Philip de Novare: Les Gestes des Ciprois, The Crusade of
Frederick II, 1228-29
[Adapted from Brundage] After the failure of the Fifth crusade
in 1221, hope for Christian success in the East was centered upon
Frederick II, the new Holy Roman Emperor. This was ironic since
Frederick was, in religious terms, closer to his Muslim enemies
than to orthodox Christianity. He was far from pious and seemed
to have an odd understanding of the crusade. He had vowed to go
Crusade as early as 1215, but the Crusader's vow for him seems
to have been principally a method his precarious hold upon Germany
and Sicily papal protection which was extended to Crusaders. Frederick's
concern was primarily to consolidate his own position as Emperor.
To this end, he postponed the fulfillment of his Crusading vow
time and time again. When finally pressed Pope Honorius III in
1225, Frederick solemnly promised to depart for the East within
two years. Meanwhile, he prepared to use his Crusade to extend
his Empire into the East. In 1225 he married Yolanda, the young
heiress of the Latin Kingdom. Shortly thereafter, Frederick claimed
the title of the Latin King for himself. After seducing one of
Yolanda's cousins, Frederick banished his fourteenyearold
bride to the harem which he kept at Palermo, where she bore the
Emperor a son, Conrad, in 1228. Yolanda died less than week later,
but formally the title to the Latin Kingdom had already passed
to her infant son, and Frederick was forced to be content with
the position of regent for his son if, according to the
customs of the Kingdom, the Latin barons could be persuaded to
accept his regency.
A Crusading army, meanwhile, was raised and on September 8,
1227 the Emperor and his army embarked for East, just before the
expiration of the time limit set by the Pope. Almost immediately
after the fleet set sail, Frederick fell ill. His physician advised
him in strong terms that he must return to Sicily to recover before
attempting to make the arduous voyage to Palestine. Frederick
forthwith landed to recuperate.
In view of Frederick's repeated postponements of the Crusade
during the past twelve years, it is not surprising that Pope Gregory
IX took this situation to be another attempt to delay the Crusade.
In anger, the Pontiff solemnly excommunicated Frederick. The Emperor
replied with a manifesto in which be attacked the pretensions
of the Papacy and then proceeded, once he had recovered his health,
with his preparations for the expedition. On June 28, 1228 Frederick
sailed once again for the East.
The Emperor was now determined to gain such power and prestige
as he could in the East, to add the remnants of the Crusaders'
states to his Empire." He stopped first at Cyprus, whose
infant king, Henry, was nominally Frederick's vassal.
Frederick in Cyprus
In the year 1229 [note: this is a mistake: Frederick
left on June 28, 1228] the Emperor Frederick, at the command
of pope Gregory, [Gregory IX had in fact excommunicated Frederick
before he left Sicily the second time] crossed the sea to Cyprus.
He first landed at the city of Limassol [July 21 1228], where
he had with him seventy galleys, transports and other ships. Most
of his army and his household, together with his marshall and
the horses, had already landed at Acre....
The Lord of Beirut [John d'Ibelin, Lord of Beirut 1197-1226] .
. . went to the Emperor with his children, all his friends, and
the whole of the Cypriot army, both knights and sergeants. They
brought their little lord, King Henry, [Henry the Fat, King of
Cyprus 1218-52] to the Emperor and put themselves completely at
his disposal. The Emperor received them with a great feast and
with the semblance of great joy and it appeared that their enemies
had been mistaken. The Emperor immediately asked of them a favor,
namely that they would put off the black robes which they were
still wearing in mourning for the death of Philip d'Ibelin, the
Lord of Beirut's brother. For, the Emperor said, the joy of his
arrival should be greater than their sorrow for the loss of their
friend, the Lord of Beirut's brother, who had died, even though
he bad been a most brave and noble man. They acceded most cheerfully
to his command and willingly thanked him. They offered to place
their bodies, hearts, and goods wholly at his service. The Emperor
joyfully thanked them, saying that he would repay them amply and
richly. The Emperor then sent scarlet gowns to those who had worn
black and to others he sent jewelry and he gave all of them a
verbal invitation to dine with him on the following day. They
hastily fixed up their gowns and on the following morning they
all appeared, clad in scarlet, before the Emperor.
