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Monday, August 15, 2022

Re-Establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem

  The Third Crusade was over. The Kingdom of Jerusalem now had to survive on its own. That this was possible is largely due to wise moves on the part of King Richard -- and luck.

Henri de Champagne
The foundations of this ‘second’ Kingdom of Jerusalem were laid by Richard the Lionheart not only through the territorial gains of his campaign but by his wise decision to allow the barons of Jerusalem to, in accordance with their traditions, select their next king. After initially siding with Guy de Lusignan, the course of the crusade convinced Richard that Guy would never be able to hold the fragile kingdom together. The issue came to a head when in April 1192, Richard received news that his brother John had allied with Philip II of France and he was at risk of losing his crown and his empire. He announced his decision to return to the West to confront his domestic enemies and asked each man in the army to decide according to his own conscience whether to remain to fight for Jerusalem or not.  The Itinerarium describes what happened next:

When they had discussed this for some time, the wiser of them returned this reply to the royal enquiry: because the country had been devastated by disputes and disagreements, … the most essential thing was to create a new king whom everyone would obey, to whom the country could be entrusted, who would wage the people’s wars and whom the whole army would follow. If this did not happen before King Richard’s departure, they declared they would all leave since they were unable to guard the country by themselves.[i]

 Richard then asked them who they wished to be their king. ‘At once all the people, small and great, went down on their knees and begged and implored him to raise the marquis [Conrad Marquis de Montferrat, Queen Isabella’s husband] to be their prince and defender….’[ii] 
Richard accepted this decision and sent his nephew Henri Count of Champagne to Montferrat in Tyre with the news of his election. The message delivered, Champagne left Tyre but had only gone as far as Acre when the news overtook him that Conrad had been assassinated. Although attempts were later made to pin the blame on Richard, Saladin and even Humphrey of Toron, the most probably explanation is that Montferrat had offended the Assassins. 
Champagne immediately returned to Tyre, probably to verify the truth of this apparently incredible rumor. One version of what happened has captured the popular imagination and been repeated uncritically ever since. Allegedly ‘the people’ of Tyre welcomed Henri with jubilation and proclaimed him king. This has no basis in historical fact. Kings were not elected by ‘popular acclaim’ in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, least of by the citizens of a single city. The High Court, composed of the most important barons and bishops of the realm, elected the kings. The Lyon Continuation of Tyre, which is based in large part on material from Outremer, explicitly states that ‘on the advice of the barons of the Kingdom of Jerusalem,’ Richard nominated his nephew Henri de Champagne as the next king. 
While this is undoubtedly closer to the truth, it still ignores an important point. Queen Isabella had already been recognized by the barons and bishops of Jerusalem as Queen. She was very much alive and, indeed, pregnant. All this ‘proclaiming,’ ‘electing’ and ‘nominating’ actually consisted of finding a suitable husband for the widowed queen. Champagne was a 26-year-old bachelor who had been campaigning in the Holy Land more than eighteen months, having come out before the main forces of the Third Crusade. He was a nephew to both the King of England and the King of France, his mother being Eleanor of Aquitaine’s daughter by Louis VII. This made him a diplomatic choice, assuring support from both the French and English. 
Medieval chronicles agree, however, that Henri de Champagne was initially reluctant to accept the crown. Acceptance meant he would not be able to return home. The kingdom itself existed more in people’s hearts than in reality. It was threatened on all sides by the armies of Saladin. The crusading force that had established control of the coastline was already disintegrating, and the King of England had announced his intention to return home. Furthermore, if Queen Isabella gave birth to a son, this posthumous child of Montferrat would take precedence over Champagne’s own offspring. It did not look like a very promising proposition to the young Count of Champagne. Yet Henri changed his mind abruptly — according to the Itinerarium because Queen Isabella persuaded him by her grace and beauty. 
Whatever the exact sequence of events, on 5 May 1192— just eight days after she had been so unexpectedly widowed — Isabella married the Count of Champagne. Henri’s first act as King of Jerusalem was to persuade his uncle the King of England to remain through the campaign season rather than immediately depart for England. This enabled the crusaders to consolidate gains, and with Richard’s dramatic victory at Jaffa, to bring Saladin to the negotiating table. When Richard departed in October, he allegedly promised his nephew that he would return with a new crusading army to continue where he left off when the truce expired. Meanwhile, Henri and Isabella set about re-establishing regular government from a ‘provisional’ capital in Acre. The institutions of government from the High Court down were reconstituted and started to function again.

[i] Anonymous, Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi translated by Helen Nicholson as ‘The Chronicle of the Third Crusade’ (Crusades Texts in Translation) [Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997] book 5, chapter 24, 302-3.

[ii] Itinerarium, book 5, chapter 24, 303.


The bulk of this entry is an excerpt from Dr. Schrader's comprehensive study of the crusader states.

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is also the author of six books set in the Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades. The situation in Outremer following the end of the Third Crusade and the creation of the Kingdom of Cyprus is depicted in detail in The Last Crusader Kingdom.


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