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The Illnesses of King Richard and King Philippe on the Third Crusade: An Understanding of arnaldia and leonardie

ByThomas Gregor Wagner, Piers D. Mitchell

The crusade of King Richard I of England and Philippe Augustus II of France was ill-fated. In 1191, after just a few days of intense fighting before the walls of Acre, both kings fell ill from an enigmatic illness known in Latin as arnaldia and in French as leonardie. For weeks both Richard and Philippe were close to the brink of death, before they finally recovered. In the summer of 1192 another epidemic struck the crusader army and Richard again became dangerously ill – this time with a malady referred to as febris emitritea. For nearly three months his condition was so serious that once again his men feared for his life. At this point Richard had to abandon his plan to capture the Christian holy sites, for Jerusalem was out of the reach of a king lying on a sickbed. After he had made peace with Saladin, Richard immediately returned to Haifa to receive medical treatment. He left the Holy Land in October 1192 and it is likely that his impaired health had been a major factor influencing his return to Europe at that time. The present article describes Richard and Philippe’s crusade in terms of the diseases and the medical treatment received. This approach shows how campaigning, especially during long sieges, predisposed the crusaders to sickness. In particular, the illness known as arnaldia or leonardie is investigated in an attempt to identify its place in twelfth-century medical thought. These two terms have intrigued historians, who have been attempting to identify their meaning for over three hundred years.1