The Prince’s Crusade

The image shows the Siege of Antioch: (Image: Jean Colombe – Adam Bishop/Public domain) from https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/modern-europe/wars-battles/crusades/first-crusade

Urban II convinced many people to take the cross because he offered a papal indulgence – essentially they would be pardoned for their sins. It was also an opportunity for impoverished knights to achieve some wealth.

The Princes’ Crusade set off between August and October 1096. In total eight “princes” were involved with the official First Crusade -not the Peasants’ Crusade. They were Count Hugh of Vermandois, Count Robert II of Flanders, Duke Godfrey of Bouillion, Prince Bohemund of Taranto, Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, Count Raymond of Toulouse, Count Stephen of Blois and Duke Robert of Normandy. Each of them gathered their nobility together and raised funds for the journey and to pay for their armies.

It is believed that there were 6000 mounted knights and 44,000 foot soldiers though only half of them were fully equipped and trained. Robert Curthose did not lead an army he joined with his nearest relations having taken a leisurely journey, overwintering in Puglia with Count Roger Borsa. On arrival in Constantinople each prince was presented with lavish gifts by Emperor Alexios and in return swore to hand over any land they acquired if it had once been part of the Byzantine Empire.

On 19th June 1097 Nicea fell to the crusaders – in part because the Seljuk Turks underestimated the new armies that had arrived on their doorstep believing them to be as badly trained and armed as the Peasants’ Crusade.

In March 1098 Baldwin of Boulogne and Godfrey of Bouillion took their men in the direction of Edessa which they seized and held.

Meanwhile Antioch was under siege. It was a protracted affair. In January 1098 Bishop Adhemar proclaimed that Antioch had not fallen to the crusaders due to their sinfulness. The army was required to pray and fast, all women had to leave the camp, and riches were donated into a central fund to help the poor.

Stephen of Blois decided to go home and told Alexios not to bother bringing an army to support the remaining crusaders. This meant that when Antioch did eventually fall that Bohemund was able to convince the remaining princes that their oath to the emperor no longer held because he had not fulfilled his side of the bargain.

By the 4th June 1098 the Crusaders, due to a bribe, had taken the city but not the fortified citadel of Antioch and now found themselves facing a relief force that had arrived from Mosul. The Crusaders now found themselves besieged in Antioch whilst the citadel worked with the Moslem general Kerbogha to attack them. Some crusaders deserted the cause, including Bohemond’s brother. The city was already in a poor state so it wasn’t long before the remaining crusaders began to face starvation and death from assorted diseases. There were rumours of cannibalism.

But on the 28th June 1098 the crusader army faced Kerbogha in open battle – some sources suggested that they were outnumbered 4 to 1. The crusaders won the battle and took full possession of both the town and the citadel. The reason behind the victory is usually given that on the 14th June the crusaders discovered the Holy Lance which had pierced Christ’s side. Their faith was reinvigorated because God had shown himself to be on the side of the crusaders- at least that’s what most of the received wisdom on the subject states because that’s what the primary sources indicate. The siege had lasted seven months.

Essentially on the 10th June Peter Bartholomew had a private meeting with Raymond of Toulouse – unusual given that Bartholomew was a peasant. He claimed that he had received a series of dreams featuring St Andrew the Apostle telling him where to find the Holy Lance in the Basilica of St Peter in Antioch. Apparently God had set the spear aside specifically for Raymond. The account of the visions and discovery was written in about 1101 by Raymond of Toulouse’s confessor. Bishop Ademar who was at the initial meeting had his doubts about the whole thing and these are also recorded in the primary source – the cleric wasn’t convinced that St Andrew would have anything to do with a peasant from Provence plus Emperor Alexios had the Holy Lance in his collection of religious artefacts because it had been discovered in the fourth century by St Helena. Either way the Crusaders had a thing about religious artefacts -for instance, Robert of Flanders stole St George’s arm from a monastery en route to the Holy Land. And it wasn’t just relics – angels had started turning up in support of the Crusaders. At the Battle of Dorylaeum Raymond of Aguiliers recorded a shining presence in the crusaders’ midst.

By June 1099 the crusaders were besieging Jerusalem. The siege lasted from the June 7th until July 15th. It began with a barefooted march around Jerusalem’s wall reminiscent of the Biblical Siege of Jericho. Fortunately for the crusaders who were hungry and thirsty supplies were delivered by the Genoese fleet which made harbour in Jaffa. When Jerusalem fell there was a terrible massacre of Moslems and Jews. Whilst post-siege atrocities were the done thing in medieval times the deaths that followed Jerusalem’s fall were seen as excessive even by the standards of the time – first hand accounts describe crusaders up to their ankles in blood.

Following the fall of Jerusalem and later of Acre many crusaders believed that their pilgrimage was over and went home. Those who remained founded the Crusader states or Outremer: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the county of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa. This was clearly contrary to the oath that the princes had taken to the Emperor Alexios (Though Raymond I think had promised only not to harm Alexios rather than giving any oaths pertaining to land). The new Christian kingdoms were vulnerable to attacks by Muslims who aimed to recapture the territory taken in the first crusade. Inevitably it led to more conflict.

And that’s all I plan on posting about the First Crusade for the time being – though I am beginning to think it would make a manageable topic for a day school in Halifax in 2020/21. As always apologies for any spelling mistakes – I have discovered an app that should help but cannot download it onto my computer at present (bah humbug.)

3 thoughts on “The Prince’s Crusade

  1. Thankyou Julia. This goes into my collection on Ancestry because I do have an ancestor who died there in Antioch, one Arnulf de Hesdin, grandfather of the first Stuart king.

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