As we have already said, the history of our region is also a bit German and European history. They met again when the Hohenstaufen dynasty ruled in the Holy Roman Empire, and Richard the Lionheart was king of England.
It was Henry VI who held Richard captive for a long time. He only released him when Richard’s mother Alienor of Aquitaine delivered the huge ransom. Richard also had to send hostages, among them was his nephew Otto, later king Otto IV.
Yet, Richard had impressed the German nobility. Cologne welcomed mother and son with great celebrations and accompanied them to England. From now on, the city of Cologne maintained good relations with England and enjoyed trade privileges.
Richard I Lionheart and Otto
Richard and Otto were very close. Otto’s mother was Richard’s sister Matilda Plantagenet, his grandparents on the mother’s side were Alienor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. His father was Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. When the duke was exiled in 1182, he went with his family to the Angevine court. Otto, a boy back then, grew up in the Anglo-Norman culture. His first mother tongue was probably French. Richard was very fond of his nephew, took personally care of his education and later knighted him. Similarly, Otto put all his heart in fighting for Richard against the King of France, Philippe Augustus.
After the sudden death of emperor Henry VI 1197, the majority of the German princes elected his younger brother Philip of Swabia. However, a minority group of princes around the Archbishop of Cologne did not want another Hohenstaufen ruler. So the Archbishop searched for another candidate. Now Richard suggested Otto as candidate for the throne. He loved his nephew and wanted the best for him, and he had certainly not forgotten his imprisonment in Germany.
While the Hohenstaufen emperors represented the medieval empire’s glory, Otto had an undeserved bad press for a long time. Yet, he was a bright man and a brave, capable warrior, after all Richard I Lionheart had taught him. Unlike his own father or the Hohenstaufen emperors, he did not give orders to destroy entire cities to punish them for rebellion.