The History Of France
History Of Europe During The Middle Ages
Author: Hallam, Henry
 

Part Five



Twenty years before the first crusade Gregory VII. had projected the
scheme of embodying Europe in arms against Asia - a scheme worthy of his
daring mind, and which, perhaps, was never forgotten by Urban II., who in
everything loved to imitate his great predecessor. ^o This design of Gregory
was founded upon the supplication of the Greek emperor Michael, which was
renewed by Alexius Comnenus to Urban with increased importunity. The Turks had
now taken Nice, and threatened, from the opposite shore, the very walls of
Constantinople. Everyone knows whose hand held the torch to that inflammable
mass of enthusiasm that pervaded Europe; the hermit of Picardy, who, roused by
witnessed wrongs and imagined visions, journeyed from land to land, the
apostle of an holy war. The preaching of Peter was powerfully seconded by
Urban. In the councils of Piacenza and of Clermont the deliverance of
Jerusalem was eloquently recommended and exultingly undertaken. "It is the
will of God!" was the tumultuous cry that broke from the heart and lips of the
assembly at Clermont; and these words afford at once the most obvious and most
certain explanation of the leading principle of the crusades. Later writers,
incapable of sympathizing with the blind fervor of zeal, or anxious to find a
pretext for its effect somewhat more congenial to the spirit of our times,
have sought political reasons for that which resulted only from predominant
affections. No suggestion of these will, I believe, be found in contemporary
historians. To rescue the Greek empire from its imminent peril, and thus to
secure Christendom from enemies who professed towards it eternal hostility,
might have been a legitimate and magnanimous ground of interference; but it
operated scarcely, or not at all, upon those who took the cross. It argues,
indeed, strange ignorance of the eleventh century to ascribe such refinements
of later times even to the princes of that age. The Turks were no doubt
repelled from the neighborhood of Constantinople by the crusaders; but this
was a collateral effect of their enterprise. Nor had they any disposition to
serve the interest of the Greeks, whom they soon came to hate, and not
entirely without provocation, with almost as much animosity as the Moslems
themselves.

[Footnote o: Gregory addressed, in 1074, a sort of encyclic letter to all who
would defend the Christian faith, enforcing upon them the duty of taking up
arms against the Saracens, who had almost come up to the walls of
Constantinople. No mention of Palestine is made in this letter. Labbe,
Concilia, t. x. p. 44. St. Marc, Abrege Chron. de l'Hist. de l'Italie, t.
iii. p. 614.]

Every means was used to excite an epidemical frenzy: the remission of
penance, the dispensation from those practices of self-denial which
superstition imposed or suspended at pleasure, the absolution of all sins, and
the assurance of eternal felicity. None doubted that such as perished in the
war received immediately the reward of martyrdom. ^p False miracles and
fanatical prophecies, which were never so frequent, wrought up the enthusiasm
to a still higher pitch. And these devotional feelings, which are usually
thwarted and balanced by other passions, fell in with every motive that could
influence the men of that time; with curiosity, restlessness, the love of
license, thirst for war, emulation, ambition. Of the princes who assumed the
cross, some probably from the beginning speculated upon forming independent
establishments in the East. In later periods the temporal benefits of
undertaking a crusade undoubtedly blended themselves with less selfish
considerations. Men resorted to Palestine, as in modern times they have done
to the colonies, in order to redeem their fame, or repair their fortune. Thus
Gui de Lusignan, after flying from France, for murder, was ultimately raised
to the throne of Jerusalem. To the more vulgar class were held out inducements
which, though absorbed in the overruling fanaticism of the first crusade,
might be exceedingly efficacious when it began rather to flag. During the
time that a crusader bore the cross he was free from suit for his debts, and
the interest of them was entirely abolished; he was exempted, in some
instances at least, from taxes, and placed under the protection of the church,
so that he could not be impleaded in any civil court, except on criminal
charges, or disputes relating to land. ^q

[Footnote p: Nam qui pro Christi nomine decertantes, in acie fidelium et
Christiana militia dicuntur, occumbere, non solum infamiae, verum et
peccaminum et delictorum omnimodam credimus abolitionem promereri. Will. Tyr.
I. x. c. 20.]

