Royal History | Letter From King Richard I of England To His Mother Eleanor Of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine is a very intriguing women who not only was married to a king but two of them! She first married Louis VII of France in 1137 AD and then later King Henry II of England. In today’s post I am going to share a letter that her son King Richard I of England wrote her while being held captive during his third crusade in 1193.

King Richard I of England was being held captive while in the Byzantium empire and mostly stayed at  Dürnstein Castle under the care of Leopold of Austria’s ministerialis Hadmar of Kuenring but was moved in the May of 1193. He was imprisoned at Trifels Castle by Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Richard faced Henry’s animosity for his support of the Plantagenet’s support of Henry the Lion Heart’s claim to Sicily. It is not clear from which castle that year he wrote his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine; however, the letter is very interesting because it shows that even while being held captive, the welfare of England was well on Richard’s mind. The letter shows who he wants named as Archbishop of Canterbury and also his thoughts of how to be liberated and returned to England.


Letter Addressed to Eleanor from King Richard I of England. Date: 1193.


Richard writes from captivity expressing his gratitude to his mother for her loyal and effective regency and requesting her action in the naming of his candidate as archbishop of Canterbury. He also alerts her to the oral message he is sending by a messenger. Richard also wrote to his justiciars in England about the same matter, but emphasizing Hubert’s activities for God and Christianity in the East.


Richard, by the grace of God king of Angliae, etc. to his revered lady and dearest mother Eleanor, by that same grace queen of England, greeting and all the happiness that a devoted son can desire for his mother.

First to God and then to your serenity, sweetest mother, we give thanks as we can, though we can not suffice to actions so worthy of thanks, for your loyalty to us and the faithful care and diligence you give to our lands for peace and defense so devotedly and effectively. Indeed we have learned a lot and partly we also know that through the mercy of God and your counsel and help the defense of our lands is and will be in great part provided. For your prudence and discretion is the greatest cause of our land remaining in a peaceful state until our arrival.

Now, however, dearest mother, we transmit to your benevolence our dearest one, the venerable man Hubert bishop of Salisbury. He, as the whole world knows, gives such service to us and to all Christianity that it can in no way be recounted. He has also borne many labors and expenses in the Roman curia for our liberation and taken a very strenuous and dangerous journey to us in Germany. We had fully recognized his loyalty and the love of a constant spirit with which he embraced us before but now [we recognize it] most fully from the faithful work and fervent diligence which he gave so affectionately and effectively for our liberation with the emperor and princes of the empire. And since we are certain that his promotion will hasten our liberation and strengthen the defense of our lands, we wish to promote him to the church of Canterbury. Our will is for him and against any other.

Dearest mother, with all possible entreaty of devotion, we beg you that as you love us you take care to hasten his promotion in the Canterbury church with all speed. This is the only business, after the business of our liberation, that we commit to you to press for. With me as witness at Speier, 30 March. In the words which William of St. Mary [S.Mere l’Eglise] will speak to you on these matters, you may have faith. Same witness.


Richard I (The Yale English Monarchs Series) second edition by John Gillingham is a very highly rated and reviewed biography on all English Monarchs. The particular book’s synopsis is as follows: Neither a feckless knight-errant nor a king who neglected his kingdom, Richard I was in reality a masterful and businesslike ruler. In this wholly rewritten version of a classic account of the reign of Richard The Lionheart, John Gillingham scrutinizes the reasons for the King’s fluctuating reputation over successive centuries and provides a convincing new interpretation of the significance of the reign. This edition includes a complete annotation and expanded bibliography.



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