Excerpts from T.A. Archer’s Crusade of Richard I

[pp. 92-103]

1191, July 5. —K. Richard besieges Acre and forces it to yield.

Itin. Ric., 224, iii., c. 12.
King Richard was not yet quite recovered from his illness; yet, anxious to be doing something, he turned his thoughts to the capture of the city, and had it attacked by his men in the hopes of gaining some success with God’s assistance. Accordingly he had a kind of hurdle-shed (commonly called a circleia) made and brought up to the ditch outside the city wall. Under its shelter were placed his most skilful crossbowmen; whilst, to hearten his own men for the combat and to dispirit the Saracens by his presence, he had himself carried there on silken cushions. From this position he worked a crossbow, in the management of which he was very skilful, and slew many of the foes by the bolts and quarrels he discharged. His miners also, approaching the tower against which his stone-casters were being levelled, by an underground passage dug down towards the foundations, filling the gaps they made with logs of wood, to which they would set fire, thus causing the walls, which had already been shaken by the stone-casters, to fall down with sudden crash.

Thereupon the king, seeing how difficult the work was and how valiant were the enemies, knowing also how needful it was to kindle men’s valour at critical moments, thought it more fitting to encourage the young [warriors] on by promises of reward than to urge them on by harsh words. For who is there whom the prospect of gain will not entice? Accordingly he proclaimed that he would give two gold-pieces to any one who would detach a stone from the wall near the before-mentioned tower. Later he promised three and even four gold-pieces for each stone. Then might you see the young men with their followers leap forth and rush against the wall and set themselves zealously to lugging out the stones—and this as much for the sake of praise as of pay. . The height of the wall was very great and it was of no slight thickness; yet, dispelling danger, by courage, they extracted many a stone. The Turks rushing against [the assailants] in bands strove to cast them down from the walls; and, while thus engaged in driving back their enemies, unwarily exposed themselves to darts; for in their haste they rashly neglected to put on their armour. One of the Turks who to his cost was glorying in the arms of Alberic Clements, with which he had girded himself, did king Richard wound to death, piercing him through the breast, with a dart from his cross-bow. Grieving over the death of this warrior the Turks recklessly rushed forward for vengeance, and, just as though energetic action were a cure for pain, showed themselves so bold that it seemed as if they feared neither darts nor any other missile. Never were our men engaged by warriors—of any creed whatever—more valorous or apter at defence. Memory staggers at the recollection of their deeds. In the press of this conflict neither armour of strongest proof nor two-fold coat of mail nor quilted work was strong enough to resist the missiles hurled from the stone-casters. Yet, for all this, the Turks kept countermining from within till they compelled our men to retreat; and then they began to rake a furious cry as though their object had been attained.

At last when the tower had fallen prostrate before the blows of our stone-casters and when king Richard’s men began to stop digging, our men-at-arms, in their greed for fame and victory, began to don their arms. Amongst the banners of these were the earl of Leicester’s; that of Andrew de Chavigni and of Hugh Brown. The bishop of Salisbury also came up, equipt in the noblest fashion, and many more. It was about the third hour, i.e., about breakfast time, when these valorous men-at-arms began their work, going forth to storm the tower, which they boldly scaled at once. The Turkish watchmen, on seeing them, raised a shout, and lo ! the whole city was soon in a stir. The Turkish warriors, hurriedly seizing their arms, came thronging up and flung themselves upon the assailants. The men-at-arms strove to get in; the Turks to hurl them back. Rolled together in a confused mass they fought at close quarters, hand against hand, and sword against sword. Here men struck, there they fell. Our men-at-arms were few, whereas the numbers of the Turks kept on increasing. The Turks also threw Greek fire against their enemies, and this at last forced the men-at-arms to retreat and leave the tower, where some of them were slain by weapons, others burnt by that most deadly fire. At last the Pisans, eager for fame and vengeance, scrambled up the tower itself with a mighty effort; but, bravely as they comported themselves, they too had to retreat before the onset of the Turks, who rushed on as if mad. Never has there been such a people as these Turks for prowess in war. And yet, for all the enemies’ valour, the city would on that day have been taken and the whole siege finished if the entire army had displayed an equal valour. For, you must know, by far the larger part of the army was at that hour breakfasting; and, as the attack was made at an unsuitable time, it did not succeed.


Though its walls were partly fallen and partly shaken, though a great part of the inhabitants were slain or weakened by wounds, there still remained in the city 6,000 Turks. With these were the leaders, Mestoc and Caracois, who began now to despair of receiving aid. They imagined the Christian army had been very keenly touched at the death of Alberic Clements and at the loss of sons and kinsmen who had fallen in the war; and had determined to die or master the Turks—holding that no other course was consistent with honour. So, by common consent and counsel, the besieged begged a truce while they sent notice of their plight to Saladin, hoping that, in accordance with their Pagan ways, he would ensure their safety—as he ought to do—by sending them speedy aid or procuring leave for them to quit the city without disgrace. To obtain this favour, these two noble Saracens, the most renowned [warriors] in all Paganism, Mestoc and Caracois, came to our kings, promising to surrender the city, if Saladin did not send them speedy aid. They stipulated, however, that all the besieged Turks should have free leave to go wherever they wished with their arms and all their goods. The king of France and almost all the French agreed to this; but king Richard utterly refused to hear of entering an empty city after so long and toilsome a siege. Wherefore, perceiving king Richard’s mind, Caracois and Mestoc went back to Acre without concluding the business. Saladin, meanwhile, having received envoys from the besieged, bade them hold out stoutly in the certainty that he would shortly send them efficient aid. He declared that he had certain news of the approach of a mighty host of warriors from Babylon(i.e. Cairo) in ships and galleys. These he had sent for some time ago and had given orders to Muleina (their leader) to come within eight clays at the furthest. Moreover he swore that, if these reinforcements should not arrive, he would do his best to get the besieged honourable terms and liberty to depart. So the envoys returned to the city; and, after the publication of Saladin ’s promises and exhortations to hold out, the Turks remained anxiously looking out for the succour they expected.

Meanwhile, the Christians’ stone-casters never ceased battering the walls night and day. Seeing this a panic seized the inhabitants and some, in utter despair, giving way to fear, threw themselves headlong from the walls by night. Many of them humbly begged to be baptized and made Christians. There is considerable doubt as to the real merits of these [converts], and not without due reason, since it is to be presumed that it was terror rather than divine grace that caused them to make this request. But the ways of salvation are many.

Meanwhile, frequent envoys kept Saladin well-informed of the danger involved in continuing the defence; for the city could no longer be held against the Christians. So Saladin, seeing that further delay would be perilous, at last granted the petitions of the besieged ; and this he did the more readily because his emirs, his satraps, and his powerful friends urged him in the same direction; for [many of] these were friends and relatives of the besieged. They alleged that Saladin was bound by the oath he had taken to protect the besieged [Mahommedans] according to the forms of their law, and to secure honourable terms for men who were in such extreme peril, and who otherwise might, by the law of war, be put to a shameful death. This would be to break, so far as lay in his power, the Mohammedan law—so carefully observed by his predecessors; while it would be most dishonouring to his fame if he suffered the Christians to capture the worshippers of Mahomet. They begged Saladin to consider how, in obedience to his commands, the flower of the Turks had endured so long a siege and defended his city. Let him remember their wives who were cooped up [within those walls] and their miserable families whom they had not seen since the beginning of the siege, three years before.

By such prayers Saladin was persuaded to consent to make a peace with as good terms as he could get; and, when the envoys brought back Saladin’s reply, there was great joy in the city. And lo ! the chief men of the city came out to our kings offering, by an interpreter, to give up Acre, to restore the Holy Cross, and set free two hundred and fifty noble Christian captives whom they had. But, as these terms did not seem satisfactory to our kings, they offered two thousand noble Christians and 500 captives of inferior rank, whom, they added, Saladin would have sought out throughout his whole land. In return for this, the Turks merely stipulated for leave to quit the city, without arms or food, and carrying nothing save their shirts. Moreover, they would give the two kings 200,000 Saracen talents for their life; and as a pledge for the faithful observance of these terms, they handed over the noblest Turks in the city as hostages. These terms our kings, after consulting their wise men, with the consent of all determined to accept.