[Footnote q: Otho of Frisengen. c. 35. has inserted a bull of Eugenius III.
in 1146, containing some of these privileges. Others are granted by Philip
Augustus in 1214. Ordonnances des Rois de France, tom. i. See also Du Cange,
voc. Crucis Privilegia.]

None of the sovereigns of Europe took a part in the first crusade; but
many of their chief vassals, great part of the inferior nobility, and a
countless multitude of the common people. The priests left their parishes,
and the monks their cells; and though the peasantry were then in general bound
to the soil, we find no check given to their emigration for this cause.
Numbers of women and children swelled the crowd; it appeared a sort of
sacrilege to repel anyone from a work which was considered as the manifest
design of Providence. But if it were lawful to interpret the will of
Providence by events, few undertakings have been more branded by its
disapprobation than the crusades. So many crimes and so much misery have
seldom been accumulated in so short a space as in the three years of the first
expedition. We should be warranted by contemporary writers in stating the
loss of the Christians alone during this period at nearly a million; but at
the least computation it must have exceeded half that number. ^r To engage in
the crusade, and to perish in it, were almost synonymous. Few of those
myriads who were mustered in the plains of Nice returned to gladden their
friends in Europe with the story of their triumph at Jerusalem. Besieging
alternately and besieged in Antioch, they drained to the lees the cup of
misery: three hundred thousand sat down before that place; next year there
remained but a sixth part to pursue the enterprise. But their losses were
least in the field of battle; the intrinsic superiority of European prowess
was constantly displayed; the angel of Asia, to apply the bold language of our
poet, high and unmatchable, where her rival was not, became a fear; and the
Christian lances bore all before them in their shock from Nice to Antioch,
Edessa, and Jerusalem [A.D. 1099.] It was here, where their triumph was
consummated, that it was stained with the most atrocious massacre; not limited
to the hour of resistance, but renewed deliberately even after that famous
penitential procession to the holy sepulchre, which might have calmed their
ferocious dispositions, if, through the misguided enthusiasm of the
enterprise, it had not been rather calculated to excite them. ^s

[Footnote r: William of Tyre says that at the review before Nice there were
found 600,000 of both sexes, exclusive of 100,000 cavalry armed in mail. L.
ii. c. 23. But Fulk of Chartres reckons the same number, besides women,
children, and priests. An immense slaughter had previously been made in
Hungary of the rabble under Gaultier Sans-Avoir.]

[Footnote s: The work of Mailly, entitled L'Esprit des Croisades, is deserving
of considerable praise for its diligence and impartiality. It carries the
history, however, no farther than the first expedition. Gibbon's two chapters
on the crusades, though not without inaccuracies, are a brilliant portion of
his great work. The original writers are chiefly collected in two folio
volumes, entitled Gesta Dei per Francos, Hanover, 1611.]

The conquests obtained at such a price by the first crusade were chiefly
comprised in the maritime parts of Syria. Except the state of Edessa beyond
the Euphrates, ^t which, in its best days, extended over great part of
Mesopotamia, the Latin possessions never reached more than a few leagues from
the sea. Within the barrier of Mount Libanus their arms might be feared, but
their power was never established; and the prophet was still invoked in the
mosques of Aleppo and Damascus. The principality of Antioch to the north, the
kingdom of Jerusalem with its feudal dependencies of Tripoli and Tiberias to
the south, were assigned, the one to Boemond, a brother of Robert Guiscard,
Count of Apulia, the other to Godfrey of Boulogne, ^u whose extraordinary
merit had justly raised him to a degree of influence with the chief crusaders
that has been sometimes confounded with a legitimate authority. ^v In the
course of a few years Tyre, Ascalon, and the other cities upon the sea-coast,
were subjected by the successors of Godfrey on the throne of Jerusalem. But
as their enemies had been stunned, not killed, by the western storm, the
Latins were constantly molested by the Mohammedans of Egypt and Syria. They
were exposed as the outposts of Christendom, with no respite and few
resources. A second crusade, in which the Emperor Conrad III. and Louis VII.
of France were engaged, each with seventy thousand cavalry, made scarce any
diversion [A.D. 1147]; and that vast army wasted away in the passage of
Natolia. ^w

[Footnote t: Edessa was a little Christian principality, surrounded by, and
tributary to, the Turks. The inhabitants invited Baldwin, on his progress in
the first crusade, and he made no great scruple of supplanting the reigning
prince, who indeed is represented as a tyrant and usurper. Esprit des
Croisades, t. iv. p. 62. De Guignes, Hist. des Huns, tom. ii. pp. 135-162.]

