Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lion Snared

‘Leopold, Grand Duke of Austria, was the first possessor of that noble country to whom the princely rank belonged. He had been raised to the ducal sway in the German Empire on account of his near relationship to the Emperor, Henry the Stern, and held under his government the finest provinces which are watered by the Danube. His character has been stained in history on account of one action of violence and perfidy, which arose out of these very transactions in the Holy Land; and yet the shame of having made Richard a prisoner when he returned through his dominions; unattended and in disguise, was not one which flowed from Leopold's natural disposition. He was rather a weak and a vain than an ambitious or tyrannical prince. His mental powers resembled the qualities of his person. He was tall, strong, and handsome, with a complexion in which red and white were strongly contrasted, and had long flowing locks of fair hair. But there was an awkwardness in his gait which seemed as if his size was not animated by energy sufficient to put in motion such a mass; and in the same manner, wearing the richest dresses, it always seemed as if they became him not. As a prince, he appeared too little familiar with his own dignity; and being often at a loss how to assert his authority when the occasion demanded it, he frequently thought himself obliged to recover, by acts and expressions of ill-timed violence, the ground which might have been easily and gracefully maintained by a little more presence of mind in the beginning of the controversy…’

On December 20th, 1192, Austrian Duke Leopold V captured Richard I of England, the Lionheart, as he was passing through Austria.  Walter Scott covers the scene in “The Talisman”, which is set around the Third Crusade, which both Richard and Leopold fought in, and which Richard and the Sultan Saladin ended, through a treaty signed in September (2nd) of 1192.

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