King Baldwin’s Mistake

Even though the crusader states were united, they could not repel the threat posed by their Muslim neighbours. Maudud of Mosul was determined to oust the Franks from Syria. In the spring of 1113, he raised an army, marched across the Euphrates River and joined forces with Tughtegin, the Atabeg of Damascus, at the High Orontes. From there, the two Turkish leaders invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem via Galilee. They ravaged Galilee’s Christian inhabitants and took as much treasure and other provisions they were able to carry. No doubt they took Christian prisoners as well to be sold as slaves in Damascus later on.

When King Baldwin learnt of this latest Turkish invasion he sent an urgent appeal to Pons of Tripoli and Roger of Antioch for reinforcements. In the meantime, Baldwin assembled an army that included 700 knights and about 4,000 infantrymen (Rita Stark, 55). Baldwin then had a crucial decision to make: wait for the full Frankish alliance to gather or march on Galilee and confront the Turks. Baldwin would have been wise to wait for his compatriots to arrive with their combined force. Altogether, strong and united, the Franks would have beaten back the Turks, ending their attempts of invasion for the time being. Unfortunately Baldwin chose to march on Galilee with his small force and risk a crushing defeat like he had on the plains near Ramla in 1102. This was one decision that Baldwin was widely criticized for.

Once Baldwin arrived at Sinn el-Nabra on the southwest shores of Lake Tiberius, he set up camp. It was the end of June. Historian Thomas Asbridge suggests that King Baldwin did not realize that the enemy was close by. He also states that Baldwin had no intention of engaging the Turks in open battle. Asbridge underestimates King Baldwin’s capabilities as a military commander. There is no way Baldwin would have camped his forces within range of the Turkish army without knowing of their presence. Baldwin may not have intended to engage the Turks in a pitched battle, but he camped his army close to theirs just so he could intimidate them.

The Turks though weren’t always so easily intimidated and Baldwin, for the second time, misread the enemy. When Maudud and Tughtegin learnt of the Frankish presence nearby from their network of spies, they launched an assault, catching the Franks completely off guard. They slaughtered around 2,000 Franks and captured Baldwin’s tent and royal banner. Thanks to his swift moving horse, Gazelle, Baldwin was able to escape. He fled with what remained of his force to Mount Tabor. There, he was joined by Pons, Roger and their armies.

Humiliated, Baldwin had to apologize to all his compatriots for his mistake while the Turkish army continued to ravage the Jordan valley below. In efforts to make up for his mistake, Baldwin adopted a defensive strategy, keeping his forces in a holding position.

After four weeks passed with no fighting, Maudud and Tughtegin marched back to Damascus with their armies. It was no retreat for them. In fact, it was they who had gained the victory. According to an unnamed Muslim chronicler, Maudud and Tughtegin left “the enemy humbled, broken, defeated and dispirited,” (quoted in Asbridge, 156). To prove their triumph over the Franks, the allied Emirs sent Christian prisoners and the heads of Christian slain to the sultan in Baghdad.

As for King Baldwin, his mistake dealt a blow to his reputation. However, the Turkish victory was far from complete. The Franks had the largest army since the time of the First Crusade. Since it was nearly August, the Franks expected an Italian fleet to soon arrive in the Holy Land for their annual pilgrimage. They anticipated it to be a large fleet. It was enough for the Franks to regroup and reorganize as they had several times since they captured Jerusalem in 1099.

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The Second Crusade: A Concise Overviw for Students

This is a Real Crusades History video. There will be an entire section dedicated to the Second Crusade on Crusades and Crusaders in the near future.



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Marriage Alliances: Strengthening the Bonds of Unity Between the Crusader States

Tancred’s death happened at a time when the balance of power in the Levant was shifting. This shift was brought on by dynastic succession and a series of marriage alliances, particularly in the Principalities of Antioch, Edessa and Tripoli. The Principality of Antioch was passed to Tancred’s nephew, Roger of Salerno, son of the First Crusader, Richard of Salerno (Asbridge, 154). Roger married Baldwin of le Bourcq’s sister while Joscelin de Courtenay took Roger’s sister as his wife.

To the south, Bertrand died in 1112, leaving his young son Pons in charge of the Principality of Tripoli. In fact, Tancred took Pons under his wing and mentored the young man. Shortly before his death, Tancred encouraged Pons to marry his wife, Cecillia of France. According to historian, Rita Stark, Pons allegedly admitted to Tancred that he greatly admired Cecillia (p. 54). Cecillia was a very wealthy young woman. Not only was she the daughter of the king of France, she possessed an Antiochene lordship in the Ruj Valley, including the Krak des Chevalier (not then called Krak des Chevalier). Whether Pons admired her for her status and wealth or because he genuinely loved her is unknown. Given that it was a time when marriage alliances were made to strengthen an individual’s power, prestige and wealth, no doubt Pons was moved more by political motivations than by love. Regardless, his marriage to Cecillia strengthened the bonds of unity between Tripoli and Antioch. At the same time, Joscelin de Courtenay’s marriage to Baldwin le Bourcq’s sister reconciled Edessa with Antioch.

Pons abandoned his father and grandfather’s policy of subservience to the Byzantine Emperor and instead, pledged his allegiance to Baldwin I. This ushered in a new era where all the ruling elite of Outremer would recognize the kings of Jerusalem as their overlord, thus strengthening the bonds of unity between the crusader states and the lords who ruled them.

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Tancred: True Founder of Antioch

Be what Tancred was, no one — not even his enemies — can deny the fact that he was the true founder of Antioch. In 1109 and 1110, he expanded Antioch’s frontiers, fighting ceaselessly and successfully subduing his Muslim neighbours.