On the previous night, however, the Emperor had secretly opened
a door in the wall of a room which led into a gardenthis was in
a gracious house in which my lord Philip had housed him in Limassol.
The Emperor had three thousand or more armed men sergeants,
arbalesters, and sailors enter secretly at night through
this false postern, so that virtually all the men from his fleet
were there. They were stationed throughout the stables and the
rooms of the house, behind closed doors, until the dinner hour.
The tables were set and the water poured. The Emperor put the
Lord of Beirut and the old Lord of Caesarea,[Gautier III, Count
of Caesarea, and brother-in-law of John d'Ibelin] who was Constable
of Cyprus, at his own table. He placed the King of Cyprus and
the King of Salonika [Demetrius of Monterrat, titular king of
Salonica] at the first place at another long table, together with
the Marquis of Lancia [Manfred II, Marquis of Lancia, vicar-general
of Lombardy] and the other barons of Germany and of the Kingdom.
He ordered all the Cypriot knights to be seated in such a way
that the Lord of Beirut and the others could hear and see him
when he spoke. He also arranged for the two sons of the Lord of
Beirut to serve him, one with the cup, the other with the bowl,
and for the young Lord of Caesarea and the Lord Anceau de Brie
to carve before him. The Emperor had the four of them don tunics
and doublets over their mantles, for such, he said, was the law
and custom of the Empire. The young men served him very willingly
and nobly and there were many courses and a variety of food. During
the last course the armed men emerged from the places where they
had been waiting and they took charge of the palace, the rooms,
and the great court and placed guards there and elsewhere. There
were wellarmed men in the palace where the Emperor was and
he had them seated before him with their weapons in their hands
some held their swords by the pommel, others grasped their
daggers. The Cypriots were well aware of what was going on, but
they said not a word and tried to appear at ease.
The Emperor turned to the Lord of Beirut and said aloud: "Sir
John, I ask two things of you. You will be wise if you do them
agreeably and well." The Lord of Beirut replied: "Sire,
say what is your pleasure and I shall willingly do what is right,
so far as I understand it or as it is understood by honorable
men." "One of the two things," said the Emperor,
"is this: You will give me the city of Beirut, for you do
not have it or hold it rightfully. The other thing is this: You
will give me the income you have received as regent and ruler
of Cyprus since the death of King Hugh, that is the income for
the past ten years, for it is mine by right according to the custom
of Germany." The Lord of Beirut replied: "Sire, I believe
that you must be joking and making sport of me, as it may well
be. Perchance some evil men who hate me have suggested that you
demand these things of me and this is what has prompted you to
do it. But, please God, you are such a good and wise lord that
you know that we can and will serve you so willingly that you
will not trust those evil men." The Emperor placed his hand
upon his head and said: "By this head, which has many times
worn a crown, I shall have my way in these two matters which I
have mentioned or you will be taken prisoner." At this the
Lord of Beirut rose up and his appearance was striking as he said
loudly: "I have and hold Beirut as my fief by right. My lady,
Queen Isabelle [lacuna] who was my sister on my mother's side
and a daughter of King Amaury and who is thus the rightful heir
of the Kingdom of Jerusalem she and her lord, King Amaury
[Amaury, or Amlaric II, King of Jerusalem, 1162-74] - together
gave me Beirut in exchange for the constableship, when the Christians
bad recovered the city all destroyed. The Templars and the Hospitallers
and all the barons of Syria had refused the town. I have restored
its walls and have maintained it by the alms of Christendom and
by my own labors. In it I have invested the income I had from
Cyprus and elsewhere. [note: John was Constable of Jerusalem,
1194-1200, and traded this post for Beirut, as stated. Beirut
had been conquered by Saladin in 1187 and was restored to Christian
hands in 1197] If you maintain that I hold it wrongfully,
I will substantiate my reasons and my rights in the court of the
Kingdom of Jerusalem. As for the income from the regency and governance
of Cyprus which you demand of me, I never had it. My brother got
from the regency only the headaches of governing and working for
the Kingdom. But my niece, Queen Alice, had the income and did
with it as she pleased, as the one who held the rights of regency
according to our custom. If you demand this of me, I shall furnish
you with proof according to the customs and the court of the Kingdom
of Cyprus. And You may be certain that I shall do no more
than this out of any fear of death or imprisonment, unless the
judgment of the good and loyal court requires me so to do."
