About MSW

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“

Hanseatic Hostilities with England in the 1470s

New challenges in the Baltic region began to confront the Hanseatic League during the second half of the fourteenth century, which forced the new confederation of cities to prove its mettle. In 1360, King Valdemar IV (ca. 1320–1375) began to pursue a policy of Danish hegemony in the Baltic Sea and conquered not just Scania, which it had earlier lost to Sweden, but Gotland as well. Denmark raised duties and other levies for Hanseatic merchants, encumbering trade with Scania, which represented a casus belli for Lübeck and the eastern Hanseatic cities. After the Hanseatic League suffered an initial defeat at sea, Denmark made life difficult for the Hanseatic cities of the Zuiderzee and cut off passage through the Øresund to the Dutch cities that were loosely associated with the league. These actions struck a vital nerve. As a result, all of the Hanseatic cities from the lower Rhine to Reval joined forces with the cities on the Zuiderzee in the Confederation of Cologne. In concert, they militarily restored their privileges in the Treaty of Stralsund (1370), especially the right of unimpeded access to Denmark by land and by sea. They also received reparations stemming from the war. The Treaty of Stralsund marked the apex of power of the Hanseatic League; the supremacy of the Hanseatic cities in the Baltic trade was now uncontested. However, it remained a community of interest exclusively for merchants, who used political and military means to secure only their trading privileges.

Hanseatic trade proceeded from east to west along a line dotted with their trading centers in Novgorod, Reval, Riga, Visby, Danzig, Stralsund, Lübeck, Hamburg, Bruges, and London, and its existence was based on the trade between the suppliers of foodstuffs and raw materials in northern and eastern Europe and the commercial producers of finished products in northwestern Europe. The merchants, however, went well beyond their function as middlemen between east and west, first by trading in the products manufactured by the Hanseatic cities themselves and then by penetrating deep into the Baltic hinterlands south of the coast. As a result, not only did they open up trade with Bohemia and Silesia by way of the Elbe and Oder Rivers, they also followed the Vistula through Cracow to the copper mining districts of upper Hungary (Slovakia) and connected with trading partners in the Black Sea via Lemberg (Lviv).

Trade with England, the original domain of Hanseatic merchants from the Rhineland and Westphalia, continued to be brisk. They exported Rhine wine, metals, and the dyes madder and woad to England and imported tin and English wool for the textile industry in Flanders and Brabant, and later also English textiles. The Hanseatic cities of the Baltic coast, in turn, provided wares typical of the east, including pelts, wax, grain, and wood as well as Scandinavian fish and metals. The most important market in western Europe, however, was the Netherlands. Flanders and later Brabant were not only important textile producers, they also established key trade connections with the Mediterranean basin. The Hanseatic merchants bought goods in Flemish and Brabant cities, primarily woolen textiles of high and medium quality, as well as trousers from Bruges. They also acquired spices, figs, and raisins from southern Europe. France contributed oil and wine as well as bay salt. This sea salt, harvested from the Atlantic, became increasingly important as a preservative. Prussian and especially Netherlandish ships made regular bay salt runs, then used it as ballast on the way to the Baltic, where they traded it for grain and wood for the western European market. By doing so, they undermined Lübeck’s monopoly as an intermediary in trade. The Hanseatic presence in southern Europe was sporadic, except for the wine trade with Bordeaux, although the Veckinchusen family did attempt to establish trade in pelts with Venice.

In addition to products from distant trading partners, goods produced in Hanseatic cities played a key role in domestic as well as foreign trade. Products that flowed east included colored metallic goods from Aachen; Rhine wine; tools from the Westphalian lands of Mark, Berg, and Siegerland; ceramics from the Rhineland; Westphalian textiles and linen; brassware from Braunschweig; salt from Lüneburg; and beer from Hamburg.

The Hanseatic trade was organized by merchant trading companies. The most common model was the free type, in which two partners invested capital and split the profits according to the capital invested and the profits realized. Such organizations generally lasted for one to two years. The large-scale international merchants were generally involved in several companies at a time. This decreased their overall risk and increased the assortment of goods in which they traded. Relatives were often brought in as partners because they were more likely to be trustworthy, especially when it came to long-distance east-west trade. Unlike in Italy or in southern Germany, large, centrally controlled trading companies extending over several generations and including a large number of participants did not exist in the Hanseatic trade. As a result, the Hanseatic companies saw no need to introduce the double bookkeeping that was standard in Italy.

The four Hanseatic Kontore in Novgorod, Bergen, London, and Bruges formed a sort of higher-level trade organization. Here, German merchants lived in specially demarcated areas such as the Petershof, the German Bridge, or the walled Steelyard. Only in Bruges did Hanseatic merchants live with local hosts. Each Kontor was tightly structured, with aldermen (literally, older men) elected annually; firmly established statutes; and its own legal jurisdiction, counting house, and seal. The Kontore were important in terms of acquiring trading privileges because, with cover provided by the Hanseatic cities, they represented the interests of merchants in their dealings with the ruling elites and cities in the foreign countries in which they traded. But the Kontore also facilitated everyday trade by establishing a regular news and messenger system with their home cities, and the attendant correspondence, certification, and bookkeeping also helped them to raise credit. But above all, the reporting requirements regarding the Hanseatic merchants active in any given area encouraged a certain uniformity in the buying and selling of goods, which tended to limit competition among Hanseatic members.

Toward the end of the fifteenth century, Hanseatic trade experienced setbacks on all fronts. The old trading system based on privileges proved inadequate in the face of growing competition and the consolidation of the European powers. For example, the Scandinavian kings now attempted to limit Hanseatic trade for the benefit of their own merchants. At the same time, these kings played the Hanseatic merchants off against their Dutch competitors. As a result, the Hanseatic cities were drawn into Scandinavian power struggles by backing privateers in hopes of retaining their privileges. The closing of the Novgorod Kontor in 1494 by Ivan III was another blow, although much of its trade had already shifted to the Livonian port cities of Riga and Reval during the fifteenth century, as a result of which these cities experienced a significant upswing.

Matters were changing in England as well, where imports and exports of textiles were at the center of disputes. Internal conflicts within the Hanseatic League undoubtedly played a role, because Lübeck stubbornly demanded that England recognize its old privileges, whereas Cologne and the Prussian trading cities were ready to come to an accommodation. Be that as it may, the 1474 Treaty of Utrecht ratified an understanding with England that restored the Hanseatic privileges. As a result, Hanseatic trade in England enjoyed a final phase of prosperity up to the middle of the sixteenth century.

In the same way, the ‘war’ against England in the 1470s largely consisted of individual attacks on commercial shipping by privateers licensed by individual towns. The most celebrated engagement, in fact, well illustrates the pitfalls in this kind of warfare. A large ship, originally French, the St Pierre de la Rochelle, had been abandoned in Danzig harbour as unseaworthy in 1462. In 1470 the city authorities repaired and refitted the ship as a privateer against England. She sailed the following year, commanded by one of the city councillors, but spent most of her time at anchor in the estuary of the Zwyn. In 1473 she was bought by three other councillors and sent to sea under the command of Paul Beneke, the most effective of the privateering captains. He attacked two galleys under the Burgundian flag, sailing from Bruges to Florence with a cargo of luxuries including an altarpiece by Hans Memling intended for a Florentine church. His excuse was that the vessels also carried a cargo of alum intended for an English port. One of the galleys was captured and eventually taken into Danzig where his coup was not popular, since the Hanseatic towns had no wish to antagonise the Duke of Burgundy.47 War waged in this fashion brought many unexpected consequences; privateering captains could not be easily controlled, while the need to offer them large rewards for their enterprise did not make it without cost to the promoters.

The English at sea in our period were faced with forces raised and organised in a variety of different ways. In all realms there existed some sort of obligation on shipowners and seamen to aid their ruler in time of war. The details regarding the way in which this obligation was expressed and implemented varied. In France and Iberia it was either part of feudal service or of the overall power of the monarch. In the cities of the Hanseatic League it was a mixture of civic duty and self-interest. Beyond this basic obligation rulers might attempt to establish their own fleet of ships supported by royal arsenals and dockyards and more or less elaborate systems of administration. Another expedient was to turn for aid to other allied powers and to hire their vessels and their crews. No one method seems to have been outstandingly more successful than the others. Both Aragon and Castile had learnt from and adapted the methods of the leading maritime powers of the Mediterranean. In both realms the organisation and methods of the shipyards benefitted greatly from the expertise of Genoese shipwrights. Crews on their galleys were made up of seafarers from all the neighbouring coasts. These crews had much experience of fighting in the endemic corsair warfare of the region. It is no wonder that the French turned to the Castilians and the Genoese themselves when the need for fighting ships was urgent. Conditions in the Channel and the Western Approaches did not, however, really suit the operation of galley fleets in the southern model. It could be argued that there was a growing awareness among the states that bordered these waters of the need for some more permanent form of naval defence, but that none had found an entirely satisfactory solution to the problem by the middle of the fifteenth century.

Strategic Defense Initiative [SDI] I

President Ronald Reagan’s announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative on 23 March 1983 marked an even more explicit bid to use US technology to compete with the Soviet Union. As he put it:

Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today.

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant US retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

The US National Intelligence Council assessed that the Soviet Union would encounter difficulties in developing and deploying countermeasures to SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). As one September 1983 memorandum put it,

They are likely to encounter technical and manufacturing problems in developing and deploying more advanced systems. If they attempted to deploy new advanced systems not presently planned, while continuing their overall planned force modernization, significant additional levels of spending would be required. This would place substantial additional pressures on the Soviet economy and confront the leadership with difficult policy choices.

SDI was announced in March 1983 by President Ronald Reagan as a plan for a system to defend against nuclear weapons delivered by ICBM (INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILE). As planned, SDI would constitute an array of space-based vehicles that would destroy incoming missiles in the suborbital phase of attack.

The plan was controversial on three broad fronts. First, the Soviet Union, at the time the world’s other great nuclear superpower, saw SDI as a violation of the 1972 SALT I Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems and there- fore an upset to the balance of power. Second, proponents of the policy of mutually assured destruction (“MAD”), who saw the policy as the chief deterrent to nuclear war, criticized SDI as a means of making nuclear war appear as a viable strategic alternative. Third, a great many scientists and others believed SDI was far too complex and expensive to work. These critics dubbed the “futuristic” program “Star Wars,” after the popular science fiction movie, and the label was widely adopted by the media.

Indeed, the technical problems involved in SDI were daunting. Multiple incoming missiles, which could be equipped with a variety of decoy devices, had to be detected and intercepted in space. Even those friendly to the project likened this to “shooting a bullet with a bullet.” Congress, unpersuaded, refused to grant funding for the full SDI program, although modified and spin-off programs consumed billions of dollars in development.

The `Star Wars’ programme or Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), outlined by Reagan in a speech on 23 March 1983, was designed to enable the USA to dominate space, using space-mounted weapons to destroy Soviet satellites and missiles. It was not clear that the technology would work, in part because of the possible Soviet use of devices and techniques to confuse interceptor missiles. Indeed, Gorbachev was to support the Soviet army in claiming that the SDI could be countered. 12 However, the programme was also a product of the financial, technological and economic capabilities of the USA, and thus highlighted the contrast in each respect with the Soviet Union. The Soviets were not capable of matching the American effort, in part because they proved far less successful in developing electronics and computing and in applying them in challenging environments. Effective in heavy industry, although the many tanks produced had pretty crude driving mechanisms by Western standards, the Soviet Union failed to match such advances in electronics. Moreover, the shift in weaponry from traditional engineering to electronics, alongside the development of control systems dependent on the latter, saw a clear correlation between technology, industrial capacity, and military capability. It was in the 1980s that the Soviet Union fell behind notably. In 1986, an American interceptor rocket fired from Guam hit a mock missile warhead dead-on. This test encouraged the Soviets to negotiate.

The collapse of the Soviet Union beginning in 1989 seemed to many to render SDI a moot point-although others pointed out that a Russian arsenal still existed and that other nations had or were developing missiles of intercontinental range. There were, during the early 1990s, accusations and admissions that favorable results of some SDI tests had been faked, and former secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger asserted that while the SDI program had failed to produce practical weapons and had cost a fortune, its very existence forced the Soviet Union to spend itself into bankruptcy. In this sense, SDI might be seen as the most effective weapon of the cold war. In the administration of George W. Bush, beginning in 2001, SDI was revived, and the USAF resumed development and testing of components of the system.

Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO)

SDI’s formal beginnings date from NSDD 119 signed by President Reagan on January 6, 1984 and placed the program under DOD’s leadership. Key elements of this document reflecting SDI’s raison d’etre include DOD managing the program and the SDI program manager reporting directly to the secretary of Defense, SDI placing primary emphasis on technologies involving nonnuclear components, and research continuing on nuclear-based strategic defense concepts as a hedge against a Soviet ABM breakout (Feycock 2006, 216).

On March 27, 1984, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger (1917-2006) appointed Air Force lieutenant general James Abrahamson (1933-) as the first director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which was given responsibility for developing SDI. Weinberger signed the SDIO charter on April 24, 1984, giving Abrahamson extensive freedom in managing the program (Federation of American Scientists n. d., 5).

A May 7, 1984 memorandum from Deputy Secretary of Defense William H. Taft IV (1945-) to the secretary of the Air Force provided additional direction and guidance on the mission and program management of SDI’s boost and space surveillance tracking systems. SDI attributes mandated in this document included the ability to provide ballistic missile TW/AA; satellite attack warning/verification (SAW/V); satellite targeting for U. S. ASAT operations; and SDI surveillance, acquisition, tracking and kill assessment SATKA. Additional program mandates included program plans showing specific requirements, critical milestones, and costs along with alternative means of achieving these objectives (Spires 2004, 2:1130-1131).

SDIO was organized into five program areas covering SATKA, Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Technology, Kinetic Energy Weapons (KEW) Technology, Systems Concept/Battle Management (SC/BM), and Survivability, Lethality, and Key Technologies (SLKT). SATKA program objectives included investigating sensing technologies capable of providing information to activate defense systems, conduct battle management, and assess force status before and during military engagements. A key SATKA challenge was developing the ability to discriminate among hostile warheads, decoys, and chaff during midcourse and early terminal phases of their trajectories (DiMaggio et al. 1986, 6-7).

The DEW program sought to examine the potential for using laser and/or particle beams for ballistic missile defense. DEW can deliver destructive energy to targets near or at light speed and are particularly attractive for using against missiles as they rise through the atmosphere. Successfully engaging missiles during these flight stages can allow missiles to be destroyed before they release multiple independently targeted warheads. Relevant weapon concepts studied under DEW included space-based lasers, ground-beam lasers using orbiting relay mirrors, space-based neutral particle beams, and endoatmospheric charged particle beams guided by low-power lasers (DiMaggio et al. 1986, 7-8).

KEW program applications involved studying ways of accurately directing fairly light objects at high speed to intercept missiles or warheads during any flight phase. Technologies being investigated by this program include space-based chemically launched projectiles with homing devises and space-based electromagnetic rail guns (DiMaggio et al. 1986, 8).

Research pertinent to SC/BM programs explores defensive architecture options allowing for deployment of extremely responsive, reliable, survivable, and cost-effective battle management and command, control, and communications systems. Factors examined in such programs must include mission objectives, offensive threat analyses, technical capabilities, risk, and cost (DiMaggio et al. 1986, 8-9).

SLKT program components seek to support research and technology development for improving system effectiveness and satisfying system logistical needs. Such survivability and lethality study efforts seek to produce information about expected enemy threats and the ability of SDI systems to survive efforts to destroy or defeat it. Relevant SLKT supporting technology research areas include space transportation and power, orbital maintenance, and energy storage and conversion. Pertinent SDI logistical research, under program auspices, is crucial for evaluating and reducing deployment and operational costs (DiMaggio et al. 1986, 10).

SDI achieved significant program and technical accomplishments over the next decade. A June 1984 Homing Overlay Experiment achieved the first kinetic kill intercept of an ICBM reentry vehicle, SDIO established an Exoatmospheric Reentry Vehicle Interceptor Subsystem (ERIS) Project Office in July 1984, and a High Endoatmospheric Defense Interceptor (HEDI) Project Office in October 1984. March 1985 saw Weinberger invite allied participation in U. S. ballistic missile defense programs, and in October 1985 National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane (1937-) introduced a controversial “broad interpretation” of the ABM Treaty, which asserted that certain space-based and mobile ABM systems and components such as lasers and particle beams could be developed and tested but not deployed (U. S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, n. d. 2-3; U. S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Theater and Strategic Nuclear Forces 1986, 136-144).

During August 1986 the Army’s vice chief of staff approved the U. S. Army Strategic Defense Command theater missile defense research program, and the following month this official also directed the establishment of a Joint Theater Missile Defense Program Office in Huntsville, Alabama to coordinate Army theater missile defense requirements. May 1987 saw the successful kinetic energy intercept by the Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment of a Lance missile, which was a high-velocity, low-altitude target. In July 1988 Hughes Aircraft delivered the Airborne Surveillance Testbed Sensor to the military, which was the most complex long-wavelength infrared sensor built at that time.

February 1989 saw President George H. W. Bush (1924-2018) announce that his administration would continue SDI developments; a June 1989 national defense strategy review concluded that SDI program goals were sound; SDIO approved an Endoatmospheric/Exoatmospheric Interceptor program during summer 1990 to succeed HEDI; the first successful ERIS intercept took place during January 1991; and in June 1991 there were successful tests of the lightweight exoatmospheric projectile integrated vehicle strap down and free flight hover (U. S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command n. d., 3-4; U. S. Department of Defense 1989, 1-31).

SDI was able to achieve significant accomplishments during the 1980s and early 1990s as the list above demonstrates. The program remained controversial during its first decade before SDIO was renamed the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) by the Clinton administration on June 14, 1994 (U. S. Department of Defense 1994, 1).

Program expenditures remained a source of controversy for some congressional appropriators. SDIO’s budget, according to a 1989 DOD report, was $3.8 billion for fiscal year 1989 representing 0.33% of the $282.4 defense budget for that year (U. S. Department of Defense 1989, 27). A 1992 congressional review of SDIO expenditures quantified that the organization had received $25 billion since 1984 for ballistic missile defense system research and development and that the Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 1992 budget estimated system acquisition costs to be $46 billion (U. S. General Accounting Office 1992(a), 10).

Strategic Defense Initiative [SDI] II

Changing SDI program objectives complicated SDIO’s work and operational efficiency. SDI was originally intended to provide a massive system for defending the United States against Soviet ballistic missile attacks. During 1987 program objectives shifted from defending against massive missile strikes to deterring such strikes. The 1990 introduction of the Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor (see next entry) caused SDIO to change organizational direction again. A number of organizational realignments were implemented during September 1988 such as adding a chief of staff to oversee SDIO activities; adding a chief engineer to ensure multiple engineering tasks and analysis received top-level attention; and the creation of a Resource Management Directorate, which merged Comptroller and Support Services Directorates in an effort to enhance management efficiency (U. S. General Accounting Office 1992(a), 2; Federation of American Scientists n. d., 8).

Operation Desert Storm also heralded important changes in SDIO program activities. The use of Patriot missile batteries against Iraqi Scud missiles during this 1991 conflict achieved some success but with significant attending controversy over how successful the Patriot system had actually performed (U. S. Congress, House Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security 1993; Snodgrass 1993).

During his January 29, 1991 State of the Union address to Congress as this conflict raged, President Bush announced another SDI shift to the concept called Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS) as reflected in the following statement “. . . I have directed that the Strategic Defense Initiative program be refocused on providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue an SDI pro- gram that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces overseas and to our friends and allies” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 1991, 78).

This shift to GPALS came about as a result of a perceived decline in the Soviet missile threat and the emergence of tactical ballistic missile threats from Iraq and other third world countries. GPALS would have two ground-based and one space-based segment. One of the ground-based components would consist of sensors and interceptors to protect U. S. and allied missile forces overseas from missile attack. An additional ground- based segment would protect the United States from accidental or limited attacks of up to 200 warheads. GPALS spaced-based component would help detect and intercept missiles and warheads launched from anywhere in the world. SDIO sought to integrate these three segments to provide mutual coordinated support and required that each of these entities be designed to work together using automated data processing and communication networks (U. S. General Accounting Office 1992(a), 2-3).

This governmental emphasis on localized theater, as opposed to global strategic missile defense, was also reflected in the fiscal year 1991 congressional conference committee report on the defense budget issued October 24, 1990. This legislation called for the secretary of Defense to establish a centrally managed theater missile defense program funded at $218,249,000, required DOD to accelerate research and development on theater and tactical ballistic missile defense systems, and called for the inclusion of Air Force and Navy requirements in such a plan and the participation of these services (U. S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations 1990, 117-118).

SDI and the concept of ballistic missile defense continued generating controversy throughout its first decade. Although SDIO was able to achieve relatively viable funding and enough operational successes to retain sufficient political support within DOD and in Congress to persevere as an organization, its organizational mission focus never remained constant. Contentiousness over whether there was even a need for SDI or ballistic missile defense was reflected in the following 1991 statements before House Government Operations Committee oversight hearings on SDI.

Opponents of SDI such as Federation of American Scientist’s Space Policy Project director John Pike claimed that ballistic missile threats to the United States were examples of hyperbolic rhetoric, that SDI was too expensive, had numerous technical problems, and that its deployment could jeopardize international arms control. Pike described SDI as being a “Chicken Little” approach to existing threats, which would cost more than $100 billion instead of current projections of $40 billion. He also contended that SDI had significant computing and software problems, that its deployment would end the ABM Treaty and imperil arms control progress, and there was no compelling reason to deploy SDI based on the existing strategic environment (U. S. Congress, House Committee on Governmental Operations, Legislation and National Security Subcommittee 1992, 194).

Proponents of SDI such as Keith Payne of the National Institute for Public Policy emphasized how the Iraqi use of Scud missiles during Operation Desert Storm had drastically changed Cold War strategic assumptions about how ballistic missiles might be used in future military conflicts. These proponents stressed the threat to civilians from missiles that could carry chemical warheads, how normal life ended in cities threatened by Iraqi Scud attacks, how Iraqi conventionally armed missile attacks during the Iran-Iraq War caused nearly 2,000 deaths, forced the evacuation of urban areas like Tehran with ruinous economic consequences, and warned that such events could happen to U. S. and allied metropolitan areas due to ballistic missile proliferation (U. S. Congress, House Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security 1992, 284).

SDI supporters further stressed how the presence of ballistic missiles equipped with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of third world countries such as Iraq could drastically reduce the flexibility of U. S. leaders in responding to such threats. Examples of this reduced flexibility would involve U. S. leaders having to assess the possibility of third party ballistic missile strikes against U. S. forces, allies, or U. S. population centers, sufficient to limit the president’s freedom of action to respond; emerging ballistic missile threats could have a debilitating effect on the U. S. capability to establish allied coalitions and respond to aggression as it did in Operation Desert Storm; and activities such as escorting threatened commercial shipping through hostile waters during the Iran-Iraq War or militarily evacuating U. S. citizens from foreign hot spots could become increasingly dangerous. Payne and other missile defense supporters stress that such defenses enable the United States to maintain the credibility of its overseas security commitments and encourage the belief that the United States will not be deterred from defending its national interests and allies (U. S. Congress, House Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security 1992, 284-285).

SDIO continued its activities as the Clinton administration began in 1993. Ballistic missile defense was not high on the national security priorities of this administration as it took office (Lindsay and O’Hanlon 2001, 87). SDIO’s initial institutional incarnation came to an end with DOD Directive 5134.9 on June 14, 1994, which established the BMDO as the organizational focal point for U. S. ballistic missile defense efforts. The now preponderant emphasis on developing defenses against theater ballistic missile threats, while also adhering to the ABM Treaty, was reflected in BMDO’s mission, whose characteristics included deploying an effective and rapidly mobile theater missile defense system to protect forward-deployed and expeditionary components of U. S. and allied armed forces; defending the U. S. homeland against limited ballistic missile attacks; demonstrating advanced technology options for enhanced missile defense systems including space-based defenses and associated sensors; making informed decisions on development, production, and deployment of such systems in consultation with U. S. allies; and adhering to existing international agreements and treaty obligations while using non-nuclear weapon technologies (U. S. Department of Defense 1994, 1-2). SDI may have been conceived and initially presented with idealistic fervor, but its inception was driven by profound and substantive dissatisfaction with the military and moral predicament of the United States being unable to defend its population and military interests against hostile ballistic missile attacks. SDI and its successor programs have survived and evolved into contemporary national missile defense programs because of their ability to pragmatically adapt to prevailing political, economic, and military environments facing the United States and its national security interests (Clagett 1996).

ASAT (antisatellite) weapons

Concern over a growing Soviet ASAT program caused the Reagan administration to begin efforts to remove congressional restrictions on testing ASAT capability in space. This concern resulted in the February 6, 1987 issuance of NSDD 258 in which DOD and the Air Force requested funding to conduct relevant research and development efforts in this area and that further study of long-range U. S. ASAT requirements should continue (U. S. National Security Council 2006(a), 255-256).

A final noteworthy Reagan administration space policy document was NSDD 293 on national space policy issued January 5, 1988. This document reaffirmed that the United States was committed to peacefully exploring and using outer space and that peaceful purposes allowed for military and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national security and other goals, that the United States would pursue these military and intelligence activities to support its inherent self-defense rights and defense commitments to allies, that the United States rejected the claims of other nations to sovereignty over space or celestial bodies, that there can be limits on the fundamental right of sovereign nations to acquire data from space, and that the United States considers other national space systems to have the right to pass through and conduct space operations without interference (U. S. National Security Council 2006(b), 13-14).

This document went on to outline four basic DOD space mission areas including space support, force enhancement, space control, and force application. Space support guidelines stressed that military and intelligence space sectors could use manned and un- manned launch systems as determined by specific DOD or intelligence mission requirements. Force enhancement guidelines stressed that DOD would work with the intelligence community to develop, operate, and maintain space systems and develop appropriate plans and structures for meeting the operational requirements of land, sea, and air forces through all conflict levels. Space control guidelines stressed that DOD would develop, operate, and maintain enduring space systems to ensure freedom of action in space and deny such mobility to adversaries, that the United States would develop and deploy a comprehensive ASAT capability including both kinetic and directed energy weapons, and that DOD space programs would explore developing a space assets survivability enhancement program emphasizing long-term planning for future requirements. Where force application was concerned, this document proclaimed that DOD would, consistent with treaty requirements, conduct research, development, and planning to be prepared to acquire and deploy space weapons systems if national security conditions required them (U. S. National Security Council 2006(b), 15-16).

Projecting force from space was a particularly significant new facet of U. S. military space policy asserted in this document. This statement also reflected a belief in many governmental sectors that space was comparable to air, land, and sea war-fighting environments and that space combat operations should be pursued to defend national interests and enhance national security. NSDD 293 culminated a period of significant growth in U. S. military space policy during the Reagan presidency. This administration saw AFSPACOM established in 1982 to consolidate space activities and link space-related research and development with operational space users. Army and Navy space commands were also created during this time and USSPACECOM was established in 1985 as a unified multi – service space command. Additional Reagan administration developments in military space policy included establishing a Space Technology Center at New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base; forming a DOD Space Operations Committee, elevating NORAD’s commander in chief to a four-star position and broadening that position’s space responsibilities; creating a separate Air Force Space Division and establishing a deputy commander for Space Operations; constructing a consolidated Space Operations Center; creating a Directorate for Space Operations in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff/Plans and Operations in Air Force headquarters; establishing SDIO; and establishing a space operations course at the Air Force Institute of Technology (Lambakis 2001, 229-230).

Broader Implications of the Strategic Defense Initiative

Though compelling for its parsimonious logic, mutually assured destruction came at a cost. By holding each other’s population hostage to nuclear annihilation, the superpowers reinforced preexisting ideological and geopolitical hostility. From this angle, the underlying logic of mutual vulnerability violated civilized norms, a necessary evil in the absence of viable policy alternatives such as disarmament or strategic defense. This calculus changed after the Reagan administration took office.

Long before assuming the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan developed an interest in strategic defense, stimulated in part by visits to Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the North American Air Defense Command. Reagan’s distaste for mutually assured destruction, combined with technological advances, convinced him to embark on a new strategic path, against the advice of some of his closest advisors. After deeming mutually assured destruction immoral in a nationally televised address on March 23, 1983, President Reagan challenged the scientific community “to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.” Some critics immediately challenged the president on purely technical grounds, saying it would never work. Others deemed it provocative, believing the Soviets would conclude that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a cover for the United States to achieve a first-strike capability.

Though clearly aspirational in the near term, SDI jarred the Soviets. So did Reagan’s later refusal to consider SDI a bargaining chip at Reykjavik, Iceland, talks in October 1986. After spending decades and hundreds of billions building their land-based ICBM force, Moscow found itself at the wrong end of a cost-imposition strategy. To be sure, the ensuing SDI debate included lots of talk about the potential for the Soviets to use cheap countermeasures to defeat an American missile defense system. Since Reagan’s initial concept of SDI did not specify technologies in advance, these scenarios reflected far more speculation than analysis. This much was clear: The United States changed the strategic debate to favor its own technological potential at the expense of the Soviet Union.

The Reagan administration’s newfound commitment to strategic defense exploited the Soviet’s relative disadvantage in microelectronics and computer technology. The Soviet leadership grasped the implications of this revolution even before Reagan announced his SDI initiative. In the past, the Soviets’ wide-ranging espionage efforts offset some of the US technological advantages, as Soviet agents pilfered certain weapons designs, including, most spectacularly, that of the atomic weapon. But the microelectronics-based revolution was too broad and too deep for the Soviets to steal their way to technological equivalency. Equally problematic, the Soviet’s centralized economic system lacked the ability to create disruptive technologies of its own, let alone match those of the United States. In this case, as it usually does, entrepreneurship handily beat centralized planning in generating technological innovation.

Spanish War of Succession: Iberia

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Batalla de Almansa. Landscape by Filippo Pallotta, figures by Buonaventura Ligli

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Although the war revolved around the question of who would become the next king of Spain, the Iberian Peninsula was not an obvious theater of operations. Philippe had established himself in Spain in 1701, while Louis’ diplomats signed a treaty of friendship with Portugal’s King Pedro II. With no base from which to operate, William had found it expedient to recognize Philippe’s claim to the throne. Even the Grand Alliance treaty made no reference to Charles ascending the Spanish throne; in fact, Article Five only identified Imperial pretensions to Spain’s Italian and Netherlands possessions. The Habsburg court focused on the Italian holdings, and although the Dutch were interested in Mediterranean trade, they were more concerned about other theaters diverting attention from the defense of their southern border.

The allied decision to commit to a ‘No Peace without Spain’ policy was, therefore, made by the English, a decision encouraged by naval strength. England’s goals in the Mediterranean and Iberia were numerous: to protect its Levant trade, threaten Spain’s incoming trade from the Americas, neutralize France’s fleet based at Toulon, buttress Austria in Italy, encourage the defection of France’s allies (Portugal and Savoy), and support uprisings in Bourbon-held territories (Naples, Catalonia, the Balearics and the Cevennes in particular). The Whig Lords had already concluded in 1701 that the only acceptable peace was one that saw Charles sitting on the throne in Madrid.

This maximalist goal would be implicitly accepted for much of the war by both parties. The first attempt to open the theater was a repeat of previous English strategy: an Anglo-Dutch fleet landed forces to capture the Andalusian port of Cadiz in September 1702, hoping to establish a naval base and threaten the colonial trade off-loaded at Seville. Repulsed, they attacked a Spanish bullion fleet that had anchored at Vigo on the Galician coast. The capture of several French men-of-war excited the public back home and illustrated the Royal Navy’s strategic flexibility. The victory, nonetheless, had less effect on the Bourbon war effort, at least in direct attritional terms. More important was the encouragement it gave Pedro to join the Grand Alliance. The resulting Methuen Treaty of 1703 inaugurated an Iberian war, committing the English and Dutch, as well as their Austrian ally, to a land campaign to capture Spain. The English diplomatic team negotiated with Portugal in secret and intentionally excluded the Dutch envoy until the details had already been decided, terms which obligated the English and Dutch to a far larger Iberian commitment than the Dutch had envisioned. A few months after the treaty of alliance was completed, an Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty was signed which promised the English preferential trade with Portugal.

The Portuguese were, however, an unreliable ally. Most towns along the Hispano-Portuguese border were difficult to besiege, while foreign witnesses expressed their amazement at the heat and barrenness of the region. The Spanish nevertheless captured several Portuguese fortresses in 1704, while command disputes and undermanned regiments hindered the allied response. The allies would take several fortresses back in 1705 and even march to Madrid in 1706, but for the rest of the war, the Portuguese front degenerated into inconclusive operations. These early setbacks encouraged the English to look for other fronts from which to attack Philippe, a strategy perfectly suited against a Spanish enemy who in 1703 boasted a negligible navy and a mere 20,000 troops to defend a territory 16 times the size of the Spanish Netherlands with 3,000 miles of coastline. As a result, an August 1704 attack on the poorly prepared town of Gibraltar captured the port within three days. The newly installed garrison, with the support of the Anglo-Dutch fleet, then resisted a subsequent eight-month siege and blockade. The English pillaging of both Port St. Mary (near Cadiz) and Gibraltar, however, poisoned relations with the Andalusians and made it impossible for the allies to support an offensive from Gibraltar.

The year 1704 thus saw a further allied naval attempt to open yet another front by landing 1,600 marines at Barcelona, an area once governed by the allied commander (Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt) and conveniently situated close to both hard-pressed Savoy and rebellious Camisards in south- eastern France. That first effort miscarried, but the next year 10,000 troops captured the Catalonian capital after a siege. Now Charles controlled an independent Spanish base supported by Catalans, and this reinvigorated English hopes for an alternative to operations in the Low Countries. By the end of 1705, the uprising against Philippe had spread to Aragon and Valencia, allowing the allies to garrison fortresses along Spain’s eastern coast. In April 1706 the Bourbons returned to the offensive, besieging Barcelona and drawing supplies from their fleet. After Admiral Leake’s flotilla chased off the French, Philippe withdrew with Charles slowly pursuing him to Madrid. The lack of fortresses and logistical difficulties in Aragon and Castile meant that possession of Madrid was left to those who could gain the support of the Castilian people. Madrid was briefly held by an allied army, but the popular resistance to the presence of heretical northerners, Portuguese foes, Catalan separatists, and plundering troops soon forced the allied army from Castile. In the aftermath, the Duke of Berwick’s army began the slow reconquest of Valencia and Murcia. In early 1707 the battlefield victory at Almansa magnified the Bourbon advantage. This forced the allied field army back to Catalonia, and inaugurated the reconquest of Valencia and Aragon, successes facilitated by the absence of allied fleets which were transporting troops or making new conquests.

By the beginning of 1710, Charles and his polyglot forces found themselves holed up in Catalonia. But two allied victories, precipitated by Louis’ withdrawal of French troops from the peninsula, allowed the allies to march again on Madrid and occupy it. Once again, however, the Castilian populace resisted the foreign claimant, and on the retreat back to Catalonia, the entire English contingent was captured at Brihuega. Suffering from whiplash, the new Tory ministry would gradually abandon its commitment to the theater, seeking to secure its bases at Gibraltar and Port Mahon. The Iberian theater, expected to deliver a quick victory in contrast with the Low Countries, turned into almost as deep a quagmire as Flanders, with worse results.

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This page is dedicated to an overview of a book written by one of club members about the Spanish Campaign of 1710. The book contains details of all the battles and actions in the campaign. It also contain many OOB’s, maps and other material on the armies involved in the campaign.

Gamers, historians and all with an interest in this campaign should find something of interest.

Readers of the book should find the companion work on the whole 1st Peninsula War (1702-1712) also of interest.

POLISH NAVAL AVIATION IN THE 1939 CAMPAIGN

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Tension between Poland and the Third Reich was already clear from the spring of 1939 and the intensity of flying at the Polish-German border rose on both sides. Poland’s access to the coast was of a special nature (see the map). Its peculiar character lay in the fact that Polish territory divided Germany in effect. The Pomeranian ‘corridor’ that belonged to Poland was located between the bulk of Germany and the territory of East Prussia. In fact the German demand for an ex-territorial motorway through Poland, and the Polish refusal, was one of the direct causes of the war.

Morski Dywizjon Lotnicyzy maintained a continuous combat readiness. New recruits were being trained, and then sent on specialist courses. At the same time a new system of long range reconnaissance was developed. It covered the area from the so-called Lawica Siupska in the west, up to the German port of Pilau (Pilawa) in East Prussia. Usually a few flights a day were flown, providing continuous monitoring of German shipping. These missions were flown by Lublin R-XIIIs, which carried out spying missions ‘by the way’. The Germans were not passive, either, frequently violating Polish airspace. In one case the Polish Lublin R-XIII G/hydro no. 714 performed the role of a fighter, successfully chasing away the German LZ-130 airship from Polish territory. In April 1939 the Dywizjon lost a Lublin R-XIII which crashed at Swarzewo. Usually at the beginning of May each year a three-aircraft Pluton Samolotow Towarzyszacych was detached from the unit at Puck, the aircraft being converted to wheeled undercarriage and subsequently moving to Rumia-Zagorze airfield. Another accident occurred during night flying on 19 May 1939 at 23:00 when a crew failed to locate the airfield and crashed into trees. The crew escaped unhurt, but the aircraft was written off. On 7 August 1939 one R-XIII patrolling its assigned sector observed a large passenger ship, identified as Hansesstadt Danzig. The pilot wanted to take a clear picture of the vessel, and approached it at a very low level. During a sharp turn it side-slipped and crashed into the sea. The Dywizjob thus lost the Lublin R-XIII ter/hydro no. 712. The crew was picked up by a boat from the German ship, and subsequently transferred to the police in the Free City of Danzig. Thus the modest inventory of Morski Dywizjon Lotniczy was reduced by two aircraft.

Pilots of the Danzig flying club mobilised on 24 August 1939, formed on the 31st of that month the Pluton Layznikowy Dowodcy L’ldowej Obrony Wybrzeza, led by ppor. rez. pit. Edmund Jereczek. The Pluton took over two civil RWD 13 aircraft, registered as SP-ATB and SP- BML. The Pluton was reinforced by R-XIII G/hydro no. 718 of Morski Dywizjon Lotniczy.

The main base of the naval aviation had been thoroughly reconnoitred by the Germans, so in the event of war it was assumed that the unit would be evacuated to the Hel Peninsula. After 30 August part of the storage facilities and Oddzial Obrony Ladowej moved to HeI. The aircraft stayed at Puck. On the morning of 1 September 1939, about 6:00 a. m., the first German bomber formation arrived over Puck. This consisted of some 20 Heinkel He Ills from KG 1 of Luftflotte 1. They attacked the base of the Dywizjon, the railway station, and a target ship anchored in the Bay of Puck. Four people were killed, and over a dozen wounded in the raid. The Dywizjon commander, kmdr. por. pil. Edward Szystkowski, was among the dead, passing command to kmdr. ppor. pil.. Kazimierz Szalewicz before he died. Immediate evaluation of the flying equipment to Hel was ordered, as there was no anti-aircraft defence left at Puck by that time. The aircraft were anchored along the Peninsula on the Bay side. The aircraft were left in full view, providing an easy target for enemy aircraft. The RWD-17W was an exception, being on land and hidden in woods. The Nikol A-2 amphibian was anchored in the naval port at Hel. The aircraft were only protected by artillery batteries located at the Peninsula. Against total air superiority, in terms of both quantity and quality, operational capabilities of the unit were largely limited even on the first day of the war. The situation grew worse with the death of the commander and the chaos caused by the unit’s evacuation. An idea to bomb the Schleswig Holstein battleship, anchored in Danzig, and shelling the Polish posts at Westerplatte was not put into life as most of the Lublin R-XIIIs were damaged in a raid by two Heinkel He 59s that took place on the evening of 2 September. The following day the Germans resumed raids, and as a result the strafed Lublins were sunk in the coastal shallows. Only the R-XIII G/hydro no. 714 survived the ordeal. The same day the Cant Z 506B left to travel inland, most ground crews of the unit were to fight alongside ground troops that defended the Peninsula. A surviving Lublin R-XIII was used for the first time on the evening of 6 September, when it flew an hour’s reconnaissance flight over the Bay of Gdansk. The crew consisted of por. pil. Jozef Rudzki and por. pil. obs. Zdzislaw Juszczkiewicz. The flight was uneventful, and activity of small enemy naval craft was detected. Following this successful flight the R-XIII no. 714 took off for another the next night. This time the aircraft, flown by the same crew, was armed with six 12.5 kg bombs, with which it would attack the Schleswig Holstein battleship at Danzig. Upon arrival it was found that the ship had left its previous location. The R-XIII crew noticed a night parade organised in Danzig by the Germans to celebrate the victory over the Polish posts at Westerplatte, the Poles attacked, bombing and then strafing the surprised Germans. Subsequently they returned without problem to their temporary base. These were the only combat missions flown by aircraft of Morski Dywizjob Lotniczy in September 1939. The following day the Germans made a revenge attack against Hel with Ju 87s of 4.1186 Tragerstaffel. During the raid the last serviceable R-XIII, no. 714, and the Schreck FBA 17HE2 were destroyed. Thus on 8 September the RWD 17W and Nikol A-2 were the only airworthy machines, with the exception of the aircraft of Pluton Lijcznikowy Dowodcy Lijdowej Obrony Wybrzeza. The above mentioned Pluton was merged into the Kompania Sztabowa on 1 September 1939 by the orders of Dowodca Lijdowej Obrony Wybrzeija, plk. Stanislaw Dijbek. Initially the aircraft of the Pluton were based at the commercial airfield in Rumia. That is where they were caught (together with two ‘Lot’ Polish Airlines aircraft) by the German raid on the first day of the war at 6:00 a. m. After the raid a Lublin R-XIII G/hydro reinforcing the Pluton arrived at Rumia. The raid did not cause major damage, but accelerated departure of the passenger aircraft inland. Another raid carried out by the Germans the same afternoon failed to inflict damage except for bomb craters. After 4 September the anti- aircraft defences left the airfield, so the Pluton commander ordered the observer’s machine gun of the Lublin R-XIII removed and mounted on a fixed base near the hangar. This provisional post shot down a Junkers Ju 87 on one of the following days, its crew becoming prisoners of war. The Pluton still remained unused. On 9 September the situation became difficult, when the airfield area came under direct enemy fire. The Pluton commander, ppor. pil. Edmund Jereczek, unable to contact his HQ decided to evacuate to the reserve airfield at Nowe Obluze north of Gdynia. Using a short- lived counter-attack by the Polish infantry as cover, the pilots started the engines of their aircraft, and took off straight through the open hangar doors (since the first raid on the morning of 1 September 1939 the aircraft were hidden in old flying club hangars at one side of the airfield). On 13 September plk. Dqbek ordered evacuation of both RWD 13s to Sweden. The Lublin R- XIII would fly to Hel with a report. At that time the nearby base at Puck was already in use by German aircraft. Both RWD 13s took off the same day at 12:30. Immediately after take-off the aircraft started to climb through clouds. When passing through these the pilots lost contact. Given this situation each undertook individual attempts to escape. The first RWD 13, SP- BML, flown by ppor. pil. E. Jereczek managed after flying over 450 km landed at Visborglatt on the island of Gotland. The crew was interned, and the aircraft impressed by the Swedes, who used it until 1952. The other RWD 13, SP-ATB, flown by szer. pil. Wadaw Zarudzki was forced to turn back due to problems with the engine. It landed back at Nowe Obluze airfield after an hour’s flight.

The last surviving aircraft. the Lublin R-XIII G/hydro no. 718, was going to fly on 17 September 1939 an evacuation flight and report to Warsaw. Flown by mat Stefan Czerwinski the aircraft took off that day at about 22:00. Soon after take-off the aircraft crashed into the sea for unknown reasons. The pilot was killed, while an unidentified infantry kapitan survived. The RWD 17, SP- BPB, surviving at the Hel Peninsula, was the last aircraft of the Polish aviation at the coast. It crashed on 30 September 1939 in the hands of ppor. pil. Juliusz Bilewicz during an attempt to fly to Sweden.

During the 1939 campaign the Polish naval aviation flew a total of 27 missions, including 3 combat sorties in a combined time of 13 hours 15 minutes. The activity of the naval aircraft was therefore negligible. This was due to several factors. The most important lay in the overwhelming superiority of the German air force, both in quantity and quality. The efforts of the few who continued in their resistance is all the more praiseworthy. Land fighting in defence of the Hel Peninsula involved some 300 soldiers of the Morski Dywizjon Lotniczy at Puck, led by the unit’s officers.

The End of the Fourth Crusade and the Early Years of the Latin Empire, 1204–5 Part I

The story of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204-61) is a convoluted and frustrating tale. The crusade had culminated in Baldwin’s coronation, but the attempt to consolidate this achievement meant years of warfare, brief periods of progress and peace and, for many of the main actors, a violent death. Yet the impact of the events of April 1204 went far beyond the walls of Constantinople. A change of such magnitude in the landscape of the Christian world had enormous consequences for many different peoples, not just those in and around the Byzantine Empire. The papacy, the Crusader States in the Levant, the families and countrymen of the crusaders back in western Europe, the Italian trading cities and the Muslim world: each had to calibrate and assess a political and religious topography that had never previously been conceived of. A full consideration of these issues would, however, fill another book and the main concern here is with the early years of the nascent Latin Empire.

In the first months of his reign Baldwin experienced two unexpected and agonising difficulties: the challenge of an internal rebellion and the tragedy of personal bereavement. After his coronation the new emperor started to allocate Byzantine lands to his followers, although many of these areas remained under hostile control. Baldwin had to defeat several challengers who included: Murtzuphlus, Alexius III, Theodore Lascaris (leader of a group of the Byzantine exiles and brother of Constantine Lascaris, the man elected emperor on the eve of the crusader conquest) and, most seriously of all, the powerful King Johanitza of Bulgaria. Given this formidable array of contenders there was every likelihood of a protracted and bloody fight to extend and sustain Latin rule in Greece, but before beginning this, the emperor had to confront an issue closer to home.

The March Pact of 1204 had stated that the unsuccessful candidate for the imperial throne would receive the Peloponnese peninsula and lands in Asia Minor. Following Baldwin’s coronation, Marquis Boniface wanted to renegotiate this: he wished to exchange the territories originally stipulated for the kingdom of Thessalonica, because the latter lay near the kingdom of Hungary – the royal house of his new wife. Boniface had a further interest in Thessalonica through his deceased brother Renier, who had been granted overlordship of the city by Manuel Comnenus as a part of his marriage gift in 1180. Villehardouin mentioned a ‘serious discussion of the pros and cons’ of the situation before Baldwin agreed to this proposal. Some of the emperor’s men opposed the idea, presumably because they had earmarked it for themselves and viewed it as a better prospect than territory in Asia Minor – land that was under threat from Theodore Lascaris and the Seljuk Turks. Boniface, however, had been the nominal leader of the crusade and, if Baldwin turned him down, he could simply leave for home, thereby depriving the Latins of one of their most powerful nobles. This fear of losing manpower had shaped the crusaders’ pre-election discussions and this same concern now surfaced again. The emperor granted Boniface the kingdom of Thessalonica, and amidst much rejoicing the marquis paid homage for the land.

The Latins’ first aims were to extinguish the threat of Murtzuphlus and to bring western Thrace under their authority. As Baldwin led a large army out from Constantinople, the aged doge and the infirm Louis of Blois, along with Conon of Béthune and Villehardouin, remained to preserve authority on the Bosphorus. The Latins’ initial target was Adrianople, a major city about 100 miles north-west of Constantinople, which soon submitted to an advance force led by Henry of Flanders. Murtzuphlus was known to be in the vicinity, but managed to stay ahead of the Latins to reach the settlement of Mosynopolis, around 160 miles west of Constantinople.

The ruler of this town was Alexius III, who had fled from the crusaders in July 1203. Might the two deposed emperors join forces to confront their mutual enemy? Initial contacts were extremely cordial. Alexius offered to give his daughter in marriage to Murtzuphlus (with whom she was already romantically involved) and suggested a formal alliance.

One day Murtzuphlus and a few companions came into Mosynopolis to dine and bathe. As soon as his principal guest arrived, Alexius took him aside into a private room where his men were waiting. They flung Murtzuphlus to the ground, held him down and tore his eyes out. The gestures of friendship had been a façade because Alexius III had no shred of trust for a man who had so callously murdered a rival, and he now showed similar ruthlessness in eliminating a challenger to his own position. Alexius III had signalled his determination to lead the opposition to the Latins alone. To Villehardouin this brutality was yet more evidence of the inherent duplicity of the Greeks: ‘Judge for yourselves, after hearing of this treachery, whether people who could treat each other with such savage cruelty would be fit to hold lands or would deserve to lose them?’ Once Baldwin heard of this gruesome act he marched towards Mosynopolis as fast as he could, but Alexius III departed and all the people of the region submitted to Latin rule.

At this moment, after years of close and effective co-operation, a serious rift developed between Baldwin and Boniface. Despite the emperor’s promise to give Thessalonica to the marquis, when Boniface asked permission to take control of the region and, at the request of its people, to fight off an incursion from the Bulgarians, Baldwin rejected the idea. The emperor decided to march there and take possession of the lands himself. Boniface was understandably enraged: ‘If you do, I shall not feel you are acting for my good. I must tell you clearly that I shall not go with you, but break with you and your army.’

Villehardouin was perplexed by these developments and wrote how ill-advised this breach was. One senses that his sympathies lay with Boniface and that he felt the emperor had taken bad counsel, perhaps from men who wanted parts of Thessalonica for themselves or who felt that the new emperor should assert his authority over the marquis. Baldwin would achieve the latter goal by going to the lands in person and then publicly bestowing them upon Boniface, rather than letting the marquis assume power by himself.

Furious at such shabby treatment, Boniface stormed away towards Demotika, south-west of Adrianople. Many nobles followed him, including the German contingent and warriors of the standing of Jacques of Avesnes and William of Champlitte. As Baldwin took possession of Thessalonica, Boniface made his displeasure clear: he seized the castle of Demotika from the emperor’s men and laid siege to Adrianople. Messengers rushed to Constantinople to tell Count Louis and Doge Dandolo of these troubling events. The senior crusaders cursed the people who had fomented this rupture, because they feared such divisions might expose them to the loss of all their hard-fought gains. Diplomacy was called for and once again Villehardouin came forward. He approached the marquis ‘as a privileged friend’ and reproached him for acting so rashly. Boniface countered by saying that his behaviour was entirely justified and that he had been grievously wronged. Eventually, Villehardouin persuaded him to place the matter in the hands of the doge, Count Louis, Conon of Béthune and himself. This core of men had been at the heart of the crusade throughout, and it is a mark of the respect in which they were held that Boniface agreed to this idea.

When Baldwin heard that the marquis had besieged Adrianople, his first reaction was one of anger and he wanted to rush to the city and confront him. The situation seemed to be spiralling out of control. Alas! What mischief might have resulted from this discord! If God had not intervened to put things right, it would have meant the ruin of Christendom,’ lamented Villehardouin.6 During the emperor’s stay outside Thessalonica a serious illness had hit the Latin camp. Amongst those who perished were the imperial chancellor, John of Noyon; Peter of Amiens, one of the heroes of the capture of Constantinople; and around 40 other knights. These losses were a grievous blow to the westerners and revealed how easily their numbers could be depleted. Perhaps such sad events brought Baldwin to his senses. When envoys from the crusaders in Constantinople arrived to mediate, some of his nobles decried this as impertinence. Baldwin, however, disagreed and came to see that, in the longer run, he could not alienate the quartet of senior men, as well as Marquis Boniface, and he consented to submit to the judgement of the four nobles.

Back in Constantinople the wise old heads quickly convinced the emperor of his mistake and of the need for reconciliation. Boniface was summoned to the city and many of his friends and allies came to greet him warmly. They organised a conference and decided that Thessalonica and its environs would be given to the marquis as soon as he handed over the castle of Demotika. When this was done, Boniface rode west to take hold of his rightful lands and most people in the region quickly came to recognise his authority.

It was at this point, in September 1204, after the resolution of this wasteful bout of in-fighting, that Villehardouin was able – for the only time in his history – to write of calm in Latin Greece. He said that ‘the land of Constantinople to Salonika [Thessalonica] was at peace. The road from one city to the other was so safe that although it took twelve days to cover the distance between them people were able to come and go as they pleased.’

The westerners began to extend their operations into the Greek islands and across the Bosphorus into Asia Minor. The Venetians took the islands of Corfu and Crete, two valuable and fertile areas in their own right, but also vital staging posts on the sea routes to and from the eastern Mediterranean. Louis of Blois planned the annexation of the duchy of Nicaea, although the count’s health remained poor and he sent the mighty Peter of Bracieux to make war on the Greeks there.

Around this same time the Latins achieved a genuine coup. The blinded Murtzuphlus had managed to escape from Alexius III and was trying to flee into Asia Minor, but informers betrayed his movements and he was captured and brought to Constantinople. The Latins were elated because at last they held the man who had murdered their candidate for the imperial throne, who had directed the fire-ships against them, and whose virulent anti-western invective had caused them so much suffering.

Murtzuphlus knew that he was going to pay a terrible price for his deeds and he could only hope that the westerners would be marginally less cruel than some of his own predecessors had been. In September 1185 Emperor Andronicus had met a particularly grisly fate. At the end of the coup that removed him from power he was seized by the supporters of Isaac Angelos, cast into prison and grotesquely tortured. One eye was gouged out, his teeth torn out, his beard pulled out and his right hand severed. He was paraded through the streets of Constantinople on the back of a mangy camel to face the spiteful savagery of the mob. Some poured human and animal excrement onto him, others pelted him with stones and a prostitute emptied a pot of her urine over his face. In the forum Andronicus was hung upside down and had his genitals hacked off. A few of the crowd thrust swords into his mouth, others between his buttocks, before finally, mercifully, Andronicus expired – surely one of the most public and hideous deaths of the medieval age.8 Could Murtzuphlus hope for greater mercy from the Latin ‘barbarians’?

Some form of hearing or show-trial was held and Murtzuphlus tried to justify the killing of Alexius IV. He claimed that the young emperor was a traitor to his people and that many others had supported his (Murtzuphlus’s) actions. There was, of course, some truth to these arguments, but no heed was paid to the Greek’s desperate pleas and he was sentenced to death. The question remained: how should the captive die?

Baldwin consulted with his nobles. Some recommended that Murtzuphlus should be dragged through the streets, others simply wanted him hanged. It was the doge of Venice who came forward with the solution. He argued that Murtzuphlus was too important a man to be hanged. ‘For a high man, high justice!’ he exclaimed. ‘In this city there are two columns . . . let us make him mount to the top of one of them and then have him thrown to the ground.’ The match of this play on words and the unpleasantness of the proposal pleased everyone and they agreed on death by precipitation. The form of punishment may also have been known to Baldwin and Henry of Flanders because similar executions had taken place earlier in the twelfth century in the city of Bruges.

In November 1204 Murtzuphlus was taken to the column of Theodosius in the Forum of the Bull. As he was led up the narrow steps inside, the baying of the crowd must have been temporarily muffled by the interior of the pillar. He had, of course, seen the column many times and knew where he stood, although now his lack of sight added a further element of hopelessness to his doomed situation.

Emerging from the narrow, cylindrical stairwell into the clear air on the top of the pillar, the defeated emperor must have sensed the space below him. There is no record of any prayers or speeches; one sharp push and he was propelled into the void, where his body fell feet first, accelerating and plummeting headlong, before twisting sideways to thump violently onto the stone ground, a ruptured and shattered sack of flesh and bone. Villehardouin claimed that the decoration of the column included a representation of a falling emperor and marvelled at the coincidence of this with Murtzuphlus’s death.

Within a few weeks the Latins would remove another challenger to their power when Alexius III was captured by Boniface near Thessalonica. The emperor’s scarlet stockings and imperial robes were dispatched to Constantinople to show what had happened and he was imprisoned. Alexius was not a figure so reviled as Murtzuphlus and he was sent to the marquis’s homelands in northern Italy.

Towards the end of 1204 the brief period of calm mentioned by Villehardouin was about to come to a close. Serious opposition to Latin rule began to appear: the Byzantine noble Theodore Lascaris led uprisings in Asia Minor, and in northern Thrace King Johanitza stirred tensions near Philoppopolis. The westerners faced the prospect of having to fight a war on two fronts – a task compounded by the failing health of their leaders. The doge found it difficult to leave Constantinople; Louis of Blois remained ill; and Hugh of Saint-Pol became crippled by gout that meant he could not walk. Fortunately, a large group of crusaders led by Stephen of Perche and Reynald of Montmirail, both cousins of Louis of Blois, arrived from Syria.

