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Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291)

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The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded as a result of the First Crusade, in 1099. Destroyed a first time by Saladin in 1187, it was re-established around Saint-Jean d'Acre and maintained until the capture of that city in 1291. During these two centuries it was for Western Europe a genuine centre of colonization. As the common property of Christendom it retained its international character to the end, although the French element predominated among the feudal lords and the government officials, and the Italians acquired the economic preponderance in the cities.

(1) Kings and Succession to the Throne

The succession of kings is as follows:

  • Godfrey of Bouillon , elected Lord of Jerusalem, 22 July, 1099, did not assume the royal crown and died 18 July, 1100, having strengthened the new conquest by his victory over the Egyptians at Ascalon (12 August, 1099).
  • After his death the barons invited his brother Baldwin, Count of Edessa, to assume the lordship of Jerusalem. Baldwin accepted and had himself crowned King of Jerusalem by the Patriarch Daimbert in the basilica of Bethlehem (25 December, 1100). Baldwin I (1100-1118) was the real founder of the kingdom. With the aid of new crusaders, and more especially the help afforded by the Genoese, Pisan, and Venetian fleets he took possession of the principal cities on the coast of Syria. Besides, the Countship of Tripoli and the Principality of Edessa became fiefs of the new kingdom, but the Principality of Antioch preserved its independence. Baldwin I attacked even the Caliphate of Egypt but died at El-Arish (1118) in the course of this expedition.
  • His cousin, Baldwin du Bourg, Count of Edessa, was chosen by the barons to succeed him. Baldwin II (1118-1131), who had followed Godfrey of Bouillon to the crusade, was a valiant knight and, in 1124, took possession of Tyre. In 1129 he married his daughter Mélisende to Fulc, Count of Anjou, who was the father of Geoffrey Plantagenet and already sixty years of age.
  • Fulc (1131-1141) succeeded his father-in-law.
  • Under his son, Baldwin III (1144-1162), who married Theodora Comnena, the kingdom attained its greatest dimensions after the capture of Ascalon (1153), but the principality of Edessa was wrested from it in 1144.
  • Amaury I (1162-1174), brother of Baldwin III, succeeded to the throne on the latter's death, being only twenty-seven years of age. He was one of Jerusalem's most brilliant sovereigns, and thought to profit by the anarchy that prevailed in Egypt in order to acquire possession of that country, reaching Cairo twice (1167 and 1168); and, for the moment, having Egypt under his protectorate. But the formation of Saladin's power soon placed the kingdom in peril.
  • Amaury died prematurely in 1174, leaving as his successor his son Baldwin IV (1174-1185), a very gifted young man, who had been the pupil of William of Tyre, but who was attacked with leprosy and rendered incapable of taking charge of affairs. He at first reigned under the guardianship of Milon de Planci and, assisted by Renaud de Châtillon, inflicted a defeat upon Saladin at Ramleh (1177).
  • By 1182 the dreadful disease had gained such headway that the unfortunate Baldwin "the Leprous" ("le Mesel") had the son of his sister Sibylla by the Count of Montferrat crowned under the name of Baldwin V . He also had Sibylla take as her second husband Guy of Lusignan, who had put himself at Baldwin's service and had been appointed by him regent of the kingdom. However, as Guy seemed incompetent, the barons took the regency away from him and confided it to Raymond, Count of Tripoli. Baldwin IV died in 1185, at the age of twenty-five, without having married, and left the kingdom a prey to discord and exposed to the attacks of Saladin.
  • The young Baldwin V , his nephew, died in 1186, supposedly of poisoning.
  • It was largely due to the instrumentality of Renaud de Châtillon that the barons elected Guy of Lusignan , (1186-1192) and Sibylla sovereigns of Jerusalem. Incapable of defending his kingdom against Saladin, Guy was made prisoner at the battle of Tiberias (4 July, 1187), which was followed by the capture of Jerusalem (2 October), and purchased his liberty by yielding Ascalon to Saladin. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed. Then took place the Crusade of Saint-Jean d'Acre, of which Guy commenced the siege in 1188. However, Queen Sibylla died in 1190 and Conrad of Montferrat, who had married Isabella, Sibylla's sister, disputed the title of king with Guy of Lusignan, and this rivalry lasted throughout the siege of Saint-Jean d'Acre , which city capitulated 11 July, 1191. On 28 July, Richard Coeur de Lion, King of England, imposed his arbitration upon the two rivals and decided that Guy should be king during his lifetime and have Conrad for his successor, the latter to receive Beirut, Tyre, and Sidon as guarantees; but on 29 April, 1192, Conrad was assassinated by emissaries of the "Old Man of the Mountain". Guy, on his side, renounced the title of king (May, 1192) and purchased the Island of Cyprus from the Templars.
  • He died in 1194 and his widow named Henry I , Count of Champagne (1194-1197), who was elected king, but in 1197 Henry died from an accident.
  • Isabella married a fourth husband, Amaury of Lusignan (1197-1205), brother of Guy and already King of Cyprus. The turning of the course of the crusade to Constantinople obliged him to conclude a truce with the Moslems. Amaury died in 1205.
  • He left an only daughter Mélisende who married Bohemond IV, Prince of Antioch. However, it was to Mary, daughter of Isabella and Conrad of Montferrat, that the barons gave the preference, and they requested the King of France to provide her with a husband.
  • Philip Augustus accordingly selected John of Brienne (1210-1225), who hesitated for a long time before accepting and did not arrive in Palestine until 1210, having first obtained from the pope a considerable loan of money. He directed the Crusade of Egypt in 1218 and, after his defeat, came to the West to solicit help. Hermann von Salza, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, advised him to give his only daughter Isabella (Yolande) in marriage to the Emperor Frederick II.
  • In 1225, Henry of Malta, Admiral of Sicily, came to seek the young princess at Saint-Jean d'Acre, and on 9 November she married Frederick II at Brindisi. Immediately after the ceremony the emperor declared that his father-in-law must renounce the title of King of Jerusalem, and he himself adopted it in all his acts. After the death of Isabella, by whom he had a son Conrad, Frederick II attempted to take possession of his kingdom and to fulfill his crusader's vow, the execution of which he had so long deferred, and landed at Saint-Jean d'Acre (September, 1228), excommunicated by the pope and in disfavour with his new subjects. By a treaty concluded with the Sultan of Egypt, Frederick regained Jerusalem, and on 18 March, 1229, without any religious ceremony whatever, assumed the royal crown in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having confided the regency to Balian d'Ibelin, Lord of Sidon, he returned to Europe. To strengthen his power in the East he sent to Saint-Jean d'Acre Richard Filangieri, Marshal of the Empire, whom he named baile (guardian) of the kingdom. The new regent combated the influence of the Ibelins and tried to secure possession of the Island of Cyprus, but was conquered and had to content himself with placing an imperial garrison at Tyre (1232).
  • In 1243 Conrad, son of Frederick II , having attained his majority, the court of barons declared that the regency of the emperor must cease, and invited the legitimate king to come in person and exercise his rights. Alix of Champagne, Queen of Cyprus and daughter of King Henry I, claimed the regency on the ground of being Isabella of Brienne's nearest relative; and it was conferred upon her and her second husband Ralph, Count of Soissons, the imperial garrison, besieged in Tyre, being forced to capitulate.
  • On the death of Alix (1244) her son Henry of Lusignan , King of Cyprus, assumed the regency but, in the month of September, 1244, a troop of Kharizmians seized Jerusalem, whilst the Mongols threatened Antioch. After his Crusade of Egypt, St. Louis landed at Saint-Jean d'Acre (1250) and remained four years in Palestine, putting the fortresses of the kingdom in a state of defence and endeavouring to reconcile the factious barons. However, just at the time that the Christian states were menaced by the Mongols and the Mamelukes of Egypt, interior strife was at its height.
  • In 1257, Henry of Lusignan having died, some of the barons acknowledged Queen Plaisance regent in the name of her son Hugh II, whereas others would give their allegiance to none other than Conradin, grandson of Frederick II. Moreover, civil war broke out at Acre between the Genoese and the Venetians, between the Hospitallers and the Templars, and on 31 July, 1258, the Venetians destroyed the Genoese fleet before Acre. The Mameluke Sultan Bibars, "the Cross-bowman" ( El-Bundukdáree ), recommenced the conquest of Syria without meeting any resistance and, in 1268, the last Christian cities, Tripoli, Sidon, and Acre, were cut off from one another.
  • King Hugh II of Lusignan had died in 1267, and his succession was disputed by his nephew, Hugh III, already King of Cyprus, and Mary of Antioch whose maternal grandfather was Amaury of Lusignan. In 1269 the barons acknowledged Hugh III, but the new king, unable to cope with the lack of discipline among his subjects, retired to Cyprus after naming Balian d'Ibelin regent of the kingdom (1276). But, in 1277, Mary of Antioch sold her rights to Charles of Anjou, King of Naples, who, thinking to subdue the East, sent a garrison under command of Roger of San Severino to occupy Acre.
  • After the Sicilian Vespers (1282), which ruined the projects of Charles of Anjou, the inhabitants of Acre expelled his seneschal and proclaimed Henry II of Cyprus (15 August, 1286) their king. But at this time the remnants of the Christian possessions were hard pressed by the Mamelukes. On 5 April, 1291, the Sultan Malek-Aschraf appeared before Saint-Jean d'Acre and, despite the courage of its defenders, the city was taken by storm on 28 May. The Kingdom of Jerusalem no longer existed, and none of the expeditions of the fourteenth century succeeded in re-establishing it.

