Cecil B. DeMille's epic film of King Richard's crusade makes his wife Berengaria a heroine, who brings peace to Jerusalem by awakening his love.
In 1187 Saracens capture Jerusalem and sell Christian women as slaves. The Hermit (C. Aubrey Smith) tells Saladin (Ian Keith) he will rouse Christian armies in a crusade. He gets King Philip (C. Henry Gordon) of France to take the cross, though Conrad of Montferrat (Joseph Schildkraut) warns him about Richard. Philip takes his sister Alice (Katherine DeMille) to marry Richard. Robert advises King Richard (Henry Wilcoxon) to marry Alice; but he gets out of it by swearing the crusade pledge and taking England to war. Conrad plots with Richard's brother John so he can become King of Jerusalem.
In Marseilles Berengaria (Loretta Young) wants to help but sees Richard slug a man who injured his horse. Men ask for food. Richard cannot attack the Christian king of Navarre; so he agrees to wed his daughter for 7,000 cattle and grain. He sends his minstrel Blondel (Alan Hale) to wed her with his sword. When Richard sees Berengaria, he calls her an angel and learns she is his wife. He asks her to go to Palestine, and she replaces Alice in the royal cabin on the women's ship.
Crusaders surround the Saracens at Acre, and their herald is shot with an arrow. Richard presents Berengaria to the council of kings. Saladin arrives and drinks no wine. Berengaria tastes his water before he drinks. Saladin offers peace, but the kings declare war. Philip complains about Richard's marriage. Richard visits Berengaria's tent and invites her to his. She defends herself with his sword. Richard is roused by Saladin's attack, and she prays. Conrad tells her she stands between England and France, blocking the crusade. Philip tells Richard that John has taken the throne of England; Alice will marry John if not Richard. Richard crowns Berengaria queen, and Philip threatens to leave. Richard tells Berengaria he loves her more than the world. She has him swear his sword will stand between them until Jerusalem is won. She walks out and is shot by an arrow. Saladin is leaving to get reinforcements and carries her off. The Hermit is captured too, but he tells the crusaders to attack and is killed. Burning oil is poured on crusaders climbing ladders. The gate opens, and men ride out. Richard searches for Berengaria. Crusaders believe they found the real cross.
Richard learns that Berengaria is with Saladin in Jerusalem and rides there, though outnumbered. Saladin cares for Berengaria in a garden, offering her power. Crusader knights meet Saracen horsemen in battle. At night Richard looks for the blacksmith Hercules, who saved his life. Conrad asks Saladin to help him kill Richard; but Berengaria pleads for Richard and offers herself as ransom. Richard sees Hercules die. Conrad's men try to kill Richard, but Saracens rescue him. He goes with them to find Berengaria with Saladin, who will make him king of Jerusalem if he will accept Islam. Berengaria loves Richard and asks for peace. Richard agrees to a truce, release of captives, and access of all to Jerusalem except himself. Richard breaks his sword, and Saladin sees he loves Berengaria. Richard prays, asking for Berengaria. Captives in Jerusalem are freed, as the crusaders walk in singing. Berengaria gives Richard's broken sword to God and will return to Richard, because Saladin freed all captives.
In fact Berengaria was not captured, and after the truce she and Richard were estranged. Yet her fictional sacrifice well represents the spirit of Christ's love in bringing about peace between warring men driven mad by religious fanaticism.