Friday, March 20, 2020

On Crusade with Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine

From National Geographic:
The Crusades were a series of European military expeditions to the Holy Land. Starting in 1095, the First Crusade aimed to recapture sites under the control of Islamic rulers. It culminated when European forces took the city of Jerusalem in summer 1099. After declaring the Crusade a success, many European commanders and forces departed for home, which left the conquered territories vulnerable to attack and reconquest. During the early 12th century, Muslim forces began to regroup in Aleppo and Mosul. When they took the Armenian city of Edessa in 1144 (today Urfa), the papacy and European powers grew alarmed that Muslim emirates would unite and take back more territories in the region.

Pope Eugene III organized an expedition to safeguard the former conquests in the East and “rescue” Edessa. The designated leader was German king Conrad III. Louis VII decided to help lead the Crusade, and Queen Eleanor would join him. People from her lands made up the bulk of the French forces, and she accompanied them as their leader, the Duchess of Aquitaine.

The pair departed for the Holy Land in June 1147. Critics of Eleanor delighted in spreading rumors about her, detailing her excesses and blaming her for military failures. Many of these misconceptions have lingered until this day. One of the most popular is that she brought 300 ladies-in-waiting with her, whose caravan stretched for miles and allegedly slowed the mission’s progress.

After passing Constantinople, the mission encountered hostilities in Asia Minor. The first battles were a disaster for the French. In early 1148 the royal couple arrived in Antioch and were welcomed by Raymond of Poitiers, Eleanor’s paternal uncle. The atmosphere was tense: Raymond wanted to attack Aleppo and move to liberate Edessa from there, but Louis insisted on going to Jerusalem first.

Eleanor openly sided with her uncle and threatened to annul the marriage to Louis if he did not heed Raymond’s counsel. Their marriage had shown signs of strain before, but tensions over the Crusade pushed it to the breaking point. Malign rumors about the queen began to circulate: many chroniclers, possibly to cover the king’s incompetent strategy, falsely accused Eleanor of incest with her uncle. In an uncharacteristic act of defiance against Eleanor, Louis forced her to go to Jerusalem. (Read more.)

1 comment:

Edward Palamar said...

We have entered the "age to come" foretold by Jesus in Mark 10:30. (in the Harmonious Gospel of Saint Mark (chapter 10, verse 30), the Glorious Manifestation of Our King, Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ.

History is such a wonderful topic. This Lent has taken me back to re-study Sts. Helena and Constantine amongst others. Syria was where the error of the filioque started; after reading what Jesus said regarding the places which reject Him and how they would be, modern day pictures of the devastation in Aleppo make perfect sense.