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Monday, November 29, 2021

Myths of the Middle Ages Part II: Brutal Barons and Illiterate Knights

  I  continue with my series debunking common misconceptions about the Middle Ages with a look at the notion that barons and knights were brutal and largely illiterate. 

A squire reading a monument. From Renee d'Anjou's Livre du Cuers d’Amours Espris

The notion that medieval knights and even barons were illiterate is so deeply ingrained in people’s minds that many novelists, even those who have carefully researched the events described in their novels, insist on making their knightly heroes uneducated.  I recently read a novel that made John d’Ibelin, one of the most respected legal experts of the 13th century, semi-illiterate. It was embarrassing even for a reader!

The reality was very different. Let’s start with basics. Barons were the elite of feudal society. They were the closest advisors of the kings. They were the pool of men from which kings drew their most important officials, from chancellors to sheriffs. They came from the same class as the “princes” of the church. They conducted diplomacy. They passed legislation. They dispensed justice. Is it reasonable to believe that these functions were carried out by illiterates? No.

If medieval noblemen left few letters in their own hand-writing it was because they were busy executives. As such, they employed scribes (secretaries) to take dictation and then write up important documents in a clean and neat hand ready for posterity ― just as cabinet ministers, ambassadors, judges and CEOs still do today. But the use of secretaries was even more important in the Middle Ages before we had electronic devices that could easily correct “typos” and when everything was written on expensive parchment or papyrus. The more important a document, the more likely it was to be copied into an elegant hand and richly decorated by a professional ― but that does not mean that those who conceived of, drafted and dictated the document couldn’t read or write!

Knights were, obviously, one level down the social scale, but most knights came from the same social class. They were the younger brothers and sons of noblemen. With a single sword thrust, fall from a horse, or a glass of dirty water, they could suddenly find themselves in the shoes of an elder brother or father. They had to be ready to assume the full responsibilities of lordship, and that meant reading and writing and understanding finances. 

Even less privileged knights with only a small fief still needed to be able to manage it, and that meant reading deeds, contracts, and accounts etc. Household knights, on the other hand, might be entrusted with a wide range of tasks by their lord and were also expected to be literate. Only at the very bottom of the knightly class, where men who had been raised to knighthood not by birth but by exceptional service (usually on the battlefield), would illiterate knights have been found.  Yet such illiterate knights would have been rare by the High and Late Middle Ages because by then literacy had spread far down the social scale.

Furthermore, not only were barons and many knights literate in the sense of being able to read and write, we have numerous examples of secular lords and knights who were poets, novelists, philosophers, and scholars. William Duke of Aquitaine is credited with inventing the tradition of poetry in the vernacular and sparking the troubadour movement. Richard Count of Poitou and later King of England likewise wrote poetry and music. Chretien de Troyes, the man credited with inventing the modern novel, was not a monk or priest but a (comparably humble) member of the knightly class. The same can be said of Walther von der Vogelweide, another wonderful writer of both romantic and politically critical lyric poetry. The great legal scholars of 13th century Outremer came from both the high nobility (Count of Jaffa) and the class of humbler knights such as Philip of Novare, the latter being a significant historian as well. 

Clearly, regardless of class or century, creative genius is the exception. Yet lords who lacked creative talent were often great patrons of the arts. One need only think of Jean Duc de Berry and his exquisitely illustrated Book of Hours, or Renee d’Anjou and his delightful Livre du Cuers d’Amours Espris. In the Holy Land, Baldwin d’Ibelin is only one of several crusader lords credited with translating Arab poetry into French. 

Although these are just random examples that came readily to mind, I hope they make the point that neither lords nor knights of the Middle Ages were likely to be illiterate. 

Knights and barons in Dr. Schrader's novels reflect the high level of literacy expected of this class.

 For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight into historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.






