Chivalry (Part 6): The Crusades

/
105 mins read

Editor’s note: The following comprises Chapter 6 of Chivalry, by F. Warre Cornish (published 1901). Original footnotes are abridged.

(Continued from Part 5)

The history of chivalry as a living organism may almost be said to be co-extensive with the history of the Crusades. ‘The Crusades’ says Gibbon, were ‘at once an effect and a cause of this memorable institution.’ Before the first Crusade, knighthood was undisciplined. The military orders had not yet set a pattern of knightly perfection; heraldry and ceremonial of all kinds were undeveloped; the literature of romance was in its infancy; gallantry was no necessary qualification of a knight; the lingua franca of a common profession had not yet bound all nationalities together in a common interest; and feudal obligations were not yet softened by the courtesies enjoined by chivalry. The soldiers of the first Crusade were brave, violent, cruel, enthusiastic, superstitious and devout; uncontrolled in all their passions, good and bad, and owning few of the restraints afterwards imposed as the duty of knighthood, except valour and honour. By the end of the last Crusade, chivalry had ceased to advance. Its rules were fixed, its standards of conduct settled. It had nothing to invent, no novelties to expect. The art of noble horsemanship and the manage of the sword and lance were early completed; to these, warfare with the Saracens had added the employment of light cavalry, and improved that of archery; and contact with the military science of Constantinople had taught the soldiers of the West how to marshal their infantry and cavalry in the field, and how to build, besiege, and defend castles larger and more artfully constructed than the Norman keeps, such as the Tower and Rochester Castle, which represent the first age of castle-building in Europe.

The nations of Europe had never been brought face to to face with each other till the first Crusade joined them in a single enterprise. With no common language, and few common ideas to unite them, — beyond their allegiance to the Church of Rome, the only stable landmark in a distracted age — the crusaders found another tie in the primeval tradition of knighthood. The bond of a common knighthood was as real and as effective as that of a common faith. It was difficult for the rude soldiers, hot-tempered and full of earthly passions, to behave every day like Tasso’s paladins. They had come to the East from a variety of causes, not all religious — enterprise, ambition, knight-errantry, commercial speculation. The trade routes of Europe pointed the way and supplied facilities; and the Templars and Hospitallers made a good business of conveying crusaders. Their religious services were sincerely paid, but occupied only a small part of their energy: and knighthood with its duties and privileges took precedence of religion, and became more absorbing and interesting when it was shared in common with adventurers from all parts of the world. Here was a real and practical freemasonry. Indeed the freemasonry of knighthood explains, as much as the object of the war, such harmony as was preserved among so many fierce and proud commanders and their turbulent followers. If it is difficult for a ‘European Concert’ to be maintained in these times for a few months or weeks, when all the commanders are aware that discord would ruin the object for which they consented to act together, and when all action at the front is controlled or thwarted by cool-headed ministers at home, how much more difficult must combined action have been when crusading chiefs had to act for themselves, without reference to governments, and were actuated by direct impulses of emulation, personal jealousy, mutual ignorance, and fanatical enthusiasm. The crusaders would never have got further than Constantinople if their savage passions had not been kept in check by an obligation, however lightly felt, of mutual respect and deference. Chivalry, though undeveloped, had already established certain fundamentals; respect for noble birth, some sense of courtesy among equals, some obedience to leaders, honourable observance of the knightly promise, a high and keen sense of personal honour. The crusaders pillaged and burnt without distinction the possessions of Christian and infidel which came in the way of their march. Anna Comnena tells us, for instance, that the Franks slew the whole population of a Christian town near Ancyra, which came out to meet them with priests, cross, and gospel. They murdered Jews at home and abroad as willingly as Saracens. But among themselves they learnt forbearance and discipline, and chivalry was strengthened and purified by the practice of the virtues which were congenial to it. A noble savage like Robert of Normandy showed the best side of his character under this discipline. Godfrey and Tancred, from being petty princes absorbed in petty wars, became the leaders of Christendom; and their shining example was admired and imitated by men who had but the shadow of their qualities.

The idea of a Holy War was no novelty, for Christians and Mohammedans had been fighting in Spain for two hundred years before the first Crusade. The idea of defending the Christian lands from the Eastern invaders Constantinople as well as Rome was dimly in men’s minds before the sufferings of pilgrims and the capture of Jerusalem stirred religious ardour. But the immediate origin of the Crusades is to be traced, before the capture of Jerusalem by the Seljukian Turks in 1076, to the genius of Gregory VII. His piety conceived the liberation of the Holy Land from the infidels, and his ambition no doubt foresaw the acquisition of power which would accrue to the Church by the successful issue of a Holy War, which might lead to the reconciliation of the Eastern and Western Churches under the primacy of the Pope.

Gregory’s design was carried out by Urban II, the patron of Peter the Hermit. Neither the love of enterprise, natural to a warlike society, and heightened by the obligation of knight-errantry, nor the hope of gaining lands and riches in the East, would account for the zeal which made thousands of princes and wealthy lords mortgage their principalities and crown jewels, their lands and castles, and poor men their cattle and farming implements. A stronger motive was found in the religious fervour which sometimes seizes upon masses of simple men possessed with one idea. It was like a miracle (says a chronicler) to see all classes buying dear and selling cheap. It is difficult to comprehend an enthusiasm thus taking possession of half the human race. Men’s minds were then more at leisure from thought, and had room for a single idea. All wars and brigandage (we are told) came to an end. ‘The Crusade, like the rain, stilled the wind.’ All classes, rich and poor, sewed the red cross on their habits.[1]

The religious motive was at least as strong as that of gain or adventure: and the improvidence of the Crusaders was in agreement both with the religion which bade take no thought for the morrow, and with the chivalric expectation of castles to be stormed, dragons and enchanters to be slain, princesses to be delivered, paynim kings and their kingdoms to be conquered. So ignorant and sanguine were the first Crusaders that they thought each new city they reached must be Jerusalem; so superstitious that they expected miracles wherever they went, and were not disappointed. They trusted to their leaders and to the favour of God. They had neither plan of operation nor commissariat: chivalry and feudalism made them an assemblage of several adventurers rather than a combination of national forces — if indeed the word ‘national’ is not an anachronism when applied to an age in which the nations were those who spoke the same tongue, not those who obeyed, except in a feudal sense, the same sovereign. It is to the honour of chivalry and of the noble character of some of their chiefs that the valour of the Crusaders prevailed for a time against the forces of the infidels, and established Christian kingdoms in the East.

As a school of knightly exercise, no such parade-ground had ever been known. With all Europe looking on, the emulation of the combatants was increased a hundred-fold. At home, in some obscure northern castle, a knight might surpass Sir Lancelot in doughty deeds, and remain unknown. Here, everything was rumoured in the camp, memorized by troubadours and chroniclers, and blown by the trumpet of fame to all the courts of the West. This was no private adventure, no merely national war: it was all Christendom, in arms for God.

