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date: 06 October 2022

Participants in the third crusadefree

(act. 1190–1192)

Participants in the third crusadefree

(act. 1190–1192)
  • Alan V. Murray

Participants in the third crusade (act. 1190–1192), took part under the command of Richard I in a three-year campaign to recover Palestine from Saladin, ruler of Syria and Egypt. Originating in the Angevin dominions of England, Normandy, and Aquitaine, they fought alongside contingents from the Holy Roman empire, the kingdom of France, Denmark, and Italy.

The origins of the crusade

The ‘third’ crusade (a conventional but inaccurate designation) constituted the main response of western Christendom to the great victory won by Saladin against the Franks of the Levant—Outremer—at the battle of Hattin in Galilee on 4 July 1187. The few Franks who survived, including the king of Jerusalem, Gui de Lusignan, were taken captive along with the relic of the true cross. All the cities and fortresses of the kingdom, including Jerusalem itself, were soon taken by Saladin's forces, with the sole exception of Tyre, whose defence was organized by Conrad de Montferrat, an Italian nobleman who had arrived from Byzantium.

The threat posed by Saladin had increased the number of appeals for assistance from the kingdom of Jerusalem during the two decades before Hattin. Henry II of England had promised to go on crusade as early as 1170 and repeated his undertaking several times subsequently, but had invariably managed to put off an expedition. He had, however, provided substantial financial support to the kingdom of Jerusalem before Hattin, and after taking the cross at Gisors in January 1188 he agreed to the implementation of a new crusading tax (the Saladin tithe) throughout his dominions. His eldest surviving son, Richard, then count of Poitou, took the cross in late 1187, much against his father's wishes, for Henry did not want a crusade to leave until he had settled his long-lasting disputes with the French monarchy. Many of those who made crusading vows during this time were, like Richard, genuine in their piety and enthusiasm, but others were primarily motivated by the exemption from taxation and other privileges that crusaders enjoyed.

Everything changed with Henry's sudden death on 6 July 1189 and the succession of Richard. The new king threw most of his energies into preparations for a crusade that would recover Jerusalem and secure Christian control of the Holy Land. As an experienced campaigner Richard realized he needed to plan for a costly and lengthy campaign. Since he had decided that the Angevin army would travel by sea there would be huge costs in assembling a fleet; this would include—in a real innovation in crusading strategy—war galleys and crews that were intended to support his land forces on campaign after their arrival in Palestine. Despite the relatively healthy state of the royal coffers he had inherited, Richard put up for sale a vast number of offices, honours, and estates. Additional funds were secured from fines, seizures, and the abandonment of English claims over Scotland (the quitclaim of Canterbury).

The crusaders

Some English crusaders made individual arrangements to reach the Holy Land. The most prominent of these was Robert de Breteuil, third earl of Leicester (c. 1130–1190), who travelled to Italy and then crossed the Adriatic Sea, dying at Durazzo in late summer 1190. The vast majority were prepared to fall in with the king's arrangements, often banding together with others from the same region, for instance a number of merchants from London, among them the future agitator William fitz Osbert, and groups of landowners from Yorkshire and Staffordshire. The latter may have included William of Birmingham (1174–1210), a leading tenant of the lords of Dudley [see under Birmingham family]. Yet although the crusade was the king's most cherished project, it attracted relatively few of the leaders of English secular society. They included William de Ferrers, earl of Derby, Robert de Breteuil (d. 1204), second son of the earl of Leicester, Nigel de Mowbray, Warin fitz Gerold, the west country baron William Malet, Arnold (IV) du Bois, head of an important midland baronial family with close ties to the earls of Leicester [see under Bois, du, family], and Bertram de Verdon. Bertram, who held extensive lands in England, Ireland, and Normandy, had been a loyal servant of Henry II up to his death, but was immediately taken into Richard's service; his experience in the organization of transport and logistics meant that he was earmarked for considerable responsibility on the expedition. By contrast Henry's justiciar, Ranulf de Glanville, had been deprived of his office by Richard in 1189, and he and other members of his family, such as his uncle Roger, formerly sheriff of Cumberland, may have joined the crusade in the hope of regaining royal favour. Even though King William the Lion had refused to allow the Saladin tithe to be collected in Scotland, some of his vassals joined the English crusaders. They included Robert de Quincy, a landholder in Fife and East Lothian, Osbert Olifard of Arbuthnott, and possibly Alan son of Walter, hereditary steward of Scotland [see under Stewart family].