Thus, on the Friday after the translation of the Blessed Benedict [i.e. July 12], the wealthier and nobler emirs were proffered and accepted as hostages, one month being allowed for the restoration of the Holy Cross and the collection of the captive Christians. When the news of this surrender became known, the unthinking crowd was moved with wrath; but the wiser folk were much rejoiced at getting so quickly and without danger what previously they had not been able to obtain in so long a time. Then the heralds made proclamation forbidding any one to insult the Turks by word or deed. No missiles were to be hurled against the walls or against the Turks if they chanced to appear on the battlements. On that day, when these famous Turks, of such wonderful valour and warlike excellence, began strolling about on the city walls in all their splendid apparel, previous to their departure [our men] gazed on them with the utmost curiosity. They were wonder-struck at the cheerful features of men who were leaving their city almost penniless and whom only the very sternest necessity had driven to beg for mercy: men whom loss did not deject, and whose visage betrayed no timidity, but even wore the look of victory. It was only their superstitious rites and their pitiful idolatry that had robbed such warriors of their strength.

At last, when all the Turks had quitted Acre, the Christians entered the city in joy and gladness, glorifying God with a loud voice and yielding Him thanks for having magnified His mercy upon them and brought redemption to His people. Thus did the kings set their banners and varied ensigns on the walls and towers ; while the city, together with all it contained in the way of victuals and arms, was equally divided between them. The captives too they reckoned up and halved by lot. To the king of France fell the noble Caracois and a great host of other folk; to king Richard, Mestoc and many more. Moreover, the king of France had the noble palace of the Templars with all its appurtenances, while the royal palace fell to king Richard, who established the two queens there with their maidens and attendants. Thus each king had his own part of the city in peace, whilst the army was distributed over its whole area, enjoying pleasant rest after so long and continuous a siege. On the night that followed our entry, Saladin retreated with his army from the place where he had camped and settled on a more distant hill.

On the day of its surrender the city had been in the hands of the Saracens four years. It was surrendered, as has been already said, on the morrow of the translation of St. Benedict. But not without horror could the conquerors see the condition of the churches within the city; nor can they even now remember the shameful sights they witnessed there unmoved. What faithful Christian could with tearless eyes, sec the holy features of the crucified Son of God, or even of the saints, dishonoured and defiled ? Who would not shudder when he actually saw the insulting way in which the accursed Turks had overthrown the altars, torn clown and battered the holy crosses? Ay, and they had even set up their own images of Mahomet in the holy places, introducing foul Mahommedan superstitions, after casting out all the symbols of human redemption and the Christian religion.

[pp. 124-127]

1191, August. Bing Richard’s negotiations with Saladin and the injustice of them.

Itin. Ric. iv., I.
King Richard now distributed gold and silver in great abundance to the French knights and to the strangers of every nation, by means of which they recruited their strength and redeemed their pledges. Moreover, while the king of France was hastening home, king Richard was paying heed to the repair of the city walls, building them higher and stronger than before. He himself was always making the round of them, encouraging the workmen and masons, just as if his sole business were to regain God’s heritage. He was still awaiting the end of the time fixed upon between himself and the Turks, occupying himself in the meanwhile with collecting his mangonels and baggage ready for carrying them away. After the period agreed upon for the return of the Holy Cross and the captives had been overpassed by three weeks to see if Saladin would keep his word; when the Saracens kept demanding a further delay, the Christians began to enquire when the Holy Cross was coming. One said “Already has the Cross come!” another said: “It has been seen in the Saracens’ army.” But each was deceived, for Saladin was not even setting about its restoration, nay, he neglected the hostages, in the hope that he would get better terms if he kept it in his possession. And all the while he kept sending frequent presents and envoys, while he made it his aim to waste time in long talks and ambiguous words.

