Story of the Crusades - E. M. Wilmot-Buxton

The Story of the Third Crusade

A goodly golden chain wherewith yfere

The virtues linked are in lovely wise

And noble minds of yore allyed were

In brave pursuit of chivalrous emprise.

SPENSER: Faery Queene.

The news of the fate of Jerusalem moved Western Europe to such horror and dismay as had never before been known. Everywhere signs of mourning were seen; a general fast was ordered, a fast which was kept to some extent, at least, by some pious souls, until the Holy City was recovered; and Pope Clement III. set himself to act the part of a St Bernard by stirring the hearts of princes to take up the Cross in a Third Crusade.

Of this Crusade it seemed at first as though the famous Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was to be the leader, though Philip of France and Henry II. of England were not long behind him in accepting the Cross.

In both France and England, too, the "Saladin-tax " became the custom—each man paying a tithe, or tenth part of his income, for the maintenance of the expedition. Everywhere the enthusiasm was so great, that it was only necessary for a preacher to announce the Crusade as his text to secure a vast and eager audience. It mattered nothing that his hearers did not even understand the language in which he spoke—all alike were stirred to do their part to win back what the First Crusaders, those heroes of romance, had fought for and won.

But Henry of England was too fully occupied with the treason of his sons in his old age to do more than make promises of help, and at his death, it was one of the latter, the famous Richard Lion-Heart, who became the leader of the English Crusade, and finally of the whole undertaking. The Emperor Frederick, however, would not wait for him, nor for the French king, but hurried off on his toilsome journey at an age when most men would be hoping for a period of fireside case and rest before the last long journey of all.

As usual the promises of the Greek Emperor, Isaac, were not to be trusted, but the great army of Frederick Barbarossa struck such terror into the hearts of Greek and Turk alike, that he was able to.move forward into Cilicia with little hindrance. But there, when bathing his heated limbs in a little river among the hills, that mighty Emperor, who had built up a famous Empire of the West, perished and "came to a pitiful end."

The German host lost heart without their leader; many died through famine, and of the remainder a small part reached Antioch and placed themselves under the command of its prince, the rest going on to Tripoli.

Meantime those two ill-assorted leaders, Richard of England and Philip of France, had started on their way to the East. It was clearly hopeless from the first that they would work together, for, while Richard was proud, passionate, and irritable to a degree, Philip was cold and crafty, and while Richard would eagerly make amends for an injury done, and as readily forgive one done to him, Philip prided himself on never overlooking an affront. It was the quarrel of these leaders, rather than the superiority of the armies of Islam, that made the Third Crusade, as far as the taking of Jerusalem was concerned, a complete failure.

They started, however, in apparent friendliness, and, with many pledges of devotion, travelled together by a new route by way of Marseilles. From thence Philip hurried on to Messina, in Sicily, but Richard's Crusaders had deviated into Portugal to give help against the Moors, and their impatient king set off alone in a small ship, coasting along the shores of Italy, until his fleet had caught him up, when he proceeded in great state to join Philip at Messina.

The Crusaders stayed in Sicily for six months, by no means in the character of friendly guests. Tancred, king of the island, had forced Joanna, the sister of Richard, to become his wife; and she appealed to her brother against him. The latter promptly took up her cause, but, with an eye to his own profit, offered to give her up if Tancred would grant him a chair and table of solid gold which formed part of her dowry. On Tancred's refusal, Richard at once attacked and took Messina, which was only recovered by Tancred on payment of forty thousand ounces of gold.

On the same March day that Philip at length sailed for the Holy Land, Richard was betrothed to the beautiful Berengaria of Navarre, and some ten days later set off with her and his sister for the same destination. But within two days a furious storm arose, which threw two of his ships upon the coast of Cyprus.

Says Richard of Devizes, "Almost all the men of both ships got away alive to land, many of whom the hostile Cypriote slew, some they took captive, some, taking refuge in a certain church, were besieged. The prince also of that island coming up, received for his share the gold and the arms; and he caused the shore to be guarded by all the armed force he could summon together, that he might not permit the fleet that followed to approach, lest the King should take again what had been thus stolen from him. . . . But God so willed that the cursed people should receive the reward of their evil deeds by the hand of one who would not spare. The third English ship, in which were the women, rode out at sea and watched all things, to report the misfortune to the king. A full report reached the King, who obtaining no satisfaction from the lord of the island, came in arms to the port. The King leaped first from his galley and gave the first blow in the war, but before he could strike a second, he had three thousand of his followers with him striking away by his side. . . . The Cypriotes are vanquished, the city is taken, and the lord of the island is himself taken and brought to the King. He supplicates and obtains pardon; he offers homage to the King, and it is received; and he swears, though unasked, that henceforth he will hold the island of him as his liege lord, and will open all the castles of the land to him."

That same night, while Isaac of Cyprus was plotting how to get rid of his new-made bonds, Guy of Lusignan, the King of Jerusalem, who had been released by Saladin on condition that he went into exile, landed on the island to bring greeting to Richard. On the next day the faithless Isaac fled. "The kings pursue him, the one by land, the other by water, and he is besieged in the castle. Its walls are cast down by engines hurling huge stones; he, being overcome, promises to surrender if only he might not be put into iron fetters.

"The King consented to the prayers of the supplicant, and caused silver shackles to be made for him. The prince of the pirates being thus taken, the King traversed the whole island; and the whole land was subjected to hire, just like England."

Before he left his new domain, Richard was married to Berengaria, his betrothed, and set off with her to the Holy Land, accompanied by Guy of Lusignan. Their destination was Acre, which, ever since Guy had been convinced by the clergy that his oath to Saladin was of no binding nature, had been besieged by him. When Richard arrived, this siege had already lasted nearly two years, and to a more cautious eye the cause of Guy of Lusignan would have appeared by no means hopeful. But there were other motives at work. Conrad of Tyre had flatly refused to admit Guy to his own city, now the only Christian stronghold in Palestine, on the plea that God had appointed him its ruler and that he meant to remain so. This laid the foundation of a fine feud between the two princes; and the fact that Philip of France had taken up the cause of Conrad was sufficient reason for Richard to ally himself with his rival.

"So," says Richard of Devizes, "King Richard came to the siege of Acre, and was welcomed by the besiegers with as great joy as if it had been Christ that had come again on earth to restore the kingdom of Israel. The king of the French had arrived at Acre first, and was very highly esteemed by the natives; but on Richard's arrival he became obscured and without consideration, just as the moon is wont to relinguish her lustre at the rising of the sun."

In further explanation of this, he tells us how a certain Henry, Count of Champagne, who had now used up the whole of his store of provision and money, came to his king, Philip of France, for relief. The latter, trying to take a mean advantage, offered him a large sum if he would give up his rights over Champagne; to which the Count replied, "I have done what I could and what I ought; now I shall do what I am compelled by necessity. I desired to fight for my king, but he would not accept of me unless I gave up what is mine own; I will go to him who will accept me, and who is more ready to give than to receive."

Richard received him with the utmost kindness and liberality, and his men, "at the report of so great a largess, took King Richard to be their general and lord; the Franks only who had followed their lord remained with their poor king of the French."

This did not endear Richard any the more to Philip, but for a while these private grudges were forgotten in the assault upon the walls of Tyre.

"The King of the English, unused to delay," says Richard of Devizes, "on the third day of his arrival at the siege, caused his wooden fortress, which he had called 'Mate Grifon,' where it was made in Sicily, to be built and set up; and before the dawn of the fourth day the machine stood erect by the walls of Acre, and from its height looked down upon the city lying beneath it, and there were thereon by sunrise archers casting missiles without intermission upon the Turks."

While the Kings of England and France were thus engaged, Conrad and Guy were once again at variance. With Philip's promise of support at his back, Conrad now returned to Tyre and took no further part in the siege. The sultry heat of the plain then struck down both Philip and Richard for awhile, but the recovery of the former led to an assault which showed the Saracens they had little hope of holding out, and Richard, determined not to be outdone, struggled back to the walls from his sick-bed, and struck them another heavy blow. Four days later a long procession of the citizens filed out from the gates, bearing a flag of truce and offering to surrender the city. Richard was for "letting the vanquished pay their heads for the ransom of their bodies," but Philip, more politic as well as more thrifty, held out for a ransom of two hundred pieces of gold, the restoration of the True Cross which Saladin had seized at the Battle of Tiberias, and the release of all Christian captives.

So the two years' siege came to an end, but not without a deed which blackens the name of Richard and Philip for all time.

Saladin had delayed to furnish the ransom or to give up the relies of the Cross; whereupon the King, who was in name the follower of Him who taught His people to love their enemies, had two thousand seven hundred prisoners led to the top of a hill from which all that went on could be seen in Saladin's camp; and there, at a given signal, all these innocent followers of Mohammed were cut down in cold blood. Almost at the same time, by the orders of Philip, nearly as many victims suffered on the walls of the city itself.

The taking of Acre was the signal for a violent quarrel between Richard, Philip, and Leopold, Duke of Austria.

[Illustration] from The Story of the Crusades by E. M. Wilmot-Buxton


Richard Devizes tells the story thus. " The Duke of Austria, who was also one of the ancient besiegers of Acre, followed the King of the English as though he would share in the possession of his portion; and because his standard was borne before him, he was thought to take to himself a part of the triumph. If not by the command, at least with the consent of the offended King, the duke's standard was cast down in the dirt, and to his reproach and ridicule, trampled under foot. The duke, though grievously enraged against the King, concealed his wrath for a time, and betook himself that night to his tent, which was set up again, and afterwards as soon as he could, returned, full of anger, to his own country."

Heedless of the fact that "this quarrel might drink blood another day," Richard next came into serious collision with Philip of France.

"A certain Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat, a smooth- faced man, had held Tyre, which he had seized on many years ago, to whom the King of the French sold all his captives alive, and promised the crown of the kingdom of Jerusalem, which was not yet conquered. But the King of the English withstood him, Philip, to the face."

"It is not proper," said he, "for a man of your reputation to bestow or promise what is not yet obtained; and further, if the course of your journey be Christ, when you have at length taken Jerusalem from the hand of the enemy, you will, without delay or condition, restore the kingdom to Guy, the lawful King of Jerusalem. For the rest, if you recollect, you did not obtain Acre alone, so that neither should that which is the property of two be dealt out by one hand."

"Oh, oh!" comments quaint Richard of Devizes, "how pure for a godly throat! The marquis, bereft of his blissful hope, returns to Tyre, and the King of the French, who had greatly desired to strengthen himself against his envied ally by means of the marquis, now fell off daily, and this added to the continual irritation of his mind-that even the scullion of the King of the English fared more sumptuously than the cupbearer of the French. After some time, letters were forged in the tent of the King of the French, by which, as if they had been sent by his nobles out of France, the King was recalled to his own country."

And so Philip of France, amid oaths and protestations of faith to Richard, sailed for Europe. "How faithfully he kept his oath the whole world knows. For directly he reached home, he stirred up the whole land and threw Normandy into confusion. What need for further words! Amid the curses of all, he departed, leaving his army at Acre."