Friday, November 18, 2011

The Third Crusade: Richard The Lionheart in comparison with other crusaders

The allure of Jerusalem

King Richard I of England twice marched inland from the Palestinian coast towards Jerusalem, reaching the small dismantled fortress at Beit Nuba, just 12 miles from the Holy City - in December 1191 and gain in June 1192.
Christian warrior against the Muslim
On both occasions the Lionheart probably had little or no intention of actually prosecuting an attack on the city - instead these were feints, designed to test Saladin's resolve and to augment diplomatic negotiations. In all this, the king followed the best precepts of medieval generalship, but he failed to account for the distinct nature of crusading warfare - species of conflict underpinned by religious ideology and dependent upon the overwhelming devotional allure of Jerusalem.

By twice retreating from the Holy City, he shattered the morale and resolve of his troops, effectively ending any hope of future success. By contrast, the First Crusaders risked everything to besiege Jerusalem nearly a century earlier. Driven on by a seemingly unbreakable sense of spiritual self belief, they threw caution to the wind and, despite the threat of impending annihilation at the hands of a massive Egyptian relief army, conquered the Holy City on 15th July 1099.

Frederick II of Germany
The role of diplomacy

Jerusalem was not recovered for Christendom until the crusade of Emperor Frederick II of Germany in 1229 (land even then it was only held for 15 years). Much has been made of the fact that Frederick used diplomacy rather than military force to secure possessions of the Holy City. In fact, Frederick's methods and objectives bear close comparison to those employed by Richard I during the Third Crusade.

Crusade battle
Like Frederick II, the Lionheart was a remarkably adept and guileful negotiator who actively pursued diplomatic contact with his Muslim enemies throughout his campaign. Richard came close to brokering his own deal for Jerusalem's repatriation and even considered marrying sister Joanne to Saladin's brother to create a jointly ruled realm.

Siege of Jerusalem 1099

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