Monthly Archives: September 2013

From Crusader to King, the rise of Baldwin I of Jerusalem

Baldwin I of Jerusalem, formally Baldwin I of Edessa, born Baldwin of Boulogne, was born c.1058 in the Lower Lorraine region of France. He was one of the leaders of the first crusade and 1st Count of Edessa and first to be named King of Jerusalem once he gained power from his brother Godfrey of Boullion who refused the title of King.

Baldwin was the third son of Eustace II, Count of Boulonge and Ida of Lorraine.  Being the youngest son he was intended for a life in the church but he had given this up by 1080; according to William of Tyre.  Tyre didn’t know Baldwin and wrote later in the 12th century ‘in his youth, Baldwin was well nurtured in the liberal studies’.  Afterwards he lived in Normandy, where he married Godehilde (or Godvera) de Toeni who was the daughter of Raoul de Conches a noble Anglo-Norman family.  He returned to the Lower Lorraine in order to take control of the county of Verdun previously held by Godfrey.

In 1096 he went with his brothers Godfrey and Eustace IIII of Boulogne and joined the First Crusade.  Baldwin raised funds for his expenses by selling most of his property to the church, and took his wife Godehilde with him.  On the march to the Holy Lands when they reached Hungary, King Coloman demanded a hostage as a sign that the Crusaders would not wreak havoc on the lands as they passed through.  Baldwin was chosen and was handed over to King Coloman until all the Crusaders had passed through Hungarian territory

When they entered into Byzantium land there were skirmishes with Greek troops and Baldwin commanded a troop of soldiers that captured a bridge close to Constantinople.  On reaching Constantinople the mass of soldiers could not be controlled and went about the typical solder habit of pillaging the surrounding area.  The Byzantium Emperor Alexius I Comnenus was forced to give a hostage who was taken into the care of Baldwin, his son and future emperor John II Comnenus.

At Heraclea in Asia Minor he broke away from his brothers and the main band of Crusaders and with Tancred (future Prince of Galilee) he marched into Cilicia.  Then in September 1097 he takes Tarsus from Tancred with the help of Guynemer of Boulogne and his pirates.  Tancred and Baldwin’s armies skirmished around Mamistra but never committed to full battles with Tancred finally leaving and marching towards Antioch. Baldwin then joined the main force again at Marash, Baldwin then received an invitation from an Armenian named Bagrat and moved eastwards towards the Euphrates, where he occupied Turbessel

Baldwin then received another invitation from Thoros of Edessa.  Thoros adopted Baldwin as his own son and successor and after he was assassinated in March 1098 Baldwin became the first Count of Edessa.  His wife Godehilde had died whilst on the journey to the Holy Land, and Baldwin then married Thoros of Marash’s daughter Arda, acting as an ambassador between the Crusaders and the Armenians.  He ruled Edessa until 1100 and during these two years he captured Samosata and Surac from the Muslims.  During the siege of Antioch he sent money and food to aid his fellow Crusaders but did not participate in the siege himself.

Baldwin entering Edessa

Baldwin entering Edessa

Kerbogha, the governor of Mosul, was marching towards Antioch to help with the relief, when he laid siege to Edessa for three weeks.  Kerbogha was not successful in his siege and broke it heading later towards Antioch He was later defeated at Antioch which lead to the Crusaders being able to form a principality there.  Later that year Baldwin with the aid of his brother Godfrey also besieged Azaz where they defeated the forces of Ridwan of Aleppo.

After Godfrey’s death in July 1100 Baldwin was invited to Jerusalem by supporters led by Warner of Graz.  He granted Edessa to his cousin Baldwin of Bourcq.  On his way to Jerusalem he was ambushed by the forces of Duqaq of Damascus near Beirut, but Baldwin defeated Duqaq continuing on his journey to Jerusalem, arriving in November 1100.  Once he had arrived in Jerusalem he was opposed by his old enemy Tancred, as well as the new patriarch (head of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem) Dagobert of Pisa.  On arrival he also set out on an expedition against the Egyptians to the south and didn’t return until December.  On his return he was crowned as King of Jerusalem on Christmas Day in Bethlehem by Dagobert who had since given up his opposition.  Baldwin was the first King of Jerusalem as Godfrey had refused the title saying there was only one King of Jerusalem that being Jesus Christ.

baldwin i

In 1101 Baldwin started a campaign of expanding his territory with capturing Arsuf and Caesarea.  In September of that year he then defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Ramlah.  Mis-communication regarding the battle was rife and it had been believed in Jerusalem that the Crusader army had been defeated and Baldwin killed.  Tancred was set to take up the regency when it was finally reported Baldwin was actually victorious.