A similar trend can be seen in the case of holders of ecclesiastical offices. Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, had evidently long cherished a desire to visit the Holy Land, having taken the cross in 1185 and preached the crusade throughout Wales in 1188. Among the members of the archiepiscopal staff who also went were Baldwin's legal adviser and letter writer Peter of Blois, and the archbishop's nephew Joseph of Exeter, a poet who was expected to compose a verse chronicle of the crusade (only fragments survive). Ralph de Hauterive, archdeacon of Colchester, was another prominent and well-connected churchman, the nephew of Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London. However, the only English bishop to see the crusade to its end was Hubert Walter, newly appointed by Richard to the see of Salisbury. On his accession Richard had reversed his father's notorious policy of keeping senior ecclesiastical posts vacant, and it would have been administratively unsound for the many new bishops, abbots, and other new appointees to leave their charges straight away. Certainly Richard was prepared to collude with the ecclesiastical authorities in releasing senior clerics from their vows if he felt their abilities or funds could be more usefully deployed in other ways. Hugh du Puiset, bishop of Durham, who was appointed justiciar north of the Humber, was prepared to pay out large sums for release from his vow, and even more for such offices as the earldom of Northumberland; Walter de Coutances, archbishop of Rouen, and John of Oxford, bishop of Norwich, though they travelled as far as Italy, were ultimately allowed to leave the crusade after agreeing cash settlements. Certainly there were fewer senior ecclesiastics from England than from Richard's continental dominions, and fewer in Richard's forces as a whole than those of the emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

For the king the most important element of the crusading army was the royal household, whose officers included the chamberlain Ralph Fitzgodfrey and the steward Roger de Préaux, while Stephen of Thornham appears to have acted as marshal and treasurer. (William fitz Aldelin, who had been Henry II's steward, raised money to finance his journey to the East, but it is not certain that he actually went.) Since the chancellor, William de Longchamp, was to serve as justiciar during the king's absence, the administrative section of the household was headed by the vice-chancellor, Roger Malcael. Philip of Poitou served as clerk of the king's chamber, rising in importance after Roger's accidental death off Cyprus in 1191. Other royal clerks included Hugh de la Mare and the Yorkshire parson Roger of Howden, whose eyewitness recollections provide the most detailed account of Richard's crusade. There were several chaplains, including Nicholas, Anselm, and a Poitevin named William who is credited with having persuaded the king not to leave Palestine prematurely during a low point in the campaign. The military household consisted primarily of Poitevins who had served Richard before his accession, and a smaller number of Normans. The most prominent were Andrew de Chauvigny, William de l'Étang, Baldwin de Béthune, and Hugh de Neville (a named informant of the chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall). Little can be said of the rank and file, but they found a voice in the Estoire de la guerre sainte of the Norman poet Ambroise, who described the events he experienced from the perspective of the ordinary crusader.

The outward journey

Other trusted associates of Richard were required for independent commands. The majority of the crusaders from England and the western French dominions travelled on the great fleet that sailed from Dartmouth in May 1190. Consisting of over 100 vessels, it was split into separate squadrons under the command of Robert de Sablé, Richard de Canville, and William de Forz of Oléron. Richard himself had crossed over to Calais in December 1189, and spent the intervening time ordering his continental dominions, negotiating with his rival and fellow crusader Philip Augustus of France, and making arrangements for his forthcoming marriage to Berengaria, daughter of Sancho VI, king of Navarre. On 4 July he left Vézelay in northern France, accompanied by his household and many other crusaders from England and Normandy, and marched down the Rhône to arrive at Marseilles by the beginning of August. The fleet was supposed to rendezvous with him there, but after a week he decided to continue the expedition on hired ships, dividing his forces into two contingents.

