Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saladin Book 11. The English Lion Retreats

“When faced with a greater force, divide them up and defeat them separately.”…Sun Tzu

Kings Richard and Philip argue over leadership of the Crusade

The next morning, I had Prince Nassur dressed in his best finery and sent him with a golden encased message for the Crusaders of Acre. In it, we addressed Richard as “most valiant rival of the Empire and SOLE Guardian of Acre”. Upon seeing this, the normally calm King of France was livid.

Hath he not been the man to plan the fall of Acre? Could Richard have won alone? Philip asked. Then, Richard reached back and argued how much more valor he showed than Philip during the war. This was true for Richard fought from the front, while Philip preferred to control war strategy from behind where he could have full view. Philip called Richard “a mere strategy” not worthy of leadership or generalship, while Richard called Philip a coward to his face.

Soon, the French knights, who outnumbered the English, rose to Philip’s defense, but Ivanhoe rose to protect his own lord. The ten French knights did not dare to lift a finger against Richard’s champion. The tension between England and France had always existed. That I learned well…all I did was to light the powder keg.

Now, the situation between the Crusaders worsened. Some of the knights fought each other in skirmishes in Acre itself. Even some of the merchants began to take sides. The Venetian merchants sided with the English, while the Genoese with the French. One day, the Visitor of Acre, a Frenchman, was murdered, and the French knights claimed it was Ivanhoe, but the English said this was impossible, for Ivanhoe’s reputation was beyond reproach.

I even sent Nassur for a second visit, this time to reconcile between our English and French “friends.” While the English welcomed us, the French did not, calling Nassur a heathen to his face. Nassur politely excused himself and left the Crusaders to their own feuding.

When Nassur returned, some of my generals urged me to attack Acre, for it was falling a part, but I said no. “Why battle them when they are doing that job for us themselves?” So the condition in Acre remained worse, and one day, Philip had had enough of Richard, so he ordered most of the French army to return to Paris.

Richard was triumphant for a while, but soon, he learned that trouble was brewing in Europe. Philip was invading his possessions in western France, while Richard’s younger brother John was trying to seize his throne in England. Unable to lose his home base, he deserted Acre and sailed back to England.

Only a small company of Englishmen led by Ivanhoe remained in Acre, and also some French and German soldiers. Even Duke Leopold of Austria, leader of the Germans, hath returned.

Richard’s fate was not so good. He was captured by Leopold, who sent him to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, his overlord, in revenge. There, Henry demanded a great ransom from the English, while sending Richard to fight with criminals and outlaws in a common den. Hundreds of outlaws came to fight him, but Richard was too great a warrior, and so he killed them all.

Finally with great difficulty and looting of the English Church, the nobles of London managed to pay Emperor Henry. As soon as Richard left, the Emperor wondered if he had made the wrong decision and send Leopold after him, but it was too late. Back in London, Richard pardoned his brother John and even made him heir. Then, he invaded France and fought against Philip.

However, in one battle at Chinon, he was shot and mortally wounded. As he lay dying, Richard asked the captured French archer to enter his room. Richard asked him, “Why did you kill me?”

To which the French archer replied, “You have slain my father and brothers. Why not?”

Upon hearing this, King Richard let the man go. Philip managed to reconquer western France, and John reigned despotically in England. And that was how the English lion’s life came to an end.

In the meantime, I marched out to face the Crusaders of Acre. Then, he whispered the words of wisdom from the Chinese war philosopher Sun Tzu to Nassur, “It is the most noble war…to win without fighting.”

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