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The Myth

A fanciful tale relates the reason for Richard’s attack on Chalus in the first place was because a peasant, while tilling his master’s field uncovered a rich treasure. Described as a cache of gold and silver coins or by other accounts a gold sculpture featuring a Roman Emperor seated around a table with his family. It was presumed to have been buried by a Roman noble retreating from Gaul centuries before in hope of returning to retrieve it. Discovered on crown land it was a prize by right to be submitted to the servant”s lord and then to the king in return for gratuity. But Count Aymar of Angouleme, refusing to surrender the windfall to Richard, had entrusted the cache to be guarded by the castellan of Chalus, Viscount Ademar. So it had come to this: the Siege of Chalus.

In advance, Ademar had sent a messenger pleading for relief from his overlord while Count Aymar subsequently appealed to King Philippe in Paris. No help arrived: Chalus was doomed. Richard led a sizeable army on campaign far more than was necessary to bring Chalus into the fold. He offered the customary terms of surrender which was refused. This act of defiance rendered the defenders lives forfeit. Richard would brook no insult. He set his sappers to task undermining the wall in order to create a breach. Chalus was not a stout castle but more of a fortified manor with a few knights and about forty inhabitants. Reducing the fort to rubble was just a matter of time. Then tragedy struck.

Since no such hoard was ever recovered we have to relegate this anecdote to one concocted after Richard’s death to stain his reputation with the blight of avarice.

Undoubtedly King Richard would have marched on Angouleme after laying waste to Chalus as a punitive measure for sedition. Philippe Augustus, the King of France, had been a thorn in his side these last few years inciting Richard’s vassals to rebellion with the promise of benefits in exchange for fealty. Philippe was waiting in the wings for an opportunity to realize his dream of uniting the counties of France under one banner; the Fleur-delys.


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