Meanwhile word was sent to the marquis at Tyre bidding him return to the [main] army, and bring with him the hostages the king of France had left in his charge. On his arrival he was to receive his share of the ransom, viz., the king of France’s half. On this mission were sent the bishop of Salisbury, earl Robert [of Leicester], and Peter de Préaux, a very excellent knight [Aug. 5, 1911]. To them the marquis made reply that he would not come on any account—pretending that he feared to venture into king Richard’s presence. Moreover he bragged that if the Holy Cross ever was recovered he would have half for the king of France; nor was he going to resign the captives till he had got it. When soft words would not prevail, the envoys offered to leave one of their number as a hostage for his safe return; but not even so would he agree, sweating with an oath that he would never go. So the envoys returned having effected nothing, and the king was very wroth.

Yet at the king’s request the duke of Burgundy, Drogo de Amiens, and Robert de Quenci were despatched on a second mission; for in that he was a claimant for the kingdom the marquis’s presence seemed necessary, notwithstanding all his slackness in the efforts made for its conquest. It was also wished that he should give facilities to those sailing with victuals by way of Tyre ; for after his wonted fashion the marquis had been hindering their arrival. When the envoys prayed him in king Richard’s name to come to his help in Syria—a country over which he hoped to rule—he replied arrogantly that he would never come, but would stay and look after his own city; At last after long discussions it was agreed that the three envoys should take back the Saracen hostages to king Richard.

When the term was far overpast and it was evident that Saladin was not going to redeem the hostages, a council of the chiefs was called, at which it was declared useless to wait any longer. Orders were then given to cut off the heads of the hostages with the exception of a few of the nobler prisoners, who perhaps might yet be relieved or exchanged for captive Christians. King Richard, always eager to destroy the Turks, to confound the law of Mahomet utterly, and vindicate that of Christ, on the Friday after the Assumption bade 2,700 Turkish hostages to be led out of the city and beheaded. Nor was there any delay. The king’s followers leapt forward eager to fulfil the commands, and thankful to the Divine Grace that permitted them to take such a vengeance for those Christians whom these very [captives] had slain with bolts and arrows. When evening came on the herald made proclamation that the army should proceed on the morrow and cross the river of Acre advancing, in the name of God the giver of all good things, on the way to Ascalon, conquering the coast as they went. So they put on board ship ten days’ provisions for the army, to wit, bread, biscuit, flour, flesh, and wine. Strict orders were given to the seamen that they were to sail along shore with their cargo-vessels and smacks. These, carrying victuals and armed men, were to keep close to the army that marched by land. So the army proceeded in two battalions, one going by sea, the other by land; for in no other way could they possess themselves of the land occupied by the Turks.

[pp. 144-148]

On the third day [Sept. 3] the army proceeded from the Dead River slowly over a waste and empty land. On this day the army was forced to journey along the hills because they could not make any way along the coast, as it was obstructed with grass which flourished in greatest luxuriance. The army marched in closer array than usual, the Templars still bringing up the rear. And on this day the Templars lost so many horses from the attacks of the Turks, that they were almost in despair. The count of St. Pol also lost very many horses there; and truly so great was his valour on that day in guarding the line of march that he gained exceeding great favour and applause of the whole people. On the same day was king Richard wounded with a spear in the side whilst slaughtering the Turks. Yet did this light wound serve rather to excite him against the enemies, by making him more eager to avenge the pain he suffered. Wherefore he fought right fiercely throughout the whole day, vigorously driving back the Turks as they came on.

The Turks, pertinaciously keeping alongside of our army, strove to work us all the harm they could, by hurling darts and arrows thick as rain. Alas ! how many horses fell down here pierced through with darts; how many, being once severely wounded, died a little later on. Aye, and so thickly fell the rain of darts and arrows there that you could not find so much as four feet of earth all along the army’s route entirely without them. This grievous tempest overhung us all the day until, as night came up, the Turks drew off to their own tents; whilst our folk pitched theirs near a certain water called the Salt River, and there abode two days. It was on the Tuesday after St. Giles’ day [i.e. Sept. 3] that they arrived here. At this place there was no small run upon the bodies of the fat horses that had died of their wounds; and the people in their greedy contention for the right of purchasing the flesh—though at a high price—came to blows. Upon this the king proclaimed, by voice of an herald, that he would give a live horse to anyone who would divide his dead steed among the most valiant of the needy men at arms. And so men ate horse flesh as though it were the flesh of deer, and, having hunger to season it instead of sauces, they deemed it a most pleasant food.

On the third day [i.e. Thursday, Sept. 5] about the third hour the army proceeded in ordered ranks from the Salt River; for there was a rumour the Turks were lying in wait for them in the forest of Arsuf. This wood it was said they were going to burn so as to prevent our men from passing through it; who however, issuing unharmed, chanced on a pleasant plain near the river that is commonly called Rochetailie. Here they pitched tents for the night, and the scouts who were sent out brought back news that an innumerable host of Turks, reckoned at 300,000, covered the face of the whole land, and awaited our coming at no great distance The Christian army did not exceed 100,000. It was on the Thursday [i.e. Sept. 5] before the Nativity of the Blessed Mary that [our] army came to the river Rochetailie; where it tarried the next day.

On Saturday [Sept. 7] the eve of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary, at earliest dawn all prepared themselves most carefully as though the Turks were going to attack immediately; for they knew the enemy to have forestalled our path, and that the insolence of the Turks would not abate before a very severe contest had taken place. Indeed the Turks were already setting their men in order, and always drawing a little nearer. For this reason all our men looked to their own affairs very carefully, and the ranks were ranged with the utmost precaution. King Richard, who was very skilful in military matters, drew up the squadrons according to a special scheme, arranging who had better lead the vanguard, and who bring up the rear. With this intent he appointed twelve squadrons; and arranged [his whole army] into five battalions, assigning to each men of great skill in warfare—warriors whose betters were not to be found on earth had their hearts only been firmly staid in God. On this day the Templars led the first rank; after them went the Bretons and the men of Anjou in due order; next went king Guy with the men of Poitou; in the fourth rank were the Normans and the English, with the royal banner under their charge. Last of all went the Hospitallers in due rank. This last array of all was made up of choice knights divided into squadrons, and its members marched so close together that an apple could not be thrown to the ground without touching the men or their horses. Our army occupied the whole space between Saladin’s and the sea-shore. There might you see [the squadrons each] with its appropriate badge, banners of different forms, various ensigns, and a [whole] people full of vigour, bold and very apt at war. There was the earl of Leicester, Hugh de Gurnay, William des Barres, Walkelin de Ferrars, Roger de Tony, James de Avesnes, count Robert de Dreux and his brother the bishop of Beauvais; William des Barres, William de Guarlande, Drogo de Merle, and very many of his kin. Count Henry of Champagne kept guard on the side of the mountains: as did also the followers on foot. Last of all were drawn up the bowmen and the crossbow-men closing the rear. The packhorses and wagons carrying provisions, baggage, &c., journeyed between the army and the sea so as to be safe from attack.

Thus did the army advance at a gentle pace so as to guard against separation; for, if loosely scattered, the battalions would be less able to resist the enemy. King Richard and the duke of Burgundy with a choice train of knights went hither and thither, to right and left, observing the position and bearing of the Turks, that they might regulate the course of the army according to circumstances. And indeed their watchfulness was very necessary.

The third hour was now drawing on, when lo ! a host of Turks, 10,000 in numbers, swept rapidly down upon our men, hurling darts and arrows, and making a terrible din with their confused cries. After these came running up a race of daemons very black in colour; for which cause, because they are black, they are not unfittingly called the negro pack (nigreduli).