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“Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: Richard the Lionheart Proposes that His Sister Marry Saladin’s Brother al-Adil October 20, 2011

Posted by rwf1954 in al-Adil, crusades, history, medieval period, Middle Ages, Richard the Lionheart, Safadin, Saladin, the crusades, third crusade.
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(This post is the 39th of what will be approximately 70 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.) 


In one of the more bizarre moves of the “Third Crusade,” a move that belongs in the “truth-stranger-than-fiction” category, 820 years ago today Richard the Lionheart proposed that his sister, Joan, recent widow of the king of Sicily, marry al-Adil, Saladin’s brother, and that the two jointly rule a territory that would include Jerusalem. After all, that is how many disputes were resolved inEurope. And negotiations between the forces commanded by Richard the Lionheart and Saladin had stalled. Little of substance toward a settlement had occurred between the negotiators. On October 17th, Richard sent his own heart-felt almost naïve letter spelling out how much both sides had suffered, and how since Jerusalem meant more to Christians than to Muslim, the parties should resolve the conflict along Richard’s terms.

Saladin sent back a quick, polite reply—Richard’s personal appeal had not been persuasive. So Richard followed with this creative proposal of a unifying marriage. Saladin and his brother and advisers needed to decide on a response.

Saladin was brilliant in assessing the situation accurately, then crafting the perfect response. The key was Saladin’s understanding that this proposal was not serious. What of the Kingdom of Jerusalem Guy/Conrad issue? Were they just going to be left out of any settlement? Was this Richard’s attempt to signal his seriousness about an ultimate settlement, and to provoke a meaningful counterproposal? Whatever it was, Saladin’s understanding of its lack of seriousness guided him to his masterful response—simple—he accepted the proposal.

Now Richard had a dilemma on his hands. He brought the matter to his sister Joan—he hadn’t discussed this with her before making the proposal. She angrily refused the idea. She was not going to marry a Muslim! Richard had to go back to Saladin’s negotiators and explain the problem. But there was an easy solution for Richard to propose. Al-Adil could convert to Christianity. Obviously, this was not an easy solution at all. The Muslims quickly dismissed this idea. Though Richard mentioned getting the Pope’s permission for one of his nieces to marry a Muslim, the whole idea fizzled, confirming Saladin’s original conclusion that Richard’s proposal was never serious.

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

December 25th – Richard the Lionheart Feasts at Christmas

December 31st – Shipwreck at Acre; Muslim Defenders Lose Resupply

January 5th – A Wall Comes Down, Presenting an Opportunity

January 20th – Frederick of Swabia Dies; Leopold of Austria Becomes Top-Ranked German Royalty at Acre

February 2nd – A Playful “Joust” Gets Out of Hand in Sicily

February 13th – Saladin’s Forces Relieve the Garrison at Acre

March 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Settles the Alice Marriage Controversy—Sort Of

March 30th – Philip II Leaves Sicily; Berengeria Arrives

April 10th – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Sicily for “Outremer”

April 20th – Philip II of France Lands at Acre

April 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Lands at Rhodes After His Fleet Scatters

May 1st – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Rhodes to Rescue His Sister and Fiancée

May 8th – Richard the Lionheart and His Troops Storm Limassol

May 11th – Crusaders Opposed to Conrad Visit Richard the Lionheart on Cyprus

May 12th – Richard the Lionheart Marries Princess Berengeria

May 30th – Fighting Intensifies at Acre

June 5th – Richard Leaves Famagusta for the Eastern Mediterranean Coast/Saladin Moves his Camp

June 6th – Richard the Lionheart Refused Admittance to Tyre

June 8th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Acre

June 11th – Saladin’s Relief Ship Sinks

June 25th – Conrad of Montferrat Leaves Acre; Saladin’s Receives Reinforcements

July 12th – Acre Surrenders

July 31st – Philip II of France Makes a Promise and Leaves for Home

August 2nd – Envoys Discuss Acre Surrender Terms

August 11th – Date for the First Installment of the Acre Ransom Ends in Stalemate

August 20th – Richard the Lionheart Orders the Executions of the Acre Hostages

August 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Acre to Move South Toward Jerusalem

September 5th – Richard the Lionheart Meets with Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

September 7th – Christian Forces Win the Battle of Arsuf

September 11th – Saladin Gives the Command to Dismantle Ascalon

Sepember 29th – Saladin’s Troops Nearly Take Richard the Lionheart Prisoner

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


1. Ummer Farooq (@faro0485) - December 28, 2013

I think that Richard’s proposal actually was serious, it was just that his sister was stuck on the idea that she was subservient to the pope.
Which under John was not the case. http://old.nationalreview.com/derbyshire/derbyshire101201.shtml

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