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Richard's journey home: 1192-1194

Richard I sails for home from the third crusade in September 1192. His ship runs on to rocks in the Adriatic, near Trieste. With four companions he continues northwards in disguise, for fear of being seized for ransom.

The disguise fails to serve its purpose. In an inn near Vienna the king is recognized. He is taken before the Babenberg duke of Austria, who unfortunately considers his honour to have been slighted by Richard in an incident at Acre in the previous year. He imprisons Richard in his castle of Dürrenstein on the Danube before handing him over to Henry VI, the German king and Holy Roman emperor.

In Europe's game of feudal politics Richard has often supported opponents of the German king. Henry now makes the most of the lucky accident of having Richard in captivity. He keeps him in a succession of castles. English uncertainty as to Richard's whereabouts prompts the story of Blondel, the faithful troubadour who sings half a favourite song below various castle walls until the sound of the other half from inside reveals that he has found his man.

After a year of ruthless bargaining, Henry VI finally releases his prisoner for a massive ransom and an embarrassing oath of loyalty as Henry's vassal.

Much of the ransom of 150,000 marks (or 100,000) is paid before Richard is released in February 1194, and nearly the entire total is eventually handed over. It is raised in England by a special tax, levying 1 on each knight's fee together with a quarter of the value of all rents and movable goods.

At home Richard has himself crowned for the second time (on this occasion at Winchester), as if to refresh his royal dignity. But even now England sees little of its wayward king. Within a month he is off to defend Normandy against the French. In the remaining five years of his life he never once comes back across the Channel.