The title of King of Jerusalem continued to be borne in a spirit of rivalry: by the Kings of Cyprus belonging to the House of Lusignan; and by the two Houses of Anjou which claimed to hold their rights from Mary of Antioch. In 1459 Charlotte, daughter of John III, King of Cyprus, married Louis of Savoy, Count of Geneva, and in 1485 ceded her rights to Jerusalem to her nephew Charles of Savoy ; hence, from that time up to 1870, the title of King of Jerusalem was borne by the princes of the House of Savoy.

(2) Institutions and Civilization

Towards the middle of the twelfth century, when the Kingdom of Jerusalem had attained its greatest dimensions, it comprised the entire coast of Syria from Beirut on the north to Raphia on the south. On the northeast its territory, bounded by the Lebanon district, which separated it from the Moslem principality of Damascus, was hardly more than a few leagues in breadth; on the southeast it extended beyond the Dead Sea and the Jordan as far as the Arabian Desert and even included the port of Aïla on the Red Sea . In the north the Countship of Tripoli was under the suzerainty of the King of Jerusalem. But in the very interior of the kingdom the power of the king was checked by numerous obstacles, and the sovereignty belonged less to the king than to the body of feudatories whose power was centered in the High Court , composed of vassals and rear-vassals. Its authority governed even the succession to the throne, in event of dispute between two members of the royal family ; it alone was empowered to make laws or "assizes", and to its initiative was due the compilation of the "Assizes of Jerusalem", erroneously ascribed to Godfrey of Bouillon. The king took an oath in presence of this court and had no right to confiscate a fief unless in accordance with the regular judgment of that assembly. Moreover, if the king were to violate his oaths, the assizes formally proclaimed the right of the lieges to resist. The High Court, presided over by the constable or marshal, assembled only when convoked by the king; in judicial matters it constituted the supreme tribunal and its judgments were without appeal: "Nulle chose faite par court n'en doit estre desfaite" (Assizes, I, clxxvii). A "Court of the Burgesses", organized in the twelfth century, had analogous jurisdiction over the burgesses and could sentence to exile or even condemn to death. In the great fiefs mixed courts of knights and burgesses had similar control independently of the liege. Even within these limits the king was incapable of compelling vassals to fulfill their feudal obligations. Domiciled in impregnable castles, the architecture of which had been perfected after Moslem models, the nobles led an almost independent life. A fief like that of Montréal with its four castles of Crac, Crac de Montréal, Ahamant, and Vau de Moïse, situated between the Dead and Red Seas, formed a really independent state. Renaud de Châtillon, who became Lord of Montréal in 1174, himself waged war against the Moslems, whom he terrified by his cruise in the Red Sea, and his individual policy was counter to that of King Baldwin VI, who was powerless to prevent him from waging war against Saladin.

The Church, at this period, was also a power independent of the kings, and, with the exception of the king, the Patriarch of Jerusalem was the most important personage in the realm. After the First Crusade a very powerful Latin Church was established in Palestine; numerous monasteries were founded and received large donations of landed property in Palestine as well as in Europe. Some patriarchs, especially Daimbert, who was at enmity with Baldwin I, even endeavoured to found a power thoroughly independent of royalty; nevertheless, both of these powers generally lived in harmony. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was elected by the clergy and acclaimed by the people, had his powers confirmed by the pope, who continued to exercise great authority in Palestine. Moreover, the orders of religious knighthood, the Hospitallers of St. John, organized in 1313, the Templars founded by Hugh of Payens in 1128, and the Teutonic Knightscreated in 1143, formed regular powers, equally independent of Church and State. Most lavishly endowed, they soon owned an incalculable number of fiefs and castles in Palestine and in Europe. In spiritual matters they were directly subject to the pope ; but the king could not interfere in their temporal affairs, and each of the three orders had its own army and exercised the right of concluding treaties with the Moslems.