An advance force was sent straight on to Palestine, arriving at Tyre on 16 September. Its leader, Baldwin of Canterbury, was undoubtedly under instructions to act in accordance with Richard's dynastic interests. The queen of Jerusalem, Sibylla, belonged to a junior branch of the Angevin dynasty, while her husband, Gui de Lusignan, came from a family whose members were vassals of Richard in Poitou. Since Tyre was under the control of Conrad de Montferrat, who refused to accept Gui's authority, the Angevin force sailed south to join Gui, who was besieging Muslim-held Acre. The besiegers were in a dire situation, occupying a strip of land between the well-defended city and Saladin's main forces in the hinterland. Disease, heat, and lack of food took a heavy toll, particularly among the older and weaker crusaders. Casualties included Baldwin of Canterbury, William de Ferrers, Ranulf de Glanville, John, constable of Chester, Bernard de St Valéry, and Ralph de Hauterive; thus Hubert Walter soon found himself as one of the leaders of the besieging forces, commanding detachments in the field and taking special responsibility for the care of indigent crusaders. In political terms, however, the most significant deaths were those of Queen Sibylla and her two daughters, which removed Gui's main right to rule the kingdom. Conrad was able to contract a marriage to Sibylla's younger sister Isabella, and secured the support of King Philip Augustus and the French. This left the entire Christian forces—westerners and Palestinian Franks alike—divided in their loyalties.

Richard reached Messina on 22 September, to find that his main fleet and that of Philip Augustus of France had already arrived there. Both kings wintered on Sicily with their forces, a stay that was characterized by constant tensions with the king of the island, Tancred, and the local population. Much of Richard's time was devoted to diplomatic negotiations as well as the business of government. A treaty with Tancred secured a payment of 40,000 ounces of gold, which included compensation for the unpaid dower of Richard's sister Joanna, widow of Tancred's predecessor William II. Walter de Coutances was sent back to England to support the justiciar, while Robert de Breteuil was confirmed as fourth earl of Leicester after his father's death had become known. A series of negotiations with Philip Augustus agreed on detailed regulations for the conduct of the crusade and absolved Richard of any obligation to marry the French king's sister Alix, to whom he had long been betrothed. This removed the final obstacles to Richard's marriage to Berengaria, who had arrived in the company of Eleanor of Aquitaine at the end of March 1191. Since the regulations for the conduct of the crusade prohibited the participation of women except for laundresses of spotless reputation, Berengaria, Joanna, and their attendants represented the only significant female presence among the Angevin crusaders.

The Angevin fleet of over 200 vessels left Messina on 10 April 1191, under the command of Robert of Thornham (younger brother of Stephen), proceeding via Crete and Rhodes towards Cyprus. It is not surprising that a navy of this size became dispersed en route, and several ships were wrecked or driven ashore. Roger Malcael was drowned, although the great seal he was carrying was later recovered. The robbery and imprisonment of other survivors gave Richard a convenient pretext to seize Limasol, but it is likely that he had already decided to occupy Cyprus to serve as a base to support the crusade on the mainland, particularly since its ruler, the Byzantine prince Isaac Komnenos, could be regarded as an unlawful usurper. While his troops campaigned against diminishing Greek resistance, Richard and Berengaria were married at Limasol by the royal chaplain Nicholas on 12 May. Isaac surrendered on 31 May and was handed over to Ralph Fitzgodfrey. Robert of Thornham and Richard de Canville were appointed joint governors of the island, and on 5 June the fleet sailed on.