[Footnote u: Godfrey never took the title of King of Jerusalem, not choosing,
he said, to wear a crown of gold in that city where his Saviour had been
crowned with thorns. Baldwin, Godfrey's brother, who succeeded him within two
years, entitles himself, Rex Hierusalem, Latinorum primus. Will. Tyr. 1. ii.
c. 12.]

[Footnote v: The heroes of the crusade are just like those of romance. Godfrey
is not only the wisest but the strongest man in the army. Perhaps Tasso has
lost some parts of this physical superiority for the sake of contrasting him
with the imaginary Rinaldo. He cleaves a Turk in twain, from the shoulder to
the haunch. A noble Arab, after the taking of Jerusalem, requests him to try
his sword upon a camel, when Godfrey, with ease, cuts off the head. The Arab,
suspecting there might be something peculiar in the blade, desires him to do
the same with his sword; and the hero obliges him by demolishing a second
camel. Will. Tyr. 1. ix. c. 22.]

[Footnote w: Vertot puts the destruction in the second crusade at two hundred
thousand men (Hist. de Malthe, p. 129); and from William of Tyre's language,
there seems no reason to consider this an exaggeration. L. xvi. c. 19.]

The decline of the Christian establishments in the East is ascribed by
William of Tyre to the extreme viciousness of their manners, to the adoption
of European arms by the Orientals, and to the union of the Mohammedan
principalities under a single chief. ^x Without denying the operation of these
causes, and especially the last, it is easy to perceive one more radical than
all the three, the inadequacy of their means of self-defence. The kingdom of
Jerusalem was guarded only, exclusive of European volunteers, by the feudal
service of eight hundred and sixty-six knights, attended each by four archers
on horseback, by a militia of five thousand and seventy-five burghers, and by
a conscription, in great exigencies, of the remaining population. ^y William
of Tyre mentions an army of one thousand three hundred horse and fifteen
thousand foot, as the greatest which had ever been collected, and predicts the
utmost success from it, if wisely conducted. ^z This was a little before the
irruption of Saladin. In the last fatal battle Lusignan seems to have had
somewhat a larger force. ^a Nothing can more strikingly evince the ascendency
of Europe than the resistance of these Frankish acquisitions in Syria during
nearly two hundred years. Several of their victories over the Moslems were
obtained against such disparity of numbers, that they may be compared with
whatever is most illustrious in history of romance. ^b These perhaps were less
due to the descendants of the first crusaders, settled in the Holy Land, ^c
than to those volunteers from Europe whom martial ardor and religious zeal
impelled to the service. It was the penance commonly imposed upon men of rank
for the most heinous crimes, to serve a number of years under the banner of
the cross. Thus a perpetual supply of warriors was poured in from Europe; and
in this sense the crusades may be said to have lasted without intermission
during the whole period of the Latin settlements. Of these defenders the most
renowned were the military orders of the Knights of the Temple and of the
Hospital of St. John; ^d instituted, the one in 1124, the other in 1118, for
the sole purpose of protecting the Holy Land. The Teutonic order, established
in 1190, when the kingdom of Jerusalem was falling, soon diverted its schemes
of holy warfare to a very different quarter of the world. Large estates, as
well in Palestine as throughout Europe, enriched the two former institutions;
but the pride, rapaciousness, and misconduct of both, especially of the
Templars, seem to have balanced the advantages derived from their valor. ^e At
length the famous Saladin, usurping the throne of a feeble dynasty which had
reigned in Egypt, broke in upon the Christians of Jerusalem; the king and the
kingdom fell into his hands [A.D. 1187]; nothing remained but a few strong
towns upon the sea-coast.

