Richard I “the Lionheart” (1157–1199) ruled as king of England from 1189 until 1199 and is perhaps best-known for his leadership in the Third Crusade (1189–1192).
After Pope Gregory VIII called for a crusade to capture the Holy Land from Saladin in 1187, Richard became singularly focused on reclaiming Jerusalem as a crusader state. Fervor for religious violence in England ran high in these years, leading to outbreaks of violence against non-Christians, including the murder of Jewish families who had been longtime residents in English cities and towns.
On his way to the Holy Land, Richard conquered Cyprus, and when he arrived on the coast of Syria took command of much of the crusading army. Richard and the crusader armies conquered significant areas in the Holy Land, including the city of Acre. His armies came within miles of Jerusalem, but they decided not to attack or conquer the city. In September of 1192, Richard negotiated a peace treaty with Saladin that provided protections for Christian pilgrims and merchants to move throughout Muslim-controlled Jerusalem.
Richard returned to France and fought to regain lands which had been seized from him by Philip II, the king of France. Richard later died in Normandy after a wound he sustained from a crossbow became gangrenous.
When the Chertsey combat tiles were commissioned some fifty years after Richard’s death, he was already a popular hero among the English nobility. Richard’s exploits as king and knight, particularly his history of violence against non-Christians during his reign, have earned him both fame and infamy from the Middle Ages to the present day.