In 1102 another battle was fought at Ramlah which included some of the original Crusaders including, Stephen of Blois, William IX Duke of Aquitaine and Hugh VI of Lusignan.  This time the Egyptians were victorious and Baldwin lost many of his army; including Stephen of Blois.  Baldwin managed to escape Arsuf on his horse, who we know was called Gazala.   He quickly arranged for his transport back to Jaffa moving by boat, led by Godric of Finchale before managing to return to Jerusalem in secret.  Baldwin then led another army against the Egyptians at Jaffa, this time winning the battle.

This led to Baldwin in 1103 besieging Acre without success with the city being relieved by an Egyptian fleet.  This didn’t deter Baldwin who with the aid of a Genoese fleet besieged the city once more in 1104, this time taking the city.  In 1105 another battle was fought at Ramlah and Baldwin was victorious once more.  In 1109 he assisted with the council of great barons outside the city of Tripoli.  The city was taken later that year setting up the County of Tripoli.  In 1110 Beirut was added to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  Sidon was then captured with the aid of Ordelafo Faliero, with his Venetian fleet of 100 a hundred ships and Sigurd I of Norway.  In 1113 he defeated the combined forces of Toghtekin of Damascus and Askunk-ur of Mosu, with assistance from troops from Antioch and fresh arrivals from Europe.

In 1113 he married for the third time.  He had abandoned his second wife Arda in 1108, under the pretext she had been unfaithful.  She was still alive and in a monastery in Jerusalem so his third marriage to Adelaide del Vasto was bigamous.  This would cause him many problems in the future along with Patriarch Arnulf who had sanctioned the marriage.  It was agreed if the couple had n children that Adelaide’s son from her previous marriage Roger II of Sicily would become heir.

baldwin i 2

In 1117 Baldwin fell ill.  He was convinced that his sickness was punishment for his bigamous marriage to Adelaide, and she was sent away back to Sicily.  Baldwin recovered initially and in 1118 he marched with his army into Egypt and plundered Farama.  It was here that he then fell ill once more,   the army left Egypt heading back to Jerusalem but Baldwin died on the journey on the 2nd April at the village of Al-Arish and his body was then carried back on a litter to Jerusalem.  His cousin  Baldwin of Bourcq was chosen as his successor becoming Baldwin II of Jerusalem.

Baldwin surely must be seen as one of the main reasons that the Crusaders succeeded.  He was the first King in Jerusalem even if the second ruler and greatly expanded the lands of the Kingdom whilst pushing into and raiding Muslim lands.  He began life as the third son of the Count of Boulogne and almost missed his vocation in life for the Church, would life in the Crusader states have been different  if Baldwin has continued with life as a priest?  I think they would of surely missed him.

The five Kings of Gildas.

Gildas a 6th Century cleric from Britain wrote and condemned five British Kings in his work ‘De Excidio et  Conquestu Britanniae.’  I have decided to try and take a closer look at each of these Kings.

Maelgwn (Maglocune) son of Cadwallon was King of Gwynedd during the 6th Century.  Surviving records suggest that he was held in high status amongst the Welsh British Kings, and also by his allies in along the Scottish coast.  He was a champion of Christianity funding new churches around modern Wales,, but this does not stop a scolding attack by Gildas who describes Maelgwn as an usurper and reprobate.After the collapse of Roman-Britain and Roman authority around the northern part of Wales, Irish Gaelic tribes  conquered most of the region.  The Kingdom of Gwynedd was reconquered by Maelgwn’s great-grandfather Cunedda Weldig.  Maelgwn’s father Cadwallon completed this destroying the last Irish settlements on Anglesey.  By tradition his court would have been held at Deganwy in the peninsula of Rhos.  It is also said that he died at nearby Llanrhos and was buried there.

Constantine is mentioned by Gldas as the King of Damnonia (properly Dummonia) a Brythonic Kingdom in Southwestern Britain.  Although there is an argument that Gikdas is in fact referring to the territory of the Damnonii in what went on to be known as Hen Ogledd (northern England and southern Scotland, or translated into English as ‘the Old North’).  Gildas describes a story where Constantine dresses as an abbot and goes on to kill two royal youths praying before a church altar.  This according to Gildas was not Constantine’s fist sin describing him as committing ‘many adulteries’ after casting off his lawful wedded wife.  It is presumed that Constantine was alive at the time Gildas wrote the De Excidiio as Gildas encourages Constantine to repent his many sins lest he be dammed.