The Emperor grew very angry and swore and threatened him. Finally
the Emperor said: "I heard and learned a long time ago across
the sea that your words were handsome and polite and that You
were very discreet and subtle with words, but I shall show You
that your wit, your subtlety, and your words are worth nothing
against my power."
The Lord of Beirut replied in such a way that those who were present
were astounded and all of his friends were much afraid. His reply
was: "Sire, you heard tell long ago of my polite words: I
too, have heard often and for long of your deeds. When I planned
to come here, my whole council, with one voice, warned me that
you would do what you are now doing and worse, and that I was
not to trust you in any way. I came under no illusions; I had
good advice and I understood it. But I would much rather suffer
death or imprisonment than to allow anyone to speak evil of us
or to allow the help due to Our Lord, the help due to the conquest
of the Holy Land, and your service to be hindered by me, my family,
or my compatriots. . . ." He suddenly stopped and sat down.
The Emperor was very angry and changed color often. People stared
at the Lord of Beirut and there were many words and threats. Religious
men and other good people intervened to try to reach agreement,
but no one could get the Lord of Beirut to alter what he had said
he would do. The Emperor made many strange and sinister requests.
At last they agreed to do what the Lord of Beirut had earlier
proposed and he could now be forced to concede no more than this:
that he would furnish the Emperor with twenty of the most noble
vassals of Cyprus as hostages. These men would pledge by their
bodies, their belongings, and their estates that the Lord of Beirut
would serve the Emperor, would go to the Court of the Kingdom
of Jerusalem, and would there prove his rights, and that, when
he had appeared in court, the hostages would be freed and released.
Philip de Novare: Les Gestes des Ciprois, No. 126-28, ed.
Gaston Reynaud, (Geneva: Jules-Guillaumefick, 1887), 37-43, translated
by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History,
(Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 227-30
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval
Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover
he gave permission for use of his translations
Frederick II in the Holy Land
From Cyprus Frederick sailed quickly to Acre to begin his Crusade.
The Crusade in Frederick's hands, however, was to be a far different
kind of affair from his predecessors. Instead of using his army
against the Moslems, it was Frederick's intention to negotiate
with the Egyptian Sultan for a peaceful territorial settlement
in the Holy Land. Frederick proposed to use his army principally
against the Latins in the East, to try to force them to acknowledge
his position as regent and de facto ruler of the Latin states
in the East. In short, Frederick's objective was the conquest,
not of the Moslembeld territories of Palestine, but rather
of the Crusading states.
In the year 1229 [actually 1228] the Emperor came to Syria with
his whole navy. The King [the infant Conrad IV, titular King of
Jerusalem] and all the Cypriots, together with the Lord of Beirut,
[John D'Ibelin] accompanied him. The Lord of Beirut went to Beirut,
Where be was joyfully received, for never was a lord more warmly
loved by his men. He remained there but one day and then followed
the Emperor to Tyre. The Emperor was very well received in Syria
where all did homage to him as regent, because he bad a little
son called King Conrad, who was the rightful heir of the Kingdom
of Jerusalem through his mother who was dead. The Emperor and
his men and all the Syrians left Acre to go to Jaffa. There they
held truce conferences with alKamil, who was then Sultan
of Babylon and Damascus, [Al-Kamal was, in fact, Sultan of Egypt,
and not at this time ruling in Damascus, which was under his nephew,
an-Nasir Dawud] and who held Jerusalem and the whole country.
As a result of their agreement Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Lydda
were thereby turned over to the Emperor.
In this same year, [Really the following year, 1229] amidst these
events, the Emperor ordered Count Stephen of Gotron and other
Longobards [i.e. his troops from Southern Italy] as well, to come
to Cyprus. He had all the fortresses and the royal revenues seized
for his use. He claimed that he was regent and that this was his
right. The Cypriots were much perplexed and bad their wives and
children placed in religious houses wherever they could. Some
of them namely Sir John d'Ibelin, later Count of Jaffa,
who was then a child, his sister, and other gentle-folk
fled in the midst of the winter. It was a bad season and they
barely escaped drowning, but, as it so pleased God, they finally
arrived at Tortosa. The Emperor held Cyprus. The Cypriots who
were in his army were very uncomfortable and, had the Lord of
Beirut sanctioned it, they would have carried off and kidnapped
the young King Henry and would have fled from the Emperor's camp.
The Emperor was now disliked by all the people of Acre. He was
the object of the Templars' special disfavor. There was at that
time a very brave Templar, Brother Peter de Montagu, a most valiant
and noble man, as was also the master of the Teutonic Knights.
The people of the lowlands39 also had little use for the
Emperor. The Emperor seemed to be delaying. [conjectural reading
of "de lais"] Every day, even in winter, be kept his
galleys armed, with the oars in the locks. Many people said that
he wished to seize the Lord of Beirut and his children, Sir Anceau
de Bries and his other friends, the Master of the Temple and other
persons and have them shipped to Apulia. Another said that he
wished to have them killed at a council to which he had called
and summoned them but that they had been aware of this and went
to the council with such forces that he dared not do it.
He made his truce with the Saracens in all particulars as they
wished it. He went to Jerusalem and then to Acre. The Lord of
Beirut never left him and, though he was often advised to leave,
he did not wish to do so. The Emperor assembled his people at
Acre and had all the people of the city come and there were many
who thought well of him....
The Emperor secretly prepared to depart. At daybreak on the first
of May, he boarded a galley before the Butchers' Street, without
notifying anyone. Thus it happened that the butchers and the old
people who lived on the street and who were very unfriendly saw
his party and pelted him most abusively with tripe and scraps
Thus the Emperor left Acre, cursed, bated, and despised.
[Adapted from Brundage] By diplomacy and without spilling a
drop of blood, Frederick won the goals for which the Crusade had
been launched. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were restored to Christian
hands and a corridor linking the cities with the sea was also
ceded to the Latins. Moreover, a tenyear truce was arranged
and trading rights were guaranteed to Christians and Moslems alike.
But the Emperor, who had won so much, lost what he had come to
gain. The Latin Kingdom was not to be a part of Frederick's Empire.
The barons and clergy unanimously rejected him as regent and Frederick
was forced to return to the West almost immediately to meet an
attack which had been launched against his Sicilian Kingdom during
his absence by his fatherinlaw and the Pope . Frederick's
departure left the Latin states reconstituted but devoid of strong
leadership. The barons of the Latin Kingdom cherished dearly their
feudal independence, even though, in the final analysis, it might
cost them the possession of the Kingdom itself. The decade of
comparative peace which followed Frederick's departure saw nothing
done to assure the permanence of the Latin states. At the expiration
of the treaty period, small Crusading armies journeyed to the
East, one in 1239, led by King Thibaud of Navarre, and another
one in 1240, led by Richard of Cornwall. Neither of these expeditions
accomplished anything important, and meanwhile the feudal families
of the Latin Kingdom fought among themselves and with various
Moslem foes. In July 1244 Jerusalem was again attacked, this time
by wild Khwarismian Turks in the employ of the Egyptians. The
Khwarismian attack came as a surprise to the garrison of the city
and, after a short defense, the Turks broke into the town. The
garrison fled to the Tower of David and held out there for nearly
six weeks. Then, on August 23, they surrendered. Thus began six
hundred and fifty years of uninterrupted Moslem control of the
Holy City. The fall of Jerusalem presaged further disasters for
the Latins in the Levant. In October 1244, a major Latin army
was destroyed by the Egyptians and their allies at La Forbie,
near Gaza. Egyptian attacks continued during the next three years
and in 1247 the major city of Ascalon was also lost by the Latins.
The need for renewed assistance from the West was obvious. The
attention turned to Louis IX, King of France.
Philip de Novare: Les Gestes des Ciprois, No. 135-37, ed.
Gaston Reynaud, (Geneva: Jules-Guillaumefick, 1887), 48-50, translated
by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History,
(Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 231-32
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval
Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover
he gave permission for use of his translations.
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© Paul Halsall December 1997