Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The First War of the Cross
Philip I [1060-1108]

From all parts of Europe people crowded to France to take the cross. When men met who could not understand each other's language, they crossed their fingers to show that they wished to take part in the Holy War. High and low, rich and poor, young and old, all joined. Nearly all the great princes set forth, followed by their vassals; so private wars quarrels ceased as if by magic.

But the nobles and princes took a long time to get ready, and many of the poor who had no preparations to make grew impatient. So in the spring of 1096 a great mob of people set out. It could not be called an army, for part of it was made up of women and children and old and feeble men. And as they were nearly all poor most of the men who were strong and able to fight had no arms. The host was led by Peter the Hermit and Gauthier Have-nothing, a poor knight. They started off eagerly, but the way was long. Soon the children grew weary of it, and whenever they came to a town they would cry out, "Is this not Jerusalem?" And the mothers would reply sadly, "No, not yet."

These poor pilgrims had made no preparations for their long journey. They had no food and no money to buy it. So they stole from the people of the countries through which they passed. This made the people angry, and they fought the Crusaders. Many were killed and many died by the way and only a small number reached Asia Minor, still a long, long way from Palestine. Here most of them were killed by the Turks, others were sold into slavery, and few, if any, of the immense host which had set out reached Palestine.

Meanwhile the great lords gathered an army of a hundred thousand knights and nobles, and six hundred thousand foot soldiers. From all parts they came, and meeting at Constantinople, crossed over into Asia Minor. Here they were met by Peter the Hermit and a miserable remainder of his once great host. The nobles were filled with pity for him and treated him with much kindness.: But he whose burning words had stirred men's hearts and made them set forth upon this Holy War was henceforth of little importance.

The second army of the Crusade was more fortunate than the first. But it was only after terrible sufferings, after plague and famine and battles and sieges, after the shedding of much blood and the loss of many lives, that the Crusaders at length saw Jerusalem.

As they neared the Holy City their hearts beat eagerly. At length they climbed the last hill which separated them from it. They reached the top. Suddenly they saw Jerusalem unrolled before them. From the front ranks a great shout went up, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" By rank after rank the cry was taken up, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" It echoed down the valleys until those far in the rear heard the joyful sound. Tears coursed down the cheeks of the rough soldiers as they gazed. Some knelt in prayer, some bent to kiss the ground which Christ perchance had trod, others stood with arms outstretched toward the holy place, while sobs burst from them. Then once again as from one voice went up the mighty shout, "God wills it! God wills it!"

But Jerusalem was still to win. It was strongly held The siege by the Turks, and the Crusaders began to besiege it at once. But they had no battering rams or engines with which to break down the walls. So day after day the siege lasted, and the suffering among the Crusaders grew great. They were weary with long marching and fighting, and now disease attacked them. The burning sun of summer blazed down upon them. The streams were dried up, and they began to suffer all the horrors of thirst.

Every day the suffering grew worse. The sun shone like a ball of red fire, the sky was pitilessly cloudless. Night brought no coolness, dawn no refreshing dew. The strongest warriors lay idle in their tents, the weak died. Even the horses suffered. For the grass was all burned up. Gaunt and drooping, they had scarcely strength to carry their masters to battle, and the sound of the war trumpets no longer stirred them.

But at length the Crusaders found some wood and began to make huge battering rams, and upon a day fixed they made a great assault upon the walls.

The Crusaders attacked with fury, with equal fury the defenders resisted. Boiling oil and lead were poured from the walls. Stones, javelins, and arrows flew thick and fast. At dawn the fight began, and only night put an end to the slaughter.

Jerusalem was not yet taken, and the Crusaders returned to their tents full of sorrow. Next day the fight began again, with double fury. The Christians, maddened by the sneers of the unbelievers, who taunted them with adoring a God who could not help them, fought desperately.

At length a breach was made in the walls. At length the Crusaders poured into the town, and Jerusalem echoed with the cry, "God wills it! God wills it!" The Saracens fled, the Christians pursued. Jerusalem held no place of safety for the unbelievers. No prayer for mercy was of avail. In the streets, in the houses, in the mosques, men, women, and children were slain until the streets ran red with blood and were piled high with the dead. Then the fury of the Christians was stayed. Then they laid down their arms and armor, put off their blood-stained garments, and clad themselves in pilgrims' robes. With bare feet and bowed heads, singing hymns and sobbing with joy, they went to visit the sacred places.

Thus, three years after the army set out, was Jerusalem taken. But to keep what they had conquered the Crusaders felt that they must have a ruler. So, a few days later, they met together and chose as king Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the bravest of the nobles who had taken part in the Crusade.

But although Godfrey accepted the skillful, he refused to be called king or to wear a crown. "I cannot wear a crown of gold," he said, "in the town where the Savior of the world wore a crown of thorns." So he was called the Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulchre.

Very soon most of the Crusaders turned home again, leaving but a little company of three hundred to guard their conquests. Those who remained behind said adieu to their comrades with sad hearts. "Never forget your brothers whom you have left in exile," they said. "Send us soldiers to fight the heathen." Those who went promised with tears to send help quickly. But, alas, fifty years passed before any help came to the little Christian kingdom in that far-off land.

Among those who returned home was Peter the Hermit. We hear little more of him, and he ended his days quietly in a monastery. But his work was done. He had awakened to life a wonderful religious zeal which burned for more than a hundred years, changing the whole life of Europe.

The Crusaders did not succeed. Jerusalem, held for a short time, fell again into the hands of the Saracens. But in other ways they did much good. While the great lords were fighting for the Cross, their countries at home kept peace. Thus the poor men and women who stayed at home could sow and reap and weave in quiet. Their lives became happier and better, trade grew, and merchants prospered. Many men, too, who had followed their lords to battle as slaves returned as freemen. Thus, seeking Jerusalem, they found liberty.

France suffered much and gained much through the Crusades, and they were given by one of the writers of the time the proud name of "God's works by French hands." For it was in France that they began. It was under French leaders that the first army set out.