By 1110, the Principality of Antioch stretched from the Belus Hills between Antioch and Aleppo and as far south as the Orontes River valley. In creating those boundaries between Antioch and Aleppo, Tancred had placed his principality in a very advantageous position. Geographically, those boundaries offered both Antioch and its Muslim neighbours an equal balance of power and security (Asbridge, 152).

Tancred could have chosen to foster cordial relations with the Muslims, an action that would have benefitted the Principality of Antioch and the Christian Kingdom at large. However, Tancred’s unquenchable thirst for material gain compelled him to choose the path of conquest. In October 1110, Tancred led an expedition east of the Belus Hills where he captured several settlements in the Jazr region, including al-Atharib and Zardana.

In the spring of 1111, Tancred turned his attention to the south of his principality’s border. He issued the construction of a fortress on a hill, overlooking Shaizar. That way, Tancred could force the Muslim rulers of Shaizar, the Munqidh clan, into submission (Asbridge, 152).

At first the Munqidh clan of Shaizar and Ridwan of Aleppo accepted Tancred as their overlord. They offered tribute payments “totalling 30,000 gold dinars in return for peace” (Asbridge, 152).
Their generous terms of peace was Tancred’s second chance of conquest via negotiation and peaceful co-existence. Instead of embracing that opportunity, Tancred continued to intimidate and exploit the Munqidh clan and Ridwan of Aleppo. Infuriated and resentful of their Frankish overlord, the Muslims decided to rise up against him. Sometime in the summer of 1111, the Munqidh clan allied with Maudud of Mosul and joined forces with his army when he prepared to invade Frankish Syria.

When Tancred learnt that Maudud had raised an army and was preparing to invade the Principality of Antioch, he assembled as large of a force he could muster. He also called upon Baldwin I, Baldwin le Bourcq and Bertrand of Toulouse for help. Despite their recent misgivings, King Baldwin, Baldwin le Bourcq and Bertrand rode to Tancred’s aid with a combined force that totalled 16,000 soldiers including sergeants and infantrymen (Rita Stark, 53).

The Christian force camped at Apamea, a city located near the Orontes River, while the Turkish army camped near the city of Shaizar, not far south of Apamea. From Apamea, the Franks were able to patrol enemy movement. This was where King Baldwin took control over the army. On his advice, the Franks held their position. So did the Turks. The two armies stayed put for two weeks, watching each other’s movements, without launching any kind of attack. Unable to lure the Franks into an ambush and terrified of how united and organized they were, Maudud retreated with his army.

Thanks to Baldwin I’s impeccable military and leadership skills, Tancred was able to save the Principality of Antioch from yet another invasion. The 1111 defensive campaign leant Baldwin I much credit because it demonstrated his role of “Chieftain and Confederate leader of the Frank Forces” (Rita Stark, 53). In essence, Baldwin I established a royal policy that the Levantine-Frankish Kings would adhere to until 1186.

As for Tancred, he had hoped to conquer Shaizar and Aleppo. Not only would those two cities have brought Antioch a significant amount of wealth, they would have severely weakened an already fractured Muslim realm. However, several years of near constant campaigning took its toll on his body. Tancred’s health failed him when he was only thirty-six years old and he died shortly after on 12 December 1112.

Matthew of Edessa, the 12th century Armenian Chronicler, hailed Tancred as a saintly and pious man. “He had a kind and compassionate nature, manifesting concern for all the Christian faithful; moreover he exhibited a tremendous amount of humility in his dealings with people” (quoted in Asbridge, 153). Clearly Matthew of Edessa held Tancred in the highest regard, placing the Norman prince on a pedestal while forgetting all of Tancred’s flaws. Kindness, compassion and humility were not Tancred’s forte. Tancred was moved by greed and he fought anyone who blocked his path to riches, including his fellow Christians. His actions throughout the First Crusade and towards Baldwin le Bourcq in 1108 demonstrated a gross lack of compassion and kindness.

At the same time, Tancred was bold, confident and fearless. He also had one character trait that his Uncle Bohemond did not have: perseverance. When the Principality of Antioch was almost overrun by Muslims after the ill-fated Battle of Harran in 1104, Bohemond fled Antioch determined to find success elsewhere. Tancred, though, faced adversity and fought it with an iron fist. That’s what made him a larger-than-life figure in history and that’s why Tancred deserves to be credited as the true founder of Antioch.

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A Crushing Defeat over Saladin: Montgisard

This is another guest article by Author Helena Schrader.

In in 1177, Salah-ad-Din (known in the West as Saladin) launched a full-scale invasion of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was less than ten years since Saladin had assassinated his way to power in the Fatimid Caliphate in Cairo, and ruthlessly suppressed numerous rebellions to establish Sunni rule over the Shia and Coptic Christian population on the Nile. It was only three years since the coup d’etat in Damascus by which he had established himself in the heart of Syria but failed to take key cities such as Aleppo and Mosul. Saladin had thus largely united the Caliphates of Cairo and Baghdad for the first time in 200 years, but his hold on power was precarious. In Egypt his faced suspicion and opposition because he was Sunni, and in Syria he was viewed as a usurper and upstart because he was a Kurd and had stolen the Sultanate from the rightful Seljuk heir.

Saladin countered these internal doubts and dissatisfaction with his rule with the age-old device of focusing attention on an external enemy: the Christian states established by the crusaders along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. These states represented not merely a military threat to his lines of communication between Egypt and Syria, but had also five times in the 1160s invaded Egypt. These were not all outright wars of aggression, as the Shia Viziers had requested Christian help against their Sunni enemies in three of the campaigns, but the fact remained that army of Jerusalem, often aided by Byzantine fleets, had conducted campaigns on Egyptian territory and once come close to capturing Cairo.