The heroes of the first Crusade were no exception to the rule of fierceness and even ferocity with which we are familiar in the history of the Norman kings of England. Among the most conspicuous qualities of barbarians are pride, personal vanity, and violent anger. Achilles, who struts about like an Indian chief, recounting his deeds of arms, who is so ‘possessed with greatness’ that he postpones the interest of the whole Grecian army to the indulgence of his own resentment, is also the merciless slayer of Hector, iracundus, inexorabilis. Like him, Baldwin, the brother of Godfrey, by his pride and self-assertion provoked the courteous Tancred to ‘a private and profane quarrel’ in presence of the enemy. Raymond Count of Toulouse was distinguished among his companions by his violent and overbearing temper no less than by his knightly honour: he tore out the eyes and cut off the limbs of prisoners; possessed, even beyond the rest of the Crusaders, by a demon of cruelty and ferocity. Not even the heroic Godfrey was free from the love of bloodshed. He put no check on his followers at the capture of Jerusalem. As he was first in valour and piety, so he was conspicuous in the massacre which flooded the Temple of Jerusalem with streams of blood. These were but the common incidents of Norman and Frank warfare: the crimes which make the name of King John infamous were lightly regarded a century earlier. To torture prisoners, to murder women and children wholesale, to blind, starve, maim and mutilate private enemies or prisoners of war, was as lawful as to slay men in open warfare. Quarter was neither asked nor given; cruelty became a duty when the enemy was an infidel, unless indeed he was an Emir and could pay a large ransom; and it was a rare instance of clemency when some of the most marketable of the defenders of Jerusalem were preserved alive and sold as slaves. In course of time chivalry became ashamed of these excesses: but clemency and mercy to defeated enemies were no part of the knightly virtues in the time of Godfrey, and were learnt, not from the doctrines of the Gospel and the influence of the clergy, but from the example of the Saracens themselves. The Spanish wars tell the same story ; the Cid’s personal prowess decided the fortune of battles and sieges; his pride and self-will had no respect for kings; he kept or broke faith with the Moors according to convenience; he burnt his prisoners alive in the square of Valencia.

The practice of warfare in this respect is summed up in the accounts of the capture of Antioch and Jerusalem, recorded by clerical chroniclers of the time with full approbation of the slaughter not only of soldiers, but of slaves, women, and children. Robert FitzGerald at the fort of Arech near Antioch brought back into camp a hundred heads of Turks; three hundred heads were sent down from Antioch to the port, ‘a very welcome sight.’ Saracens’ noses and ears were spitted on a lance as a trophy: a boat’s load of Greek noses and thumbs was sent as a menace to the Emperor. At Ascalon thirty prisoners marched before Godfrey’s triumphal procession, each bearing on a spear’s point the head of a slain Saracen. Richard I carried the same horrid trophies at his saddle-bow. So too the Cid, and the Knight of the Scarf, Garci Perez, who in mere lightness of heart rode back to encounter single-handed a troop of Moors, and brought back not only his lady’s scarf but seven green turbans as well.

Bohemund killed and roasted some prisoners as a jest, to make the enemy believe that the Christians were cannibals. Some of the Christians (it is stated in their own chronicles) ate the flesh of Turks, ‘making war upon God’s enemies both with teeth and hands.’ Similar stories were told of Richard I, but we need not believe them. These butcheries, it is true, were not confined to the first Crusade, nor indeed to the crusading times in general. At the capture of Acre in 1191, the whole garrison was held hostage by Richard I for the restitution of the piece of the True Cross which had been taken at Tiberias, and the payment of a fine. When the time granted had nearly elapsed, Richard sent to Saladin to remind him. Saladin replied, asking for more time, and saying that if his friends were hurt he would kill all his prisoners. At Richard’s refusal, Saladin brought out the prisoners in sight of the Christian army and beheaded them all. Richard made no reprisals till the day fixed had come; he then slew all his captives, to the number, it is said of five thousand.[2] The bodies of Richard’s victims were ripped up to find bezants and precious stones: ‘aurum et argentum multum invenerunt in visceribus eorum.’ These accounts are given not only by the Christian chroniclers, but by Mohammedan writers as well. Such scenes, were enacted throughout the progress of mediaeval warfare in every country: it is a stain upon religion and chivalry that the usages of war were not softened by the clemency which Church and knighthood alike professed to honour.

The result of the first Crusade was the capture of Jerusalem and the establishment of Christian kingdoms in the East; the history of the succeeding Crusades is the loss of these conquests. Gibbon contrasts the early enthusiasm ‘while hope was fresh, danger untried, and enterprise congenial to the spirit of the times,’ with the folly of ‘six succeeding generations’ of crusaders; and he remarks that ‘a regular story of the crusades would exhibit a perpetual return of the same causes and effects.’ But Gibbon was not likely to give its true value to the religious motive, which, however diluted by worldly considerations and stained by vice and licence, inspired the courage of crusaders to the last.

We shall not attempt to give here any sort of narrative of the crusading period, but only endeavour to point out the connection of the Crusades with the history of chivalrous ideas, and the change which came over these ideas, in the course of the period.

The most conspicuous incidents in the succeeding Crusades were the magnificent beginning and ignominious end of the second Crusade (1147-1149) to which are attached the names of St. Bernard, the Emperor Conrad and Lewis VII of France. The rise of Saladin, the fatal battle of Tiberias (1187) and the consequent capture of Jerusalem, owing to the want of good faith, statesmanship, and conduct of war among the Latin princes, unfit for the task of holding and organising conquered territory, led to the third Crusade (1189-1193) which is illustrated by the names of Frederick Barbarossa and Philip Augustus, and by the deeds of Richard I, but only succeeded in retaining for the Christians a strip of sea-coast and the cities of Acre, Tyre, and Jaffa, and in renewing the fortunes of the Frank principalities in the East. The fourth (1202-1204) is chiefly remarkable for the taking of Constantinople by the Venetians, and the establishment of the Latin Empire there. In 1221 the crusaders under John de Brienne, titular king of Jerusalem, attempted and nearly effected the conquest of Egypt, but lost all through the folly of the Pope’s legate Pelayo in refusing good terms, and were compelled by an unusual rising of the Nile to surrender at discretion. In the fifth Crusade (1228) Frederick II, the free-thinking emperor, made good terms with Sultan Kameel, one of the conditions being the surrender of Jerusalem (with the exception of the Temple) to the emperor. Frederick was crowned king of Jerusalem, but under the ban of the Church; and his treaty with the Saracens was denounced as an act of apostasy. Richard Earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III (1240), recovered Palestine for a moment, but was overwhelmed by an invasion of barbarians from the east. The sixth and seventh (1248-1250; 1270-1272) led by the heroic St. Lewis, swallowed up two armies in Egypt; and Edward, son of Henry III, fought a bloody but useless battle at Nazareth. The Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic knights, and the remnants of the Christians settled in the Holy Land kept up the show of resistance for a few years more; till the irresistible fury of the Mamelukes caused the fall of Acre (1291) and the slaughter of its garrison and inhabitants. This last scene was glorified by the valour of the Templars and Hospitallers, who maintained to the last the honour of their Orders.[3]

A few instances may help to illustrate the character of the Crusades and their leaders. Robert Courthose, Duke of Normandy, is one of the paladins of the first Crusade; the brilliant, impetuous, unlettered son of William the Conqueror, without stability or perseverance, generous and forgiving, lavish in liberality, so easy and good-natured that he would not punish thieves and robbers, so loose a liver that his nefandus luxus was remarked in a licentious age, and yet so courteous that he refused to attack Winchester because the Queen was lying there in childbed—

II dist ke vilein sereit
Ki dame en gésine assaldreit;

so improvident that he would give any sum of money for a hawk or a hound, and when he would go crusading, mortgaged his duchy of Normandy for 10,000 marks to his more prudent brother; so passionate and resentful that he made war upon his father and both his brothers, and ruined himself finally in the attempt to recover Normandy from Henry I; a worthy brother-in-arms of Godfrey and Tancred, side by side with whom he scaled the walls of Jerusalem;— a splendid barbarian, whose violent impulses and enormous personal pride were only restrained by religious enthusiasm and chivalrous honour.