Although royal authority was restricted to rather narrow limits by these various powers, it nevertheless succeeded in having at its disposal resources adequate to the defence of the Christian states. Its financial revenues were more considerable than those of the majority of the European princes of the twelfth century, amongst the most profitable sources of income being the customs duties enforced at all the ports and of which the register was kept by natives who wrote in Arabic. The king also levied toll upon caravans, had the monopoly of certain industries, and the exclusive right to coin money. At times he obtained from the court of barons authority to levy extraordinary taxes; and in 1182, in order to meet the invasion of Saladin all revenues, even those of the Church were subjected to a tax of 2 per cent. Although the kings of the twelfth century were surrounded by high officials, and kept a sufficiently grand court, at which Byzantine etiquette ruled, they devoted most of their income to the defence of their kingdom. Their vassals owed military service, unlimited as to time, unlike the prevailing Western customs, but in exchange they received pay. Moreover, the king enlisted natives or foreigners, settling on them a life-annuity- or fief de soudée ; a light cavalry of Turcopoles mounted and equipped in Saracenic style, Maronite archers from the Lebanon, and Armenian and Syrian foot-soldiers completed the list of this cosmopolitan army of which the effective force was hardly over 20,000 men, some few hundreds of them being knights. To these regular resources already mentioned we must add the bands of crusaders constantly arriving from Europe, but whose turbulence and lack of discipline often rendered them more of an encumbrance than a help; besides, many considered that, having once engaged in combat with the Moslems, they had accomplished their vows and therefore returned to Europe, thus making continuous warfare well nigh impossible. This explains why with the well-organized Moslem states arrayed against it, the Kingdom of Jerusalem could only dispute the ground foot by foot for two centuries.

Nevertheless, despite its imperfect organization, the economic prosperity of the Latin kingdom attained an extraordinary height of development in the twelfth century. In order to repopulate the country, Baldwin I held out inducements to the Christian communities dwelling beyond the Jordan ; in 1182 the Maronites of the Lebanon abjured their Monothelite heresy. Most of the natives did likewise, and constituted the influential middle class or burgesses of the various cities, having the right to own land and an autonomous administration under magistrates called reis . In the ports, the Italian cities of Genoa, Venice, and Pisa, and the French cities of Marseilles, Narbonne, etc., received grants of houses and even of districts independently administered by their own consuls. Each of these colonies had lands or casaux on the outskirts of the city, where cotton and sugar-cane were cultivated; the colonial merchants had the monopoly of commerce between Europe and the East, and freighted their out-going ships with costly merchandise, spices, China silk, precious stones, etc., which the caravans brought from the interior of Asia. Industries peculiar to Syria, the manufacture of silk and cotton materials, the dye-works and glass factories of Tyre, etc., all helped to feed this commerce, as did also the agricultural products of the land. In exchange, the Western ships brought to Palestine such European products as were necessary to the colonists; two flotillas sailed yearly from Western ports, at Easter and about the feast of St. John, thus ensuring communication between Palestine and Europe. Thanks to this commerce, during the twelfth century the Kingdom of Jerusalem became one of the most prosperous states in Christendom. In the castles, as in the cities, the Western knights loved to surround themselves with gorgeous equipments and choice furniture, the latter often of Arabian workmanship. In Palestine there was a marked development along artistic lines, and churches were erected in the towns according to the rules of Roman architecture. Even now, the cathedral of St. John at Beirut, built about 1130-1140 and transformed into a mosque, shows us the style of edifice reared by Western architects, its structure recalling that of the monuments of Limousin and Languedoe. The specimen of ivory used as a binding for the Psalter of Mélisende, daughter of Baldwin II, and preserved in the British Museum, displays a curious decoration in which are combined designs of Byzantine and Arabian art. But it was military architecture that reached the greatest development and probably furnished models to the West; even today the ruins of the Crac of the Knights, built by the Hospitallers, astonish the beholder by their double gallery, their massive towers, and elegant halls. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, established as a result of the First Crusade, was thus one of the first attempts made by Europeans at colonization.

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