Cuneglas (Latinised to Cueglasus) is recorded as the son of Owain Danwyn , who is a popular contented for the title of ‘The true King Arthur’.  Both father and son were Kings of Rhos, which later became part of Denbighshire in mid-North Wales.Gildas goes on to call Cuneglas ‘bear, you rider and ruler of many, and guider of the chariot which is the receptacle of the bear.’  It is this mention of the word bear, although using the animals of the Christian Apocalypse to describe his tyrants, bear also in Brythonic means ‘Arth’ and some scholars take this as a code for Arthur.

Aurelius Conanus, it is not known which part of Britain he ruled in  Gildas calls Aurelius ‘the lions whelp’ and goes on to say of Aurelius ‘horrible murders, fornications and adulteries, ’.  He beseeches him to repent his sins before he ends up like the rest of his family, who have already died pursuing similar ends.Geoffrey of Monmouth who takes a lot from Gildas’ work, goes on to state that he believed Aurelius to be a nephew of Constantine who is killed three years into his reign.  Another unnamed uncle of Aurelius takes the throne before Aurelius finally has the crown for himself and only reigning for two years to.

Vortiporius was King of Dyfed.  He ruled over an area roughly compromising modern day Pembrokeshire.  Gildas describes him as grey with age and his wife had died and they had at least one daughter. Vortiporius was not mentioned in Nennius work Historia Brittonum but again mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work Historia Regum Britanniae. A monument stone discovered at Castlell Dwyran shows the inscription ‘Memoria Voteporigis Protictoris’ which translates to Vortiporius the Protector.  This is meant to describe Vortiporius as protector or King over the local populace and could even be detailed of raids from Gaels from Ireland or other Kingdoms from in Wales itself.

gildas map

De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae

Gildas (c500-c570) was a 6th Century British Cleric and is one of the best documented figures from the Christian church in the British Isles from that time.  He has sometimes been called Gildas Sapiens, ‘Gildas the Wise’.  His major work of note, ‘De Excidio at Conquestu Britanniae’ contains narratives of the post Roman history of Britain and has been classed by some as the only substantial source for history of this period written by a near contemporary.

There are two versions of Gildas life written as the ‘ Lives of Gildas’.  The first was written in the 9th Century by a monk of Rhuys in Brittany, France, while the second was written by Caradoc of Llancarfan in the 12th Century.

The first life of Gildas, written by the unnamed monk, says that Gildas was the son of Camus (Caw), born in a district of Alt Clut in the Hen Ogledd, the Brythonic speaking region of northern Britain.  Alt Clut was the Brittonic name of the area around the modern Dumbarton Rock.  While Hen Ogledd, is a Welsh term for Northern England and Southern Scotland.  Gildas was entrusted into the care of St. Hildutus (Illtud) in the monastic college of Llan Illtud Fawr (near modern day Cardiff) along with Samson of Dol and Paul Aurelian.

To continue with his studies Gildas went to Iren (most scholars believe this to be Ireland, although some have muted it as Cirencester).  St. Brigadda (Bridget of Kildare died 524) asked Gildas for a token, to which he created a bell and sent this to her.  Ainmericus, High King of Ireland (between 566-569) asked Gildas to restore church order which he did.  He then travelled to Rome and to Ravenna and later to Brittany where he eventually settled at Rhuys.  At times during his life at Rhuys he would live in solitude and also built a monastery and an oratory on the bank of the River Blayetum (River Blavet).

Statue of Gildas near the village of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys (France).

Statue of Gildas near the village of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys (France).

Ten years after leaving Britain he wrote an epistolary book in which he reproved five of the British kings.  He died at Rhuys on 29th January and as per his wishes his body was laid in a boat on the river and allowed to drift down stream.  Three months after his body had been laid to rest in the river it was later found intact by workers from Rhuys. Gildas was then laid to rest and buried in Rhuys.

In contrast the Llancarfan story was written roughly 300 years later by Caradoc.  Caradoc was friends with Geoffery of Monmouth.  Geoffrey wrote Historia Regum Brtanniae which is popular with the legends of King Arthur. The Llancarfan life reads that Gildas was educated in Gaul and then latter retired to a heritage dedicated to the Trinity in Street, near Glastonbury.  He was buried at Glastonbury Abbey, which is also entwined with the legends of Arthur.

