the king was struck by an arrow while he was exploring the area. The wound became infected, and he died at the age of 42.

Picture By AirinOwn work, CC BY-SA 1.0, Link
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
Nicolle, David, and Christa Hook. The Third Crusade 1191: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the Struggle for Jerusalem. Oxford: Osprey, 2006.
Reston, James. Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade. New York: Doubleday, 2001.
Ricardus, Helen J. Nicholson, and William Stubbs. Chronicle of the Third Crusade: A Translation of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum Et Gesta Regis Ricardi. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, 1997.
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