[Footnote x: L. xxi. c. 7. John of Vitry also mentions the change of weapons
by the Saracens, in imitation of the Latins, using the lances and coat of mail
instead of bows and arrows, c. 92. But, according to a more ancient writer,
part of Soliman's (the Kilidge Arslan of De Guignes) army in the first crusade
was in armor, loricis et galeis et clypeis aureis valde armati. Albertus
Aquensis, 1. ii. c. 27. I may add to this a testimony of another kind, not
less decisive. In the Abbey of St. Denis there were ten pictures, in stained
glass, representing sieges and battles in the first crusade. These were made
by order of Suger, the minister of Louis VI., and consequently in the early
part of the twelfth century. In many of them the Turks are painted in coats
of mail, sometimes even in a plated cuirass. In others they are quite
unarmed, and in flowing robes. Montfaucon, Monumens de la Monarchie Francaise,
t. i. pl. 50.]

[Footnote y: Gibbon, c. 29, note 125. Jerusalem itself was very thinly
inhabited. For all the heathens, says William of Tyre, had perished in the
massacre when the city was taken; or, if any escaped, they were not allowed to
return; no heathen being thought fit to dwell in the holy city. Baldwin
invited some Arabian Christians to settle in it.]

[Footnote z: L. xxii. c. 27.]

[Footnote a: A primo introitu Latinorum in terram sanctam, says John de Vitry,
nostri tot milites in uno proelio congregare nequiverunt. Erant enim mille
ducenti milites loricati; peditum autem cum armis, arcubus et balistis
circiter viginti millia, infaustae expeditioni interfuisse dicuntur. Gesta
Dei per Francos, p. 1118.]

[Footnote b: A brief summary of these victories is given by John of Vitry, c.
93.]

[Footnote c: Many of these were of a mongrel extraction, descended from a
Frank parent on one side, and Syrian on the other. These were called
Poulains, Pullani; and were looked upon as a mean, degenerate race. Du Cange;
Gloss. v. Pullani; and Observations sur Joinville, in Collection des Memoires
relatifs a l'Histoire de France, t. ii. p. 190.]

[Footnote d: The St. John of Jerusalem was neither the Evangelist not yet the
Baptist, but a certain Cypriot, surnamed the Charitable, who had been
patriarch of Alexandria.]

[Footnote e: See a curious instance of the misconduct and insolence of the
Templars, in William of Tyre, l. xx. c. 32. The Templars possessed nine
thousand manors, and the Knights of St. John nineteen thousand, in Europe. The
latter were almost as much reproached as the Templars for their pride and
avarice. L. xviii. c. 6.]

These misfortunes roused once more the princes of Europe, and the third
crusade was undertaken by three of her sovereigns, the greatest in personal
estimation as well as dignity - by the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, Philip
Augustus of France, and our own Richard Coeur de Lion. [A.D. 1189.] But this,
like the preceding enterprise, failed of permanent effect; and those feats of
romantic prowess which made the name of Richard so famous both in Europe and
Asia ^f proved only the total inefficacy of all exertions in an attempt so
impracticable; Palestine was never the scene of another crusade. One great
armament was diverted to the siege of Constantinople [A.D. 1204], and another
wasted in fruitless attempts upon Egypt. [A.D. 1218.] The Emperor Frederic
II. afterwards procured the restoration of Jerusalem by the Saracens; but the
Christian princes of Syria were unable to defend it, and their possessions
were gradually reduced to the maritime towns. Acre, the last of these, was
finally taken by storm in 1291; and its ruin closes the history of the Latin
dominion in Syria, which Europe had already ceased to protect.

[Footnote f: When a Turk's horse started at a bush, he would chide him.
Joinville says, with, Cuides-tu qu'y soit le roi Richard! Women kept their
children quiet with the threat of bringing Richard to them.]

