By Tomas Mc Rae,
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, ©2010
article is featured in the Lowlands-L Gallery presentation.]
n my previous paper I recounted how the Crusaders destroyed Moslem Jerusalem
and massacred its Islamic and Jewish inhabitants. How Godfrey de Bouillon
became the first king of what came to be known as The Kingdom of Outremer,
his death, and the succession of his brother Baldwin I to the crown.
and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187
by Said Tahsine (1904–1985)
[Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Time and space preclude me detailing any but the final years of this small
kingdom which existed for only 87 years. During that time European adventurers
and nobles travelled to the rumoured Land of Golden Opportunity to make their
fortunes, many being slain, succumbing to disease, or enslaved before reaching
their goal. Others made it to success or begging. Pilgrims resumed their
journeys to The Holy City under the protection of several Knight hospitaler
orders such as the Knights Templar, Knights of St John, and Teutonic Knights;
that also founded hospitals to treat the sick and wounded.
Meanwhile important events took place within the Islamic community. A radical
faction of the Shiites established two mountain fortresses and became the
much feared Assassins. They murdered Moslem leaders hostile to their aims
and also did contract killing for Christians and Moslems alike.
Around the same time a young Kurdish man born in what is now Iraq travelled
to Egypt to enter into his uncle's service. He was a brilliant scholar but
proved also to be a formidable warrior and leader; eventually becoming Sultan
of Egypt. He was regarded as the epitome of chivalry as his forces steadily
progressed into Outremer. This was the Great Saladin.
By now Jerusalem had been ruled by several kings, the current ruler being
Baldwin IV, a 13 year old leper with a powerful count, Raymond of Tripoli,
acting as regent. As Baldwin had obviously just a short time to live his
sister Sybella, aged 14, was married to a Frankish knight who died within
a year leaving her with a young baby.
When Baldwin reached 16 he became king in his own right proving a shrewd
ruler and a doughty fighter. Nonetheless Christian rule in Jerusalem had
only a few more years to run; in the interim conflict and truce alternated
and intrigue ruled supreme on both sides.
The lovely Sybella was shown a portrait of a handsome young French knight
Guy of Lusignan and she invited him to travel to Jerusalem. Soon they were
married and, in view of the deterioration of the Leper King, Guy assumed
the Regency. Gorgeous fellow he may have been but he was also dead dumb and
reluctant to make firm decisions.
Baldwin became ever weaker and finally, aged 24, he succumbed to his dreadful
illness. He appointed his young nephew King with Raymond of Tripoli once
again as Regent. Just two more years remained for Christian Jerusalem!
The sickly young King Baldwin V died less than two years later. Raymond was
tricked into leaving Jerusalem and Sybella was then crowned queen by an opposing
faction. She was presented with a second crown and invited to place it on
the head of her chosen king. Naturally she gave it to the much hated Guy.
Angered Raymond returned to his own lands in the North.
During this chaotic period there had been a truce with Saladin but not for
much longer. Let a new villain now enter the tale, one Count Reynald. who
threatened the truce when he raided a large Moslem caravan, looted a fortune,
and slayed many. Saladin demanded Guy force Reynald to make reparations but
the rogue ignored the order knowing Guy was a weakling. Tensions rose and
conflict was resumed with Saladin raising a huge army.
Guy was persuaded to send a large delegation including the Grand Masters
of The Temple and St John to travel to Count Raymond’s castle at Tiberias
to persuade him to return to the fold. In the interim he had entered into
a non aggression pact with Saladin some of whose Mamelukes requested permission
to travel across his lands without damaging them. Guy agreed and the Moslem
warriors travelled through without incident. Meanwhile Guy learned of the
Jerusalem delegation travelling towards him. He sent messengers to warn them
to lay low for a couple of days until the Mamelukes returned to base but
the delegation rode onwards.
Next morning the Count was shocked to see an exuberant Mameluke force galloping
back with Templar heads on their spears.
The previous day the Knights hospitaler had ignored Raymond’s warning, gathering
other members of their Orders into their ranks and moving on to Nazareth
in search of trouble. Here their scouts found the Mamelukes watering their
horses behind a nearby hill.
The Grand Master of the Knights of St John urged a cautious retreat but hawkish
Gerard, Grand Master of the Templars taunted his companions into conflict.
He yelled to locals that there soon would be a battle close by and they should
come to gather the loot.
