While they were in Egypt, Baldwin I announced his arrangement for his succession before all his vassals. That was at the end of March in 1118, shortly before his death. ‘Baldwin resolved the kingdom should go to his brother Eustace, if by chance he would come. If indeed he was unable because of his age, Baldwin le Bourcq should be chosen,’ Albert of Aachen wrote (quoted in Malcolm Barber, 117).
Much to his fortune, Baldwin le Bourcq arrived in Jerusalem the same time as the bier, carrying Baldwin’s body. Baldwin le Bourcq’s timely arrival is debatable: Both William of Tyre and Fulcher of Chartres said that Baldwin had gone to Jerusalem to consult with the king. Albert of Aechen wrote that he had come to Jerusalem to partake in Easter worship and knew nothing about the king’s death. Given the religious and historical significance of Easter, it is quite possible Baldwin would have gone to the holy city to partake in Easter festivities without knowing of King Baldwin’s death. On the other hand, the two Baldwins maintained a cordial relationship throughout the years, so chances are, Baldwin le Bourcq learnt of his death while travelling to Jerusalem.
Given his relation to Baldwin I, Baldwin le Bourcq was the obvious choice for succession in place of Eustace given that Eustace was in France. Eustace’s decision to return home following the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 demonstrated to the aristocracy in the Holy Land that he had no intention of settling in the Holy Land. Yet, some of the nobles were so fiercely in favor of hereditary succession that they left for Europe immediately following King Baldwin’s death.
Regardless, Baldwin was chosen and consecrated King Baldwin II on Easter Day, April 14th, 1118 (Barber, 118). All of the leading nobles assembled at the Temple of Soloman and Baldwin granted each man a fief, receiving an oath of fealty from each of them in return. He then sent them back home with honor.
Baldwin II centralized his royal authority by taking control over all the key cities: Nablus, Samaria, Jaffa, Haifa, Hebron, Acre, Sidon and Tiberius. He used a portion of the revenue yielded from these cities to reward his most loyal vassals.
Interestingly enough, Baldwin wasn’t formerly consecrated King until Christmas Day 1119 at Bethlehem. The 12th century chronicler, Matthew of Edessa suggested that Baldwin refused the title of King but agreed to rule in Eustace’s place until Eustace arrived in the Holy Land. Baldwin’s decided waiting time, according to Matthew, was one year. When Eustace didn’t arrive within that time, Baldwin assumed the title of King. Historian Malcolm Barber, though, suggests that ‘Baldwin wanted a joint coronation with his wife, Morphia, who was not in the kingdom at the time of his accession (120).
Both accounts are more than likely true, but no one can deny the divisions that existed within the new kingdom’s nobility over Baldwin le Bourcq’s accession to the throne. Those who favored Eustace resented Baldwin II. Unfortunately that left Baldwin in a weaker position than his predecessor, one that would persist throughout the entirety of his reign.