But Saladin did not simply beat the drum of alarm concerning an external enemy in order to rally his subjects around him, he took up the cry of “jihad” — Holy War. This was a clear attempt to increase his stature vis-a-vis his remaining rivals in Syria. Salah-ad-Din means “righteousness of the faith,” and Salah-ad-Din throughout his career used campaigns against the Christian states as a means of rallying support.

Saladin had not invented jihad. The word itself appears multiple times in the Koran, but with varying meanings. It was also used as justification for the Muslim conquests of the 7th Century. It had, however, been largely forgotten or neglected until Nur ad-Din, the Seljuk ruler of Syria from 1146-1174, resurrected the concept. Most historians agree, however, that Nur ad-Din used jihad when it suited him but remained a fundamentally secular ruler. He had, however, unleased the jinni from the bottle and the concept of “Holy War” soon gained increasing support in the madrassas and mosques across the Seljuk territories of the Near East. By the time Saladin came to power there was a body of already radicalized youth eager to follow the call to jihad.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, King Amalaric, who had been so intent on conquering parts if not all of Egypt, had died. He had been succeeded by Baldwin IV, a youth suffering from leprosy. Consciousness of his own weakness and short life expectation, Baldwin IV sent to the West for aid, and in early August 1177, Count Philip of Flanders reached Acre with a large force of Western knights.

On the advice of the High Court, Baldwin IV offered Philip of Flanders the regency of his kingdom, whose armies were preparing yet another invasion of Egypt aided by a large Byzantine fleet. Flanders, however, insisted on being made king of any territories the joint Christian forces conquered. The idea did not sit well with either the King of Jerusalem or the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, both of whom were footing the bill and providing the bulk of the troops for the expedition. The result was that the entire expedition was called off, the Byzantine fleet withdrew and Philip of Flanders took his knights and half the barons of Jerusalem north to attack the Seljuk strongholds of Hama and Harim instead.

Saladin had gathered his forces in Egypt to repel the impending attack. He rapidly learned that not only had the invasion of Egypt been called off, the Byzantine fleet withdrawn, but the bulk of the fighting forces of Jerusalem moved north. It was a splendid opportunity to strike, and Saladin seized the opportunity. With a force estimated at 26,000 light horse — which leaves open the question of whether there were infantry with Saladin or not. The force also allegedly included some 1,000 mamluks of the Sultan’s personal body guard.

According to an anonymous Christian chronicler from northern Syria, the news of Saladin’s invasion plunged Jerusalem into despair. The king was just 16 years old, had no battle experience of his own, and his most experienced commanders (or many of them) were besieging Hama. The Constable of the Kingdom, the competent and wise Humphrey de Toron II, was gravely ill. But Baldwin rallied the forces he had — according to Archbishop William of Tyre, Baldwin’s former tutor now his chancellor and our best contemporary source — with just 375 knights made a dash to Ascalon.

Arriving there only shortly before Saladin himself on November 22, King Baldwin took control of the city, but could not risk open battle because of the imbalance of forces. His dash to Ascalon may have been heroic, but now, with just a fraction of his forces, Saladin had effectively trapped what few knights and barons were still in the kingdom inside Ascalon. Nothing now lay between Saladin and Jerusalem except scattered garrisons. Saladin left a force of undefined size to maintain the siege of Ascalon and moved off with the bulk of his troops.

The Sultan and his emirs were confident of victory that they took time to plunder the rich cities of the coastal plain, notably Ramla and Lydda, but also as far in land as Hebron. In Jerusalem, the terrified population sought refuge in the Citadel of David.

But Baldwin IV was not yet defeated. With the number of troops around Ascalon dramatically reduced he risked a sortie, rendezvoused with Templars from Gaza (although to this day no one knows how he got the message to them) and started to pursue Saladin’s now dispersed and no longer disciplined army. Meanwhile, he had already issued the arrière ban, a general call to arms that obligated every Christian to rally to the royal standard in defense of the realm, and infantry was streaming to join him.
On the afternoon of November 25, King Baldwin’s host of about 450 knights (375 secular knights and 84 Templars from Gaza), with their squires, Turcopoles and infantry in unspecified numbers caught up with the main body of Saladin’s troops at a place near Montgisard or Tell Jazar, near Ibelin (modern day Yavne). The Sultan, as he later admitted to Saracen chroniclers, was caught off-guard. Before he could properly deploy his troops, the main force of Christian knights led (depending on which source you believe) by Reynald de Chatillon or “the Ibelin brothers” had smashed into Saladin’s still disorganized troops, apparently while some were still crossing or watering their horses in a stream.

Although the battle was hard fought and there were Christian casualties, the Sultan’s forces were soon routed. Not only that, Saladin himself came very close to being killed or captured and allegedly escaped on the back of a pack-camel. But for the bulk of his army there was no escape. Those who were not slaughtered immediately on the field, found themselves scattered and virtually defenseless in enemy territory. Although they abandoned the plunder they had accumulated, it was still a long way home — and the rains had set in. Cold, wet, slowed down by the mud, no longer benefiting from the strength of numbers, they were easy prey for the ordinary citizens and settlers of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The latter, after the sack of Lydda, Ramla and other lesser places, had good reason to crave revenge. Furthermore, even after escaping Christian territory, the Sultan’s troops still found no refuge because once in the desert the Bedouins took advantage of the situation to enslave as many men as they could catch in order to enrich themselves. Very few of the Sultan’s men made it home to safety in Egypt.

