Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Kingdom of Jerusalem

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a short-lived country established in the 12th century by the First Crusade.

Foundation and Early History

The kingdom came into being with the Crusader capture of Jerusalem in 1099. Godfrey of Bouillon refused, however, to take the title of King, saying that no man should wear a crown where Christ had worn his crown of thorns; instead, he took the title Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. But Godfrey died the next year, and his brother and successor, Baldwin I, was not so scrupulous, having himself immediately crowned King of Jerusalem.

Baldwin successfully expanded the Kingdom, capturing the port cities of Acre, Sidon, and Beirut, and also exerted his suzerainty over the other Crusader States to the north - the County of Edessa (which he had founded), the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Tripoli. He also saw an increase in the numbers of Latin inhabitants, as the minor crusade of 1101 brought reinforcements and a Latin Patriarch to the kingdom. The Italian city-states of Venice, Pisa, and Genoa also began to play a role in the kingdom. Their fleets assisted in the capture of the ports, where they were given their own autonomous trading quarters.

Baldwin died without heirs in 1118, and was succeeded by his cousin, Baldwin of Le Bourg, the Count of Edessa. Baldwin II was also an able ruler, and though he was imprisoned by the Turks several times throughout his reign, the boundaries of the Kingdom continued to expand, with the city of Tyre captured in 1124.

Life in the Kingdom

As new generations grew up in the kingdom, they began to think of themselves as "oriental," rather than European. They often learned to speek Greek, Arabic, and other eastern languages, and married Greeks or Armenians (and, rarely, Muslims).

The kingdom was essentially based on the feudal system of contemporary western Europe, but with many important differences. First of all, the kingdom was situated within a relatively small area, with little agricultural land. Since ancient times had been an urban economy, unlike medieval Europe; in fact, although the nobility technically owned land, they preferred to live in Jerusalem or the other cities.

As in Europe the nobles had vassals and were themselves vassals to the king. However, agricultural production was regulated by the Muslim equivalent of the feudal system (the iqta), and this system was not interfered with by the Crusaders. Although Muslims (as well as Jews and eastern Christians) were persecuted somewhat in the cities (and were not allowed in Jerusalem at all), in rural areas they continued to live as they had before. The rais, the leader of a community, was a kind of vassal to whatever noble owned his land, but as the Crusader nobles were absentee landlords the rais and their communities had a high degree of autonomy. They grew food for the Crusaders, but owed no military service as vassals would have in Europe; likewise, the Italian city-states owed nothing despite living in the port cities. As a result, Crusader armies tended to be small, and drawn from the French families of the cities.

The urban composition of the area, combined with the presence of the Italian merchants, led to the development of an economy that was much more commercial than it was agricultural. Palestine had always been a crossroads for trade; now, this trade extended to Europe as well. European goods, such as the textiles of northern Europe, made their way to the Middle East and Asia, while Asian goods were transported back to Europe. The Italian city-states made enormous profits from this trade, and it influenced their Renaissance in later centuries.

Because the nobles tended to live in Jerusalem rather than an estate in the countryside, they had a larger influence on the king than they would have in Europe. The nobles formed the haut cour (high court), one of the earliest forms of parliament that was also developing in western Europe. The court consisted of the bishops and the higher nobles, and was responsible for confirming the election of a new king, allotting money to the king, and raising armies.

The problem of lack of manpower for armies was solved to some extent by the creation of the military orders. The Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller were both formed in early years of the kingdom, and they often took the place of the nobles in the countryside. Although their headquarters were in Jerusalem, they often lived in vast castles and bought land that the other nobles could no longer afford to keep. The military orders were under the direct control of the Pope, however, not the king; they were essentially autonomous and technically owed no military service, though in reality they participated in all the major battles.

Troubled Times

When Baldwin II died in 1131, his successor was his son-in-law, Count Fulk of Anjou, who was faced with a new and more dangerous enemy than his predecessors - the Atabeg Zengi of Mosul. Although Fulk held off Zengi throughout his reign, following his death in 1144, when he was succeeded by his young son Baldwin III, under the regency of his wife Melisende, Zengi took advantage of the uncertain new leadership to capture Edessa.

This in turn led to the fiasco of the Second Crusade, when, despite the protests of the nobility of the Kingdom, the crusading Kings of France and Germany decided to attack not Zengi's son Nur ad-Din (who had succeeded him in 1146), but the friendly Emir of Damascus. The Crusade ended in defeat in 1148. Shortly thereafter, Baldwin III began his personal rule, although his mother Melisende unsuccessfully attempted to take control of the Kingdom herself. Like his predecessors, Baldwin was an able King, and conquered Ascalon from the Fatimids, the last Egyptian outpost on the Palestinian coast. At the same time, though, the overall crusader situation became worse, as Nur ad-Din succeeded in taking Damascus and unifying Muslim Syria under his rule.

