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800 Hundred Years Ago Today...

Poster: Duane Moore <poetamilitarus@yahoo.com>

Gentle Friends,
Eight hundred years ago today outside the castle of Chalus-Charbrol,
Richard I of England, called Coeur-de-Lion was shot by a bolt from a
crossbow, and mortally wounded. He died on April 7, 1199 at the age 42.
Richard died while engaged in a siege against the Viscount de Limoges,
one of his rebellious Aquitainian vassals. Always restless he had donned
a simple "iron cap" and, protected only by a large shield was firing one
of his own crossbows at the defenders. One contemporary account claims
that he was applauding the courage and aim of the enemy archery, and
because of his joyous raising and clapping of hands, was unable to duck
in time to avoid the fatal bolt, which after lodging itself in his
shoulder, turned gangrenous.  

Richard was more than simply King of England. He inherited a vast
expanse of land from his father Henry I now known as the Angevin Empire.
He was poet, crusader, and king and in many ways exemplified the model
knight of his day.

Several years ago I composed a Sirventes for Richard, detailing some of
his more famous exploits as Duke of Aquitaine. I thought today was a
most appropriate time to re-visit it.

For God and the Lion-Heart, I remain,
Bryce de Byram

music & lyrics:
Bryce de Byram

Hear now the might of our good duke;
great castles he has battered down,
and traitors duly has rebuked,
and fired their rebellious towns;
in flames his vengeance he has took.

Ask Count Raymond, that thief so foul,
who captured knights of old Henri;
those pilgrims held against the vow
that christen prince holds to the See,
and that our duke could not allow.

At Taillebourge that fortress strong
he stormed the gates by valor won
the pride of traitorous de Rancon.
In just three days it was undone.
The spoils went to the conquering son.

In battle, siege, or in tourney
his harness glitters on the field.
What joy it gives the heart to see
the lion painted on his shield
as all before him turn and flee.

No other knight may boast such fame,
nor wear the ring of Valerie;
no grander line, no greater name,
no bolder feats of bravery
than Richard, Duke of Aquitaine.

God grant good fortune unto him,
and to the one who sings this song;
his love and favor keep him in;
his reign be bright, his life be long,
and keep him from the ways of sin.

 Sirventes ( ANC. Fr.-"the servant") were one form of Troubadour poetry
that served as commentary on current events and could praise the subject
or sarcastically rebuke him. This sirventes,  would have been written by
my persona shortly after coming into Richard’s service.  It details the
not only the "rough rider" style of government required of a powerful
feudal overlord in the twelfth century, but tells a specific story as
well. Before Richard Coeur-de-Lion was king of England, he was duke of
Aquitaine, that rebellious and vast land he inherited from his mother,
Eleanor. After one of many rebellions Richard fought against his father,
Henry I, Richard was, as a requirement of reconciliation, to crush the
very vassals he had led against his father. This cunning tactic of 
Henry would haunt his son for the rest of his life, and indeed, cost
Richard his life as he died years later, while still trying to subdue
one of  those rebellious rebel vassals.

	 Count Raymond of Toulouse was one of the many nobles who can to blows
with the Angevins, and the capture of two of Henry’s household on the
way back from the shrine of St. James gave Richard the ability to  wage
a successful campaign, under the guise of defending the Truce of God.
(The Anvegin house actually claimed to be overlord of Toulouse, and this
battle was only one in a long standing feud.) 

	Richard was famous, in his day for the successful sieges he conducted(a
important trait to find in a Duke of Aquitaine) and none was more famous
than his taking of Taillebourge, the "impenetrable" castle of Geoffery
de Rancon.

	I have included a bit of Anvegin trivia in the song, with the mention
of St. Valerie’s ring, the ancient symbol of ducal power, and indeed the
ties between the duke and his people, and the people and their saint.

	Finally I have chosen to end the song with a often employed device in a
sirventes, the duel praise of the overlord, combined with the appeal for
succor from his man, the troubadour.

"Many fierce bulls surround me...They open their mouths against me,
 lions that rend and roar,...Many dogs surround me;
 a pack of evildoers closes in on me...
But you, Lord, do not stay far off;my strength, come quickly to help me.
 Deliever me from the sword,my forlorn life from the teeth of the dog. 
Save me from the lion's mouth, my poor life from the horns of the wild bulls. 
All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the Lord!From Psalm 22
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