Monday, November 22, 2021

Debunking Myths About the Middle Ages: Part I - Autocratic KIngs and Oppressed Subjects

 Today I begin a five-part series debunking common misconceptions about the Middle Ages. In this series I will look at 1) Autocratic Kings and Oppressed Subjects, 2) Brutal Barons and Illiterate Knights, 3) Serfs like Slaves, 4) Clerical Ignorance and Bigotry, and 5) Widespread Filth and Disease.

One common myth about the Middle Ages is that kings were all-powerful, and their subjects were oppressed, intimidated and utterly without legal protections.  Effectively, people with little information about the Middle Ages project backward the characteristics of totalitarian states upon medieval feudalism ― mixed together with images of Hollywood kings (usually Henry VIII) shouting “off with her head.”
Aside from the fact that Henry VIII was a “Renaissance” king and not medieval at all, the entire notion of absolutism is a post-feudal concept or, more correctly, anti-feudal. The essence of feudalism was a hierarchical pyramid of mutually beneficial agreements. Simplified: between the king and his barons, barons and their knights, knights and their peasants. Feudal oaths bound both parties and established duties on both sides. In its simplest form, the subordinate pledged loyalty in exchange for a promise of protection from the superior.

Feudalism evolved because in the early feudal period life was very uncertain and only powerful men had the resources to build castles and hire fighting men to protect ordinary peaceful farmers. Those peaceful farmers, often the descendants of slaves agreed to till the land in exchange for being protected by their feudal lord from bandits, raiders, and enemies. Knights too entered a contract with a lord, but rather than tilling the soil, they brought service with horse, sword, and lance. The important point was that they did this in exchange for land (a fief) which gave them both income and status. Although at the top of the pyramid the contract is most difficult to grasp because the power relationships between kings and their vassals were not always straight-forward (e.g. Henry Plantagenet and Louis VII of France), in theory it too entailed loyalty on the part of the vassal (baron) in exchange for good-governance by the king.

The operative point is that kings had obligations to their subjects. They owed them good governance which entailed not just defense but also the administration of justice, i.e. the maintenance of “law and order.” A king who failed to deliver good governance could legitimately be challenged by his barons for breach of contract. Thus from Magna Charta and the Oxford Provisions to the wars against Frederick Hohenstaufen in the Holy Land, barons challenged their king because of real or alleged abuses of royal power or failure to ensure peace and good governance.

A major criticism that came up again and again in English history, for example, was the failure of a king to consult his barons, i.e. to prefer his “favorites” (who were often men of lower birth) to his “natural” advisors, i.e. the great magnets/barons of the realm. This epitomizes the contractual nature of feudal oaths: while barons pledged to advise the king, in return he pledged to consult his barons. This obligation on the part of the king to consult with his barons was the basis of Parliament in England, the High Court in Jerusalem, and the Curia Regis in France. 

In short, medieval kings needed to take into account the advice and interests of their tenants-in-chief (which included the most important ecclesiastical lords because of their vast land-holdings), but they were also expected to ensure “good governance” for the lowliest in the land as well. Because feudalism was based on mutual consent and obligations in both directions, the right of either party to sue for breach of contract was implicit in the system. Thus peasants and serfs, although in the first instance subject to the courts of their direct lord, could appeal to the royal courts.  Louis IX, one of the most outstanding medieval monarchs, went so far as to institute special courts of inquiry to investigate allegations of corruption on the part of his own administrators and officers.

This leads us to another important feudal concept: the right to judgment by one’s peers.  What this meant was that, although a seigniorial officer presided over a court, the judgment itself was given by a jury composed of people from the defendant’s own class. The idea that a lord could legally order punishment without a trial is erroneous. Of course, the operative word here is “legally.”  Men with power often act illegally, and in an age where wealth and weapons were generally held in the same hands, it was particularly easy to abuse power. Yet it is still important to remember medieval justice was jury justice ― still common in the Anglo-Saxon world but replaced across most of Europe with justice handed down by trained judges, who rarely share the social status, background or problems of the defendants.

Feudalism ended slowly as powerful monarchs across Europe gradually consolidated their power at the expense of their barons and then evolved an ideology, “the divine right of kings,” to justify their usurpation of power. The concept of “the divine right of kings” ended the notion of a contract between ruler and subjects, and replaced it with the idea that the kings derived their power directly from God. While history books still tend to describe this as “progress,” it was in fact regressive. It weakened the checks-and-balances on the abuse of royal power that had been inherent in the feudal system.
The balance between the kings and barons and the contractual nature of feudalism is reflected in all Dr. Schader's novels set in the Middle Ages.  

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight into historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.





Monday, November 15, 2021

The End to Imperial Interference on Cyprus

 The Emperor's deputy in Outremer had now decisively defeated the Ibelin/Cypriot army at the Battle of Casal Imbert and occupied Cyprus without a fight. Henry I may have come of age, but he was a king without a kingdom. He appeared on the brink of becoming an obscure footnote in history. Instead, he recovered his kingdom in less than two months and ruled for another two decades. Indeed, he delivered such a resounding blow to the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor that he was able to shake off the Imperial yoke altogether.

In the surprise attack at Casal Imbert, the Cypriot/Ibelin army had lost roughly 30 knights and the bulk of their horses and equipment. More important, the Genoese had lost their ships. Thus, while Filangieri struck in Cyprus, King Henry had no means of responding. Filangieri had brilliantly taken advantage of his enemy’s concentration of forces in one place, to attack in another. 

Yet Filangieri had underestimated the Cypriot King. Henry had come of age on the same day that he had to flee from Casal Imbert in his nightshirt. He now proved that he had been no puppet of the Ibelins. Had he been merely their prisoner up to now, he would have abandoned their cause and turned to Filangieri to help him crush his former jailers. Instead, he used his increased stature as king to make significant concessions to the Genoese, securing their continued support, and in order to obtain revenue and fighting men through the bestowal of fiefs in Cyprus upon Syrian knights. In just one month, the Cypriot/Ibelin army was sufficiently reequipped to return to Cyprus — in Imperial ships.

The latter had been tied up in Acre idle. Henry and the Lord of Beirut appealed to the anti-Imperial Patriarch of Jerusalem, arguing that Filangieri in occupying Cyprus had committed a grave sin that threatened the safety of the Holy Land. The point was that Filangieri had attacked a Christian monarch without justification. While the Patriarch sympathized, he demurred, saying he could not interfere in secular affairs. However, he also noted that he would not stop anyone from seizing the ships. At once, the pro-Ibelin mob rushed down to the harbour, where they managed to seize 13 of the large Imperial "salanders" (apparently warships), while the remaining Imperial ships managed to escape by slipping anchor and sailing away.

In these "confiscated" ships, the Cypriot/Ibelin knights, turcopoles and sergeants sailed for Cyprus at the very end of May or the first days of June. Expecting the ports to be heavily defended, Beirut took the radical decision to beach (i.e. wreck) their confiscated Imperial galleys on the shore of an island near Famagusta. This island was connected to the mainland only at low tide. From here, some of the men took small boats into Famagusta harbor to make noise and create a diversion, while the bulk of the army crossed via the ford to the mainland at dawn without encountering serious opposition. 

Indeed, by daybreak, it was clear that the Imperial forces, possibly overestimating the strength of the Cypriot/Ibelin force in the darkness, had opted for a strategic withdrawal. King Henry and his troops spent three days in Famagusta receiving the surrender of the key castle of Kantara and collecting further support before advancing cautiously toward Nicosia. Although they encountered no resistance, they found that the retreating Imperial troops had burned the granges and also vandalized the water and windmills. 

On arrival in Nicosia, the Cypriot/Ibelin army found that, again, the enemy had retreated before them. With a sense of relief, they sought food and lodging — only to be called to arms at vespers. The men rushed out, mustered and marched north to face an Imperial attack. When they were beyond the walls, however, they discovered that the alarm had been rung by Beirut himself. Recognizing that they still faced an intact and formidable enemy army that might strike at any time, Beirut wanted no repeat of Casal Imbert. He ordered the collected and alerted army to camp in a defensible position near water and gardens and a watch was established. 