The two last crusades were undertaken by St. Louis. [A.D. 1248.] In the
first he was attended by 2,800 knights and 50,000 ordinary troops. ^g He
landed at Damietta in Egypt, for that country was now deemed the key of the
Holy Land, and easily made himself master of the city. But advancing up the
country, he found natural impediments as well as enemies in his way; the Turks
assailed him with Greek fire, an instrument of warfare almost as surprising
and terrible as gunpowder; he lost his brother the Count of Artois, with many
knights, at Massoura, near Cairo; and began too late a retreat towards
Damietta. Such calamities now fell upon this devoted army as have scarce ever
been surpassed; hunger and want of every kind, aggravated by an unsparing
pestilence. At length the king was made prisoner, and very few of the army
escaped the Turkish cimeter in battle or in captivity. Four hundred thousand
livres were paid as a ransom for Louis. He returned to France, and passed
nearly twenty years in the exercise of those virtues which are his best title
to canonization. But the fatal illusions of superstition were still always at
his heart; nor did it fail to be painfully observed by his subjects that he
still kept the cross upon his garment. His last expedition was originally
designed for Jerusalem. But he had received some intimation that the King of
Tunis was desirous of embracing Christianity. That these intentions might be
carried into effect, he sailed out of his way to the coast of Africa, and laid
siege to that city. A fever here put an end to his life, sacrificed to that
ruling passion which never would have forsaken him. But he had survived the
spirit of the crusades; the disastrous expedition to Egypt had cured his
subjects, though not himself, of their folly; ^h his son, after making terms
with Tunis, returned to France; the Christians were suffered to lose what they
still retained in the Holy Land; and though many princes in subsequent ages
talked loudly of renewing the war, the promise, if it were ever sincere, was
never accomplished.

[Footnote g: The Arabian writers give him 9500 knights and 130,000 common
soldiers. But I greatly prefer the authority of Joinville, who has twice
mentioned the number of knights in the text. On Gibbon's authority, I put the
main body at 50,000; but, if Joinville has stated this, I have missed the
passage. Their vassals amounted to 1800.]

[Footnote h: The refusal of Joinville to accompany the king in this second
crusade is very memorable, and gives us an insight into the bad effects of
both expeditions. Le Roy de France et le Roy de Navarre me pressoient fort de
me croiser, et entreprendre, le chemin du pelerinage de la croix. Mais je leur
respondi, que tendis que j'avoie este oultre-mer au service de Dieu, que les
gens et officers du Roy de France avoient trop greve et foulle mes subjets,
tant qu'ils en estoient apovris; tellement que james il ne seroit que eulx et
moy ne nous en sortissons. Et veoie clerement, si je me mectoie au pelerinage
de la croix, que ce seroit la totale destruction de mesdiz povres subjets.
Depuis ouy-je dire a plusieurs, que ceux qui luy conseillerent l'enterprinse
de la croix firent un trez grant mal, et pecherent mortellement. Car tandis
qu'il fust au royaume de France, tout son royaume vivoit en paix, et regnoit
justice. Et incontinent qu'il en fust ors, tout commenca a decliner et a
empirer. - T. ii. p. 158.

In the Fabliaux of Le Grand d'Aussy we have a neat poem by Rutuboeuf, a
writer of St. Louis' age, in a dialogue between a crusader and a non-crusader,
wherein, though he gives the last word to the former, it is plain that he
designed the opposite scale to preponderate. - T. ii. p. 163.]

Louis IX. had increased the royal domain by the annexation of several
counties and other less important fiefs; but soon after the accession of
Philip III. [A.D. 1270] (surnamed the Bold) it received a far more
considerable augmentation. Alphonso, the late king's brother, had been
invested with the county of Poitou, ceded by Henry III., together with part of
Auvergne and of Saintonge; and held also, as has been said before, the remains
of the great fief of Toulouse, in right of his wife Jane, heiress of Raymond
VII. Upon his death, and that of his countess, which happened about the same
time, the king entered into possession of all these territories. [A.D. 1271].
This acquisition brought the sovereigns of France into contact with new
neighbors, the kings of Aragon and the powers of Italy. The first great and
lasting foreign war which they carried on was that of Philip III. and Philip
IV. against the former kingdom, excited by insurrection of Sicily. [A.D. 1270]
Though effecting no change in the boundaries of their dominions, this war may
be deemed a sort of epoch in the history of France and Spain, as well as in
that of Italy, to which it more peculiarly belongs.

 

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