Sweet Lands of Liberty
By D Fowler
Part 13 – Crusader States Entrenched in Western Politics
Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Henry II of Jerusalem spent an uneventful first few years in Jerusalem as King,(1) after the Crusaders had recaptured it, having lost King Richard I of England in the process. Henry presided over a service for Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, in mid-1192, and then set about defending the city. A threat was beaten back from Egypt, but it was very minor, as there was a big fight between Saladin’s children.
Henry II requested a Crusade against Egypt; it was seen as the seat of the riches of that area by some. However, two things prevented this. First, there was already such conflict in Western Europe over who would be Holy Roman Emperor. Second, Venice didn’t want to lose one of its big trading partners. He would have to do the best he could.
A truce between Cyprus, Jerusalem, and the Muslims was made in 1198, and renewed in 1204. Henry survived his eldest daughter – the one the queen was pregnant with when he married her – by a few years.
Alice was next in line. She’d been married to the King of Cyprus in 1210. It was a logical move, as Cyprus was close enough it might provide defensive help, and also, it provided just enough extra income from traders there that perhaps the state could weather some financial storms. She became Queen Consort, and then Queen of Jerusalem when her father died in 1218. He was still rather young, but he fell while watching a parade in Jerusalem, where the military had just come back from a victory over the Egyptians.
She was already serving as Regent for the infant King of Cyprus by this time. Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, wanted to make Cyprus a vassal state, and also gain Jerusalem. A noted womanizer, Frederick was reportedly interested in Alice after she became a widow, but before his first wife died in the early 1220s. There were rumors back in Europe that he’d fathered a child with Alice which was stillborn in 1221, but that is unlikely. Even if they had done this, or he had married her, how in the world was he going to keep control over the land?
The Pope saw Frederick’s desires, as well as things like Frederick’s attempts to control Lombardy. The pope feared Frederick would have too much power, and sought to find someone who would be more supportive of the Church’s interests, rather than those of Frederick. So, he requested that King Philip II of France assist – there were certainly French nobles who would gladly go and become King of Jerusalem. (2)
Philip was more than happy to oblige. The marriage of his son, the future Louis VIII, to Arthur’s sister Eleanor had been pleasing at first, as it had eliminated a sore spot; the marriage allowed Brittany to be merged into the Crown eventually. Treaties made with the young King Arthur had solidified French holdings. This had allowed Philip to help with the Spanish Reconquista. However, Arthur’s conversion and the Protestant Church that had been founded in England greatly disturbed the Papacy, and Philip felt providing a prince to marry Alice would be a good way to get into the good graces of the Pope.
Once this marriage was consummated in 1223, and more knights were found from France to bolster the states, the ones who had been stationed at Jerusalem were called north to help defeat groups in Prussia. However, Egypt had become strong enough to recapture Jerusalem in 1230. Most historians feel it would have fallen even with the Teutonic Knights still there. However, everyone was busy with other things.
Frederick II wasn’t even interested in crusades or religion. He was much more lenient than the Pope would have liked in some areas. Like Arthur, he forbade the trial by ordeal in the Holy Roman Empire, and like Louis VIII – who was influenced by his wife – he allowed officials to record debts owed to Jews.(3)
However, with Alice again a widow in 1230 - her husband had died during the battle – Frederick II went there to help her, as he wanted as much power as he could get.
This time, he did marry her, as his son Henry was already rebelling. Frederick negotiated the return of Jerusalem and several other cities to Christian hands, as the Muslim ruler had his own power struggle problems. This Fourth Crusade had been a success, just like the previous one. However, he and Alice only had one child, who died in 1255. This left a period of struggle that didn’t end till Rudoph I became the first prominent Hapsburg of what would be many in history, and gained the throne himself in the early 1270s.
Part 14 – The Enemy of My Enemy
Without a sacking that could have sounded the eventual death knell for the Byzantine Empire, the renewed Komnenos Dynasty was able, for a few decades, to hold the Sultanate of Rome at bay. The Byzantines managed to keep the entire Black Sea coast, in fact, after winning a couple important battles against the Sultanate.
In the early 1250s, however, they faced a new threat. Europe had been spared the Mongol invasion when their leader died, now it was Hulagu Khan who was threatening to bring devastation everywhere. Baghdad was destroyed in 1252. With the Sultanate of Rome facing lots of problems even after Hulagu was forced to leave personally, the Byzantines tried to make peace. They provided tribute to the Ilkhanate that was set up, and offered to help against the Turkic tribes, as well as against the Mamluks.
The Mamluks had taken Jerusalem in 1249, and Louis IX’s attempt to take it back had been repulsed. Then, the Mamluks even beat the Mongols a few years later.
The Mongols had been bloodied. And, the destruction of Baghdad had actually been a help, as one writer noted:
“With Baghdad destroyed, Trebizond became a more important stop on the Silk Road. Byzantines suddenly got a little richer, for a while. But, the excesses and civil strife of a few decades before left them weak and vulnerable. They felt more powerful by 1270, but one wonders if it was worth it in the long run to push as hard as they did.”
What they did was join the Ilkhanate in battle in 1270, after the Mamluks had defeated the Mongols several times. With the Byzantine forces added in, the Ilkhanate was able to gain a narrow victory in Syria. Louis IX, having agreed to work with the Byzatines, died at Acre, leaving a confused mess.
One book writer noted:
“It was confused before, because there hadn’t been a clear idea of who would gain what territory once the Mamluks were defeated. The death of the French monarch only compounded it. While the Byzantines were able to team up with his forces a little, it wasn’t very successful. In the end, the Mamluks were only forced to surrender land north of Acre, and the Ilkhanate took most of it.
This region was controlled by the Byzantines, except that the Ilkhanate sort of treated them like vassals to some extent. However, this allowed the two to complete wiping out the Turks in Anatolia. It would be the Ilkhanate’s empire for a good while, as they and the Mamluks battled over Syria, with the Ilkhanate eventually taking it all down to Gaza.
The only good thing was, Byzantine help had at least ensured that some pilgrims would still be allowed to enter.
Byzantine focus on the East, however, meant they weren’t as focused on the West, where interesting things were taking place, and the land that would eventually conquer them was emerging.
(1) His being in Jerusalem keeps him from being in Acre and falling to his death there; but such carelessness will still be with him, as shown later.
(2) Probably the Latin Emperor of the Byzantines from OTL, but as this history is being told from the POV of someone in the AH, his name would be unimportant.
(3) All of which Frederick II did OTL, even without the Waldensian POD. In OTL, Louis VIII reversed his father’s policies concerning Jewish workers and bankers; however, since it was his father’s policy from before, and with his wife being Arthur’s sister and having been protected by Waldensians in her youth, it is plausible to think he would simply choose not to change the policies of his father.