“Ja nus hons pris ne dira sa reson" - How Richard Lionheart, returning from the Third Crusade, was captured and imprisoned in Austria
“Ja nus hons pris ne dira sa reson / Adroitement, s'ensi com dolans non; / Mes par confort puet il fere chançon. / Moult ai d'amis, mes povre sont li don; / Honte en avront, se por ma reançon / Sui ces deus yvers pris.“ (King Richard I, “Ja nus hons pris“, “No man who's jailed can tell his purpose well / adroitly, as if he could feel no pain; / but to console him, he can write a song. / I've many friends, but all their gifts are poor; / they'd be ashamed to know for ransom now / two winters I've been jailed.“)
|An image from a contemporary chronicle (1196), showing Richard, on horseback and in disguise to the left, apprehended by two of Leopold’s men-at-arms.|
|Philip James de Loutherbourg: "Richard I in Palestine" (around 1800)|
The brilliant victories Richard won in the Holy Land, giving him his famous cognomen Cœur de Lion, Lionheart, did not make him exactly popular with the other jealous Christian rulers on top of it and when he decided to return to Western Europe to fight with Philip II of France over his continental possessions, the king was in a bit of a dilemma which route to take back home. Late in the year of 1192, he decided to travel more or less incognito via the Adriatic Sea and take the land route through Leopold’s Austrian domains of all the places, to reach his brother-in-law Henry the Lion’s Bavarian lands. Maybe he felt safe since a crusader who returned home was protected by canonical law, but the Cœur de Lion decided to take no further risks – legend has it that after a pirate attack on his ship ending with a confraternisation of the king and the pirate chief who put him on land near Venice with a small party disguised as merchants on November 15th. Richard arrived in Leopold’s Carinthia in December and attracted attention with his rather kingly behaviour everywhere he decided to stop by and paying with Saracen coins on top of it. Finally, in a pub in a suburb of Leopold’s capital Vienna, Richard was taken prisoner by the Duke’s men.
|Blondel de Nesle singing at Caste Dürnstein|
And more on:
Richard’s poem “Ja nus hons pris“ can be found in a bilingual version here: