Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image and Identity

28th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 29-30, 2008

Natasha Hodgson, Constructing an honourable hero for a controversial crusade: the case of Baldwin IX of Flanders.

The Fourth Crusade was renowned for its controversial capture of the Christian city of Constantinople in 1204.  In the aftermath of the conquest, Baldwin IX of Flanders and VI of Hainault was the first Latin to be raised to imperial power in Constantinople, but his rule was short-lived.  He was captured at the siege of Adrianople in 1205 and later died in dubious circumstances at the hands of Johanitza, king of the Vlachs and Bulgarians.  Despite his relatively short crusading career and ignominious end, Baldwin's knightly attributes and honourable conduct were subsequently eulogised by chroniclers who were concerned to defend the outcome of the Fourth Crusade and to justify the subjugation of the Byzantine Empire to Latin rule.  The political vacuum left by the death of Baldwin also encouraged a cult of personality around him in his Flemish lands, to the extent that in 1225 an impostor arrived in Flanders claiming to be the count, and was able to persuade a considerable number of important Flemish nobles to this effect.   This paper will trace the development of Baldwin's reputation as a model crusader through contemporary historical narratives and assess to what degree his image was purposefully developed in order to redeem the dishonourable actions of Fourth Crusaders in the face of prospective criticism.

 

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