It was greatly to Robert’s credit that when he was offered the crown of Jerusalem — we may presume on account of his high rank and bravery in action — he declined the offer at once, tempting though it must have been from the endless prospect of adventure which it opened. ‘For’ (said he) ‘though I have come here for God’s service, I have not let my duchy[4] go from me (dimisi) so completely as to be at my vow; and I desire, if it please God, to return to my own people.’

Godfrey of Bouillon is in all respects a higher character, but not more typical of the age. If Robert of Normandy represents bodily prowess and generosity, in Godfrey these qualities were tempered by practical sagacity and justice. His successor Baldwin III added to these virtues the good sense which enabled him to govern the kingdom of Jerusalem in peace, and to control his warlike vassals by the authority of his own character. In him, as much as in any chivalric figure, were combined the qualities of wisdom, justice and honour.

Among the chiefs of Crusade, no name stands so high as that of Godfrey of Bouillon. He was the first soldier of his day — that is, the first man-at-arms. He had won repute in his youth as the standard-bearer of the Emperor Henry IV, in whose service he killed with his own hand the rival emperor Rudolph of Swabia. He was the first to scale the walls of Rome in Henry’s war against Gregory VIII, as afterwards he was (as a penance for that act of sacrilege) the first to enter Jerusalem. His deeds of arms in the Holy Land surpassed those of all the Frank champions, and were only outdone by those of Cœur de Lion himself a century later.

It was no doubt his prowess in battle, combined with his rank as Duke of Lorraine, that gave Godfrey his ascendency among the Christian princes. But he would not have held it if it had not been supported by other qualities. His power of ruling and his personal authority are shown by the fact that he kept the army together and prevented the princes, except in a few instances, from actually taking up arms against one another. His reputation for justice made all disputants come to him with confidence. He gave a rare instance of disinterested fairness by submitting to enter the lists in an ordeal with one of his own vassals. He was known to be indifferent to money, and had indignantly refused a bribe. When passing through Hungary he had offered to remain as hostage in the place of his brother Baldwin, who distrusted the Hungarian king Koloman. His purity of life was a rebuke to all his companions in arms, and his honour was as spotless as his chastity. A Saracen chief was reported to have said that ‘if all honour should fail from the world, Duke Godfrey is sufficient alone to restore it and bring it to light.’ His love for justice is shown in the Assize of Jerusalem; a code of feudal law, the origin of which may fairly be attributed to the statesmanlike genius of Godfrey, though in its existing form it dates from a later period.

His religion was that of the time, ardent and superstitious, simple and sincere. The Pope’s call to a Crusade fell in with his own desire to go on pilgrimage, and justified him in leaving his own dominions, for he was a sovereign prince. He was under a vow of pilgrimage, and now he could fulfil his vow and follow the banner of Christ his liege lord. His servants could find no fault in him except that he would stay too long in church after mass, so that their dinner got cold, and was too fond of reading good books. He was ‘moult preudhomme et moult aymant Dieu et gens d’eglise.’

But Godfrey’s humility endeared him to his contemporaries, and is still his chief praise. He was willing to give up his place as elder brother and general in chief, to become a hostage. He made no objection when the crown of Jerusalem was offered to Robert of Normandy, and we are glad to be able to believe the truth of the story which is recorded in every history, how he would not wear the crown of gold where his Master had worn the crown of thorns, taking the title not of King, but of ‘Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulchre.’ ‘Il ne volt estré sacré et corosne roy de Jerusalem, porce que il ne vult porter corosne d’or là où le roy des roys Jésus Christ fils de Dieu porta corosne d’espines le jour de sa passion.’

It would be a miracle if Godfrey were unlike all the men of his time. And in the matter of cruelty to the conquered Turks he is no exception. Raymond of Toulouse saved the lives of some of his prisoners, and Tancred promised to spare his; but these were cut down next day, and no protest from Godfrey was heard. The chroniclers one after another tell the same story, and exalt the praises of Godfrey with the addition: ‘Nullus ex eis vitae est reservatus;’ ‘Nee aetati nee sexui nee nobilitati nee cuivis conditioni miserebantur Christiani’ — ‘neque feminis neque parvulis pepercerunt.’ The Jews were burnt alive with their synagogue; many of the townspeople were tortured to make them give up their treasures, which with the houses and their occupants were made the property of the first crusader who entered them.

In this respect Godfrey was like the rest of the Crusaders. In all others he seems to have stood almost alone, superior to Baldwin, Raymond, and Tancred; whose portrait as drawn by Gibbon may be set down here. ‘In the accomplished character of Tancred, we discern all the virtues of a perfect knight, the true spirit of chivalry, which inspired the generous sentiments and social offices of man, far better than the base philosophy, or the baser religion of the times.’ ‘My soldiers,’ said Tancred, ‘are my glory and my riches. Let them have the spoil, and let me have for my portion care, danger, weariness, rain and hail.’

These instances — and many might be added to them — are enough to show how much the crusading movement owed to the principles of chivalry; and how much those principles were strengthened by the noble display of knighthood which the Crusades furnished, however it may have been stained by the darker characteristics of the knightly character, and the crimes which accompany fanaticism, ambition and worldly policy.

The gaiety which was a part of the chivalrous temperament, akin to the lighthearted improvidence which threw away jewels, crowns and broad lands in the quest of a boundless adventure, is illustrated by the equipage of hounds and hawks which accompanied the Crusaders, the feasts and spectacles of Constantinople, accompanied by splendid gifts of gold and silver, jewels and stuffs, which Godfrey refused and Bohemund accepted.

William IX, Count or Duke of Poitou and Aquitaine (1071-1122), grandfather of Eleanor, the wife of Henry II, reputed as the first of the Troubadors and one of the chiefs in the second Crusade, is another conspicuous figure. As a soldier he had few equals: his gallantries exceeded all those of his time, and his verses were the most licentious. When he went to the Holy Land to save his soul, many noble ladies (examina puellarum) followed him, and it may be believed that he found consolation in their company during his exile. Where knights went, ladies were likely to follow: but gallantry plays no part in the accounts handed down by contemporary writers; and it is probable that the emancipation from moral obligations which distinguished the later crusades had not yet spread to the north.

William of Poitou took the ‘gay science’ with him, till then little known out of Provence, and as yet unrefined by contact with the courtly Saracens. He combined, too, one of the many contradictions of chivalry — enough religious zeal to make him a crusader, a lax life, and an undisguised contempt of churchmen, their teaching and their practice. The simple religion of that day held that the act of taking the cross was enough to atone for an un-Christian life, and that the soldier of the Cross was certain to be saved. As another noble troubadour (the Chastelain de Coucy) says of the Holy Wars,

On y conquiert Paradis et honor
et prix et los et l’amour de s’amie.

Count William was unfortunate as a Crusader. He lost most of his men and his gold and silver ‘in Romania’ (i.e. in the country of the Emperor on the mainland of Europe) being attacked by the Emir Soliman, and arrived at Antioch ‘destitute and on foot.’ Tancred took pity on him, and furnished him with what he needed. But he had had enough of crusading, and like Pliable in the Pilgrim’s Progress he scrambled out on the near side of the ditch, and returned to his own country.