A great massacre ensued but not of the Mamelukes. The St John’s Grand Master’s
head joined others gracing Moslem spears and only three knights survived.
Templar Grand Master Gerard, although wounded, was one of those. The biggest
massacre of all however was soon to follow, yet again caused by the Templar
leader’s gung-ho attitude.
Due to Gerard’s breaking of the Truce Raymond knew a major conflict was inevitable.
He cancelled his pact with Saladin and returned to Jerusalem to pledge his
loyalty to King Guy. His capable wife remained in command of their castle’s
strong fortifications in the North.
A month after the Nazareth slaughter Saladin’s army captured the city of
Tiberias, part of Raymond’s territory, and besieged his fortress. King Guy
and his Christian leaders raised a huge army and travelled from the western
coastal city of Acre to Sephoriah. Here the hawks urged an advance against
the Saracens encampment near the Dead Sea. Raymond’s faction realised the
dangers of any such action and urged that the army stand firm near The Pools
of Goliath with its adequate water and grazing resources.
The leaders adopted this policy at midnight and retired but Gerard, Grand
Master of the Templars returned and persuaded the king to march the army
towards Saladin’s base. So it was that on July 3rd this great army left at
dawn marching towards Tiberias over rugged, dry terrain with no water.
Saladin’s forces were aware of the advance and made their own preparations.
The die was cast for a terrible end game.
By evening the army was too exhausted to continue so made camp near a two
peaked rocky hill, The Horns of Hattin. The adjacent well proved to be dry
so they spent a night of thirsty misery. To add to their sufferings the Saracens
set fire to the surrounding scrub and dense hot smoke poured over them.
Under cover of darkness and smoke Saladin’s army surrounded Guy’s army so
completely that a contemporary moslem chronicler claimed not even a cat could
have broken through. Saladin attacked at dawn and the Christians fought fiercely
but in vain. A terrible slaughter began. Raymond led his mounted knights
against part of the surrounding human wall in an attempt to break the circle;
instead it opened to let them through then closed again. Unable to re-enter
those knights rode off to Tripoli.
Many were the men gored on The Horns of Hatin before the king’s army surrendered.
King Guy, the villain Reynald, the Templar Grand Master and several other
leaders were captured and taken to Saladin’s tent. Greeting the king graciously
he had him seated beside him and offered him a goblet of rose water cooled
by snow. Thus under the laws of Arab hospitality he showed the king he was
Guy drank, then offered the goblet to Reynald and an infuriated Saladin dashed
it from the Truce Breaker’s hands, drew his sword, and beheaded him on the
spot. Had Reynald drank from the goblet he would also have been sacrosanct.
Saladin assured Guy he was safe “For a king does not kill a king” then spared
all captives except the surviving knights of the Military Orders apart from
the Templar Grand Master. They were beheaded on his orders by Sufi fanatics.
Thus was the greatest army the kingdom had ever assembled destroyed and the
claimed Holy Cross of Christ that had accompanied it taken by the Moslems.
Thus the great fighting force of the Templars was destroyed never to recover.
The prisoners were taken to Damascus to be ransomed or enslaved. … Saladin
was Lord of the Moslem World.
Next day Raymond’s wife surrendered their fortress to Saladin who treated
her with honour, allowing her and her household to go to Tripoli. By 10th
July Acre had fallen without slaughter of its citizens. By 20th of September
Jerusalem stood besieged. The final chapter began.
Bloody fighting raged around the city walls until a surrender was negotiated
and on October 2nd Saladin entered Jerusalem. In contrast with the Christian
Crusaders who had waded through blood and slaughter 88 years before there
was neither looting nor killing but a ransom was demanded from all inhabitants.
Efforts were made to raise funds to free everybody but some of the poorer
inhabitants were enslaved.
Here I must mention the disgusting conduct of the Roman Catholic Patriarch
of Jerusalem who paid the ransom for himself and his mistress then departed
with all his treasures. Those could have liberated countless others.
Saladin had the Al Aqsah Mosque cleansed and washed out with rose water and
then did the same to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He then returned to
its original Orthodox owners. The noble Raymond died of pleurisy soon afterwards
and the remaining Roman Catholic population was concentrated in the city
of Tyre and surrounds. All that remained of The Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Crusades however were far from over and this residual Kingdom persisted
for years afterwards. In a later paper I will end the tale telling of the
most tragic and the most farcical Crusade and the final battles.