Caradoc tells a story of how Gildas intervened between King Arthur and a certain King Melwas of the ‘Summer County’ (Gwalad yr Haf, Somerset) who had abducted Guinevere and brought her to his stronghold at Glastonbury.  Arthur then travelled to Glastonbury with an army and set to besiege the stronghold.  Gildas persuaded Melwas to surrender Guinevere and on her return Arthur lifted the siege.  Caradoc also writes how the brothers of Gildas rose up against Arthur and refused to accept him as their lord.  Arthur chased the eldest brother Huail ap Caw was killed by Arthur.  Gildas at the time was preaching in Armagh, Ireland and was said to be greatly grieved by the news.  The story of Arthur and Huail was popular at the time and also appeared in the 12th Century Welsh prose tale ‘Culhwch and Olwen’.

According to the dates in the Annales Cambriae Gildas would have been a contemporary of King Arthur.  Although the biggest part that makes me wonder regarding the Llancarfan story and how much truth is spin into the story is that Gildas does not mention Arthur in any of his works.  The Annales Cambriae also gives the date of his death as 570 although the Annals of Tigernach give the year as 569.

Gildas is thought to have lived as a hermit for many years on Flatholm Island in the Bristol Channel.  It was during this time according to Welsh scholars he is said to have preached to Nonnita, the mother of St. David while she was pregnant with the future Saint.  He is also said to be responsible for many of the conversations in Ireland due to his many visits and missionary work he is said to have carried out.

A tradition in North Wales places the beheading of the before mentioned brother Huail at Ruthin.  In Ruthin town square there is a stone that is said to be the same stone used for the execution.   Another brother Celyn ap Caw is said to have been based in the north east corner of Anglesey.

Some state that Gildas is also believed to be the teacher of Finnan of Moville who was in turn the teacher of St. Columba of Iona.

Spring of St Gildas, Magoar, Brittany

Spring of St Gildas, Magoar, Brittany

Gildas’ greatest work ‘De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae;’ was a sermon in three different parts.  Although not written as a piece on history it is one of the only written sources from this period and therefore greatly significant when looking at the history of the period.  It was regularly believed that Gildas wrote his piece during the 540s but it is now regarded that quite possibly it was written earlier in the first quarter of the 6th Century and even possibly earlier than this.  One of the first descriptions of the Hadrians and Antonine Walls are both given in the work, although the history given for both is highly inaccurate.

In the work Gildas gives his date of birth as the same year as the Battle of Mons Badonicus which might of taken place in 482 AD.

The first part consists of an explanation for his work and a brief narrative of Roman Britain from its conquest to the time of Gildas.  It includes a mention of Ambrosius  Aurelianus and the Brition’s victory against the Saxon at the Battle of Mons Badonixus.  The De Excidio is the earliest source that has Ambrosius Aurelianus as an important figure for the Britons who is credited with turning the tide against the Anglo-Saxons conquest of the island.

The second part is a condemnation of five different British kings and is the only contemporary source regarding them.  Gildas describes the Kings as the allegorical beasts from the Christian Apocalypse and the biblical Book of Daniel. The same animals (a lion, a leopard, a bear and a dragon) are later used in less detail in the Book of Revelation.

The Kings mentioned are;

  • Constantine; the tyrannical whelp of the unclean lioness of Dramnonia.’
  • ‘thou lion’s whelp Aurelius Conanus
  • Vortipore….who like to the spotted leopard….tyrant of the Demetians’
  • Cuneglasse…thou bear’
  • ‘dragon of the island….maglocune

In his condemnation Gildas also mentions the other beasts mentioned in the Apocalypse, such as the eagle, serpent, calf and wolf.  Gildas’ reasons for disaffection with the individuals is unknown.

The third part begins with the words ‘Britain has priests, but they are fools; numerous ministers, but they are shameless; clerics, but they are wily plunderers’.  Gildas continues to attack the clergy of the time in the third part but does not mention any names, so does not cast any light of the history of the Christian Church in Britain at the time.

Gildas’ work is important because it gives us an insight into the feelings and thoughts of the time .  Future writers such as Bebe, Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth all take parts of their own writings from the De Excidio.  Also it shows that at the time of his writing that there was an effective Christian Church in Britain and in places as Roman citizens.  By the . time of St. Augustine’s arrival in Kent in 597, England was ruled by pagan Anglo-Saxons who did not see themselves as Romans.

To be able exactly Gildas’ work would assist with trying to pinpoint the transition from post Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England.  Although this can’t be done the work of Gildas is very important especially to people interested about post Roman Britain as not many pieces have survived from the period making it so much harder to pinpoint such events.