Bertrand de Born, the troubadour, ‘he who gave the evil counsel’ which set the sons of Henry II at war with their father, is one of the most remarkable characters of the third Crusade, two centuries later, and may be contrasted with William of Poitou. Of high lineage and lord of many lands in South Western France, poet, soldier and man of pleasure, preux chevalier in honour and gallantry, excelling all his contemporaries in genius — ‘I never had need’ (he said) ‘ of half the wit I have’ — preferring the battle-cry to sleep, the brilliant and lawless side of chivalry. Such was his generosity, that when besieged by Alfonso II of Aragon, he sent him bread, wine and meat for his army, begging in return that he should not press a weak point in his castle. Alfonso repaid the gift by betraying him to Henry II. Though only a ‘vavassour,’ he lived on terms of such equality with Henry II and his sons that he could call them by nicknames, Henry the Mariner, Richard Oc e No, (because he never knew his own mind), Geoffrey Rassa. Henry, he says ‘shall be king of cowards: he is the kindest and most generous lord, the best jouster and man-at-arms- since Roland.’ But pride and violent passion made him quarrel with all the brothers, and he gratified his rage by turning them against their father, and breaking the old king’s heart. His lady-love, of far higher degree than himself, was their sister Matilda, wife of Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony. He calls her ‘Helen.’ She is as gold to sand, compared with the three beautiful sisters of Turenne. She glorifies the ducal crown by wearing it. Her rose-blushes rob him of his heart. He would not take Khorassan in exchange for the sight of her. When caught at last and imprisoned by his chief enemy Henry II, his captor said to him, ‘Bertrand, you who were so clever, where are your wits now?’ ‘Ah sire,’ (he answered) ‘I lost them when I lost your son Henry.’ The king’s heart was touched by the thought of their common grief, and he released Bertrand with rich presents.

Bertrand de Born had all the chivalric disdain of churls, meat and drink, the idol of women and the terror of husbands, his gay, stormy, reckless figure seems a picture of ‘I love to see the rich churl in distress, who dares to strive with the noble. I love to see him beg his bread in nakedness.’ ‘The peasant is like a hog. Keep his trough empty, lest he become rich and lose his wits.’ Yet he can speak of dreytura, (rectitude, or rather honour, and specially honour in love,) good deeds, courtesy, liberality. These, with jousting and war, make the perfect knight. After all this worldly enjoyment and display, he ended his days as a Cistercian monk. Such a character is impossible in a sober age: in good and bad alike Bertrand de Born is brilliant, effective, and genuine, made up of praise and fierceness, savage virtue and genius, the pattern of his age.

In the whole period the most conspicuous names are those of Godfrey, Richard, Saladin, and Lewis IX: we have spoken already of Godfrey, and have only to add to what has been said of Richard a few traits which distinguish him from the other warriors of his time. His immense personal strength and skill and his reckless valour, were in the eyes of his contemporaries his most admirable qualities: his arrogance and violence were the attributes of his rank: his want of good faith was excused by almost universal laxity: his rapacity, cruelty and petty resentment were forgotten in the blaze of arms. He was admired for risking his life with many or few on every possible occasion, more than for his real capacity and forethought as a strategist and a builder of castles. But his own followers sometimes dared to remonstrate with him for his foolhardiness; and Saladin spoke severely of it to Hubert Walter, then Bishop of Salisbury. But indeed Richard’s prowess was above all criticism. We read that wherever Richard rode a broad lane opened before him: that with only fifteen knights at his back he cleared away whole battalions of Saracens as soon as his war-cry ‘God for us and the Holy Sepulchre!’ was heard. Every one knows the story of the Saracen women hushing her children by the terror of Richard’s name ‘Tès-toi, por le roi d’Engleterre’ and of the cry to the restive horse, ‘Cuides-tu ke le roi Richard soit mucié en cest buisson?’ Every one knows also the deeds of swordsmanship, the lopping of arms and heads and cleaving of infidels to the saddle bow, which are the usual adornments of the Christian Iliads. We learn from Abulfeda how Cœur de Lion with seventeen knights and three hundred archers from his encampment before the gates of Acre, rode furiously along the front of the Saracens, ‘from the right to the left wing, without meeting an adversary who dared to encounter his onset. ‘Am I writing’ (exclaims Gibbon) ‘the history of Orlando or Amadis?’

It may be noted in passing that contemporary accounts both Christian and Arabian agree in ascribing to the Christian leaders athletic exploits which are barely credible even in men whose life was spent in warlike exercises, such as the feat attributed to Godfrey, who cut away the upper half of a Saracen, leaving the trunk and legs in the saddle, the cleaving another from shoulder to saddle, the lopping of heads and arms at a single blow. As the same things are told of the Emperor Conrad, of Richard Cœur de Lion, and of others at a much later date, as du Guesclin and Clisson, there must be some foundation for them in fact. Few men now-a-days, if any, could leap on to the back of a dray horse in complete armour: but practice makes miracles possible. Nor need we treat as fabulous the story of Godfrey’s combat with a bear, whether it was in defence of a pilgrim or for his own amusement: nor that of his cutting off the head of a camel with his own sword, and when his Saracen admirer suspected magic, doing the same to a second camel with the Saracen’s own scimitar. Such deeds, if camels were plentiful, could probably be done by a modern trooper.

When Richard I arrived at Acre, the whole camp was lighted up with bonfires. The dejection of the Saracens was equal to the joy of the Crusaders; for Richard’s presence in person was worth more than all the reinforcements and siege engines which he brought with him; and with Richard to conduct it the siege at once took another colour, incessant attacks being now made upon the town. The Saracen historians praise his ‘sound judgment, great experience, and extreme boldness and ambition.’

At Joppa, with only ten knights (whose names have been preserved) he attacked the whole Saracen army. He and his knights were immediately engulfed, but fighting each for himself they held the enemy in check and contributed greatly to the victory of the Christians. He appeared outside his camp at Acre with seventeen companions and three hundred foot, and rode along the whole line of the Saracen army, daring them to attack him — and Saladin, finding that his Emirs (among whom a mutinous spirit had appeared) would not support him, rode away from the sight in such fierce anger that ‘no man dared speak to him.’ At Arsouf, whilst conducting a dangerous flank march along the sea coast, exposed to attacks from the Saracen archery and light cavalry, Richard restrained for many hours the impatience of the Christian chiefs, including the Grand Masters of the Temple and Hospital, till he should give the signal by six trumpet-calls. Then only did he allow the infantry to open their ranks, and sent the heavy cavalry in three divisions to charge the enemy in right, centre and left. So complete was the rout of the Saracens, that, as their historians declare, the army would have been completely destroyed if the king, whose object was the relief of Ascalon, had pursued them to the hills.

Richard’s generalship, shewn here and on many occasions, would, in the estimation of a later age, though not in that of his companions, give him a higher character as a soldier than his prowess as a man-at-arms. He learnt in the East how to combine cavalry with infantry and archers, and so mastered the science of fortification that his castle, Château Gaillard, was the best constructed in all Europe, and could only be rivalled by those built by the Crusaders in the East.[5]

Besides being the best man-at-arms in the Christian army, Richard was a troubadour, and was, both at home and in the intervals of fighting, the bountiful patron of troubadours. Among those who were with him in the Holy Land, are mentioned Bertrand de Born, Folquet of Marseilles, Pons de Capdeuil, Blondel of Nesle, his rivals in the gay science both of love and verse. Richard transferred to the Holy Land something like the court of his mother, Eleanor of Guienne, the queen of troubadours, who was herself credited with similar adventures when she came out, with a long train of ladies, to accompany her husband Lewis VII; but though Richard had many amours, he honoured his wife Berengaria above all ladies. The times had changed since the first Crusade, and every gentleman was now a squire of dames. The knights were not content with Christian lovers, but engaged in romantic and scandalous adventures with Saracen ladies. The Christian camp before Acre was a scene of such debauchery that Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, after many vain endeavours to check it, died of pure grief of heart. Attempts were made from time to time to check these abuses, but without success. At Antioch (1097) and on other occasions, all women were removed from the camp. But they always came back. St. Lewis complained to Joinville that there was an establishment of loose women within a few yards of his royal tent, brought there by William Longsword; and if he could not put the evil down, no one else could.