Baldwin III died mysteriously in 1162, and was succeeded by his brother Amalric I. Amalric's reign was taken up with competition with Nur ad-Din and his wily some-time subordinate Saladin over control of Egypt. Although supported by Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus, Amalric ultimately failed in his bid to conquer Egypt. His and Nur ad-Din's deaths in 1174 insured the dominance of Saladin.

Amalric was succeeded by his young son, Baldwin IV, who was discovered at a very young age to be a leper. During Baldwin's reign the Kingdom started to fall apart, as factions formed behind Baldwin's cousin, Count Raymond III of Tripoli, and his incompetent brother-in-law, Guy of Lusignan. During Baldwin's reign Saladin continued to harass the Crusader states.

Disaster and Recovery

Following Baldwin's death in 1185, after the brief reign of his infant nephew Baldwin V, Guy took the throne. He proved a disastrous ruler. His close ally Raynald of Chatillon, the lord of Oultrejourdan and the fortress of Kerak, provoked Saladin into open war, and in 1187 the army of the Kingdom was utterly destroyed at the Battle of Hattin. Over the next few months Saladin easily overran the entire Kingdom, save for the port of Tyre, which was ably defended by the newcomer Conrad of Montferrat.

The fall of Jerusalem shocked Europe, resulting in the Third Crusade. Thanks to the efforts of Richard the Lion-Hearted, most of the coastal cities of Syria, especially Acre, were recovered, and a treaty was signed with Saladin in 1192 after the Battle of Arsuf. Conrad of Montferrat was married to Isabella, daughter of Amalric I, and made King of this rump state, but he was killed by the Hashshashin almost immediately thereafter. Isabella was married again to Henry II of Champagne.

Last Years

For the next hundred years, the Kingdom of Jerusalem clung to life as a tiny kingdom hugging the Syrian coastline. A Fourth Crusade was planned after the failure of the Third, but it resulted in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 and the Crusaders involved never arrived in the Kingdom. Schemes were hatched to reconquer Jerusalem through Egypt, resulting in a failed Crusade against Damietta in 1217. In 1229 Emperor Frederick II, who was King of Jerusalem by virtue of his marriage to the heiress, managed to recover Jerusalem by a treaty with the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamil. The recovery was short-lived - not enough territory had been ceded to make the city defensible, and in 1244 the city was reconquered by the Ayyubids. The Seventh Crusade under Louis IX of France was inspired by this, but it accomplished little save to replace the cultured Ayyubids with the vicious and intolerant Mamluks as the Crusaders' main enemy in 1250.

In their later years, the Crusaders' hopes rested with the Mongols, who were thought to be sympathetic to Christianity. Although the Mongols invaded Syria on several occasions, they were repeatedly defeated by the Mamluks, who took their revenge on the practically defenseless Kingdom, taking its cities one by one until, in 1291, Acre, the last stronghold, was taken by the Sultan Khalil.

List of Kings and Queens of Jerusalem

Godfrey of Bouillon (Protector of the Holy Sepulchre)
1099 - 1100
Baldwin I1100 - 1118
Baldwin II 1118 - 1131
Fulk and Melisende
1131 - 1143
Baldwin III1143 - 1162
Melisende (Regent, 1143-1152)
Amalric I 1162 - 1174
Baldwin IV 1174 - 1185
Raymond III of Tripoli (Regent, 1174-1177)
Baldwin V 1185 - 1186
Raymond III of Tripoli (Regent, 1185-1186)
Guy of Lusignan1186 - 1192
With Sibylla1186 - 1190
Jerusalem lost in 1187 - remaining kings are nominal only
Isabella1192 - 1205
With Conrad of Montferrat 1192
With Henry II of Champagne 1192 - 1197
With Amalric II 1198 - 1205)
Maria of Montferrat1205 - 1212
John of Ibelin (Regent, 1205 - 1210)
John of Brienne1210 - 1212
Yolande 1212 - 1228
John of Brienne (Regent 1212-1225)
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor 1225 - 1228
Conrad of Hohenstaufen
1228 - 1254 Frederick II (Regent, 1228 - 1243)
Queen Alice of Cyprus (Regent, 1243 - 1246)
King Henry I of Cyprus (Regent, 1246 - 1253)
Queen Plaisance of Cyprus (Regent, 1253 - 1254)
Conradin 1254 - 1268
Queen Plaisance of Cyprus (Regent, 1254-1261
Princess Isabella of Antioch (Regent 1261-1264)
King Hugh III of Cyprus (Regent, 1264-1268)
Hugh I
1268 - 1284 (Opposed by Charles of Anjou)
Charles of Anjou
1277 - 1285 (Opposed by John II)
John II 1284 - 1285
Henry II 1285 - 1291
Acre captured in 1291; kingdom ends.

After the end of the kingdom, Henry II continued to use the title "King of Jerusalem." After his death the title was claimed by both his direct heirs, the Kings of Cyprus, and the senior branch of the dynasty, the Kings of Naples.

Currently, the title of King of Jerusalem is claimed by King Juan Carlos I of Spain as the successor to the royal family of Naples. The House of Savoy, as heirs of the royal family of Cyprus, also made claims on the title at times.

See also: