King Richard's Ballad

This haunting and plaintive ballad has long been attributed to Richard I of England. It was written when King Richard was imprisoned and held for ransom when he was returning from the Third Crusade. Here are the words (translated from the Old French in which they were written):

"Indeed no captive can tell his story truly, unless it be sadly.

But with an effort he can express the sadness in song.

I have many friends, but their gifts are poor.

They show me no honour, if for want of a ransom,

I am held prisoner here for two more winters."


In case your history is a little rusty:

(who's isn't?)

Richard I, known as the Lion-Hearted, b. Sept. 8, 1157, d. Apr. 6, 1199, king of England (1189-99), was the third son of Henry II and Elanor of Aquitaine. Renowned as a Crusader and gallant knight, Richard neglected his kingdom, allowing his ministers to rule in his stead (the evil Prince John of Robin Hood movies). Said to be immature and petulant by historians, he excelled primarily in fighting. Before becoming king, Richard was often at war with his father and brothers, and he spent all but six months of his reign outside of England campaigning or in captivity. Battle leader of the Third Crusade, Richard was shipwrecked near Venice on his return in 1192 and imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria. Leopold turned Richard over to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, who released him in February 1194 only after a huge ransom had been pledged.

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