Saladin was badly shaken by this defeat. He had good reason to believe it would discredit him and initially feared it would trigger revolts against his rule. Later, he convinced himself that God had spared him for a purpose, and he was to learn from his defeat. He never again allowed himself to be duped by his own over-confidence and his subsequent campaigns against the crusader states were marked by much more caution. However, it was not until the crushing defeat of the Christian armies at Hattin in July 1187 — almost ten years later — that he had his revenge.

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Luxury Exports and Religious Tourists: The Urban Economy of the Crusader Kingdoms

This is a guest article by fellow writer, Helena Schrader.

It has been estimated that roughly 50% of the Frankish population in the crusader kingdoms was urban. That represents a much higher proportion than in Western Europe at this time, and particularly in the post-Hattin era, the majority of noblemen were dependent on non-agricultural income for their wealth. In short, the degree of urbanization in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, particularly the 13th century Kingdom, resembled the Italian city states more than the large western kingdoms such as England and France. To understand the crusader kingdoms, therefore, it is important to understand the urban economy.

The most obvious source of wealth was the control of the key ports along the coast of the Levant which meant the points at which the “riches of the Orient” were transshipped for export to the increasingly prosperous population of the West. It was in Beirut and Tyre, Acre and Caesarea, Jaffa and Ascalon that Damascus steel and Indian spices, Ethiopian incense and Nubian gold, Persian carpets and Chinese silk, African ivory and Egyptian papyrus were exported to the hungry markets of Italy, and from there onward to the Holy Roman Empire, France, Iberia and far off England and Scandinavia.

In addition to these transshipped items, the crusader kingdoms themselves had a number of export goods that were highly lucrative. While sugar was probably the most important bulk commodity, the export of Holy Relics and souvenirs should not be under-estimated. By some estimates, the population of Jerusalem doubled during the summer pilgrimage (tourist) season, and all of those pilgrims wanted to take some mementos home with them as well as gifts for family and friends, just like modern tourists today.

All those pilgrims also needed a place to stay and food to eat — and not just in Jerusalem. The pilgrimage sites included not just obvious sites such as Bethlehem and Nazareth, but also the site of every moment in Christ’s life as recorded in the Gospels, and places associated with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and other saints. There was hardly a place in the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem that could not lay claim to some biblical event of importance, and devout pilgrims, who ventured so far at such cost and risk, generally stayed until the fall sailing season, which meant spending roughly six months in the Holy Land. In short, the pilgrimage “service industry” was in proportion to the population of the time at least as important as tourism is to Israel today.

Last but not least, a large proportion of the Latin settlers were skilled craftsmen. Serfs could not legally leave their villages and lands (and most probably didn’t want to), so the pilgrims, whether armed and unarmed, were predominantly men of higher status: craftsmen, guildsmen, or merchants. They brought their skills with them, and established themselves in the cities and towns of the crusader kingdoms, where they worked side-by-side with native craftsmen. Here some of the most productive if most prosaic of inter-cultural exchanges took place in the development of dying and cloth-making, leatherworking, gold and silver workmanship, pottery, carpentry, masonry, glass-working, and all the countless other skills essential to survival and a high contemporary standard of living.

Based on the names of the streets alone, it is clear, for example, that Jerusalem had a high concentration of furriers and tanners, but also gold and silver smiths. Pottery from the region, glazed on the inside, is known to have been a particularly popular practical ware, (an early version of Teflon), and that glass-makers and glass-blowers were renowned. The massive construction projects undertaken primarily in the mid-12th century, ensured work for carpenters, masons and sculptors, and the remaining fragments of their work are testimony to the high quality of their workmanship.

At the high-end, Jerusalem also exported illustrated manuscripts from a scriptorium established by the Canons of the Holy Sepulcher. Books produced in such a sacred place had an added value beyond the high quality of the work, and undoubtedly represented one of the luxury goods with the highest margins exported from the crusader kingdoms — albeit, as with all truly valuable, custom made objects, only in very small quantities.

The crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, far from being a wasteland inhabited by barbarians, was a highly cultured, economically dynamic powerhouse.

For more information about crusader society and the crusader states see:

Principal sources:

Barber, Malcolm, The Crusader States, Yale University Press, 2012.

Hamilton, Bernard, The Leper King and His Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Riley-Smith (ed), The Atlas of the Crusades, Facts on File, 1990.

Conder, Claude Reignier, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099 to 1291, The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1897.

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Tancred’s Act of Treason

In 1110, for the first time since the Franks conquered Jerusalem, the Turks planned a counter-crusade. Their goal was to re-conquer Syria and oust the Franks for good. In the spring, Muhammad the Seljuk Sultan of Baghdad raised a large Mesopotamian army and placed it under the command of Maudud, aTurkish warlord who had recently come to power in Mosul (Asbridge, 150). Maudud’s first goal was to re-capture Edessa.

Unfortunately King Baldwin had been unable to unite Tancred and Baldwin le Bourcq: or, rather Tancred and Baldwin refused to reconcile. Tancred refused to go to Edessa’s relief, so Baldwin sent Joscelin de Courtenay to Jerusalem to request aid from King Baldwin. Within a couple of weeks, King Baldwin managed to assemble an army, a rather large one. According to historian Rita Stark, his army totalled around 15,000 soldiers. The king and his army then marched to relieve Edessa. When they arrived, they found the city under siege. However, the Turks had not anticipated to encounter such a large Frankish force. So, as they had time and again since the crusaders set foot in the Holy Land, the Turks panicked and retreated to Harran.

