Crusaders - Alfred J. Church

Historical Note

The death of Louis IX. makes so dramatic an ending to the story of the Crusaders that I felt it impossible not to conclude with it. Still, for the sake of completeness, a short account may be given of the events that followed it.

The army which Louis had brought to Tunis did practically nothing after his death. If the soldiers were inclined to continue the war in the hope of securing some of the plunder which they had been promised, the leaders were for the most part anxious to go back. The taking of Tunis was manifestly no easy task, and it seemed wise to abandon the enterprise before more life and treasure had been expended upon it. The young King Philip was naturally anxious to be at home, where many important matters concerning his new inheritance demanded his attention.

In the end a truce for fifteen years was concluded between the Bey of Tunis, on the one part, and the three Christian kings (France, Sicily, and Navarre) on the other. The conditions briefly were: (1) All prisoners to be released; (2) Reciprocal protection for the subjects of the treating Powers; (3) Liberty to build Christian churches and to perform Divine worship in the Bey's dominions. Furthermore, the Bey promised to pay a certain sum of money within two years, and engaged to furnish an annual tribute to the King of Sicily. These were as favourable conditions as could be expected; indeed, they seemed to some of the Mahometan Powers too favourable; but they manifestly did nothing towards advancing the great object of the Crusades, the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre.

There was at least the appearance of an effort in this direction in the expedition of Prince Edward, afterwards Edward I. Edward's father, Henry III., had taken the cross, but had never found the opportunity of fulfilling his vow. In 1271 his son, who may have been anxious, for many reasons, to leave England for a while, set out for the Holy Land. He had with him but a small force, possibly twelve hundred men, and though he was joined by the Templars and Hospitallers, and perhaps by other recruits who had no other means of livelihood than the sword, his army never attained a magnitude adequate to his object. He seems to have conducted his operations with great daring and skill; but he cannot be said to have made a serious attempt to recover Jerusalem. The only memorable incident in his campaign was the great risk of death which he ran from the dagger of an assassin. He was sitting without armour in his tent when a man, who represented himself as a petitioner for some favour, threw himself upon him and wounded him in the arm. Edward snatched the dagger from the hand of his assailant and hurled him to the ground. It was feared that the dagger had been poisoned; certainly the recovery was slow, and at one time serious complications were threatened. An English physician is said to have effected a cure, probably by an unsparing use of the knife in cutting away the diseased flesh round the wound. A curious fiction grew up many years afterwards to the effect that Edward's wife Eleanor sucked the poison from the wound. All that we know about this is that the English physician who effected a cure gave directions that she, together with all the prince's suite, should be excluded from the tent while his treatment was applied. Not long afterwards Edward received news of his father's death, and returned to England.

The actual end of the Crusades may be said to have arrived when, in 1291, Acre, the last possession of the Christians in Palestine, was taken by the Mahometans.

It may be useful to give a short summary of the wars which go by the name of the Crusades. After the irregular movements headed by Peter the Hermit, Walter the Penniless, and other adventurers, came the First Crusade. This was the only one that may be said to have attained its object, for it resulted in the establishment of a Latin kingdom in Jerusalem. It began in 1o96, when Godfrey, Duke of Lorraine, and others, started; in March 1097 the army crossed into Asia; on July 15, 1099, Jerusalem was taken.

The Second Crusade, led by Conrad III., Emperor of Germany, and Louis VII., King of France, was started in 1146. Its object was to strengthen the failing kingdom of Jerusalem. It came to an end in 1149.

In 1187 Jerusalem was captured by Saladin.

In 1188 the Third Crusade was resolved upon. In 1189 the Emperor Frederick I. (Barbarossa) led the first portion of the Crusading forces across Asia Minor, but perished before he reached Syria. In the same year Acre was besieged. In 1191 Philip of France and Richard of England joined the besieging forces. The town was taken on July 12 in that year, but no further success was obtained. In the following year the Crusade was abandoned, and Richard returned to England.

The Fourth Crusade was commenced by Henry VI. of Germany, in 1195; two years later, after some successes had been obtained, Henry died, and this Crusade was abandoned.

In 1199 the Fifth Crusade was preached. Four years later it resulted in the establishment of a Latin Empire in Constantinople.

The Sixth Crusade belongs to the years 1218-1220. It produced no results of any importance.

In 1229 Jerusalem was restored to the Christians, in virtue of a treaty between Frederic II. of Germany and the Mahometan Powers. It was regained by the Turks in 1238.

The Seventh Crusade took place in 1239. Two years afterwards Richard, Earl of Cornwall, recovered Jerusalem.

In 1244 Jerusalem was taken by the Chorasmii, a barbarous tribe, and never afterwards came into the possession of the Christians.

In 1248 the Eighth Crusade was led by Louis IX. of France. It came to an end six years later.

In 1270 the Ninth and Last Crusade was led by Louis IX. To this belongs the campaign of Edward (afterwards Edward I.) in Palestine.