Leaders of the First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon, from a fresco painted by Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, northern Italy, in 1420 ca.

Godfrey of Bouillon, from a fresco painted by Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, northern Italy, in 1420 ca.

Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060 – 18 July 1100) was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and one of the main leaders of the First Crusade. He was a second son, born in an area now France and then part of the Holy Roman Empire. When Urban II preached the crusade, Godfrey and his brothers, Eustace and Baldwin, decided to gather armies and march for the Holy Land.

Godfrey played minor but consistent roles in the battles of the First Crusade. He was present at the siege of Nicaea and the battle of Dorylaeum and at the capturing of Antioch. Meanwhile, Godfrey’s landless younger brother Baldwin was making a name for himself by becoming Count of Edessa.

Godfrey of Bouillon became a crusading legend when he was one of the first over the walls at the taking of Jerusalem in 1099.

Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon

He was offered the crown and according to the later historian William of Tyre, he refused to wear a crown of gold where Christ had worn a crown of thorns. Godfrey faced difficulties in his leadership at Jerusalem, first from the Fatimids of Egypt, whom he defeated, and then from Dagobert of Pisa.

Dagebert of Pisa sailing with the other crusade leader Bohemond

Dagobert of Pisa sailing with the other crusade leader Bohemond

Dagobert of Pisa had been chosen as patriarch of Jerusalem, effectively the church authority in the new Latin kingdoms. Dagobert pushed Godfrey to concede Jerusalem to his rule and there was a ceremony held on Easter, 1100, at which Godfrey allowed Dagobert to be his heir upon Godfrey’s death. Dagobert went campaigning with the other Crusader leader, Tancred (who was Bohemond of Antioch’s nephew) and unfortunately for the Patriarch, while he was gone Godfrey died. There are conflicting accounts of how Godfrey died, probably of some kind of illness, but his death prompted the knights of Jerusalem to offer the rulership to Baldwin, Godfrey’s younger brother, instead of Dagobert.

Stained glass window of Godfrey of Bouillon in the Belfry of Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.

Stained glass window of Godfrey of Bouillon in the Belfry of Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.

Baldwin would become the first King of Jerusalem, but Godfrey would long be remembered as a crusading hero, showing up in Dante’s Divine Comedy as a warrior of Mars and in one of Tasso’s works of crusading romance.

Leaders of the First Crusade: Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse

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Raymond IV of Toulouse, painted by Merry-Joseph Blondel (1840s)

Raymond IV of Toulouse (sometimes known as Raymond of Saint-Gilles) was an old, rich, deeply religious and well respected man when the First Crusade was preached in 1095. When the crusaders were pushed to swear an oath of fealty to the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I, Raymond managed not to lower himself to the emperor – instead he swore an oath of friendship and was allowed to proceed with the crusade. The historian and princess Anna Komnene said that her father Emperor Alexius I had a ‘deep affection’ for Raymond (The Alexiad Book 10).

Raymond’s major role in the First Crusade comes when rumour reaches him that Antioch has been abandoned by the Turks. He rushes his army in, but found the city was still defended. Antioch was only captured after a siege in 1098 and after this the Turks, led by the Atabeg (a governor and soldier in charge of raising the Turkic crown prince) called Kerbogha. Kerbogha laid siege to Antioch to try and win it back from the Crusaders.

During this time, Raymond was ill but hopes started to look up when the monk Peter Bartholomew proclaimed that he had found the Holy Lance. Well, he had a vision of where the Holy Lance was and they started digging, finding nothing until the over-enthusiastic Peter Bartholomew jumped into the pit and digging a bit further managed to produce the Lance. Did he have it up his sleeve the whole time? That’s what some people were whispering. But Raymond was convinced.

Finding the Holy Lance, 15th century depiction

Finding the Holy Lance, 15th century depiction

Due in part to Kerbogha’s bad intelligence about the Crusader Franks being an undisciplined lot, and perhaps due to their high morale on finding the Holy Lance, Raymond’s men defeated the Turkish besiegers and Antioch was theirs. After Raymond left, the other Crusade leader Bohemond took over Antioch and Raymond was left to find other territories.

Citadel of Raymond of Toulouse in Tripoli, modern Lebanon

‘Mons Peregrinus’, the Citadel of Raymond of Toulouse in Tripoli, modern Lebanon, known as Qala’at Sanjil in Arabic

After Jerusalem was taken by the Crusaders in 1099, Raymond was offered to be King of Jerusalem. He seemed to feel it would be wrong to be a king where Jesus had died and so he refused the crown. Instead Raymond became involved in various territorial disputes with Bohemond, then participated in the disastrous Crusade of 1101 where the Turks destroyed the Frankish forces.

Raymond survived, however, and eventually in 1102 he laid siege to Tripoli, building the Mons Peregrinus in the process. In 1105 Raymond died. Tripoli was taken after his death and became the fourth crusader state.