powered by AFI
In 1192, England's King Richard the Lion-Hearted is leading the united European Christian nations in the Third Crusade to drive the Mohammedans from the Holy Land and recover the Holy Sepulchre. Richard's allies are King Philip of France, Archduke Leopold of Austria, Sir Giles Amaury, who is Grand Master of an order of unchivalrous knights called the Castelains, and the wealthy Venetian who is financing the Crusade, Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat. Despite their show of solidarity, there is much intrigue and plotting against Richard. At their camp on the Plains of Jaffa, Richard publicly acknowledges the courage and loyalty of his Scottish bodyguard, Sir Kenneth of Huntington, who confesses that he is loyal to Richard, but not to England. Later, when an assassin shoots Richard with a poisoned arrow, Kenneth correctly guesses that Giles and Conrad, rather than the enemy Saracens, are behind the murder attempt, but Richard refuses to believe ill of his comrades. As the physicians are unable to counteract the poison that is slowly killing him, Richard's wife, Queen Berengaria, and his cousin, Lady Edith, announce plans to go on a pilgrimage to a convent across the desert. Richard sends Kenneth to protect the caravan, but orders the lowborn knight not to pursue his romance with the noble Edith. Riding ahead of the caravan as a scout, Kenneth encounters a Saracen, with whom he unsuccessfully jousts. After sparing Kenneth's life, the Saracen takes him to an oasis, and introduces himself as Emir Ilderim, an emissary and physician to the great Sultan Saladin. Fascinated by the ideals of chivalry and troubled that Saracens are being blamed for the attempted assassination of Richard, Ilderim offers to help restore Richard`s health, asking in return that Richard personally settle the outcome of the Crusade with Saladin by a fair and chivalrous, man-to-man fight. Three Castelains from the caravan, who have been ordered by Giles to kill Kenneth, ride up and fight both Ilderim and Kenneth, but Ilderim slays all three. After Kenneth introduces Ilderim to Richard, the king, who knows Saladin is a man of integrity, agrees to Ilderim's offer, and the Saracen mixes medicines using a special diamond talisman, while keeping an appreciative eye on Edith, who is assisting him. Later, when the recovered and grateful Richard grants a boon to Ilderim for restoring his health, the Saracen asks for time to choose it. Kenneth becomes jealous when Ilderim proposes to Edith and abandons his guard post to see her. Richard, finding his bodyguard kissing Edith, commands that they fight in a joust to the death. The next day, during the combat, Kenneth has several opportunities to kill Richard, but refrains from striking the deathblow. Finally, Richard gets the upper hand and is about to kill Kenneth, when Ilderim intervenes, asking that the sparing of Kenneth's life be his promised boon. Richard agrees, but strips Kenneth of his knighthood and gives him to Ilderim as a slave. At the Saracen camp, Kenneth is treated well and learns that Ilderim is really the great Saladin. Ilderim warns Kenneth that Giles is betraying Richard and as proof, brings in a Castelain, who was found by the Saracens abandoned and near death. Because his tongue has been cut out by Giles, the Castelain must communicate by writing, but claims to be the bowman who injured Richard at Giles's orders. He further reveals that Giles plans to gain command of the army by killing Richard and then enslave the Syrian people. Disguised as a Saracen, Kenneth returns to Richard's camp and is granted a private audience. After revealing his identity, Kenneth shares the bowman's confession with Richard and reluctantly reports Saladin's offer of an alliance between Christendom and Islam in return for Edith's hand in marriage. The eavesdropping Conrad and Giles try unsuccessfully to accuse Kenneth of treachery, then Giles and the Castelains kill the men in Kenneth's Saracen entourage. Disguised as the murdered Saracens, they kidnap Edith and head for a Castelain fortress. Upon learning about the kidnapping of Edith and the death of his men, Ilderim joins Richard and Kenneth, who have gathered their men and are chasing the Castelains. At the fortress, Kenneth kills Giles on a rising drawbridge, and the Castelains are defeated. After giving his blessing, Ilderim returns to his people. Although Richard restores Kenneth's knighthood and offers him power and riches if he returns to England, Kenneth and Edith plan to marry and go to Scotland.