The armies of Outremer differed substantially from contemporary Western and Muslim armies. They represented not only an adaptation of Western military traditions to the conditions in the Near East, but reflected the diversity of the population from which the armies were drawn. In his recent study "The Crusader Armies" Steve Tibble claims that the armies of the crusader states would have been completely "unrecognizable" to the modern eye expecting hoards of fanatical, white Western Europeans wearing red crosses on their surcoats. Rather:
The voices talking and shouting [would be] perhaps Armenian or Syriac. The lower-level commands being issued in Arabic and what we now call medieval French...Turbans would have been worn to keep the heat of the sun off the helmets. Bedouin scouts would be bringing back news of he enemy troop movements, reporting in Arabic... Bad tempered camels and donkeys were in the baggage train, handled by increasingly frustrated Syrians shouting abuse at them in local dialect.
The 'crusader' armies of the Middle East in the twelfth century often had relatively few genuine crusaders in them. After the first couple of decades, the majority of the Franks were mixed-race local settlers...and in many crusader armies even these local Franks were in a minority, marching in units with Armenian-speaking comrades, or with other native Christian soldiers.
Below I take a closer look at the the component parts of the armies of Jerusalem in 12th Century.
Despite the name, which was borrowed from the Byzantines, the term “turcopole” in the context of the crusader states refers not to an ethnic group but simply to “mounted archers” — of diverse ethnic character. They were not Muslim converts much less Muslim troops. Nor were the turcopoles the children of mixed marriages. Rather the turcopoles were native Christians, primarily Armenians and Maronites, who started with a comparatively strong tradition of warfare and who over the generations of Frankish rule developed outstanding skills as mounted archers to counter the Turks.
Last but not least, the Kings of Jerusalem had the right to issue the “arriere ban” which obligated every free man to come to the defense of the kingdom. This was in effect an early form of the “levee en masse” of the French Revolution. Significantly, the King of Jerusalem could command the service of his vassals for a full year, not just 40 days as in the West, but such service was intended for the defense of the realm. If the king took his army outside the borders on an offensive expedition, he was required to pay for the services of his subjects.
All my novels set in the crusader states attempt to reflect the above. Find out more about all these books at: https://www.helenapschrader.com/crusades.html