Crusade of 1239–1241


A crusade (sometimes known as the Barons’ Crusade) consisting of successive expeditions led by Thibaud IV, count of Champagne, and Richard, earl of Cornwall, that regained considerable Frankish territory in the Holy Land by way of diplomacy.

In 1229 Emperor Frederick II and the Ayyūbid sultan of Egypt, al-Kāmil, had agreed to a ten-year truce for the kingdom of Jerusalem. On 4 September 1234, Pope Gregory IX, who had condemned this agreement, wrote to the English and encouraged them to be ready to launch a crusade once the truce expired. A number of English and French nobles took the cross, but the crusade’s departure was delayed because Frederick, whose lands the crusaders had planned to cross, opposed any crusading activity before the expiration of his truce with al-Kāmil. Frederick’s excommunication (20 March 1239), prompted by differences between him and the pope regarding their Italian spheres of influence, caused most crusaders to avoid his territories on their way to Outremer.

The crusaders of the French expedition assembled in Lyons in August 1239. Their leaders were Thibaud IV of Champagne (who since 1234 had also been king of Navarre) and Hugh IV, duke of Burgundy, joined by two officials of the French royal court, namely, the constable Amalric of Montfort and the butler Robert of Courtenay, and by Peter of Dreux, the former count of Brittany. Most of them sailed from Marseilles. On 1 September 1239, Thibaud arrived in Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), where the crusaders set up camp. They were soon drawn into the Ayyūbid wars of succession, which had been raging since the death of al-Kāmil (1238). At the end of September, al-Kāmil’s brother al-Şālih Ismā‘ïl seized Damascus from his nephew, al-Şālih Ayyūb, and recognized Ayyūb’s brother al-‘Ädil II as sultan of Egypt. On 21 October, Ayyūb was captured and imprisoned by his cousin al-Nāşir Dāwūd of Kerak. Realizing that a Damascus with close ties to Egypt would place Frankish Outremer in a dangerous embrace, the crusaders decided to fortify the city of Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel) to protect the southern border of the kingdom and to move against Damascus later. While the crusaders were marching from Acre to Jaffa (2.12 November), Egyptian troops moved up to Gaza to secure the border. Contrary to Thibaud’s instructions and the advice of the military orders, a group of 400-600 knights, led by Henry of Bar, Amalric of Montfort, Hugh of Burgundy, and Walter of Jaffa, decided to move against the enemy without further delay, but they were surprised by the Muslims and forced into combat. Hugh and Walter escaped to Ascalon, Amalric and many others were captured, and Henry was killed (13 November 1239). Following this defeat, the military orders convinced Thibaud to retreat to Acre rather than pursue the Egyptians and their Frankish prisoners.

In the spring of 1240, al-Nāşir released Ayyūb and helped him to seize control of Egypt. Realizing that Ayyūb’s new position of power could become dangerous for Damascus, Ismā‘ïl approached the crusaders, with whom he had been in negotiations for some time. He promised to restore Galilee, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and considerable coastal areas to the Franks in exchange for their support against Egypt. Much of the territory Ismā‘ïl was offering in fact belonged to al-Nāşir. Naturally, the truce was opposed by those hoping to obtain the freedom of the Frankish prisoners held in Egypt. Al-Nāşir’s hopes that his support for Ayyūb would earn him assistance to win Damascus were disappointed once Ayyūb was firmly installed in Egypt, and so both al-Nāşir and al-Manşūr Ibrāhïm, ruler of Homs, joined the Frankish-Damascene alliance (summer 1240). In mid- September 1240, after a visit to Jerusalem, Thibaud departed for Europe, while Hugh of Burgundy remained to help fortify Ascalon.

On 8 October 1240, the crusaders of the English expedition arrived, led by Richard, earl of Cornwall, who had left England on 10 June, traveled through France, and then sailed from Marseilles to Acre. The crusaders marched to Jaffa, where an Egyptian envoy suggested that Ayyūb would honor Ism¢‘ªl’s territorial promises (even though Ayyūb himself controlled none of those territories), with the exception of the strategically important cities of Gaza, Hebron, and Nablus, which Ayyūb reserved for himself, and that he would release the Frankish prisoners if the crusaders would abandon their alliance with Damascus for a position of “benevolent neutrality” [Jackson, “The Crusades of 1239– 41,” p. 48]. Richard consented, the new agreement was ratified by Ayyūb by 8 February 1241, and the prisoners were released on 13 April. Meanwhile, Richard’s forces helped to work on Ascalon’s fortifications, which were completed by mid-March 1241. Since he was Emperor Frederick II’s brother-in-law, he entrusted the new fortress to Walter Pennenpié, an imperial representative, and departed for the West on 3 May. Throughout their crusade, Thibaud and Richard had to contend with opposing factions of local barons as well as disunity among the military orders. The main sources for this crusade are the Old French continuations of William of Tyre (Estoire d’Eracles and Rothelin), the Gestes des Chiprois, the Chronica maiora of Matthew Paris, and the works of Ibn Wāsil, Ibn Shaddād, and al-Maqrïzï.

Bibliography Denholm-Young, Noël, Richard of Cornwall (Oxford: Blackwell, 1947). Jackson, Peter, “The Crusades of 1239–41 and Their Aftermath,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 50 (1987), 32–60. Lower, Michael, The Barons’ Crusade: A Call to Arms and Its Consequences (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). Painter, Sidney, “The Crusade of Theobald of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall, 1239–1241,” in A History of the Crusades, ed. Kenneth M. Setton et al., 6 vols., 2nd ed. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969–1989), 2:463–485. Rozankowski, Janush J., “Theobald of Champagne: Count, Crusader, and King” (Ph.D. diss., Fordham University, 1979).

Thibaut IV

Thibaut IV (1201-1253), Count of Champagne and Brie, and, as Thibaut I, King of Navarre, was probably the greatest trouvère.

Born in Troyes, the capital of Champagne, on May 30, 1201, shortly after the death of his father, Thibaut at birth was Count of Champagne and Brie. Troyes had a long tradition of courtly poetry. Thibaut’s grandmother, Marie, the great-granddaughter of the first troubadour, had established a brilliant court there and patronized several of the most famous poets of the 1170s, among them Chrestien de Troyes, the creator of the romances about Lancelot, Parsifal, and others.

At the death of her husband, Thibaut’s mother asked for royal protection, in exchange for which Thibaut was obliged to serve several years at court and later to accompany the successive French kings on their military campaigns. Among these was the Albigensian Crusade, a disastrous civil war that crushed the south of France, the home of the Provençal-speaking troubadours. Thibaut reluctantly accompanied the King in 1226, but he would not participate in the fighting and finally withdrew by night from the royal camp. The King died shortly thereafter, and Thibaut soon made his peace with the queen regent and dedicated several poems to her. However, his withdrawal antagonized certain noblemen, who invaded Champagne. In 1234, on the death of his uncle, Sancho VII, Thibaut became king of Navarre.

Although he was opposed to the Albigense war, Thibaut pursued its religious aim, the elimination of a dissident sect; and before leaving for a crusade in Palestine in 1239-1240 he had nearly 200 adherents of that sect burned at the stake. After his return he became known as a good king. He died in Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, on July 7, 1253.

As with other trouvères, it is difficult to determine the exact number of Thibaut’s works, since several occur with different attributions in the many collections (chansonniers) of the period: 65 can be safely assigned to him, 5 more may be his, and 7 others are very doubtful. Almost all are preserved with melodies, a good number of them with more than one. His preserved poems are more numerous than those of any other troubadour or trouvère. They were highly praised by his contemporaries and quoted in France, Germany, and Italy until the 14th century.

The poems cover a wide variety of subjects, though 60 percent follow tradition and are lyrics devoted to courtly love. Fifteen poems are in the form of real or pretended debates (jeu-parti or tenso) on love and knightly honor. Thibaut’s works in this genre were particularly appreciated; for them he sometimes used already existing melodies. Other poems are works dealing with the Crusades, one being a letter to his lady love sent from Palestine, pastourelles and descriptions of shepherds’ love, and religious songs, including several dedicated to Mary, the religious symbol of courtly love.

Further Reading

Some information on Thibaut is in Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades (3 vols., 1951-1954). For background see Gustave Reese, Music in the Middle Ages (1940), and Denis Stevens and Alec Robertson, eds., The Pelican History of Music, vol. 1 (1960).

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