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

Meghan Holmes Worth, Legitimizing Godfrey:  Charlemagne and the Portrayal of Godfrey de Bouillon after the First Crusade

The refusal of Godfrey de Bouillon to be crowned as the first king of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem is an on-going historical problem, complicated in no small way by the ambivalence with which his position is described by contemporary chroniclers.  Even Albert of Aachen, the major chronicler of Godfrey and his Lotharingian contingent, describes Godfrey as accepting the “principate”, and several chronicles, including those of Fulcher of Chartres and Guibert of Nogent, still refer to Godfrey as “rex,” perhaps in recognition of the difficulties of assigning Godfrey a title when he performed the functions of king without the concomitant coronation and crown.  William of Tyre, writing several decades after the fact, defiantly assigns to Godfrey to the list of Latin kings, arguing that even though Godfrey was never crowned and anointed as king, he ultimately acted as one.

Ultimately, this paper does not seek to give a title to Godfrey, but to place the contemporary writings about Godfrey in their proper place:  that of Frankish historical memory and identity, legitimizing Godfrey’s position through his Carolingian ancestry, particularly in relation to Charlemagne, often portrayed as the model for crusaders.  The question thus is not one of Godfrey’s title, but of how chroniclers of the First Crusade legitimized Frankish rule in Christ’s city. Conscious association with Carolingian tradition created a model crusader in the form of Godfrey, and established the legitimacy of Frankish monarchy in the Holy Land.


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