Barons’ Crusade

Delice Bette | June 21, 2023


The Crusade of the Barons in the years from 1239 to 1241 was a Church-sponsored war campaign to the Holy Land to relieve the Crusader states in their struggle against the neighboring Ayyubid dominions. The crusade included two crusading enterprises, the crusade of Theobald of Champagne and the crusade of Richard of Cornwall.

The designation of the two undertakings as the Crusade of the Barons stems from the fact that a large number of nobles from France and England took part in it, which was not led by a monarch.

Although at the end of the two campaigns there were the greatest territorial gains for the Christian crusader states since the First Crusade (1099), the Crusade of the Barons is not included in the traditional counting of the crusades. Chronologically, it can be placed between the Fifth (1217-1229) and the Sixth Crusades (1248-1250). What is also unusual about this crusade is that its positive outcome was not based on spectacular battle successes or skillful diplomacy, but was mainly due to the dissension of the Muslim leaders.

Through the marriage of the heiress to the throne of Jerusalem, Isabella of Brienne, to Emperor Frederick II, the latter had held the royal title of Jerusalem since 1225. During his controversial crusade, Frederick had concluded the Peace Treaty of Jaffa with the Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt and Syria, al-Kamil Muhammad I, in 1229, which, among other things, gave the Christians possession of the city of Jerusalem without a fight. Because the emperor at the time was subject to the church penalty of excommunication and the pope condemned his crusade, the Treaty of Jaffa was not recognized by the church or the barons of Outremer. It was not until Pope Gregory IX and Emperor Frederick II temporarily settled their differences in the second Treaty of San Germano in July 1230 and the excommunication was lifted that the agreement became binding on the crusader states and the 10-year truce it agreed to was recognized.

The truce agreed in Jaffa was to end in August 1239, so it was already foreseeable that the Kingdom of Jerusalem would need military support from Europe against the Muslims at that time. In September 1234, Pope Gregory IX therefore sent a letter to the people of England calling for a new crusade to the Holy Land. A crusade call to the people of France also followed in November 1234. The entire clergy was required to preach the Crusade. As with the Fifth Crusade, the pope promised an indulgence not only to those who participated in the crusade, but also to those who contributed to the costs without going themselves.

In crusade preaching, the pope relied especially on the Dominican Order, which could act directly according to Roman directives and largely independent of local conditions and interests, so that centralized control of recruitment was possible. An organizational problem, however, was that crusading enterprises in the Latin Empire of Constantinople, in Spain, and against the Prussians in the Baltic were also to be recruited at the same time, so that a division of resources had to be made, which did not always go smoothly, since not all enterprises were equally attractive. Meanwhile, the preaching for the overseas crusade was so successful that in September 1235 the Pope had to order the prelates of France to ensure that the departure did not take place earlier than July 1239.

Although the number of volunteers was large and the crusade against the Albingen heresy movement in southern France, which had ended some time earlier, no longer tied up any funds, financing remained problematic, however. The church therefore levied special taxes and collections. Individual dioceses were each assigned a crusading knight, for whose equipment collections had to be made.


While the monarchs of France and England were unwilling to lead the crusade for political reasons, the nobility in both countries continued to be very receptive to the crusading idea. Although in the pontificate of Gregory IX numerous other crusade enterprises were equated with the Jerusalem journey in whole or in part under canon law, the march to the Holy Land continued to be considered particularly attractive by the addressees. Especially in France, a large number of barons felt motivated to make an “armed pilgrimage.” Some of the barons who took the cross had been involved in a failed rebellion against the regency of the queen mother, Blanka of Castile, in previous years and were urged by the French clergy to perform penance in the form of crusade participation.

In July 1239 a large army gathered in Lyon, consisting of French knights led by important barons, including Peter Mauclerc, the former Duke of Brittany, Count Theobald IV of Champagne, who was also King of Navarre since 1234 as Theobald I, Duke Hugh IV of Burgundy, Count Amalrich VII of Montfort, who was also Connétable of France, Count Henry II of Bar and many others.

The French initially planned to move to Apulia and set sail from Brindisi in the direction of Outremer. However, the political situation in Italy had changed during the summer months, after Emperor Frederick II had been banished again in May 1239 and the permanent conflict with the pope came to a head again. The ongoing preparations for upcoming battles on both the papal and imperial sides prevented effective support for the crusade in Italy. The emperor closed the ports he controlled to passage to the Levant, and the pope withheld important financial resources. In this situation, the young King Louis IX of France intervened, ensuring sufficient financial support for the enterprise and opening the as yet undeveloped Mediterranean port of Aigues-Mortes to the crusaders. In the end, the majority of the participants nevertheless embarked in Marseille, although this port belonged to imperial territory. The passage proved problematic as the fleet scattered in a storm and some ships were forced off to Sicily. Theobald of Navarre-Champagne reached Acre on September 1, 1239, where the great rest of the fleet arrived in the following days.

Crusade Council and political situation in Outremer

The decision to land in Acre and not in Tyre was made for political motives. The rightful king of Jerusalem at that time was the child-king Conrad II, for whom his father Emperor Frederick II claimed nominal regency. However, the nobility and clergy of Jerusalem, represented in the Haute Cour, had been in bitter opposition to the emperor for years (Lombard War) and denied him the right to reign. They had established their own government in Acre, while the imperial governor Richard Filangieri could only hold on in Tyre. Since they were already hindered by the emperor when they set out in Europe, the crusaders deliberately decided to sail to Acre, since they could only expect serious support from the barons there.

Before the crusaders and the knights of the Kingdom of Jerusalem began the fight against the Ayyubids, they first negotiated the organization and planning of the warfare in a joint council. Theobald of Champagne was chosen to lead the crusade, since he was the highest-ranking of the crusaders as king of Navarre. In the negotiations, the military support of the three great orders of knights was also won.

The complex political situation within the Ayyubid dynasty made the selection of a suitable target much more difficult. Since the death of Sultan al-Kamil Muhammad I in March 1238, there had been a constant fratricidal war between his family members for power in Egypt and Syria. Currently, Sultan al-Adil Abu Bakr II ruled in Cairo, but his governor in Damascus sympathized with his half-brother as-Salih Ayyub. The latter had invaded Jerusalem with his army in the weeks before and was now encamped near Nablus, which is why the Crusaders considered him the most dangerous opponent. Two other important opponents were the lord of Kerak, an-Nasir Dawud, and the lord of Baalbek, as-Salih Ismail. There were also Ayyubid emirs in Homs, Aleppo, and Hama, each of whom pursued their own political interests.

Still in the days of September, the situation changed when as-Salih Ayyub was handed over to an-Nasir Dawud in Kerak and imprisoned after a betrayal within his army. This was immediately exploited by as-Salih Ismail, who seized the city of Damascus. Since an-Nasir Dawud had himself sought to rule Damascus, he now allied himself with al-Adil Abu Bakr II to take action against as-Salih Ismail.

The Council of Crusaders was indecisive, spent all of September and October in fruitless debates, and finally decided on November 2, 1239 to march south along the coast to rebuild the citadel of Ascalon. The crusader army at that time included about 4000 knights, of which about half were mustered by the French barons, the other half by the barons of Outremer as well as the knightly orders. The fortress of Ascalon was to provide cover for the county of Jaffa against attacks from Egypt. The crusaders intended to attack Damascus after securing the southern flank at Ascalon.

Military failure

During the march to the south, Theobald’s lack of authority as a military leader was revealed, as well as a general lack of discipline within the army. On the way, Peter Mauclerc set off with a force to attack a caravan heading for Damascus, taking rich booty after a hard fight. He was taken as a model by the Counts of Bar, Montfort and Jaffa, as well as some other leaders, after they learned in Jaffa of the army of the Sultan of Egypt encamped near Gaza. Contrary to the express orders of Theobald, who intended to lead the army unitedly to Ascalon at first, a force of about 400 knights detached to move immediately against the Egyptians. In the following battle of Gaza (November 13) they suffered a crushing defeat, the Count of Bar fell, a large number of knights fell into captivity and only a few managed to escape. When Theobald, who had been called to help, reached the battlefield with the main army, the Egyptians retreated to Gaza. He intended to pursue the enemy, but was held back by the grand masters of the knightly orders, who were concerned for the lives of the knights who had been taken prisoner. Theobald then moved with the main army to Ascalon, where he set up camp. A few days later, the crusaders marched along the coast to Jaffa and then returned to Acre. The only success of this move was the retreat of the Muslim army to Egypt, which precluded the Sultan’s intervention in Syria.

The reasons for the crusaders’ retreat are unclear: the losses had not decisively weakened the crusader army; the decisive factors were probably conflicts between the French crusaders on the one hand and the local barons and knightly orders on the other. The latter both were interested in protecting their own possessions and not challenging the Muslims unnecessarily. The grand masters of the knightly orders thought it nonsensical to pursue the sultan’s army into the Egyptian hinterland, risking the main army for the vague chance of freeing the captives. Also, some local barons, especially the Ibelins and Odo of Montbéliard, were interested in resuming the civil war against the imperial governor in Tyre soon.

