Crusaders - Alfred J. Church

Of the Kingdom in Jerusalem

That the King's throne in Jerusalem was not a seat to be desired I have said already. Nevertheless when it became empty by the death of the Duke Godfrey, there was no little contention about it. The said duke was childless, and the next of kin to him was his brother Baldwin, prince of the city of Edessa; but there were some of the chief men of the Christians who were but ill content that he should have this honour. And foremost among these were certain of the chief priests or bishops. These men are commonly not content with authority in spiritual things, but would fain have the power in temporal things also. So it was that when the Duke Godfrey was made king he had granted to the chief bishop, whom men also named Patriarch, certain portions of the city, to wit, the Sepulchre itself, and the tower that is called the Tower of David, and with these the whole town of Jaffa. Also it was covenanted between these two, the duke being a humble mail and holding the bishops in great reverence, that if the said duke should die childless, then the Patriarch should have Jaffa and the whole city of Jerusalem to deal with as it should please him.

But when this became known the princes took it so ill, that the Patriarch thought it the most prudent part not to claim all these things, but to be content with those that he had. So the choice of a king who should come after Duke Godfrey came to the nobles. Some of these were for choosing Bohemond, Prince of Antioch; others favoured the Earl of Toulouse, but the greater part were zealous for Baldwin. And these latter prevailed. Now the doings of Baldwin in time past had pleased his comrades but little. He was, as it seemed, a self-seeker. Nevertheless, when he was promoted to the kingdom of Jerusalem, he bore himself most wisely and dutifully. It may be that he had more prudence in worldly affairs; certain it is that the affairs of the kingdom prospered greatly in his hands. He held his place for some eighteen years, and died in the land of Egypt, whither he had gone with as great an army as he could bring together, for he judged, and not without reason, that if he could conquer Egypt, from which his adversaries drew the greater part of their revenue, he need have no further fear for his kingdom. Of the time that followed there is no need for me to write particularly. I myself dwelt in Egypt, whither I had gone with King Baldwin, nor was it in my mind to return to Jerusalem, where there was much that it troubled me much to see. I have dwelt in the city or near to it for many years, and have seen it under many rulers; but never have known it in more evil case than it was after it had become the possession of the Christians. And this I say of my own experience, and also from report of those who, to the best of my belief, spake truly. When things were at the worst, and this was after the time of which I have written above, I was elsewhere; but there were many of my acquaintances who could speak concerning these things of their own knowledge.

It will suffice then to say that there reigned in Jerusalem, after the brothers Godfrey and Baldwin, of whom I have spoken above, six kings. Of their doings whether for good or evil I speak not. Let this only be said, that their dominion grew weaker and weaker from year to year. Yet there were among them men both of courage and good counsel. But it passed all human skill to keep such a kingdom in prosperity. It was, indeed, as if a man should cut off a branch from a tree and with great pains and labour plant it in the ground. Such a branch must needs fade for all that may be done to make it to flourish.

Yet there was not wanting help from the kingdoms of the West. The Holy City being now in the hands of Christian princes, the multitude of pilgrims greatly increased; and these brought with them not a little gold and silver. Some indeed were little else than beggars, who had to be fed by the public charity, aye, and buried at the public cost. But there were also men of high degree and not a few noble ladies also, and wealthy merchants who dispensed their bounty and offerings with an open hand. The citizens had scarcely had bread to eat but for these pilgrims; for of trade there was none, save in stocks and stones which were held to be blessed, as coming from a holy place, and no tilling of the ground, nor any other of the things out of which come the increase and nurture of a state. And not only did the wealth of the kingdom grow less, save as it was so replenished, but the men also. For of the men of war that came with Duke Godfrey and his companions some went back to their native countries, and they that stayed grew old and in the course of nature died, nor were there any, save by chance from among the pilgrims of the meaner sort, to take their place. So the decay of the kingdom was great.

In the reign of Baldwin the Third, who was the fifth of the kings of Jerusalem, there came from the West a great army, I should rather say, two great armies, for the jealousy of their leaders suffered them not to unite. Nor, indeed, is this jealousy to be wondered at, for now the leaders were great kings, who might well be jealous of what the one might gain in honour or power; and great was the trouble that arose therefrom. For first the Emperor Conrad marching, as Duke Godfrey and his comrades had done before him, across the Lesser Asia, when he came to a river that is called Maeander, was encountered by the Sultan of the Turks. He prevailed, indeed, in the battle, but with so great loss to his army that he was fain to turn back. Nor did King Louis fare better, going well-nigh the same way and meeting with the like trouble. Being a hasty and impatient prince, he separated himself with his own knights from his army, and the Turks fell upon him unawares so that he barely escaped alive. After this these two with such soldiers as were yet left to them, having hired ships from the Greeks, came to the land of Palestine and so to Jerusalem. And being there they knew not what they might best do. Then some one, but who it was I know not, neither can I say whether it was in good faith or no, said to the two, "See, there is Damascus, than which there is no fairer or wealthier city in the world. Why do you suffer it to be in the power of the infidels?" When they heard this they were ready to make war on Damascus, thinking to gain not glory only but also wealth, for they had spent on their expedition all that they had, aye and more also. And when they asked consent of King Baldwin he did not hinder them, for he would gladly have them away from Jerusalem, and knew also that if Damascus should be taken from the Turks, it would turn greatly to his own profit. Nor did he give his counsel only but his help also.

But the matter prospered not. At the first, indeed, all things seemed to go well, for the Turks could not abide the onset of the Christians in the field, but fled before them in great confusion. 'Twas told me in truth by one that was present on that day that had the Christains but followed up their victory, they had made their way into the city of Damascus along with their adversaries. But yet again they were kept back from victory by their own divisions and jealousies, for the thing with which they were chiefly concerned was not so much that the city should be taken, as that they might acquire for this nation or for that the greater share of the honour and the profit. So when the army had lain before the walls some four months, and had lost many not so much by the chances of war as by want of food and disease, they left off besieging the city and returned to Jerusalem. After this the emperor and the king went back to their own houses, having spent many lives of men and much treasure to no purpose. And now I must tell of the taking of the Holy City by the Turks, which befell ninety years short of three, after the death of King Godfrey.