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“Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: Richard the Lionheart Feasts at Christmas December 25, 2010

Posted by rwf1954 in history, medieval period, Richard the Lionheart, Sicily, third crusade, Uncategorized.
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(This post is the eighth of an occasional series of posts following 820th anniversary highlights of what history now calls the “third crusade.” My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells the story of this legendary clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.)


As long as he was stuck in Sicily for the winter, Richard the Lionheart figured he might as well enjoy himself, especially at Christmas. After all, he certainly had the resources to put out a nice spread after his settlement with Tancred. (See the post Richard the Lionheart Signs a Treaty with King Tancred of Sicily). What a contrast this feast made with the horrible conditions for Christians fighting to take Acre—Richard would receive criticism for his slow progress and comfortable circumstances at Mediterranean locations while Christians starved besieging Saladin’s forces.

At Richard’s invitation, King Philip of France attended the feast along with a considerable entourage. They were joined by high-ranking Sicilian nobles. The feast took place at Mategriffun Castle, built despite local opposition. (“Mategriffun” meant “griffun killers;” “griffun” was the term used to describe local Sicilians.)

An abundance of food served on gold and silver plates ensured that no one would leave this Christmas hungry. At the end, to top it off, Richard gave generous gifts to his guests.

The joyous mood of the occasion was marred when drunken Pisans and Genoans attacked guards at Richard’s ships, perhaps planning to take some Christmas gifts of their own. Richard and his troops, possibly with help from Philip, repelled the attack but with casualties on both sides.

Just before this Christmas feast, Richard had undertaken a dramatic act of penitence at a local chapel. Bishops at the ceremony communicated God’s forgiveness for his sins, and the generous Christmas feast was the first step Richard took to show gratitude for God’s forbearance.

Richard would remain a “guest” in Sicily, keeping his promise to remain in Sicily throughout the winter. But his stay there would not pass without a few more dramatic episodes.

Previous 820th Anniversary Posts:

July 4th – The 820th Anniversary of the Launch of the “Third Crusade”

October 4th – Richard the Lionheart Sacks Messina

November 3rd – Queen Sibylla Dies

November 11th – Richard the Lionheart Signs a Treaty with King Tancred of Sicily

November 15th – Queen Isabella’s Marriage to Humphrey of Toron is Annulled

November 19th – Archbishop of Canterbury Dies

November 24th – Conrad of Montferrat Marries Queen Isabella

To review a comprehensive catalog of historical fiction set during the medieval time period, go to http://www.medieval-novels.com:80/.


1. Gabriele - December 25, 2010

I wish you a Merry Christmas, undisturbed by Genoan pirates. 🙂

rwf1954 - December 28, 2010

A belated Merry Christmas to you as well. And, no Genoan pirates (or Pisans or Venetians) showed up, but we did have Christmas eve dinner with my brother and his in-laws, Italians who served an enormous amount of great food!

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