Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares

D.G. Hewitt - October 3, 2018

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
Richard the Lionheart was kidnapped and held for a year while the ransom was raised. Thoughco.

15. Richard the Lionheart was kidnapped and held for a king’s ransom while traveling back from the Crusades

The expression a ‘king’s ransom’ is now commonly used to describe demanding a huge sum of money. According to some historians, the phrase originated with the case of King Richard I, otherwise known as Richard the Lionheart. The English monarch was indeed held for ransom. And this was no trifling sum. In fact, the price paid for secure the king’s freedom may well have been the biggest ransom ever paid.

It was the year 1192 and Richard was traveling back to England from the Middle East. The Christian monarch had been fighting in the Third Crusade, but he had a kingdom to get back to. To get home, he needed to pass through modern-day Austria. Given the risks of kidnapping and banditry, Richard travelled in disguise. But Duke Leopold, wasn’t fooled. While passing through Vienna, the Englishman was snatched. Within a few days, he was handed over to the Henry VI, the powerful Holy Roman Empire. He then sent a note to England: he would only release Richard the Lionheart in exchange for 100,000 or maybe even 150,000 marks.

This was a huge sum of money, a literal king’s ransom. Some economic historians believe it was equivalent to twice the English GDP at the time. Understandably, then, the negotiations took a while. In fact, the English Crown needed more than a year to introduce new taxes and so get the money. They succeeded, however, and with Eleanor of Aquitaine serving as a go-between, Richard was eventually released.

Richard the Lionheart returned back to England. Once back, he was able to assert his authority and put those nobles who had tried to rule in his stead firmly in their place. Within a few years, however, the king was dead, killing while out campaigning in France.

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
Was Theodore Roosevelt really prepared to start a war over the kidnapping of a playboy? Pinterest.

16. Ion Perdicaris was snatched by a Moroccan warlord and the case almost led President Theodore Roosevelt to start a war

Ion Pedicaris may be largely forgotten today, but back in 1904, he was of sufficient importance to be at the centre of an international diplomatic crisis. In fact, his kidnapping almost triggered an all-our war between the United States and Morocco. Fortunately for everyone involved the so-called ‘Perdicaris Incident’ had a happy ending, which is possibly why it’s not better known today.

Perdicaris was a Greek-American playboy who lived the good life spending his inherited fortune. In the early 1870s, he relocated to Tangiers, Morocco. He was fascinated by the culture and, alongside keeping on top of his international business concerns, he wrote prolifically on Moroccan life and culture. He also settled down with the wife of an English telecoms engineer and took in her two sons. One of them was also taken when Perdicaris was snatched by the tribal leader Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli one May morning. Raisuli took them to his tribal lands and demanded that the Sultan of Morocco pay $70,000 for their release.

When President Theodore Roosevelt found out an American citizen had been kidnapped, he was livid. He even dispatched several warships and dozens of marines to the coast of Morocco. Famously, he demanded “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!” But then the President was informed Perdicaris had actually renounced his American citizenship. No matter, Raisuli had already relented. He had even become friends with his prisoner and a few days later released him unharmed. Naturally, Roosevelt made the most of the incident, using it as proof of his tough stance against foreign enemies – in fact, he even adopted “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!” as an election slogan.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Mary Agnes Moroney” The Charley Project.

“Weinberger Kidnapping.” FBI.

“When Julius Caesar Was Kidnapped By Pirates, He Demanded They Increase His Ransom.” Mental Floss, November 2012.

“Mary Jemison, the Irishwoman who turned Native American.” The Irish Times, May 2017.

“Why a 150-year-old kidnapping case has Catholics arguing today.” Vox, January 2018.

“The Kidnapping of Mary McElroy.” Kansas City Public Library.

“Patricius: The True Story of St. Patrick.” CBN.com

“Bobby Dunbar’s disappearance caused a mystery that wasn’t solved for 92 years.” MARA BOVSUN, NY Daily News. February 2019.

“Taipei Journal: Kidnapper of Chiang Kai-shek Ends Long Silence.” New York Times, February 1991.

“Lindbergh Kidnapping.” FBI.

“Susannah Willard Johnson.” Wikipedia.