Although he was king of England, Crusader Richard the Lionheart spent very little time in England — and did not, in fact, speak English. He grew up at his mother’s court in Aquitane, in Southern France. All in all, Richard spent only six months of his 10-year reign in England.
In 1199, he was shot by a crossbow bolt while besieging the castle of Chalus-Chabrol. The wound became toxic and he died, leaving his kingdom to his brother John (who later signed the Magna Carta).
Richard wanted his entrails buried at Chalus and his body buried at the foot of his father’s tomb in Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou. His heart he bequeathed to the city of Rouen, which had always remained faithful to him.
After the Funeral: Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses reports that “His exceptionally large heart was encased in a silver casket.” That casket was donated to ransom St. Louis from the Saracens in 1250. The heart it had contained disappeared for centuries, then turned up in 1838 in a lead box marked, “Hic jacet cor Ricardi Regis Anglorum.”
If all that is true, I’m not sure what actually lies in the tomb in Rouen’s Cathedral de Notre-Dame. Its inscription reads, “Hic cor conditum est Ricardi Anglorum Regis qui Cor Leonis dictus.” Roughly, that’s “Here lies the heart of the English king Richard, called Lionheart.”
The tomb looks like a medieval grave, complete with the clean-shaven monarch resting his crowned head on a stone pillow, broken sword lying on his breast, and his feet against a crouching lion. I believe that signifies he died in battle. It’s a wonderful old-fashioned monument, whatever lies within.
The effigy where his body lies at Fontevraud shows him as bearded. You can see the photo comparison here.
My review of After the Funeral is here.
Other Rouen gravesites on Cemetery Travel:
Cemetery of the Week #23: Aître Saint Maclou
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