Fortunately for the kingdom, but especially for Tancred, Edessa was saved. Tancred’s unwillingness to to aid his fellow Christians against the enemy was considered treasonous. If Edessa had fallen to the Turks, Tancred would have faced severe repercussions. In any case, Baldwin was determined to unite all of the Franks. That involved putting Tancred in his place.

Baldwin held a council meeting in his tent where he obliged Tancred to explain why he had refused to defend Edessa against the Turks. “The city has always belonged to the Principality of Antioch,” (R Stark, 52). Tancred allegedly told the king in an attempt to exonerate himself and to reassert his authority over Edessa. If the County of Edessa had truly belonged to Tancred, he would have defended it. So, that careless and haughty response did nothing to exonerate himself. It just demonstrated to all his compatriots how much disdain he had for Baldwin le Bourcq. Understandably the other leading nobles at the council meeting — especially Baldwin le Bourcq’s allies — were not at all inclined to defend Tancred. In fact, they blamed him for allying with the Muslims and for inciting Maudud to attack Edessa (Asbridge, 151).

Albert d’Aix chronicled Baldwin’s following speech: “My dear Tancred, what you ask is not right…you must remember that, when we departed for the Holy Land, it was agreed that whoever conquered land from the Infidel could keep it for himself. For the rest you have elected a king to serve you as chief, guard and guide in the conservation and expansion of the conquest. That is why I am demanding from you in the name of the whole Christian community here represented a sincere reconciliation with Baldwin le Bourcq. Otherwise, if you prefer intrigues with the Turks, you can no longer be one of ours and we will fight you without mercy” (quoted in Rita Stark, 52).

With no other recourse, Tancred backed down and, from then on, he stopped demanding tribute payments from Edessa.

Categories: Setting up the Kingdom, The Crusader States, The Kingdom of Jerusalem | Leave a comment

Coming Soon: Why Does the Heathen Rage? by J Stephen Roberts

This summer, Why Does the Heathen Rage?, a work of hisorical fiction, will be released by RCH Media, an exciting new press that will be established by J Stephen Roberts and Joseph Scott Amis. J Stephen Roberts, creator and host of the Real Crusades History podcast, is the author of Why Does the Heathen Rage?.

Why Does the Heathen Rage? is set during the Crusades, during the reign of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem.

In 1118, Baldwin II was named King of Jerusalem. Already in his fifties, he was advanced in years for a newly crowned king, but proved to be a militant and energetic monarch. He ruled an impressive swath of territory in western Syria and Palestine conquered by European Christian knights during the First Crusade (1096-1099). His lands were surrounded by Muslim enemies: Fatimid-held Egypt in the south, to the east Damascus under the Emir Toghtekin, and to the northeast the Ortoqid Turks, who reigned from the cities of Mardin, Harran, and Aleppo.

Barely was the crown on his head when Baldwin faced an invasion from the Ortoqids, then headed by the fierce Emir Ilghazi. With a great host of Turkish horsemen, Ilghazi swept down on the Principality of Antioch, governed by King Baldwin’s brother-in-law: the brawny, red-headed Norman, Roger of Salerno. The King gathered his army and set out for Antioch, but before he arrived Roger, with his own cavalry, chose to engage the enemy. Ilghazi triumphed, decimating nearly the whole of Antioch’s forces and slaying Roger in a battle that came to be known as Ager Sanguinis – the Field of Blood. King Baldwin, with the aid of his vassal Pons of Tripoli, gave Ilghazi no time to celebrate, attacking and defeating him at the Battle of Hab. The Turks retreated. Baldwin had saved Antioch, avenged Roger’s fallen knights, and become known as a king to be reckoned with.

With Roger dead, Antioch was without a ruler. The King spent months organizing Antioch’s administration, and finding husbands for the many widows created by the Battle of Ager Sanguinis. He turned the Principality’s government over to the head of the Antiochene church, the Patriarch Bernard.

In 1122 a new Ortoqid made his presence felt: Balak, Ilghazi’s nephew and lord of Khanzit. Young, ambitious, and warlike, Balak convinced his uncle to join him for an attack on the Christians. The Turks burned the fields of Zerdana and besieged the castle. Baldwin sent for the True Cross, a precious relic kept in Jerusalem and believed by the Christians to have been an actual piece of the wood on which Christ was crucified. With the Cross at the vanguard, the King moved in with his army. The Turks tried to lure him into a trap with a feigned retreat, but he kept his army in a solid formation before the castle. Once again, Baldwin’s wisdom paid off, and once again the Turks withdrew, having achieved nothing. Later that year, Ilghazi died, leaving Balak as the leading figure of the powerful Ortoqid house.

Before the True Cross had even been returned to Jerusalem, Baldwin received disturbing news. Balak had moved north and led his forces against Joscelin, Count of Edessa, one of Baldwin’s most important vassals. Joscelin held the northernmost Crusader territories, which stretched across part of Mesopotamia. With a force of his horsemen, Joscelin had suffered an ambush at Birejik, and Balak captured the Count of Edessa along with his knight Walrean. King Baldwin, who was at Antioch at the time, set out with a picked force for the County of Edessa, where he intended to reconnoiter the site of his vassal’s capture and protect the territory from further attack. There, Baldwin visited the County’s principal cities, Edessa and Turbessel, as well as its outlying castles. He next recaptured Birejik, which Balak had seized at the time of his defeat of Joscelin, then headed back toward Edessa, when he was surprised by Balak’s army.


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The Grand Frankish Alliance: King Baldwin’s Attempt to Reconcile the Fighting Nobles.

