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DAVID HUME, ESQ.
THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Ascalon, in order to prepare the way for that of Jerusalem; and they marched along the sea-coast with that intention. Saladin purposed to intercept their passage: and he placed himself on the road with an army, amounting to three hundred thousand combatants. On this occasion was fought one of the greatest battles of that age; and the most celebrated, for the military genius of the commanders, for the number and valor of the troops, and for the great variety of events which attended it. Both the right wing of the Christians, commanded by D'Avesnes, and the left conducted by the duke of Burgundy, were, in the beginning of the day, broken and defeated; when Richard, who led on the main body, restored the battle; attacked the enemy with intrepidity and presence of mind; performed the part both of a consummate general and gallant soldier; and not only gave his two wings leisure to recover from their confusion, but obtained a complete victory over the Saracens, of whom forty thousand are said to have perished in the field.(*) Ascalon soon after fell into the hands of the Christians: other sieges were carried on with equal success; Richard was even able to advance within sight of Jerusalem, the object of his enterprise; when he had the mortification to find that he must abandon all hopes of immediate success, and must put a stop to his career of victory. The crusaders, animated with an enthusiastic ardor for the holy wars, broke at first through all regards to safety or interest in the prosecution of their purpose; and trusting to the immediate assistance of Heaven, set nothing before their eyes but fame and victory in this world, and a crown of glory in the next. But long absence from home, fatigue, disease, want, and the variety of incidents which naturally attend war, had gradually abated that fury, which nothing was able directly to withstand; and every one except the king of England, expressed a desire of speedily returning into Europe. The Germans and the Italians declared their resolution of desisting from the enterprise: the French were still more obstinate in this purpose: the duke of Burgundy, in order to pay court to Philip, took all opportunities of mortifying and opposing Richard:(**) and there appeared an absolute necessity of abandoning for the present all hopes of further conquest, and of securing the acquisitions of the Christians by an accommodation with Saladin, Richard, therefore concluded a truce with that monarch; and stipulated that Acre, Joppa, and other seaport towns of Palestine, should remain in the hands of the Christians, and that every one of that religion should have liberty to perform his pilgrimage to Jerusalem unmolested. This truce was concluded for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours; a magical number, which had probably been devised by the Europeans, and which was suggested by a superstition well suited to the object of the war.
[* Hovelen, p. 698. Benedict. Abbas, p. 677. Diceto, p. 662 Brompton, p. 1214.]
[** Vinisauf, p. 380.]
The liberty in which Saladin indulged the Christians, to perform their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, was an easy sacrifice on his part; and the furious wars which he waged in defence of the barren territory of Judea, were not with him, as with the European adventurers, the result of superstition, but of policy, The advantage indeed of science, moderation, humanity, was at that time entirely on the side of the Saracens; and this gallant emperor, in particular, displayed, during the course of the war, a spirit and generosity, which even his bigoted enemies were obliged to acknowledge and admire. Richard, equally martial and brave, carried with him more of the barbarian character, and was guilty of acts of ferocity which threw a stain on his celebrated victories. When Saladin refused to ratify the capitulation of Acre, the king of England ordered all his prisoners, to the number of five thousand, to be butchered; and the Saracens found themselves obliged to retaliate upon the Christians by a like cruelty.(*)
[* Hoveden, p. 697. Benedict Abbas, p. 673. M. Paris, p. 115. Vinisauf, p. 846. W. Heming. p. 531.]
Saladin died at Damascus soon after concluding this truce with the princes of the crusade; it is memorable that, before he expired, he ordered his winding-sheet to be carried as a standard through every street of the city; while a crier went before, and proclaimed with a loud voice, "This is all that remains to the mighty Saladin, the conqueror of the East. " By his last will, he ordered charities to be distributed to the poor, without distinction of Jew, Christian, or Mahometan. There remained, after the truce, no business of importance to detain Richard in Palestine; and the intelligence which he received, concerning the intrigues of his brother John, and those of the king of France, made him sensible that his presence was necessary in Europe. As he dared not to pass through France, he sailed to the Adriatic; and being ship-wrecked near Aquileia, he put on the disguise of a pilgrim, with a purpose of taking his journey secretly through Germany. Pursued by the governor of Istria, he was forced out of the direct road to England, and was obliged to pass by Vienna, where his expenses and liberalities betrayed the monarch in the habit of the pilgrim; and he was arrested by orders of Leopold, duke of Austria. This prince had served under Richard at the siege of Acre; but being disgusted by some insult of that haughty monarch, he was so ungenerous as to seize the present opportunity of gratifying at once his avarice and revenge; and he threw the king into prison.
1193. The emperor, Henry VI., who also considered Richard as an enemy, on account of the alliance contracted by him with Tancred, king of Sicily, despatched messengers to the duke of Austria, required the royal captive to be delivered to him, and stipulated a large sum of money as a reward for this service. Thus the king of England, who had filled the whole world with his renown, found himself, during the most critical state of his affairs, confined in a dungeon, and loaded with irons, in the heart of Germany,(*) and entirely at the mercy of his enemies, the basest and most sordid of mankind. The English council was astonished on receiving this fatal intelligence, and foresaw all the dangerous consequences which might naturally arise from that event. The queen dowager wrote
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