Achievements and aftermath

The arrival of Richard's ships at Acre from 8 June onwards brought a major boost to crusader strength and morale, and the Muslim garrison finally surrendered on 12 July, breaking the deadlock of two years. The remainder of the campaign was increasingly dominated by Richard's strategic thinking and financial resources. Philip Augustus returned to the West in August, leaving the French crusaders under the command of Hugues, duke of Burgundy; they, the Palestinian Franks, and the military orders had little choice but to accept the overall leadership of the Lionheart. His chosen strategy was to win control of the coast of southern Palestine with the key ports of Jaffa and Ascalon, and then strike inland towards Jerusalem. On 25 August the majority of the Christian forces moved south along the coast, with the fleet accompanying them. Berengaria and Joanna remained at Acre in the care of Bertram de Verdon, who was appointed as governor of the city, but died the next year.

Saladin's forces harassed the crusaders as they marched, and finally gave battle at Arsuf on 7 September 1191, only to be defeated with heavy losses. This crusader victory was followed by twelve months of convoluted advances, skirmishes, and raids, during which the Christians occupied and fortified Jaffa, Ramlah, and Ascalon and made a painstakingly slow advance that reached Beit Nuba, only 12 miles from Jerusalem, in early January 1192. Yet by now Richard and the local leaders were convinced that the holy city could not be held without the surrounding fortresses, and that its capture would inevitably bring about the dissolution of the crusade once the majority of crusaders regarded their vows as fulfilled. During this final phase of the crusade Robert, earl of Leicester, repeatedly acted as a divisional commander and distinguished himself in several engagements; he was especially singled out for praise for his exploits in the defence of Jaffa on 5 August, as were Andrew de Chauvigny, William de l'Étang, Hugh de Neville, and others of Richard's household knights. It was Hubert Walter, however, on whom the king relied most, as an administrator, commander, and ultimately as a diplomat who helped bring about a conclusion to the protracted negotiations with Saladin that had been going on since the previous year. A three-year peace concluded on 2 September 1192 recognized the Christians' control of the coast as far south as Jaffa and conceded their right to visit Jerusalem. Despite his sense of Poitevin solidarity Richard had been reluctantly forced to give up his support for Gui de Lusignan and compensated him with the island of Cyprus, and after the assassination of Conrad de Montferrat (28 April 1192) he accepted Count Henri of Champagne as a compromise candidate for the throne of Jerusalem.

The surviving Angevin crusaders sailed home by diverse but direct routes. Berengaria and Joanna returned in appropriate style via Italy, escorted by Stephen of Thornham. The Lionheart decided to travel unobtrusively with a small group of select companions including Philip of Poitou, Baldwin de Béthune, Anselm the chaplain, and William de l'Étang in the hope of avoiding the domains of his many enemies. After sailing to Venice they travelled overland but near Vienna the king was recognized and apprehended by agents of Leopold V, duke of Austria. Eventually handed over to the emperor Henry VI, Richard remained a captive until February 1194.

Richard retained an abiding affection for those who had fought with him on crusade, and especially those who shared his captivity. Several of these men enjoyed significant royal favour after the crusade and in some cases made advantageous marriages with the king's help. On the death of William de Forz in 1195 the hand of his widow, Hawisa, was given to Baldwin de Béthune, who thus succeeded to the county of Aumale and the lordship of Holderness. Robert of Thornham became seneschal of Anjou and later married the Yorkshire heiress Joan Fossard; his brother Stephen continued his career as a financial expert and sheriff of Berkshire and Wiltshire. Richard's two most tested and trusted clerical companions on crusade rose to the highest levels in the English church. Philip of Poitou went on to become archdeacon of Canterbury and ultimately bishop of Durham, while the ever growing administrative and military competence demonstrated by Hubert Walter from the siege of Acre onwards undoubtedly contributed to his promotion to the posts of archbishop of Canterbury and justiciar in 1193.


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