Richard’s superiority to his insular English subjects was shown by his introducing the frequent use of tournaments into England, to train knights for the Crusades, and in order that the English knights might learn the newest arts of horsemanship and arms and lose the reputation of rusticity which they had acquired.

Richard shewed magnanimity (amongst other instances) when he gave money to the man who had wounded him to death, and gave orders that his life should be spared; and again at Ramleh, when seeing a body of Templars outnumbered by the enemy, he cried ‘I would to God they were aught else’ (for he bore no love to the Templars); ‘but Templars or not, I will not desert brave knights in their need.’ He sent out such men as were ready, and his appearance in person soon after turned defeat into victory.

The other chivalric virtues, liberality, courtesy to women, magnificence in everything, Richard possessed in full measure. His vices were equally beyond the ordinary standard. He was a tyrannical king, who robbed his subjects and wasted their spoils;[6] savage and cruel in war, even beyond what the ideas of his age allowed; an undutiful son, an unfaithful husband, of doubtful honour both as regards friends and enemies, violent in anger and tenacious of resentment. Pride, rapacity, and luxury, he admitted, were his three daughters; and he commended them severally to the care of the Templars, the gray monks, and the black monks.[7]

It was said that Richard, the champion of Christendom, had not confessed to a priest for seven years.[8] His death was a righteous vengeance for an act of tyranny; he had been a man of blood from his youth. But there is something pathetic in the story told of him, how, when for strategical reasons he had refused to march upon Jerusalem, and when his retreating army came in sight of the Holy City and one of his knights bade him look, he covered his head and held up his shield before his eyes, praying that God would not let him see the holy place which he had not been permitted to deliver; and in his last prayer that God would grant him a place in Purgatory even till the Day of Judgment, if that could wash away his sin.

There was an Alexander-like greatness in Richard, a kingliness which we, who see nothing like it in the world, have no right to disparage as mere barbaric ostentation. He was made for his own age; but he would have been a famous man in any age.

Richard I was but the finest instance of chivalry which the Holy Wars produced. The Holy Land was the play-ground of noble Europe, and every nation poured forth worthy champions, among whom John of Brienne, Edward of England, and his uncle Richard Earl of Cornwall, the Longswords, Robert Earl of Leicester, William de Barre, Conrad of Montserrat, the doge Dandolo, Leopold of Austria, may be named — but

Every day brought out a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.

If Richard I was the greatest fighter of all the crusaders, he was surpassed in courtesy and true magninimity by Saladin, who, from all we hear of him by the accounts both of Christian and Saracen, was indeed ‘a very gentle perfect knight.’[9] The fierceness of the Christian chivalry had been by this time somewhat softened by the ceremonious life of courts and the society of ladies; and it is not unreasonable to believe that Christian knights learnt courtesy from the Saracens. Grave and dignified courtesy was in no country carried so far as in Spain, where the Christians were compelled to imitate and if possible surpass the graces of the Moorish knights.

Caballeros Granadinos,
Aunque Moros, hijos d’algo.
[10]

The Arab knight matched the Spanish hidalgo in all the accomplishments of chivalry. Though wars between the two nations were frequent, there were long intervals of peace, during which they interchanged noble courtesies, jousted, hunted, and courted ladies in company. The Moorish ladies did not then veil their faces; they went hawking with the knights, and presided at tournaments.[11] Besides the well-known stories of Saracen maidens delivering Christian captives, many instances are found of intermarriage between Spaniards and Moors.[12]

A Christian obtained leave from his captor to visit his lady, giving his parole to return. She would not leave him, and they came back together and were both released by the noble hearted Moor. ‘Kindness, valour, knightliness, gentleness, poetry, courtly speech, strength, skill with the lance, the sword and the bow,’ are the summary of a Moorish knight; and these excellencies were the pride of the Oriental Moslem as well as those of Cordova and Granada. As the Western nations learnt architecture, poetry, science and philosophy through their contact with the Arabs in the Eastern and Western Crusades, so their rough chivalry was rebuked and refined by the noble behaviour of the Saracens; and the character of Saladin himself counts for something in the sum. His fame as a knight was second to that of Richard alone. He was regarded as different from the rest of Islam. He is admitted by Dante to the milder region of Limbo, among the company of ancient worthies: the philosophers Avicenna and Averroes are there too; but Saladin sits ‘alone and apart.’ He was said to have accepted knighthood himself, and there is no doubt that he sent the son of his brother, Melech-el-Adel, to be knighted by King Richard. He was also believed to have had a Christian wife.[13]

The life of Saladin has often been written from the accounts left by Arab historians who knew him intimately; Bohadin, Abulfeda, Kamel, and others. All give the same picture of a great king; a general, soldier, and ruler of the first rank, as much loved as he was feared, a man of strong passions kept under severe control, a devout Mohammedan, a lover of justice and clemency. These are the common attributes of an Oriental sovereign of the better class. It is a part easily played by a strong man. But to play it as Saladin did requires a rare genius. There is distinction in everything that he does. His personal charm was so great, that when he died, ‘we left him,’ (says Abulfeda,) ‘leaving our hearts with him.’ ‘With him,’ said an Arabian poet, ‘the graces and virtues have perished, and injustice is multiplied.’ At the same time his dignity and majestic demeanour made all men bow to him. When two Hospitallers were brought before him to be put to death (for he seldom spared Templars or Hospitallers) one of them said to the other, ‘Before I saw that noble face (béni et beau visage) I was afraid: but now that I am in his presence I feel sure that he can do us no harm.’ Saladin enquired who they were, and released them both.