The next morning, the army set out along the main road from Nicosia to Kyrenia. Between these two cities a dramatic mountain range with jagged peaks and deep pine forests rises up. From Nicosia, the road runs almost due north, weaving with the terrain, until it turns sharply to the right to enter a pass that runs west-east. Then having crested the pass, the road turns north again to descend toward the coastal plain and the port of Kyrenia. Just before the end of the pass, the main road to the royal castle of St. Hilarion branches off. 

St. Hilarion still held for King Henry and was filled with many women and children of Ibelin supporters as well as King Henry’s two sisters. King Henry had received word that the castle was dangerously short of supplies and would soon have to capitulate if it did not receive aid. Anticipating an attempt to relieve St. Hilarion, Filangieri positioned the main body of his army inside the pass, where it was invisible from the lower part of the road, but he had deployed two advance divisions across the Nicosia-Kyrenia road just below the entrance to the pass. 

The mountains separating Kyrenia from Nicosia, seen from the north looking west.

The Imperial forces on Cyprus consisted of the Cypriot traitors and the bulk of the Sicilian knights and Imperial mercenaries. Altogether, Filangieri could deploy over 2,000 horsemen and an unknown number of archers and infantry. The Cypriot/Ibelin army, on the other hand, had been decimated by the desertions, the reinforcement of Beirut, and the losses of Casal Imbert. King Henry could field only 236 knights, supported by sergeants and turcopoles of unrecorded number. The advancing Cypriot/Ibelin army was not only much smaller, it was below the Imperial army and would have to fight uphill to breakthrough. 

However, King Henry knew of a steep and narrow path that ascended the mountain from a village called Agridi just less than a mile west of the main road, i.e., before the enemy positions. Beirut proposed advancing to Agridi, and under cover of darkness the next night, sending relief to St. Hilarion over the narrow path. Beirut divided his army into four divisions, commanded as follows: 1) Sir Hugh d’Ibelin (Beirut’s third son) and Sir Anseau de Brie, 2) Sir Baldwin d’Ibelin (Beirut’s second son, 3) the Lord of Caesarea (Beirut’s nephew) and 4) Beirut with King Henry. 

Beirut’s eldest son Balian, who already had a reputation for prowess from earlier engagements, was publicly denied the place of honor in command of the vanguard, because he had been excommunicated for failing to set aside his wife — and cousin — Eschiva de Montbéliard. (That same lady who had provisioned and was holding the only other castle that had remained loyal to the king as described last week) Saying he trusted God more than Sir Balian’s knighthood, Beirut ordered his firstborn and heir to the rear.

Daylight, however, revealed the pathetic size of the Cypriot/Ibelin army. Immediately, the Sicilians took heart and with cheers, the first division started to descend the slope to attack. Led by Count Walter of Manupello, this division only glancingly engaged with Beirut’s rearguard before continuing toward Nicosia. Christopher Marshall in Warfare in the Latin East suggests this was a matter of incompetence; that the charge was carried out so badly that momentum swept it past the enemy doing no damage. It is equally possible, however, that the intention was to either divert some of Beirut’s troops and divide his forces or to reestablish Imperial control of Nicosia and cut Beirut and King Henry off from retreat. We know some of Beirut’s knights wanted to pursue and Beirut had to prevent them. Certainly, it was only after the Cypriot/Ibelin force carried the day that Count of Manupello retreated to Gastria to seek refuge with the Templars.

Meanwhile, however, the second Imperial division had fallen on the first division of the Cypriot/Ibelin army and pressed it so hard that it had to be reinforced by the second division. The fighting became fierce and hand-to-hand. Sir Anseau de Brie unhorsed the commander, the Count de Menope, and the Cypriot infantry closed in to kill. According to the account of Philip de Novare, no less than seventeen Sicilian knights dismounted to protect him and help him remount — only to be slaughtered by the Cypriot sergeants shouting “Kill! Kill!” Not exactly the picture of chivalry.

