By the age of 16, Richard had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father. Richard was an important Christian commander during the Third Crusade, leading the campaign after the departure of Philip II of France and achieving considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, although he finalized a peace treaty and ended the campaign without retaking Jerusalem.
Richard was born in England, where he spent his childhood. Before becoming King, however, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England. Most of his life as King was spent on Crusade, in captivity (he was captured shortly before Christmas 1192 near Vienna by Leopold of Austria and was famously ransommed off) or actively defending his lands in France. Rather than regarding his kingdom as a responsibility requiring his presence as ruler, he has been perceived as preferring to use it merely as a source of revenue to support his armies. Nevertheless, he was seen as a pious hero by his subjects. He remains one of the few kings of England remembered more commonly by his epithet than his regnal number, and is an enduring iconic figure both in England and in France.
The coat of three Lions continues to represent England on several coins, forms the basis of several emblems of English national sports teams (such as the England national football team and the team's "Three Lions" anthem) and endures as one of the most recognisable national symbols of England.
More interesting for Richard heraldically was his first Great Seal.
His Seal shows Richard on horseback, galloping to the right, as shown in the photograph here. His Shield is heavily curved and only shows one half bearing a complete Lion rampant towards the sinister (i.e. the left, according to the Shield-Bearer). Lions are usually shown rampant to the dexter unless it is face-to-face with another Lion on the other half of the Shield which, in this instance, is not shown. Equally, a boss is shown on the profile of the Shield, implying that there is another side the Shield and that the one Lion isn't just squashed into the visible half. If this Lion is not to be taken as an anomaly, Richard's Coat of Arms would only be heraldically correct as Two Lions combatant.
This idea may appear to be supported by both an eyewitness account of Richard's saddle from the Itinerary of Richard I whilst on Crusade in 1191 and by the poet William the Breton (although he wrote 30 years later). However, other contemporary examples would argue against this and simply reflect artistic license.
Either way, the Shield carried by a king of England in the equestrian figure on the Seal was shown facing away from the viewer up until Richard's father, King Henry II. It therefore cannot be used to confirm anything other than that heraldic devises of any significance were not carried on the front of the Shield. otherwise they would have been shown.
There is an argument that two Lions back-to-back (or addorsed) were more common at that time and, hence, would have lead to more ambiguity for heraldists then. There is more evidence that, at the time of the beginnings of what we now know as heraldry, heraldic beasts could be portrayed facing either way and this shown with the same Coat of Arms in what we would nowadays effectively consider as inconsistency. The saddle described in the Itinerary may simply have shown decoration rather than anything heraldic.
That both his uncle, William FitxEmpress, and his half-brother, William Longespée, used a single Lion rampant and that an upright single Lion would have fitted better onto Shields and the tall, upright banners of the time - one such description, from the Itinerary, clearly states a single Lion on Richard's banner (ad regium cum leone vexillum) which agrees with a description in the the account of the Third Crusade by Ambrose - clearly suggest that it is highly unlikely that Richard bore anything other than one Lion rampant until his second Great Seal of 1189/95.
The question, therefore, is where did Richard get the Arms of two Lions passant to add the third Lion to...?
Lions, very much in general at that stage, appear to have been used by the descendants of King Henry I of England, a younger son of The Conqueror. Henry's son-in-law, Geoffrey of Anjou, is probably one of the first people to have adopted a inheritable Coat of Arms showing not only a Lion but a number of Lions (six to be specific). Having lost his only son William in the sinking of the White Ship, Henry was keen to keep in with Geoffrey, the husband of Henry's only other child, Maud, especially as he needed a grandson as heir. (Women, though often instrumental in the order of succession, were generally not looked upon favourably to take on sovereignty in those dark days.)
Within a few years of Henry I's death he was being described as the 'Lion of Justice' and his (illegitimate) sons 'the cubs of the lion'. He is known to have kept lions and leopards in his menagerie at Woodstock. All of these would only go to show Henry's association with Lions as a symbol.
Henry's nephew and successor, Stephen, has been with attributed one or three Sagittaries (half man, half horse - with or without a bow and arrow) as he ascended the Throne under the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and also with the help of archers. These are purely conjecture from later generations. A royal Banner is known to have existed, but unfortunately, although recorded as closely guarded, no contemporary detailed description exists.
And so we come to Richard and John's father King Henry II. Grandson of Henry I through the Maud who had been sidestepped earlier, he is certainly described as carrying Arms but, again, no detailed description exists and, as mentioned, his Shield on his Seal still faces away. His father, brother, sons even, chamberlains and attendants are all known to have used Lions in one way or another, and Henry II was again associated with or variously described as a 'lion', like his grandfather. Henry II looked more to his royal and ducal inheritance through his mother and the grandfather after whom he was named, rather than his father, however capable a person Geoffrey of Anjou was.
Unfortunately, the two Lions of Normandy did not become fixed until centuries after Henry II and the idea that men whom Henry II knighted used two Lions according to the practise of 'patron-in-chivalry' cannot be used to fully justify Henry's use. However, the use of the two Lions, amongst other devices, by so many men closely associated with Henry II, including, after the death of his eldest son, Henry the Young King, his favourite son John, might have meant that Richard wanted to trump them by swapping from one Lion to three!
Berengaria of Navarre
Not surprisingly, since we have seen a change in the Arms of England during Richard's reign or, rather, a consolidation of the Arms, so there was an apparent development in the Arms of Navarre during the reign of Berengaria's brother, King Sancho VII (The Strong). However, even this may be as apocryphal as Berengaria's attributed Arms. These were the early days of Heraldry and Coats of Arms were in flux.
An early appearance of the symbol was on a seal of Theobald I of Navarre (1234-53). The design of a net of Chains may have been based on the heraldic carbuncle symbol of eight radially arranged rods.
They may equally be a development of Berengaria's or, rather, her father's Arms - a change of colours, etc - as the white Cross pommy on blue does resemble a simplified carbuncle as well.