Ordinary prisoners of war he treated mercifully. His usual practice was to spare the common people of a Frankish town. He gave rich fur pelisses and other presents to prisoners of distinction, in some cases inviting them to his table, and giving them horses to ride to Damascus, or whatever place he had appointed for them to wait for their ransom. After the battle of Tiberias (1187), Saladin received the captive king of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, with all honour, seating him at his side and letting him drink from his own cup. Renaud of Châtillon took the cup from the king’s hand; but Saladin sternly remarked that Renaud, if he drank, did not drink with him: then fiercely reproached him as a traitor, and cut off his head with his own scimitar. The Grand Master of the Hospital and two hundred and thirty of his knights shared the same fate; for Saladin could be ruthless as well as merciful. Yet he allowed the knights of the Hospital to keep their home at Jerusalem for a year after the capture of the city, for the sake of the sick whom they tended. Saladin was gay and courteous in company, putting all his guests at their ease, with stories of ancient Arab chiefs and their horses, all of whose pedigrees he knew. He would not endure any low talk in his presence. He was gentle to slaves and poor people. When one of his friends threw a slipper at a comrade, missed him and struck the Sultan, he turned his head and looked the other way. In his last illness, when a cup of water was brought to him, too hot at first and then too cold, he shewed no anger, but only said, ‘Is there no one who can give me a cup of water?’ Anyone else (says the chronicler) would have thrown the cup at the slave’s head. When his two little sons asked him to give them a Frank prisoner to kill, he refused, and said ‘it was not good for them to learn so young to play with life and death.’ He spoke kindly to an aged Christian who had come from the far West to visit the Church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem, and gave him a horse to take him back to the Frankish camp. When Richard I cried out upon the crowds of pilgrims who had not done their duty at Jaffa, and yet wished to get the blessing of visiting the holy places, Saladin gave them meat with his servants, and excused himself by saying, ‘they have come from so far; and our law does not suffer us to hinder them.’ He helped a poor Frankish woman who came to him to complain that her little girl had been stolen from her by Saracen kidnappers; sent to the slave market for the child, and would not move from the place till she was found. ‘God, thou didst make him merciful’ (says the pious narrator) ‘grant him to taste of thy mercy.’ His natural sensibility shewed itself in tears, which sometimes scandalized his sterner friends; as when the Christian convoys escaped him at Ascalon. He wept at the fall of Acre ‘as a mother weeps over her child’; and on another occasion, when he went out to meet a caravan from Mecca, and remembered that he had never been enough at leisure to go on pilgrimage. This same sensibility made him terrible in anger. He tore his beard with rage when Richard sank the great ship at Acre full of equipments and engines. After Richard’s massacre of the Saracen prisoners there, he inflicted torture as well as death on Christians who fell into his hands; being specially angered at breach of faith. He appears to have distrusted his own moods both of clemency and anger. He refused at first to make terms with the garrison of Jerusalem. ‘As the Franks had stormed Jerusalem a hundred years before, so would he now; he would render evil for evil.’ But when the besieged sent a message to say that they would defend the city to the last and then destroy the buildings and all that they contained, slay their wives, children, slaves and cattle, and die in the breach, he relented, and gave them honourable and lenient terms of surrender. On the other hand, being inclined to spare a Christian prisoner of high rank and noble bearing, he rode out alone, and when he came back commanded him to be slain. Even in his vengeance upon Renaud de Châtillon he seems (according to one account) to have hestitated, and remanded his prisoner for further consideration.

Many stories of his courtesy are told. Seeing Richard dismounted he said ‘So great a king should not fight on foot,’ and sent him a charger to ride. The king mounted one of his knights instead William Longsword, the elder, Earl of Salisbury, some say whom the horse carried away with him to his own lines. Richard had no suspicion of his honour; but Saladin was deeply distressed (‘fu mult honteus de ce’) and sent the Earl back with a less fiery steed.

Saladin was so generous that he ‘kept nothing for the morrow.’ He had but one horse for his own use, and gave away thousands to his attendants. At his death no more than 47 silver drachms and a single dinar of Tyrian gold were found in his coffers.

Saladin’s honour was never doubted. He had reason to doubt the good faith of a people who kept the Pope’s dispensation up their sleeve, and whilst he had confidence in the good faith of the Templars, he appears to have felt special distrust of Richard Cœur de Lion; whom he refused more than once to meet, saying with much dignity that ‘it was not becoming for kings to meet as friends and go to war again. Let the preliminaries of peace be settled first.’

Although he was a devout Mussulman, never omitting his religious duties, and loving to hear stories told of Mahomet and the saints, and though he had a perfect hatred of Christianity, and especially of Templars and Hospitallers, its most renowned defenders, the ‘firebrands’ of the Christians, Saladin was neither superstitious nor bigoted.’ He did not set one day above another.’ He was the only Oriental prince who practised something like toleration, and looked upon Chrisians and Mohammedans as his subjects and worthy of his protection. At Jerusalem he admitted the garrison and the inhabitants to an honourable composition, and took no umbrage at the lamentations of the Christians when the golden cross was taken down from the Dome of the Rock. He gave Christians free access to the Holy Places, granted leave at the request of Hubert, Bishop of Salisbury for two Latin priests and deacons to say mass at Jerusalem and Bethlehem, caring little for the reputation of a destroyer of false religion, so long as he protected the true religion. ‘The only end of my wishes’ (he said) ‘is to die for God’s cause.’

Christian chivalry has only one hero who may be set above the courteous, the humane, the generous Saladin, in comparison with whom Godfrey and Tancred seem uncultured. This is Lewis IX of France, the best and one of the greatest of kings; of whom, though he was a saint, Gibbon says that he ‘united the virtues of a king, a hero and a man; that his martial spirit was tempered by the love of private and public justice; and that Lewis was the father of his people, the friend of his neighbour, and the terror of the infidels.’

Few great men have been so fortunate in their biographer as Lewis IX. His friend, John, the Sire de Joinville, Seneschal of the County of Champagne, who accompanied him in his first crusade, and was admitted to the closest familiarity with his master, sums up his character in these words: ‘Never did layman of our times live so devoutly during the whole of his days… If God died on the cross, so did he; for he wore the cross when he was at Tunis.’ Joinville was a man of the world, and was not blind to the weaknesses of the king ; and this gives greater value to the picture which he has drawn of the statesman and soldier as well as the saint: a picture which sets Lewis by the side of Marcus Aurelius, and above Godfrey, Cromwell, and other rulers with whom religion has been the mainspring of action.

His personal habits were simple though not austere. He ‘ate contentedly of what his cooks served up to him,’ never asking for any particular dish: drank his wine mixed with water: never wore embroidered coats of arms nor rich furs, but justified those who did, saying that a gentleman should dress according to his rank, so that neither old men should say ‘too much’ nor young men ‘too little.’ ‘I have seen him’ (says Joinville) ‘come in summer to do justice to his people, into the garden at Paris, dressed in a camlet cloak, a sleeveless surcoat of woollen stuff, a mantle of black taffety (cendal) round his neck… and a hat with white peacock’s feathers. Carpets were spread for us to sit round him, and the people who had business to dispatch stood in front. Thus too he would do justice in the woods at Vincennes, sitting on the ground with his back to an oak.

‘Finding one day his brother, the Count of Anjou, playing at tables[14] on board ship with Monseigneur Walter de Nemours, he went to him, though so ill with fever that he could hardly walk, and threw the dice and the board into the sea.’ But (says Joinville) ‘Monseigneur Walter came off the best, for he swept all the money which was on the board into his lap and took it for himself.’

Joinville having put himself forward in advising that the King should not return to France, but stay and finish the campaign, was jeered at by other members of the Council. ‘The King must surely be mad, Messire de Joinville, if he does not listen to you before the whole council of France!’

‘Then’ (says Joinville) ‘thinking that the king was angry with me, I went to a barred window that was in a recess near the head of the king’s bed, and I passed my arms through the bars; and I was thinking that if the king went away to France I would go to the prince of Antioch… While I was standing there, the king came and leaned upon my shoulders, and put his two hands upon my head. I thought it was Monseigneur Philip de Nemours, who had annoyed me incessantly all that day because of the counsel I had given to the king, and I said, “Leave me in peace, Monseigneur Philip!” By accident, as I turned my head round, the king’s hand slipped down over my face, and I saw it was the king by an emerald he wore on his finger. And he said to me, “Keep still; I want to ask how so young a man as you had the hardihood to venture to counsel me to stay here, contrary to all the great and wise men of France who advised me to depart?” “Sire,” said I, “it seemed to my mind an evil thing that you should return to France; therefore I would not, for any price, counsel you to do so.”

‘”Do you say,” he asked, ‘”that I should act wrongly if I went away?”

‘”Yes, sire,” I answered; ‘”so help me God!”

‘”Then said he: ‘”If I remain, will you remain?”

‘”Yes, sire, if I can, either at my own charge, or at that of someone else.”