Meanwhile, the defeat of Gaza and, even more so, the raid on his caravan provoked a reaction from an-Nasir Dawud, who occupied Jerusalem, which was inadequately secured, and on December 7 also forced the abandonment of the Citadel of David. After granting free passage to the Christian occupation, he destroyed the city’s remaining defenses and then retreated to Kerak.

Back in Acre, Theobald received an offer of alliance in the spring of 1240 from the Ayyubid emir of Hama, al-Muzaffar Mahmud. The latter was an enemy of as-Salih Ismail and hoped to gain control of Damascus with the help of the Crusaders. Theobald then marched to Tripoli to unite with the emir’s forces. However, at the last moment, the Emir cancelled the alliance after the emirs of Homs and Aleppo put pressure on him. Disappointed, Theobald had to march back to Acre in May 1240. In the meantime, the new Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Robert of Nantes, had arrived there.

Diplomatic successes

In the meantime, conditions on the Muslim side had changed again after an-Nasir Dawud broke off the alliance with Sultan al-Adil Abu Bakr II of Egypt. An-Nasir Dawud had hoped to receive rule of Damascus from the sultan if the latter invaded Syria. Since the Sultan had retreated back to Egypt after the Battle of Gaza, these ambitions had been disappointed. The lord of Kerak therefore released his prisoner as-Salih Ayyub and allied with him against al-Adil. While both were still marching toward Cairo, the sultan was overthrown by his own court ministers, and as-Salih Ayyub was proclaimed the new sultan of Egypt in June 1240.

Since the new sultan also claimed control of Damascus to transfer it to an-Nasir Dawud, the ruler there, as-Salih Ismail, turned to Theobald and offered an alliance. At a personal meeting in Sepphoris, the two agreed on a defensive alliance against the sultan. While Theobald guaranteed the protection of the southern border with Egypt by the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he received from the Emir the castles of Safed and Beaufort together with the land in between. Since the Emir of Damascus was in debt to the Templars, Safed was to be given to them as compensation, while the rule over Beaufort was transferred to Balian of Sidon.

On both sides, the conditions were criticized. While on the Muslim side the Imam of the Great Mosque of Damascus voluntarily went into exile in Cairo, on the Christian side the favoritism of the Templars aroused the disfavor of the Order of Saint John. The Knights of St. John contacted Sultan as-Salih Ayyub and negotiated their own treaty with him on behalf of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. For the end of the alliance with the Lord of Damascus and an assurance of neutrality, the Sultan offered the release of the prisoners of Gaza and the surrender of Ascalon. The Grand Master of the Knights of St. John signed this pact with the Sultan’s emissaries in Ascalon.

Once again, there was movement in the Ayyubid balance of power, which in turn favored the Christians. An-Nasir Dawud had abandoned his alliance with as-Salih Ayyub after the latter was also unwilling to support him in his ambitions for Damascus. To secure himself against his two cousins in Damascus and Cairo, an-Nasir Dawud sought his own settlement with the Christians and wanted to win them as allies. In August 1240, he therefore ceded to them the eastern Galilee, which he had previously taken from as-Salih Ismail, including the castles of Tiberias and Tabor.

Theobald’s departure

The large territorial gains achieved by the treaties on the part of the Christians led to tensions among themselves. While the Templars and the majority of the barons favored an alliance with Damascus, which had traditionally been an ally against Egypt, the Knights of St. John favored the treaty they had negotiated with Cairo. Theobald himself dropped the treaty he had negotiated with Damascus and recognized the agreement with Egypt, causing even more confusion and discord among the Christians. At the same time, this maneuvering threatened to provoke a break with both Damascus and Cairo.

With his army, Theobald finally moved to Ascalon to begin repairing the dilapidated defenses. After the expiration of the commitment period of his crusade vow and tired of the ongoing political turmoil, he was the last Christian king of the Middle Ages ever to pay a short pilgrimage visit to the holy places in Jerusalem, together with Peter Mauclerc, and left for France with most of the crusader army in Acre at the beginning of September 1240. The only ones who stayed behind were the Duke of Burgundy, who led the construction work in Ascalon, and the Count of Nevers, who joined the Templar party.

The English royal brother Richard of Cornwall had already taken the cross in 1236 with several other barons of England, including William Longespée of Salisbury and Gilbert Marshal. However, since the Armistice of Jaffa was still in effect at that time, there was no occasion for a trip to Outremer, and various events in England further delayed Richard’s departure. In the summer of 1239, he reaffirmed his vow and assembled an army of English knights in parallel with the French. He was able to enlist his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, among others, for the crusade, while Gilbert Marshal cancelled his participation. The departure of the English was delayed for another year, partly due to the death of Richard’s wife, and it was not until June 1240 that they crossed into France. Via Paris and through the valley of the Rhone, they moved to Marseilles, from where, like the French before them, they traveled by sea to the Holy Land. On October 8, 1240, only a few days after Theobald’s departure, Richard reached Acre.

Upon his arrival, Richard found the Christians facing the beginning of a full-scale civil war. Theobald’s militarily unsuccessful crusade had intensified the dispute among the Christians in Outremer over whether Emperor Frederick II or the local nobles were entitled to the crown of Jerusalem. The Knights of St. John had sided with the imperial governor residing in Tyre, who had always been supported by the Teutonic Knights as well. The Templars, in turn, enjoyed the support of the local barons, especially Count Walter of Jaffa, as well as the clergy. To this end, the leaders of the ecclesiastical orders of knighthood disagreed as to whether the Crusader states should form an alliance with the Muslims of Egypt or with those of Damascus. Richard of Cornwall, unlike Theobald, enjoyed the full support of the emperor, who was his brother-in-law. From him he had received authorization to conclude treaties with the Muslims on his behalf, since the emperor, despite his banishment, still considered himself the rightful regent of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

However, Richard tried to stay out of the power struggles within the Crusader states and initially moved to Ascalon to help the Duke of Burgundy expand the fortifications there. In April 1241, he received there emissaries of the Egyptian Sultan as-Salih, with whom he confirmed the truce concluded by Count Theobald on April 23, 1241. As a result of the truce, the Egyptians released a number of captured Frenchmen. He then handed over Ascalon to a retainer of the imperial party. However, there was no fighting with the Muslims during his stay, as the Ayyubids were in a fragile equilibrium among themselves, which none of them wanted to jeopardize with a new military campaign.

Richard of Cornwall waited for the release of the last prisoners of Gaza and then, after the expiration of their vows, left for home on May 3, 1241, with most of his knights from Acre. He left behind a kingdom of Jerusalem divided internally, but favored by the feuding Muslim kingdoms, he had achieved a diplomatic success. Through the negotiations, the Kingdom of Jerusalem had achieved its greatest territorial expansion since 1187, and the Jordan River once again formed the eastern border of the kingdom.

In order to ease the tense domestic political situation in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the barons of the kingdom wrote to Emperor Frederick II asking for the appointment of Simon de Montfort, who was apparently still in the country, as regent. They believed they had found in him a compromise candidate acceptable to them and the emperor, since he was not banned by the pope and was related by marriage to the emperor. Moreover, Montfort possessed strong family support in the Holy Land in his cousin Philip of Montfort. However, the emperor rejected the request and stuck to his personal regency, whereupon Montfort also started his journey home.

In 1243, the barons succeeded by military means in driving the imperial governor out of Tyre, and they were now able to elect their own regent in Alice of Champagne, a cousin of Theobald IV, which largely restored internal peace in the kingdom. A closer alliance was now sought with as-Salih Ismail of Damascus against the Sultan as-Salih Ayyub of Egypt. The latter, to fight his uncle Ismail, recruited Khorezmian irregulars (Khwarezmiyya) in northern Syria, who devastated Syria and moved into Palestine in 1244, where they sacked Tiberias. They then occupied and sacked unfortified Jerusalem without any actual mission and expelled the Christians there. As-Salih Ayyub himself moved into the city the following year, which was thus finally lost to the Crusaders. The Crusaders then allied themselves with as-Salih Ismail and were crushed in the Battle of La Forbie by as-Salih Ayyub, who also conquered Damascus in 1245 and reunited most of the Ayyubid Empire under his suzerainty.

Thus, the crusader states saw their existence threatened once again. In order to avert the impending downfall of Christian rule, King Louis IX of France led a new great crusade to the Orient in 1248, which is usually referred to as the Sixth Crusade in the traditional count.


  1. Kreuzzug der Barone
  2. Barons’ Crusade
  3. Zu den bekannten Teilnehmern siehe auch: Kategorie:Kreuzfahrer (Kreuzzug der Barone).
  4. Madden, 2006, p. 168.
  5. to make crusading a universal Christian undertaking., p. 2.
  6. Lower, 2005, p. 2′.
  7. a b Lower, 2005, pp. 4, 6-7.
  8. Lower, 2005, pp. 3, 14-15.
  9. ^ Runciman (2005), p. 836.
  10. ^ a b c Runciman (2005), p. 846.
  11. ^ Setton et al. (2006), p. 464.
  12. ^ Runciman (2005), p. 853.
  13. ^ Madden 2006, p. 168.
  14. ^ a b Lower 2005, pp. 2.
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.