Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291)

Figure 1.-- Baldwin IV (1161-1185) was called The Leper King. The prince was educated by the historian William of Tyre. He discovered that the boy had become a leper. Naldwin became king (1174). Source: Miniature from a French code of L'Estoire d'Eracles 1250s, British Library, London.

Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus after suffering disaterous defeats at the hands of the Seljuk Turks plleaded for support from Western Chrisendom which had emerged from the Dark Ages. Pope Urban II was not all that interested in assisting the Schismatic Orthodox Byzantines, but was interested in retaking the Holy Lands after 459 years of Islamic assaults on Christendom. He thus called on Western Christendom to 'take the cross' launching the Crusades. The First Crusade (1095) would go overland, first to Constantinople and then on to Jerusalem. The Crusaders enabled Alexius to recover western Anatolia from the Seljuks. The Crusaders went on to take Jerusalem after an extended seige. Godfrey of Boulogne (Bouillon) led the First Crusade. He famously declared that there could be only one King in Jerusalem -- Jesus Christ. Crusader knights had different ideas. The Crusader kindom was not a unified state, but a feudal state. Jerusalem from the beginning was the primary objective. The Kingdom of Jerusalem included three significant feudal dependencies: the County of Edessa (1098-1144), the Principality of Antioch (1098-1268), and the County of Tripoli (1109-1289) which largely became independent kingsoms. The Kingdom proper covered what is today Israel, southern Lebanon, and southwestern Jordan. Antioch and Edessa despite the location close to the Byzantine Empire declared loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church and Papacy. This was part of the agreement between the Crusaders and Byzantine Empire. The fall of Edessa to the Seljuk Turks set off the Second Crusade (1147-49). The city had been an important commercial center, never recovered from the conflict..


Godfrey was elected Baron and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher, the first ruler of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders, they defeated the Egyptians at Ascalon (1099).

Baldwin I (1100-18)

The first king of Jerusalem was Baldwin I (1100–18). He took over after a long Crusader seige. He then captured coastal towns and building new fortifications to safeguard the interior and the northern territories. The Crusades which gave birth to the Kingdom were bloody affairs. There were terrible massacres. Even so, an amazingly multi-cultural world developed in Jeruslem. Here Templar knights, Muslim peasants, Jewish merchants, Turkish capliphs, and Christians who continued to live in the Levant lived together. It was unlike anywhee in Europe, except Andalus (Spain) before the completion of the Reconquista. and a woman played an important role, Queen Melisenbde of the Crusder Kingdom of Jerusalem. [Newman] >

Baldwin II (1118–31)

Baldwin II continued the process of building a secure kingdom.

Subsequent Kings

Subsequent kings tried to expand the Kingdom to the south. This abandones the initial policy of focusing on the north and mainting contacts with the Byzantine Empire. This eventually resulted in he Seljuk capture of Edessa (1144). This was a major turning point in the strategic position of the Kingdom. The Second Crusade failed to retake Edessa.

Melisende (1131-53)

Princess Melisende was the eldest daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and the Armenian princess Morphia of Melitene. Melisende was Queen of Jerusalem (1131-53). She served as regent for her son (1153-61) while he was on campaign.

Baldwin IV (1174-85)

Baldwin IV (1161-1185) was known as The Leper King. The prince was educated by the historian William of Tyre. William discovered that the boy had become a leper. He became king of Jerusalem (1174). Baldwin was crowned 4 days after his father died. He was only 13 years old, too young to rule. His kinsman Raymond III, count of Tripoli, acted as his regent until 1176. His reign eas notable for the rise of factionalism among the Latin nobility. This weakened the kingdom at a time that the Kingdom's great adversary, the Muslim leader Saladin, was extending his leadership from Egypt to Syria. Baldwin’s health steadily deteriorated. There were periodic appointment of other regents. This contributed to power struggles among the nobility and the rise of fractionalism. Saladin marched from Egypt to attack the Christian city of Ascalon (1177). Baldwin rushed to the aid of the city. For a time he was trapped within its fortifications. He broke out and defeated Saladin near Mont Gisard. A 2-year truce was arranged in 1180, but, soon after it expired, Saladin captured Aleppo (1183). This left Jerusalem ecircled. Baldwin wanted to retain the succession to the throne within his family> The childless Baldwin crowned his nephew King Baldwin V (1183). He named Raymond of Tripoli and Jocelin III of Courtenay the boy’s guardians.

Amalric I (1163–74)

King Amalric I struck toward Egypt. Amalric failures played a role in the rise of Saladin.

Saladin (1169–93)

Saladin managed to uniting the divided Islamic world in a massive attack on the Christian Holy Land. Saladin’s armies overran the city of Jerusalem (1187). The Third Crusade (late-12th century) made some territorial gains, but failed to retake Jerusalem. the city remained in Muslim hands. After Jerusalem fell, the kings of Jerusalem, made the coastal city of Acre their capital. But from Acre the subsequent kings could only watch the slow erosion of their kingdom (throughout the 13th century). This occurred despite additional European Crusades.


Muslim forces finally drove the Crusaders from the Holyland (1291). The ruling Lusignan dynasty retreated to the island of Cyprus where the arab firces could not follow. The Lusignan dynasty ruled until the Ottoman conquest (late-15th century). The Lusignans continued to cl.aiming the title King of Jerusalem.


Newman, Sharan. Defending the City of God: A Mdieval Queen, the First Crusades andthe Quest for Peace in Jerusalem (2014), 272p.


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Created: 11:17 AM 7/12/2017
Last updated: 11:18 AM 7/12/2017