“‘Be at ease, then,” he answered, ‘”for I am greatly obliged to you for the counsel you gave; but do not say so to any one all this week.”‘

His religion was as simple as his life. ‘My chapel,’ he said, ‘is my arsenal against all the assaults (traverses) of the world.’ He pointed out a saintly monk to Joinville, and told him that once when this monk was sleeping in a draught, the Blessed Virgin had gone to his bedside and drawn her robe over his chest. When the Greek fire came flying through the air ‘like a dragon,’ he stretched his hands towards the crucifix and said ‘Fair Sire God, preserve my people.’ He would not speak to a Saracen lord who spoke French, and brought him presents, on hearing that he was a renegade. When St. Lewis thought himself dying, and a lady sitting by him would have drawn the sheet over his face, saying that he was dead, ‘our Lord wrought upon him and quickly sent him health. He demanded that the cross (la crois d’outremer) should be given him… When the Queen, his mother, was told by himself that he had taken the cross, she showed as much grief as if he had been dead.’ His lords were unwilling to leave their lands and houses a second time by going on crusade: but the king had privily ordered crosses to be sewn within the new mantles which he gave them, and so they were caught and had to go. One of them said ‘If we do not take the cross, we shall lose the king’s favour; and if we do, we shall lose God’s favour, for we shall not take it on His account.’ How much humility, loyalty, and piety there is, combined with French wit, in this saying. The day before he died, he was heard murmuring ‘Nous irons à Jérusalem‘; and the next day, having lost the power of speech for some hours, he said ‘Lord, I will enter Thy house and adore Thee in Thy Holy Tabernacle.’ These were his last words.

Lewis however was no monk in king’s clothing. He was one of the strongest rulers and best soldiers of the day. His justice was of the patriarchal type. He respected a broken seal, because it tallied with one unbroken. He forgave a clerk who had shown excessive valour in self-defence and killed three robbers; ‘Sir clerk, you have missed being a priest through your prowess: and because of your prowess, I take you into my service, and you shall go with me beyond sea.’ His judgments could be very severe, and when once passed he was unwilling to revoke them: but he sometimes allowed himself to be persuaded. He gave benefices after taking counsel with worthy persons, ‘loyally, and to God.’ He would allow no pluralism. He looked out the best man he could find for the provostship of Paris (which had been sold to the highest bidder in former times); one who would see that thieves and other evil-doers did not remain unhanged.

For courage and feats of arms Lewis IX would have been worthy to be a brother in arms of Richard himself. At Damietta, as soon as he heard that the Oriflamme of St. Denis had been borne ashore, he leaped into the water up to his armpits in full armour; and when he got to land and saw the Saracens, ‘he clapped his lance under his arm, threw his shield in front of him, and would have rushed upon them, had the discreet men who were with him suffered him.’ His appearance in battle is thus described by Joinville:— ‘Never have I seen so fine a knight (‘si bel homme d’armes’); for he towered above all his people, out-topping them by the shoulders, a gilded helmet on his head and a German sword in his hands… It was said that we should have been lost that day had not the king been with us… for six Turks seized the king’s horse by the bridle and were leading him away prisoner; but he delivered himself from them single-handed, by the mighty sword strokes he dealt them.’ When, after these deeds of arms, the king retired to his tent for a respite, ‘then came up to him Brother Henry de Ronnay and kissed his gauntleted hand. The king asked him if he had any tidings of his brother the Count of Artois,[15] and he replied that he had very good news of him, for he was quite certain that he was in Paradise…. Whereupon the king said that God should be praised for the good gifts He gave; and then big tears fell from his eyes.’

When taken prisoner by the Sultan Bibars and threatened with torture, he only said, ‘I am your prisoner, and you can do as you please.’ He refused to make oath that if he did not keep faith with the Saracens he was content to be dishonoured as a Christian who denies God and spits upon the cross. ‘He would rather die a good Christian, than live hated by God and His Mother.’ His simple word was accepted at last — a king’s word of honour requiring no confirmation by oath.[16] He took so high a tone with his captors that they declared it was they who were being treated as prisoners. ‘A king,’ he said, ‘does not set himself to ransom. Damietta shall be my ransom, and the million bezants shall be for my army.’ The Sultan was so much moved by his magnanimity and good faith that he voluntarily reduced the ransom and exclaimed, ‘This Frank prince is the boldest (le plus fier) Christian that has ever been seen in the East!’ Another instance of his scrupulous honour was in the matter of his brother’s ransom, when he insisted upon an alleged deficiency being made good, though Joinville protested, saying that the Saracens were the greatest rogues in the world. ‘He was the most loyal man of his time… and kept faith even with Saracens, and to his own disadvantage.’

After the king’s return from over sea, ‘he lived so devoutly that he never afterwards wore furs of different colours, nor minever, nor scarlet cloth, nor gilt stirrups or spurs; his dress was of camlet or dark blue cloth; and the linings of his coverlets and garments were of doeskin or hares’ legs. He was bountiful to the poor, and gave large donations to poor friars, hospitals, sick persons, poor gentlemen, dames and damsels…. Many a time have I seen him cut bread and pour out drink for the poor people, a multitude of whom he fed every day…. Wherever the king went 120 poor persons had a meal of bread, wine and meat or fish.’ He told Joinville that he ought not to hold poor men in scorn, for God had made them: and hearing from Joinville that he did not wash the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday, he said ‘Would not you do what the King of England (Henry III) does, who washes and kisses the feet of lepers?’ He was a great builder of churches and abbeys. ‘As a writer who has finished his book illuminates it with gold and azure, so did the king illuminate his kingdom with fair abbeys, Hôtels-Dieu, and convents of Dominicans, Franciscans and others.’

If the last Crusades are ennobled by the example of Lewis IX and the simple piety and honesty of his biographer, it is impossible to read the history of the Holy Wars in general without becoming aware that, as they went on, the mixture of worldly motives is greater; whilst at the same time there is less violence and more respect for the enemy. Godfrey and his companions are Homeric heroes; Lewis IX and his knights are mediaeval gentlemen. The contrast is all the more striking, because both are described by writers who lived among them; there is no legendary exaggeration of the acts done by the early or later crusaders. As Gibbon says, there is both cause and effect in this. The development of chivalry softened manners; and every refinement of manners effected by external causes helped to develop chivalry. The ideals of chivalry were heightened during the two centuries of the Crusades; and the preux chevalier of the 13th century was more complex and refined than the preux chevalier of the 11th. He was not more devout, more chaste, more courageous, or more honourable; but he added a grace to these virtues, and had a higher and more conscious aim. The balance of advantages between the simpler and the more complex life can never be struck; we admire Cincinnatus, but we would choose to live with Marcus Aurelius. The vices of civilised men may be viler than those of barbarians, but their virtues are more illustrious.

The failure and death of, Lewis IX left the Holy Land defenceless. Acre alone remained till 1291, when the history of Christian wars in the East ended in a blaze of glory only to be matched by the exploits of Godfrey and Tancred. The tide of Turkish conquest crept over the sacred islands and the mainland of Greece; but the kings of Europe, occupied in taking to themselves the power of their great vassals, or making war upon each other on a grander scale than in the feudal age, had no leisure for the affairs of the East Jerusalem was trodden under foot of the Gentiles, the Holy Places were barred from access, and there were no pilgrims to protect. The knights had gone to Rhodes, to the forests and morasses of Lithuania and Prussia, to the borders of Andalusia, or to their fair manors in Europe. No English prince after Edward I sailed eastward on crusade, though some Englishmen and Scots fought against the Moors in Spain, and Henry IV was not the only king of England who proposed to go to Jerusalem but never found the opportunity. Pius II, the elegant and worldly Aeneas Silvius, did his best to stir up Christendom, not to conquer Palestine, but to defend Europe, but in vain.

Even in the fourteenth century the preaching of Raymond Lull and the embassies of the Venetian Sanuto did no more than induce Edward II and Philip V to take the cross, and having taken it, to stay at home; and a hundred years later, when Constantinople had fallen and the Turkish power menaced the existence of Christianity and civilization, the courts of Western Europe, instead of combining for common defence under the patronage of the Holy See, amused themselves with the puerilities of costly tournaments and pageants. Holy Church appeared as a lady in mourning weeds menaced by a Saracen in a castle upon the back of an artificial elephant. But no crosses were taken to defend her. The lords and knights of the Duke of Burgundy made vow ‘upon the pheasant’ to defend the lady and all that came of it was tilting and fighting, corps à corps, two to two, three to three, and so on. The ideals of polite society in the fifteenth century had nothing in common with those of the crusaders.

Constantinople fell, the Ottoman Turks pressed in over all the Danubian lands, and were only checked by John Sobieski at Vienna in 1683, and by the rise of the Russian power. No new Crusade is likely to be taken in our days. But Islam is still the enemy of Christendom, the obstacle to progress and humanity in the East. The Turkish empire serves as a makeweight in the balance of Europe, and the interests of the oppressed nations are little considered in comparison with the jealousies of the Great Powers. But we may hope that at no distant date the yoke of the Greek and Anatolian populations will be broken, and that the blessings of self-government may arise out of the ruins of a government which has lost the virtues of its prime, and exists only as a burden to the earth and a scandal to Christendom.

The larger results of the Crusades may be studied in histories. Their effect upon chivalry, so far as it can be separated from the general aspect of the subject, may be summed up in the estimation of knighthood, with its accompaniments of gentility, precedence and heraldry, as a common possession of all Christian nations, and the exaggeration of its claims to respect; the exaltation and sudden downfall of the Military Orders, and the establishment of orders of knighthood as an ornament of noble birth, not an engine of warfare; improvement in the art of war, including the appreciation of infantry and archery (though this lesson was slowly and imperfectly learnt), the consequent weakening of the feudal armoured cavalry, and as a further consequence the subordination of the single soldier to the mass; an increase in the number and strength of castles, which by a combination of many causes fell into the hands of the kings and tended in most countries to the increase of royal power, and the decay of petty sovereignty and private war; and following upon all this, the decline of chivalry as a factor in politics; a development of trade, and with it more opportunities of luxury, and consequently an increase of splendour in all the externals of chivalry; a great development in all the arts of peace, a more liberal culture, a finer courtesy and social sensibility; a keener sense of honour, an improvement in the position of women, from an infusion of Eastern gallantry into the ‘gay science’ of the West; but above all, greater intercourse among the Christian powers, and the growth of diplomacy and alliances, and of continuous policy in the place of the irregular wars of the Middle Ages; out of which grew up the state system of modern Europe.

The failure of the Christians, after two centuries of effort, to establish a Frank dominion in the East, was the deathblow to knight-errantry. It made a brave show in the wars of Edward III, and the personal character of the Black Prince and Du Guesclin, as well as the speculative value of ransoms, give vitality to what was already tending to decay; here and there the spirit of adventure found an outlet in the wars of Granada: but generally speaking, and especially in England, the least feudal and least European of the Western nations, war became a business carried on by kings in the name of their nations, not an amusement for lords and gentlemen. The last appearance of feudalism in the field was at the battle of Bosworth: manor-houses took the places of castles, the tournament was substituted for the levy in arms, the show for the reality. The general prosperity and well-being of all classes in England was a check upon military enterprise; men turned their thoughts from war to religious and political disputes, and with the decline of the military spirit, the spirit of chivalry languished.

We have no space to dwell upon the Crusade of the Albigenses, the conquest of the Baltic lands, or the wars against the Moors. So long as they lasted, they served to keep alive the traditions and professions of chivalry, and first among them those of honour and personal courage. They had also a bad effect, as being wars waged, not for the settlement of disputes, but for the destruction of an irreconcileable enemy; for the courtesies which were exchanged between Spaniards and Moors so long as the balance was kept even, were no longer observed when the Reyes Católicos set themselves to accomplish the destruction of Granada; and the treatment of the Moriscos by their descendant Philip II is one of the worst chapters in history.

(Continue to Part 7)

_____________________________________________

[1] The crosses were all red in the first crusades: in the later crusades other colours distinguished the several nations. But the red cross was retained by the English (except in the crusade of Richard I, who wore a white cross); and the flag of our admirals is a crusading emblem.

[2] The story is told with many variations: it is evident from the Mohammedan accounts that Richard’s reputation for good faith did not stand high with them; and a Christian writer complains that they did not understand the Pope’s power of dispensation.

[3] The number of the Crusades is variously given. I have adopted the computation of Gibbon. Another, including the expeditions of John de Brienne and Richard of Cornwall as separate Crusades, brings the number up to nine.

[4] Comitatum. He is called indifferently comes and dux, though the latter was his proper title.

[5] Krak des Chevaliers, the castle of the Hospitallers, near the Orontes, is the finest instance of these castles, some of which were twice as large as Coucy or Pierrefonds. It held a garrison of 2000 men.

[6] In his captivity, however, (whilst extorting vast sums from his subjects for his ransom) he laments over the bad conduct of affairs in England during his absence, and the inroads of the King of France.

[7] John of Brompton. Knighton gives it rather differently The eldest daughter was to go to the Templars and Hospitallers, the second to the Cistercians or gray monks, the third to the prelates of the kingdom.

[8] He did penance in Sicily, and was scourged, like his father at Canterbury, to the great edification of the chronicler, John of Brompton (1190); and the severity of his last penance when he was dying of a gangrened wound, goes beyond all credibility.

[9] Something which resembled knighthood was a custom in use among the Saracens. Joinville states that the Sultan’s baharis or janissaries were brought up in his house till their beards grew. Then the Sultan made them knights. They bore the Sultan’s arms with a difference. These arms were or; the janissaries added devices; roses, bands, birds, &c., gules, on a field or.

[10] ‘Knights of Granada, though Moors, are gentlemen.’

[11] See for this the frescoes at the Alhambra, painted by a Florentine artist of the 15th century.

[12] After the siege of Acre, Saladin proposed that his brother Malek Ala, should marry Richard’s sister and become king of Jerusalem; a project which failed because the Christian bishops attached the condition of baptism.

[13] The natural daughter of Alfred Jourdain, Count of Toulouse. Her first husband was Nureddin, the predecessor of Saladin. She remained a Christian all her life.

[14] A gambling game, less respectable, it seems, than chess or draughts (dames), and perhaps more amusing. Templars and Hospitallers were forbidden to play at tables.

[15] Robert of Artois had lost his own life and the hopes of victory by attacking Mansourah against orders.

[16] So Saladin accepted the word of Richard without oath.

Raised in a home filled with books on Western civilization, P.G. Mantel became a lover of history at an early age. An amateur writer of verse, he makes himself useful as an editor for Men of the West.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

How To Act As If You’re Actually Intelligent

Next Story

Australia is the World Leader in Being a Nanny State

Latest from Culture

Retro Review: 2010

First, the bad (mixed with some good). While some comparisons will happen, I’ll try to be