Although enthroned as duke of Aquitaine in 1172, he was, like his brothers Henry and Geoffrey, discontented with his lack of authority and joined their revolt (1173-74) against their father. Later he fought (1183) against the same brothers when they intervened in support of a rebellion against Richard in Aquitaine. In 1189 he again warred with his father and defeated him, before Henry II's death brought him to the throne.
Soon after his coronation, Richard set out (1190) on the Third Crusade (see Crusades). En route he captured Messina and Cyprus and married (1191) Berengaria of Navarre. With Philip II of France, he stormed Acre. Philip then returned to France, where he began plotting against Richard with the latter's brother John. Richard remained but had to abandon his attempt to seize the strongly fortified city of Jerusalem.
After concluding a treaty with Saladin that allowed Christians access to the holy places of Jerusalem, he too started home. However, he was captured (Dec., 1192) by Leopold V of Austria, with whom Richard had quarreled on crusade, and was imprisoned in the castle of Dürnstein, where the troubadour Blondel de Nesle is supposed (by legend) to have found him. Leopold delivered Richard to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, who released him (1194) only after Richard paid an enormous ransom, raised by his English subjects, and surrendered his kingdom, receiving it back as a fief of the empire.
Richard returned (1194) briefly to England to complete the suppression of the revolt raised against him by his brother John and to raise funds. Thereafter he fought Philip in France, in the process building the famous Château Gaillard. He was killed in a minor engagement.
Richard spent only six months of his reign in England, which he was concerned with chiefly as a source of revenue, but his ministers, William of Longchamp and Hubert Walter, were able to rule the kingdom effectively by the excellent administrative system set up by Henry II and extended by them. Richard's military prowess and reputation for chivalry have made him a central figure in English romance. He appears in Sir Walter Scott's novels Ivanhoe and The Talisman.
See biographies by Philip Henderson (1958), Kate Norgate (1924, repr. 1969), and James Brundage (1974); A. L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216 (2d ed. 1955); J. T. Appleby, England without Richard, 1189-1199 (1965); Christopher Gibb, Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades (1985).