Sweet Lands of Liberty
By D Fowler
Part 3 – Clash of the Titans
Frederick I Barbarossa was in his late 60s. However, he was still a very good military man. He accomplished a few things which he planned on quickly upon his arrival in the summer of 1190. He took Aleppo and Antioch. He also crowned the King of Armenia. He had to be cautious, though, as he was facing one of the great military minds of his day in Saladin.
Saladin forged an excellent defensive line, feigning an attack north to relieve Aleppo, but in actuality holding the line just north of Damascus. After an inconclusive battle, Frederick realized he could either wage a bloody campaign and possibly retake Jerusalem with little left, or go another way. His hope was that help would arrive in time from England and France.
He decided to bypass Damascus and lay siege to Acre. Saladin met him, and Frederick of Swabia, in the siege, which began in October. A plague of some kind affected both sides, as the siege lasted through the winter, with skirmishes between his armies and Saladin’s armies throughout. It was not the grinding it might have been, but it was almost as bad.
In late April of 1191, Acre fell, Saladin brought forces down from Damascus now, to defend Jerusalem. He may have beaten the others back, if not for the arrival of Philip II, King of France, in May, and Richard I, King of England, in June.
This also brought complications. Philip’s men countered Saladin’s Damascus forces, and a few reserves who had come, as Saladin’s reinforcements attempted to lift the siege of Jerusalem. Richard’s arrival weeks later gave the Crusaders a decisive advantage. But, Frederick was ill again, as he had been at Acre, which delayed things for a while.
Richard and Philip argued about how to proceed, an argument which spread to the way things had gone at Cyprus. Add to this the fact that Philip wanted some of the lands Richard had in mainland Europe, and when Frederick was well enough again to resume command, he had some hard work ahead in getting the subordinate rulers in line.
Richard saw that Frederick was slower, and finally chose to attack before any more reinforcements could come for Saladin. In September of 1191, he moved in, with the others then leading their forces. Fighting between Conrad and Guy over who would be King of Jerusalem also confused things.
Jerusalem was taken. Then, Saladin retreated and met up with some others. Saladin was able to retake Jerusalem from Richard – who was holding it - late in 1191. He managed to hold Jerusalem for a little while, as Philip II had been drawn away by the final forces from Damascus. Frederick had gone to help Philip finish them off, as he thought – with Richard’s brashness – he could hold Jerusalem. Now, Frederick and Philip met up with Richard again, as his forces had retreated after a whle.
The Crusader forces made one more last push for Jerusalem with what they had left, Frederick leading the charge this time. Philip had spoken of leaving, so Frederick promised that he would remain to hold it, and let Philip go. With winter upon them, his aides had been trying to convince him to remain in Jerusalem till spring, anyway.
Saladin might have been able to hold it, though nobody will ever know. His time was short anyway. The added stress of fighting for Jerusalem, losing it, then recapturing it so much took its toll. In January of 1192, he died. (1)
With the Damascus forces now defeated, and Saladin’s death causing confusion in the ranks, Frederick, Richard, and Philip were able to take Jerusalem in early Febrary. Richard had pushed harder than he’d imagined, leading the way himself as he strove for victory. The large number of Crusaders still with Frederick provided numerical victory, but Richard’s persistence was seen by some as just as important as Frederick’s wise leadership. Philip found it ironic that - now that they really needed Richard, and he was willing to patch up their differences for the moment - he couldn’t be found.
They soon learned why. The Third Crusade had claimed another life. Richard I was dead. He’d given his life for the capture of Jerusalem. Such courage in battle would earn him the name Richard the Lion Hearted.
A writer on the Third Crusade put it this way:
“It was a clash of titans, filled with great what ifs. What if Richard had waited a little, and they’d all entered Jerusalem together at first? What if Richard hadn’t died, but Frederick did? And so on… Nobody will know just what England lost. But, one thing was for certain. While Frederick may have had a smooth transition to his successor a short time later, the other two would see lots of fallout.”
Saladin’s death and the Muslim loss meant that, with Jerusalem recaptured, the Crusader state held on a few decades longer, as they were able to fortify it for the time being. However, the most interesting activities occurred in England.
Arthur of Brittany had been named Richard’s heir. However, John - Richard’s youngest brother – conspired to seize the throne. Philip vowed to support Arthur, knowing that to support him now could mean he could control him later. He already had plans to have Arthur brought to Paris to consummate an agreement concerning the lands in question.
Therefore, in the aftermath of the battle, Philip asked a favor of Frederick – allow him to return home with the body of Richard. He’d wanted to leave anyway, and Frederick could work in Jerusalem. The emperor was taking longer to do a number of things now. Frederick would die in Jerusalem, having finished organizing the defending of the city and having crowned the new king, in June of 11192.