The image is from the Hundred Years War -- another in which infantry would often prove decisive.

Yet the battle was far from won. Filangieri’s main force was still safe within the pass. Had they reinforced at this point, the Cypriot army would probably have been overwhelmed. Instead, Sir Balian, with only five knights, attacked from a point high up the slope along a rugged and steep path leading to the head of the pass, cutting off reinforcements at this choke point. He was so hard-pressed that the men around Beirut urged him to go to his son’s assistance, but Beirut insisted that his division — with the King — must continue to advance, presumably toward St. Hilarion. Without further assistance, Sir Balian’s small troops held the foot of the pass and prevented Filangieri from reinforcing his advance divisions.

Below the pass, the Cypriot/Ibelin army decimated the Imperial troops that had engaged them. No less than sixty knights — a huge number by 13th century standards — had been killed and forty more had been taken prisoner. Filangieri decided to cut his losses and disengaged, retreating up the pass and down again to Kyrenia. King Henry and the Ibelins proceeded to the successful relief of St. Hilarion.

Castle of St. Hilarion

Although the Imperial army had sustained shockingly high losses by the standards of the day, it was by no means annihilated. Yet, apparently the fight had gone out it. The Count of Manupello’s division, denied refuge by the Templars, surrendered, while Filangieri and the Cypriot traitors retreated to the fortress of Kyrenia. From here they sent appeals for help to Armenia, Antioch, and the Emperor himself, but when these yielded nothing, Filangieri and the traitors sailed away. The garrison they left behind eventually capitulated after a year-long siege. In short, Agridi had proved decisive. Frederick II never again attempted to send “orders” to King Henry, and the Pope later absolved King Henry of all oaths to the Holy Roman Emperor.

(Note: much of the text of this essay first appeared in Medieval Warfare magazine. For the full article see:

These events are depicted in detail in:

Monday, November 8, 2021

Behind the King's Back: The Imperial Seizure of Cyprus 1232

 Flushed with a sense of triumph after his victory at Casal Imbert, the Imperial Marshal Riccardo Filangieri made the strategic decision to strike at Cyprus. Just as he had seized at the city of Beirut while the Lord of Beirut was still on Cyprus with his fighting men, Filangieri took his army back to Cyprus while King Henry and the entire Cypriot host was in Syria -- without a fleet.

Cyprus had been denuded of troops by the call-up of the feudal host the previous fall. For a second time, the need to concentrate his defenses in one kingdom had left Ibelin vulnerable in the other. This time, however, King Henry of Cyprus stood to lose his entire kingdom. 

Marshal Filangieri's host supposedly numbered roughly 1000 mounted troops including the 600 knights and 100 squires he had brought with him, some 80 knights supporting the former imperial baillies, and allied knights from Armenia and Tripoli. The defensive installations at Famagusta and Kyrenia had already surrendered to the Cypriot lords siding with the Emperor, Amaury Barlais, Amaury de Bethsan, and Hugh de Gibelet. After the Imperial Marshal's arrival, the castle of Kantara also surrendered to him without a fight. 
Kantara Castle
The news of Filangieri's landing struck terror into the hearts of the "ladies and damsels" of Cyprus. Those that could, fled head-over-heels toward the mountain fortress of St. Hilarion, whose castellan Philip de Caffran held fast for the king. Most importantly, the king's two sisters, Isabella and Maria, took refuge here. Unfortunately, events had unfolded so fast that there had been no time to make preparations and the castle was poorly provisioned and not prepared to withstand a siege. It's walls and small garrison were, however, a sufficient deterrent to attack for the short term.