To the south, in the fledgling county of Tripoli, divisions between the Christian lords threatened to destroy what Count Raymond had founded. Shortly after Raymond’s death, Raymond’s nephew, William-Jordan arrived in the Holy Land and assumed control of the county. He conquered Arqa, a city north of Tripoli, while continuing to pressure the city of Tripoli into submission.

However, in March 1109, Bertrand of Toulouse, Raymond’s son, arrived in the Holy Land accompanied by a sizeable fleet. He was determined to obtain his inheritance, but William-Jordan had already ruled the county for four years and he was not about to hand it over to Bertrand. So, he barred Bertrand from entering his father’s lands. The ensuing conflict between the two men posed a serious threat to the new county of Tripoli. Moreover, like the conflict between Tancred and Baldwin le Bourcq over Edessa, it demonstrated a gross lack of unity between the leading nobles in the new Christian Kingdom. It would seem that greed had replaced their religious motives for reclaiming the Holy Land for Christ and for Christendom.

If William-Jordan was to claim Tripoli once it fell, he realized he needed an ally: one who had a lot of power. So, he turned to Tancred and offered to become Tancred’s vassal in exchange for support. Tancred, seeing this as a golden opportunity to expand Antiochene influence in the Holy Land, eagerly accepted William-Jordan’s offer of vassalage. Once he was able to browbeat Baldwin le Bourcq into submission, he would have no problem doing the same with William-Jordan. Then, Tripoli would be obliged to accept Tancred as it’s overlord. That, Tancred realized, would make Antioch the most powerful state in the Holy Land, much more powerful than the Kingdom of Jerusalem. No doubt, Tancred had long desired to become more powerful than his adversary, Baldwin of Boulogne (I of Jerusalem).

Meanwhile, Bertrand appealed to King Baldwin for help to reclaim his inheritance. In return, Bertrand swore his allegiance to Baldwin.

King Baldwin had his own designs for Outremer. He wished to unite all of the crusader states, including yet to be conquered territory, under his royal authority. However, Tancred’s ruthless ambitions threatened to undermine his power. Worse, the in-fighting between the princes jeopardized the survival of the new Kingdom at large. Baldwin realized that, so instead of raising an army to crush Tancred, Baldwin chose to use diplomacy. “In the name of the Church of Jerusalem I summon you both to a royal meeting in Tripoli,” Baldwin said to Tancred and William-Jordan (quoted in Rita-Stark, 49).

In the summer of 1109, Baldwin called upon all of the barons in the Levant to assist Bertrand in the siege of Tripoli. Baldwin’s real motivation was to unite all of the barons in what would be known as a grand Frankish alliance. That was his first step in enhancing his royal authority in the Holy Land.

Baldwin marched on Tripoli with an army 500 strong; Tancred and William-Jordan arrived in Tripoli with 700 knights; Baldwin le Bourcq and Joscelin de Courtenay also brought with them a sizeable force. The presence of Bertrand’s provencal navy and a Genoese fleet greatly strengthened the crusader force, making it the largest and most formidable army since the time of the First Crusade.

At some point during the siege, Baldwin held a tribunal where he invited all of the leading barons to voice their grievances. After the king had listened to every man’s complaints, he forced them to reconcile: Tancred with Baldwin le Bourcq and Bertrand with William-Jordan. Tancred agreed to relinquish — albeit grudgingly — all territory within the County of Edessa to Baldwin. As compensation, Baldwin reinstated Tancred as lord of Haifa and Galilee. It was agreed that William-Jordan would keep Tortosa and Arqa while Bertrand would assume control over Mount Pilgrim, Jubail and Trippoli once Tripoli fell to the crusaders.

Fortunately for Bertrand and for the rest of the kingdom, the Muslims of Tripoli capitulated, unable to hold onto the city for very long. Their terms of surrender was that they’d be allowed to leave the city with as many belongings they could carry or they could remain in the city and pay their Frankish overlords an annual tribute fee. Bertrand, now Count of Tripoli, agreed to their terms and the Franks entered the city on 12 July 1109.

Sadly William-Jordan didn’t live long to enjoy the wealth yielded by Tortosa and Arqa. Shortly after Tripoli capitulated, he was assassinated. Who killed him and for whatever reason is unknown. But William-Jordan’s death added to Bertrand’s holdings, making Bertrand the Count of all of Tripoli. No doubt Bertrand did not grieve or even regret the loss of William-Jordan.

Categories: Baldwin I, The Crusader States, The Kingdom of Jerusalem | Leave a comment

Guy de Lusignan: The Man who Destroyed the Kingdom of Jerusalem

In this article, Dr. Helena Schrader talks all about Guy de Lusignan, the man who destroyed the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Guy de Lusignan has the distinction of being the man who lost the Kingdom of Jerusalem by leading the Christian army to an unnecessary but utterly devastating defeat at the Battle of Hattin in 1187.  Such noted modern historians such as Malcolm Barber, Bernard Hamilton and W.B. Bartlett argue Lusignan’s disastrous decision to abandon the Springs of Sephoria and march to the relief of the garrison of Tiberius in July 1187 can be explained by the fact that he was criticized for not taking the offense in the campaign of 1183.  Guy, they argue, was in a difficult psychological position and had every reason to doubt the Count of Tripoli’s loyalty. They generally portray Guy more as a victim of circumstances than the cause of disaster.  Indeed, it has become popular to blame the “disloyalty” of other lords rather than Guy for the loss of his kingdom. Guy’s contemporaries saw it differently.

So who has the right of it? A brief resume of Guy de Lusignan’s career.

Guy de Lusignan enters history with his marriage to Sibylla of Jerusalem, King Amalric’s first-born child and older sister too King Baldwin IV. Or does he?

