Various sources over the Internet and the book I read invariably give different explanations as to what and who killed Richard the 1st.

The book I read states that the King died "having sustained blood poisoning after a crossbow bolt struck him in the shoulder" and that the King’s sister, "Joanna […] ordered the man who made the fatal shot to be flayed alive". (Jones, Dan. Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands. Viking, 2019.)

The Creative Historian states that "the arrow proved difficult to remove from his shoulder, and the necessary 'surgery' led to the wound becoming infected." (On This Day: Death of Richard the Lionheart)

Wikipedia tells a different story as to who ordered the killer to be flayed: "According to one chronicler, Richard's last act of chivalry proved fruitless when the infamous mercenary captain Mercadier had the boy flayed alive and hanged as soon as Richard died." (Flori, Jean (1999f), Richard Coeur de Lion: le roi-chevalier (in French), Paris: Biographie Payot, ISBN 978-2-228-89272-8.)

As to the identity of the killer, it seems open to debate according to French Wikipédia: "The man who made the shot was not identified with certainty and chroniclers offer conflicting accounts. Roger de Hoveden holds the knight Quercy Bertrand de Gourdon responsible, while Mathieu Paris and Raoul de Dicet claim it was a minor local noble named Pierre Basile. It could also be Jean Sabroz or Dudo. (Richard Cœur de Lion, Wikipédia, accessed on 2021-10-10).

Do historians actually know and agree on the following points?

  1. Was it the bolt or a botched surgical procedure that killed the King?
  2. Who ordered the execution of the killer?
  3. Who was the killer?
  • 1
    how can someone defending a castle who shoots at attackers of the castle and kills one or more of them be classified as a murderer?
    – MAGolding
    Oct 3, 2021 at 17:14
  • "Various sources over the Internet and the book I read invariably give different explanations as to what and who killed Richard the 1st.". Please cite your sources. The cause of death, and the identity (Pierre Basile, aka Bertram) and fate of the crossbowman, are not generally in dispute. Wikipedia's Richard I reflects this consensus. Also, see Pierre Basile for his fate. What evidence do have that points to Aliénor (Eleanor) d'Aquitaine ordering it? Oct 4, 2021 at 1:48
  • @MAGolding Changed it for "killer" to be more neutral, although it is open for debate since some sources claim he specifically targeted him to avenge his family.
    – Mat
    Oct 10, 2021 at 7:52
  • @LarsBosteen Added the sources. I got confused, I meant Joanna.
    – Mat
    Oct 10, 2021 at 7:54

1 Answer 1



According to HistoryUK and most other conventional history you will find on the internet, Richard the Lionheart died of a gangrene infection caused by being shot in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt fired by "Bertram the Archer".


It was while besieging the castle at Chalus in France that he was shot by a crossbow bolt in the shoulder. Gangrene set in and Richard ordered the archer who had shot him, to come to his bedside. The archer’s name was Bertram, and Richard gave him a hundred shillings and set him free.

King Richard died at the age of 41 from this wound. The throne passed to his brother John.


The archer that killed Richard the Lionheart had originally been pardoned by Richard, but was hanged after the death of Richard.


A sad end for the Lion-Heart, and alas, also for poor Bertram the archer. Despite the King’s pardon he was flayed alive and then hanged.

Was the bolt poisoned or was it the botched surgical procedure that killed the King?

Whilst on the internet you will likely be able to get alternative accounts and conspiracy theories, most conventional history does not mention any such thing and appears to be quite confident that a gangrene infection was the cause of death.

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