St Hilarion Castle
Those who found refuge here were the lucky ones. The vast majority of dependents who had no chance to get to St. Hilarion found themselves seeking other forms of refuge. According to Philip de Novare:

"... ladies dressed themselves as shepherdesses and their children as shepherds' children, and these women went to glean the grain which was there, and on this they lived, both themselves and their children, in such great misery that it is pitiful to relate. [The Wars of Frederick II against the Ibelins, CXI)
Others, on the other hand, took refuge in churches and "houses of religion," particularly with the militant orders, the Templars and Hospitallers. However, there was one notable exception. Lady Eschiva de Montbeliard "dressed in the robes of a minor brother" not only got herself to the least accessible of all the royal mountain castles (Buffavento), she "provisioned it with food, of which it had none." [Novare, CXI] Unfortunately for historians and novelists we know no more about this remarkable feat than this tantalizing mention in Novare's account -- and the fact that Eschiva was the wife of Beirut's heir, Balian.

Lady Eschiva, the royal princesses and the women in shepherds' disguise were the lucky ones. Filangieri's men had no scruples about breaking into churches and the Knights of Christ, who were not supposed to fight fellow Christians, stood by while the Imperial mercenaries dragged the women and children out of their houses. Novare claims that "they dragged out the ladies and children who clung to the altars and to the priests who chanted the Masses....They put the ladies and children into carts and on donkeys most shamefully and sent them to [Kyrenia] to prison, and they pricked with goads those who refused to go at once." [Novare, CXII]

With the bulk of the ladies and damsels of Cyprus now in a dungeon, the Imperialist army set about laying siege to St. Hilarion. The goal of this appears to have been the capture of the King's sisters, both of whom were of marriageable age. Presumably, Filangieri believed that if he had the princesses in his hands, he could force concessions from King Henry along the lines of "your sisters or the Ibelins." Alternatively, Frederick II, then a widower of five years already and not yet betrothed to Isabella Plantagenet, might have entertained the notion of marrying one of the girls and ruling Cyprus through her, deposing or sidelining King Henry altogether. 

Any way one looked at it, Cyprus had been occupied by a hostile force not interested merely in control of strategic positions, but vindictively concerned about obtaining hostages with which to extort concessions from their foes.  It was probably during this period of Imperial occupation that the only incident in three centuries of Lusignan rule of religious violence against Greek Orthodox clergy occurred. Sometime in early 1232, 13 Orthodox monks were burned at the stake on the orders of a Dominican friar. 

Cyprus had good reason to wish for the return of her young king....

These events are depicted in detail in my latest release:

Monday, November 1, 2021

Humiliation for Rebel Baron

The Lord of Beirut appeared to have his opponent, the Imperial Marshal Riccardo Filangieri on the run. Filangieri had lifted the siege of Beirut citadel in order to withdraw his forces to Tyre. But the triumph was short-lived, and the wheel of fortune spun again.

Beirut's army and his Genoese fleet had only got as far as Casal Imbert when news reached them that the Imperial forces had lifted the siege of the citadel and departed from Beirut altogether, effectively turning it back over to its rightful lord. The very next day, the Patriarch of Antioch sought out the Lord of Beirut to suggest that peace should and could be made between the parties. He had just passed Tyre on his way south and claimed to have full powers to negotiate on behalf of Filangieri. He urged the Lord of Beirut accompany him to Acre where, with the advice of other wise men of the kingdom such as the former regents Balian de Sidon and Eudes de Montbellieard, he promised to arrange an honorable peace between the adversaries.  

The Lord of Beirut, who according to Novare "never refused a reasonable peace" willingly agreed to return with the Patriarch to Acre. He did not, however, trust the Archbishop so much as to disperse his army.  Instead, he left both the bulk of his army and his fleet at Casal Imbert under the command of his loyal vassal Sir Anseau de Brie. Notably, the King of Cyprus also remained with the army at Casal Imbert along with three of Beirut's sons (Baldwin, Hugh and Guy) and his nephew John, the future Count of Jaffa. The latter, Novare, says was only newly knighted and just 17. Guy was roughly the same age and possibly younger, while Hugh and Baldwin were respectively 23 and 24 at the most. King Henry himself was still 14. 