In the spring of 1168, the Earl of Salisbury was escorting Queen Eleanor of England to Poitiers with a small escort when the party was ambushed by “the Lusignans.” The Lusignans had recently been dispossessed of their lands for rebelling against Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine. They hoped by capturing Eleanor to gain a bargaining chip for the restoration of their fortunes. The Earl of Salisbury turned over his own horse, which was stronger and faster, to Eleanor so she could escape, but while he was remounting he was fatally pierced from behind by a lance. Salisbury’s nephew William Marshal (later famous as tutor of the Henry the Young King, Earl of Pembroke and Regent of England) was in Salisbury’s entourage.  According to the 13th century biography of William Marshal, commissioned by his eldest son and based on the accounts of many of Marshal’s contemporaries, this ambush was led by Guy de Lusignan and his brother Geoffrey. Some sources claim that Guy himself wielded the murderous lance.  Allegedly, this act made Guy persona non grata in the courts of the Plantagenets and induced him to seek his fortune in Outremer. Maybe, but there was a gap of some 12 years, so maybe not.

Nevertheless, when considering Guy de Lusignan’s later reputation, it is important to remember that he was accused of a profoundly unchivalrous murder by contemporaries — before he ever set foot in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Guy appears to have arrived in Jerusalem in late 1179 or early 1180 at the invitation of his elder brother Aimery. Aimery was making a career in Jerusalem, according to some, by sleeping with the Queen Mother, Agnes de Courtenay. At the time Guy arrived in the Holy Land, Baldwin IV was king — and clearly dying of leprosy. Since it was also clear that Baldwin IV would not sire heirs of his body, his nephew Baldwin was his heir apparent. This boy had been born to his elder sister Sibylla after the death of her first husband, William of Montferrat. Sibylla herself was thus a young (20 year old) widow. There were rumors, however, that she had pledged herself to the Baron of Ramla and Mirabel. The rumors were widespread enough for Salah-ad-Din to demand a king’s ransom when Ramla was taken captive on the Litani in 1179 (apparently in anticipation of Ramla becoming King of Jerusalem) — and for the Byzantine Emperor to pay that exorbitant ransom (since Ramla could not possibly pay it from his own resources) in anticipation of the same event.

But suddenly at Easter of 1180, Sibylla married not Ramla (who was on his way back from Constantinople) but the virtually unknown and landless Guy de Lusignan.  The wedding was concluded in a hasty ceremony lacking preparation and pomp. According to the most reliable contemporary source, the Archbishop of Tyre (who was also Chancellor at the time and so an “insider,”) Baldwin rushed his sister into the marriage with the obscure, landless and discredited Guy because the Prince of Antioch, the Count of Tripoli and the Baron of Ramla were planning to depose him and place Ramla on the throne as Sibylla’s consort.

Perhaps, but there is no other evidence of Tripoli’s disloyalty, and Ramla’s hopes of marrying Sibylla had been known for a long time — and all the way to Damascus and Constantinople. Why did that marriage suddenly seem threatening to Baldwin IV?

Another contemporary source, Ernoul, suggests another reason for the hasty and unsuitable (for there is no way the third son of a Poitevin baron could be considered a suitable match for a Princess of Jerusalem) marriage: that Guy had seduced Sibylla. Aside from the fact that this had happened more than once in history, the greatest evidence for a love match is Sibylla’s steadfast — almost hysterical — attachment to Guy, as we shall see.  Meanwhile, however, the marriage alienated not only the jilted Baron of Ramla, but the Count of Tripoli as well. In short, it was not a very wise political move and thus hard to explain as a political decision.  Last but not least, even the Archbishop of Tyre admits the King soon regretted the decision. All these factors point to Ernoul’s explanation of a seduction, a scandal and an attempt to “put things right” by a King who was devoted to his sister.

Guy was named Count of Jaffa and Ascalon and appears to have been accepted by the Barons of Jerusalem as a fait accompli that could no longer be changed — until, in September 1183, King Baldwin became so ill that he named his brother-in-law Regent.  As such, Guy took command of the Christian forces during Salah-ad-Din’s fourth invasion of the Kingdom. What happened next is obscure. Although Saladin managed to burn some monasteries and there were some bitterly fought skirmishes, ultimately the Saracens were forced to withdraw; an apparent Christian victory (and certainly better than what happened four years later, the next time Guy was in command!)

Yet something more must have happened on this campaign because just two months later, when word reached Jerusalem that the vital castle of Kerak was besieged by Saladin, the barons of Jerusalem “unanimously” refused to follow Guy. They flat out refused to come to the relief of an important border fortress in which both royal princesses (Sibylla and Isabella), the Queen Mother and the Dowager Queen were all trapped (because of a wedding) until Guy was stripped of the regency.

That is an incredibly strong statement.  The fact that the historical record is too patchy to enable us to explain it does not negate the importance of the event. The collective barons of Outremer were not dolts, cowards or fools.  They had accepted Guy’s command two months earlier. Even Tripoli and Ramla, who both detested him, had mustered under Guy’s command to face Salah-ad-Din in September, putting the welfare of the kingdom ahead of their personal feelings. But two months later even men who had previously shown no particular animosity toward Lusignan refused to accept his leadership. King Baldwin had no choice but to take back the reins of government, command of his army and have his nephew crowned as co-king. The latter was to reassure the barons that even if he died in the near term (as he expected), they would not have to pay homage to Guy.

After Kerak had been successfully relieved, Baldwin IV sought desperately to have his sister’s marriage to Guy annulled. This had nothing to do with personal grievances against Guy (although he had those too); it was necessary in order to find a long-term solution to the succession crisis. His nephew was a sickly boy, and the kingdom needed a vigorous and militarily competent leader. Baldwin’s efforts to replace the discredited Guy were thwarted by Sibylla, who refused to consider a divorce — something she is hardly likely to have done, if the marriage had been political in the first place. If Sibylla had married for reasons of state, she would have divorced for reasons of state.  Less than a decade later, her half-sister Isabella put the kingdom ahead of her affections when she divorced the ineffectual Humphrey de Toron to marry the man around whom the barons had rallied, Conrad de Montferrat.

Baldwin IV died in 1185 and was succeed by his nephew with Raymond de Tripoli as regent.  The fact that Tripoli was made regent — with the consent of the High Court — and the Count of Edessa was made the boy’s guardian are both indications of the intensity of the animosity and suspicion the bishops and barons of Jerusalem harbored for Guy de Lusignan by this time. There was, after all, a precedent for a queen reigning for an under-aged son, Melisende had reigned in her own right for her son Baldwin III.

At the death of Baldwin V roughly one year later, hostility to Guy had not substantially weakened. As was usual following the death of a king, the High Court was convened to elect the next monarch. Some modern historians have made much of the fact that Tripoli summoned the High Court to Nablus rather than convening in Jerusalem itself. This is interpreted as a sign of disloyalty, but there is nothing inherently disloyal about meeting in another city of the kingdom. High Courts also met in Acre and Tyre at various times.  Nablus was part of the royal domain, comparatively close to Jerusalem, and the Templars under their new Master, Gerard de Ridefort (surely the worst Master the Templars ever had), were said to have taken control of the gates and streets of Jerusalem. The Templars did not have a seat in the High Court, but they controlled 300 knights and the decision to hold the High Court in Nablus can better be explained as the legitimate desire to avoid Templar pressure than as disloyalty on the part of Tripoli.

In any case, while the bulk of the High Court was meeting in Nablus, Sibylla persuaded the Patriarch to crown her queen in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  In addition to the Patriarch (allegedly another former lover of her mother) and the Templars (whose Grand Master had a personal feud with Tripoli), Sibylla was supported by her uncle Joscelyn Count of Edessa and the colorful and controversial Reynald de Chatillon, Lord of Oultrejourdan by right of his wife.  We know of no other supporters by name, but we know that Reynald de Chatillon sought to increase Sibylla’s support by saying she would be queen in her own right without mentioning Guy.  Even Bernard Hamilton, one of Guy’s modern apologists, admits that: “Benjamin Kedar has rightly drawn attention to sources independent of the Eracles [e.g. Ernoul] and derived from informants on the whole favorable to Guy de Lusignan, which relate that Sibyl’s supporters in 1186 required her to divorce Guy before they would agree to recognize her as queen.” (The Leper King and His Heirs, Cambridge University Press, 2000 p. 218).

According to these sources, Sibylla promised to divorce Guy and choose another man for her husband as her consort. Instead, once she was crowned, she chose Guy as her consort — and crowned him herself when the Patriarch refused.  Once again, Sibylla had chosen Guy over not only the wishes of her subjects but in violation of an oath/promise she had made to her supporters (not her enemies, note, to her supporters). I repeat: this is not the behavior of a woman who had been forced in to a hasty and demeaning marriage by her brother out of political expediency; it is consistent with a woman who was passionately in love with the man who she had foisted upon her brother and her subjects against their wishes.

With this dual coronation, Sibylla and Guy had usurped the throne of Jerusalem, but without the Consent of the High Court they were just that — usurpers.  The High Court (or rather those members of it meeting at Nablus) was so outraged that, despite the acute risk posed by Salah-ad-Din, they considered electing and crowning Sibylla’s half-sister Isabella. To risk civil war when the country was effectively surrounded by a powerful and united enemy is almost incomprehensible — and highlights just how desperate the opposition to Guy de Lusignan was. In retrospect, it seems like madness that men would even consider fighting their fellow Christians when the forces of Islam were so powerful, threatening and well-led.

Then again, with the benefit of hind-sight, maybe it would have been better to depose of Guy de Lusignan before he could lead the country to utter ruin at Hattin?

In the event, Humphrey de Toron, Isabella’s young husband, didn’t have the backbone to confront Guy de Lusignan. In the dark of night he fled Nablus to go to Jerusalem in secret and pay homage to Guy. With this act, the High Court lost their alternative monarch and capitulated — except for Ramla and Tripoli, the most inveterate opponents of Lusignan.  Ramla preferred to quit the kingdom altogether, turning over his lucrative lordships to his younger brother and seeking his fortune in Antioch. (He disappears from history and we don’t know where or when he died.) Tripoli simply refused to recognize Guy as his king and made a separate peace with Salah-ad-Din — until he was reconciled after a tragic incident in May 1187.

Two months later, Guy de Lusignan proved that Ramla, Tripoli and the majority of the High Court had rightly assessed his character, capabilities and suitability to rule. Guy led the Christian kingdom to an unnecessary but devastating defeat which resulted in the loss of the holiest city in Christendom, Jerusalem, and indeed the entire kingdom save the city of Tyre. Only a new crusade would restore a fragment of the Kingdom and enable Christendom to hang on to the coastline for another century.

With all due respect to revisionism and the legitimate right of historians to question familiar and popular interpretations of events, it is also wise to remember that chronicles and other historical documents provide us with an imperfect and incomplete picture.  The actions and judgment of contemporaries, on the other hand, were based on much more comprehensive knowledge and information we do not have.  Based on the actions of Guy de Lusignan’s contemporaries, I believe the Ernoul’s portrayal of Guy de Lusignan is closer to the mark than the apologist image of modern historians.

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