Philip would return home with Richard I’s body. New would reach John before they did, but he hoped not too long before that. If he could just get protection for Arthur, he might have some luck. John already had two other strikes against him. First, there was the tax which had levied so recently; he was associated with it, too. Also, there was association with Arthurian legend, which stirred interest. Philip would do his best to boost it.
Philip II left Henry II of Jerusalem to pick up the pieces, along with Frederick. A War of English Succession seemed possible. And, somehow, stuck in the middle would be the Waldensians, whose numbers had grown bit by bit in England, as well as in France.
This wasn’t the only piece of confusion, however. There would be other ones, as the 12th century drew to a close. Including, as it turned out, one involving Philip himself.
Part 4 – Every Bathroom in the Realm
News reached John in England only a little faster than Richard’s body did. Now, he had a problem. The rightful heir to the throne of England was Arthur. But, John wanted the throne. Now, he had to start plotting.
Philip reached France again as 1192 waned, and sought to protect Arthur. The boy was only five years old, and had already been rightful King of England for months. He sent an envoy to Arthur in Brittany informing him of this, and letting him know that he had Philip’s full support. He suggested a move to Sicily, after a stop in Paris; Sicily was where the treaty had been made promising Arthur a wife.
Arthur’s mother, who was considered his regent, got the news about Richard’s death. She prepared to take the boy and his sister to Paris first. However, they quickly learned that a reward was being offered. Their diversion helped add to the King Arthur legend which had become so popular early in the 12th century.
They disguised themselves and fell in with a group of peasants, who were still upset at the taxes from before; and now the money being raised as a reward for Arthur’s capture. There began to be a feeling that if Arthur were king, peasants wouldn’t be as oppressed.
They made their way to Paris – in a more circuitous route to avoid capture - but not before adding to what would become the Robin Hood legends.
Philip II and Arthur, through his regent, consummated a treaty wherein Philip would fight for Arthur’s right to be king if Arthur promised some of the lands in France to him, in exchange for Philip II providing a sum of cash, insisted upon by Arthur’s mother. To keep the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine on Arthur’s side, that land was retained, as was Brittany, but Aquitaine would only pass to John on Eleanor’s death if he agreed to renounce his position as King of England. Otherwise, it would go to France. Brittany could be bargained for later.
John launched an invasion early in 1193. It did poorly, because it was put together so hastily, but John promised to prepare for a larger invasion later.
The King of Sicily, Tancred, had sent word saying that Arthur could come to Sicily, where one of his daughters could marry him. The decision was made to send the family down through French territory, and through Savoy, before going to a port and on to Sicily, or down through Italy and to Sicily. However, problems arose.
King John asked the Pope to name him as legitimate English monarch. He promised the aging Pope (who was around 90) a fair amount of money, or do any other favors. He claimed that Richard’s appointment should not be official. The Pope – near 90 and not wanting to go against a Crusader’s wishes yet - refused to act right away. However, the new Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI, made his own plans.
Henry VI sought the reward money John offered for Arthur’s capture, so he could attack Sicily and claim a crown. Of course, he could then hold Arthur hostage till John gave even more money if he got him. He convinced the aged Pope to allow him to do this. While the Pope would have been very upset had Henry imprisoned a Crusader, he saw no problem here, and he could wash his own hands of the whole debate.
So, while Arthur and the others were en route to Sicily, having just passed through Savoy, they were forced to turn back because of threats of an attack by Henry VI’s men. Again, they blended into the countryside, this time for only a few days. “They have the ability to act just like commoners,” Henry complained. “Well, if they wish to just remain vulgar men in tights, I don’t care; perhaps that will be just as well to John of England.”
This disguise is what would cause the blending of the Robin Hood legends with those of Kiing Arthur. Along, of course, with the boy’s famous declaration of defiance. Still quite young and not always thinking, he reportedly declared to those helping him, “It is my hope that one day, every bathroom in the realm will bear the name of ‘John.’” (2)
In addition, the legends would be centered around Protestants, opposing the Church. However, they would not be Waldensians.
Already, a sect was emerging in England that was hostile to King John. This group overlapped quite a bit with those who wanted Arthur as king, whether or not he was the same as the Dark Ages one told of by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The Waldensians were having a small impact in England, too, which was causing some dissatisfaction with the Church. King John, hoping to gain Papal favor, promised a brutal crackdown.
The crackdown would come. But, so would a lot of confusion for Continental Europe. Because, Philip II needed a wife. Well, he had one, but…well, it’s a long story.
(1) A year earlier than in OTL, but the constant battling over it would take its toll.
(2) He used the term for bathroom which was then in vogue, of course. But, the point is, if you know me, you know there’s no way I was going to pass up that line, I believe it’s from the parody “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” for those who don’t know.