The youth and inexperience of these men may explain why they were so complacent. They appear to have interpreted the Imperial withdrawal from Beirut and the peace overtures as weakness on the part of their adversaries. They encamped dispersed, apparently some taking lodgings in the town. More reprehensible was the fact that no sentries were set nor other precautions taken against attack. Indeed, Sir Anseau de Brie allegedly received warnings of an impending Imperial attack and dismissed them as not credible.

But Filangieri had his spies. As soon as he realized the Cypriot host's poor state of preparedness, he gathered his forces and struck. On twenty-two gallies, he brought his army to Casal Imbert from Tyre and struck at night. The Cypriot/Ibelin forces were taken completely by surprise in their sleep. 

In the ensuing chaos, the Cypriots fought in their nightshirts and virtually unarmed. Some tried to capture the untacked horses and fight without bridles or saddles.  As long as darkness held, the general confusion appears to have favored them, but with the dawn, their small numbers and lack of equipment and horses were all too plainly revealed. The attack became a rout. The Imperial forces seized the entire camp capturing all the tents with their content and nearly all the horses. According to Novare, they only killed "a few" knights, but took 24 to hold for ransom.

What they did not take was King Henry. At the start of the attack, King Henry had been put "naked" on another man's horse and sent to Acre. He was not simply fleeing the combat and securing his own safety. He was sent to bring word to Beirut of what was happening. He reached Acre at dawn on the morning of May 3, 1232 -- the morning of his 15th birthday. He had just come of age, and no longer needed a "regent." Henceforth, he was his own man.

Meanwhile, however, the arrival of the "naked" king on a borrowed horse sent shock waves through Acre. Not only did Beirut rapidly muster what men he had, but he was accompanied by the Lords of Sidon, Caesarea, and Caiphas as well as Eudes de Montbeliard.  Sidon and Montbelliard had earlier served as Imperial regents and were considered neutral in the conflict. Their presence is a reminder that, despite what blame the Cypriots bore for carelessness, the attack occurred during peace negotiations. International custom -- even in the 13th century -- precluded hostilities during negotiations. Sidon and Montbeliard's presence with Beirut indicates non-partisan condemnation of the attack. 

The distance from Acre to Casal Imbert is just over 8 miles. As Beirut advanced, he started to encounter men fleeing from Casal Imbert. They cleared the road to make way for the advancing men under Beirut, but a sergeant with Beirut offered to search among the fleeing men for Beirut's sons. Beirut told him not to bother because his sons, he said, would not dare to run so far -- or at least not in a direction where they might run into him!

A little farther along the road, they encountered a sergeant who had been surprised at Casal Imbert. Weeping, he reported that "all" Beirut's sons had been killed in the engagement. Beirut answered, "And what of this? Thus should knights die defending their bodies and their honor."

By the time Beirut and the men with him reached Casal Imbert, the Imperial forces were already withdrawing with their booty -- prisoners, horses, arms and equipment. The Cypriot survivors of the battle were clustered atop a nearby hill, some riding bareback, most still in their nightclothes and haphazardly armed, but apparently preparing to charge the retreating enemy. 

Beirut put an immediate end to that nonsense and started taking stock of his losses instead. His second son Baldwin was perilously wounded; his nephew John likewise. His son Hugh was completely missing, but he was later found in the town defending himself inside a house, the carcass of his horse on the street outside. Roughly 30 Cypriot knights were dead or captured, and "most" of their horses were gone. Thirty knights may not sound like many, but at this point that represented nearly ten percent of the knights King Henry had brought with him from Cyprus. Perhaps most significantly, the Genoese ships which had been provided to support the operation against Tyre had apparently also been seized by Filangieri's men. 

In short, the Ibelins had just suffered a dramatic setback. Flushed with a sense of triumph, Filangieri made the dramatic strategic decision to strike at Cyprus. Just as he had struck at the city of Beirut while the Lord of Beirut was on Cyprus, he now struck at Cyprus while the entire Cypriot host was in Syria.

The story of the struggle between Beirut and Filangieri continues next week. Meanwhile, these events are depicted in detail in: