12/20/06 - how to gain a kingdom

In today's excerpt - how to gain a kingdom Middle Ages-style, in this case as part of the Third Crusades in 1191 C.E.:

"Eleven months after [losing] the battle of Hattin, Guy of Lusignan had been released by Saladin on condition that he would take no further part in the fighting. Guy had agreed, but everyone knew that promises made to infidels could be safely ignored. ... Guy, deprived of Tyre, determined to show his mettle and, desperate for a city to rule from, had marched down ... to Acre and ... maintained his position until the arrival of Richard Coeur-de-Lion in the early summer of 1191. ...

"[T]he Muslim garrison in Acre capitulated, and the Crusaders took possession of the city. Six weeks later Richard gave orders for the massacre of all of his Saracen prisoners—2,700 of them, together with their wives and children—before leaving Acre in the hands of Guy of Lusignan.

"Guy's difficulties should then have been over—but for Conrad of Montferrat, whose eyes were now firmly on the throne of [nearby] Jerusalem. ... Admittedly he had no legal title to it, but to this problem there was a simple solution: marriage to Princess Isabella, daughter of King Amalric I. It was perhaps a minor disadvantage that she was already married to Humphrey, Lord of Toron; but Humphrey, though a man of considerable culture and an impressive Arabic scholar, was also famously homosexual. With every semblance of relief, he unhesitatingly agreed to a divorce. On November 24, 1190 Conrad and Isabella were pronounced man and wife.

"A royal marriage, however, is not a coronation; the rivalry between Guy of Lusignan and Conrad of Montferrat dragged on for another eighteen months, and might have continued for substantially longer had not King Richard—whose power and prestige in the Holy Land was far greater than theirs—received news from England that persuaded him to return at once if his crown were to be saved. Before his departure he called a council of all the knights and barons of Outremer and told them that the question of the kingship must now be decided once and for all. ... Unanimously, they chose Conrad. Guy was sent by Richard to Cyprus, where—for a consideration—he was allowed to rule the island as he liked. He assumed the title of king and founded a dynasty that was to reign in Cyprus for nearly three hundred years."


John Julius Norwich


The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean


Chatto & Windus


Copyright John Julius Norwich 2006


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