Stephen had left the main body of crusaders back in the autumn of 1202 when illness prevented him from embarking at Venice with the main fleet, although he had then chosen to sail to the Holy Land rather than Constantinople. Reynald had taken part in a diplomatic mission to the Levant following the capture of Zara but, contrary to his promise, he had failed to return to attack Byzantium. By late 1204, however, both men wished to assist their fellow-crusaders and perhaps hoped for a share in the spoils of victory.

The coming of Reynald and Stephen was not, however, wholly a cause for celebration: they carried the terrible news that Emperor Baldwin’s wife, Marie, had died of plague in the Holy Land. Her connections with the crusade were tragic and complex. Her brother, Thibaut of Champagne, had been the original choice to lead the expedition before his death. Marie had taken the cross with Baldwin, but could not accompany him because she was pregnant with their second child (they already had an infant daughter, Joan, born in 1199 or early 1200). Once she had given birth to another girl, Marie set off for Marseille, leaving her babies in the care of one of Baldwin’s younger brothers. Sadly, the two girls never laid eyes on either of their parents again. In the spring of 1204 Marie sailed towards Acre, ignorant of her husband’s second attack on Constantinople. Almost immediately after she landed, however, messengers told of his success and summoned her to Constantinople as the empress. Marie was delighted, but before she could begin her journey she fell victim to an outbreak of plague that ravaged the Crusader States at that time. She died in August 1204 and her husband’s envoys brought only a corpse to Constantinople, rather than the emperor’s adored and admired wife. Baldwin’s fidelity and devotion, so praised by Niketas Choniates, were cruelly unrewarded and he was crushed by these mournful tidings.

The End of the Fourth Crusade and the Early Years of the Latin Empire, 1204–5 Part II

The last few months of 1204 and the early months of 1205 saw an exhausting round of conflicts in Asia Minor, the Peloponnese (where Villehardouin’s young nephew fought with distinction) and the lands near Thessalonica. The Greeks realised that the Latins were severely stretched and they proposed an alliance with King Johanitza. They promised to make him emperor, to obey him and to slay all the French and Venetians in the empire. Given the history of serious enmity between the Bulgarians and the Byzantines, this was a strange combination, but it clearly showed Theodore Lascaris’s determination to remove the Latins.

In January 1205 the westerners lost Count Hugh of Saint-Pol who succumbed to gout. He was buried in the church of St George of Mangana in the tomb of Sclerene, an eleventh-century imperial mistress, although soon afterwards his remains were transferred back to northern France and laid to rest in the abbey of Cercamp in his home county.

Around the same time the most serious revolt yet broke out when the key city of Adrianople rose in rebellion. The emperor called his principal advisers together. The doge, Louis of Blois and Baldwin agreed to pull in as many men as possible and to concentrate on this deepening crisis.

As the first contingents arrived from Asia Minor, Baldwin was eager to head towards Adrianople with all possible speed. For the first time in months, Louis of Blois was fit to take his place in the army and together they prepared to set out. Henry of Flanders and many other men were still to come, but Baldwin decided to press on with just 140 knights. On 29 March they reached Adrianople to see banners proclaiming allegiance to King Johanitza fluttering from well-defended walls and towers. Despite their lack of numbers the Latins mounted two attacks on the gates. As Baldwin and Louis directed operations they were joined by another familiar figure from the senior hierarchy of the crusaders. To demonstrate the importance of this campaign a force of Venetian knights had joined the northern Europeans, and at their head was Dandolo himself. The doge had ignored his age and apparent infirmity – he had asked the pope for absolution from his vow to allow him to return home – and insisted on commanding his men on this rare, and crucial, inland expedition.

Johanitza learned of the Latins’ weakness and hurried south to Adrianople with as large a force as he could muster. Alongside his own knights he had a huge group (numbering 14,000, according to Villehardouin) of mounted Cumans, fierce pagan nomads whose endurance and brutality made them formidable opponents.

The Latins struggled to find supplies and spent Easter 1205 desperately foraging for food and trying to build siege engines and dig mines so that they could break into the city. All the while Johanitza moved closer, until on 13 April an advance force of Cumans raided the westerners’ camp. The call to arms was raised and the knights rushed to confront the enemy. The Cumans soon wheeled away and, for once, the Latins’ customary discipline eluded them and they carried on the chase, quickly becoming spread out. The Cumans swiftly turned and unleashed volleys of arrows at their opponents, wounding many of the Latins’ horses, but killing few. The westerners faced about and retreated – it had been a close escape.

The leadership was furious. A meeting was called to demand much tighter control and orders were issued proclaiming that no one should do more than form up in proper order outside the camp. Nobody was to move unless explicitly ordered. The whole army knew that there would be a major battle the following day and the next morning the men said mass and confessed their sins.

In the early afternoon the Cumans charged forward once more. First out of the camp was Count Louis of Blois. Disastrously, he completely ignored the previous night’s agreement and set off in hot pursuit of the enemy, urging Baldwin to follow suit. Perhaps Louis was trying to compensate for his sickness-induced failure to take part in the conquest of Constantinople. If so, his need to perform glorious deeds overcame any sense of discipline at a terrible cost. As the excitement of the pursuit invigorated Louis’s men, they harried the pagan warriors for miles before, inevitably, beginning to lose formation and tire – exactly what their opponents hoped for. As the Cumans had shown only the previous day, their tough nomadic ponies and expert riders were skilled in the art of turning on the retreat. Many, many times crusader armies had been defeated by Turkish or Syrian troops performing just such a manoeuvre and the impetuosity of the count of Blois meant that another force of men was doomed to join that sad list. With the strength of the Latin onslaught hopelessly diluted across a broad front, the Cumans swung around and hurtled back towards the westerners, screaming and firing their arrows.

Shocked by this, some of the less experienced men in the Latin army – probably recruits from Constantinople – began to panic and the line rapidly started to disintegrate. Baldwin had been forced to follow the initial charge; he caught up with the fighting and found himself close to Louis. The count had been badly wounded and was soon knocked from his horse. Amidst the churning frenzy of the conflict the Latin knights plunged towards the stricken noble. They drove the Cumans away from Count Louis and, in the vortex of battle, created a small space sufficient to raise him to his feet and examine his wounds. They begged him to go back to camp because of the severity of his injuries, but he refused: ‘God forbid that I should ever be reproached for flying from the field and abandoning my emperor.’ Regardless of the Latins’ bravery, sheer weight of numbers started to tell and one by one they began to fall. Still, however, Baldwin urged his men on. He swore to fight to the last and defended himself with even greater vigour, but on this occasion chivalric loyalty and knightly prowess were not enough. The Cumans closed in on their prey. Inevitably, perhaps, given the number of battles they had fought, the Latins’ good fortune had finally run out. ‘In the end, since God permits such disasters to occur, the French were defeated,’ mourned Villehardouin. Louis was killed and Baldwin was overcome and taken prisoner. The Cumans slaughtered many other veteran knights and, in one devastating engagement, a large part of the crusader elite was ripped away.

Those who escaped rushed back to the camp where Villehardouin was in charge. By now it was mid-afternoon and he gathered together a force of men to try to halt the Cumans’ pursuit of his ailing colleagues. Their efforts succeeded and the pagans started to drop back in the early evening. Villehardouin found himself the senior surviving French noble. He sent word of the disaster to the Venetians, whose men had not been involved in the day’s conflict. The doge and Geoffrey must have been shattered – their emperor was in captivity and many close friends and brave knights were dead. The only option was to retreat. The canny Dandolo suggested the best way to get a head-start on Johanitza. Even as night fell, he advised Villehardouin to keep his own troops lined up outside the camp and, at last, the Cumans returned to their base on the far side of Adrianople. The doge himself went around the tents, encouraging the Latins to take heart and telling them to put on their armour and wait for orders. When it was completely dark they marched away as quietly as possible. The fact that the Cumans had withdrawn from the field helped the westerners to leave undetected.

Their target was Rodosto, a three-day march away on the coast, but the wounded hampered any quick progress. One group of Lombards split away and managed to reach Constantinople within two days (16 April), where they broke the awful news to Peter Capuano, the papal legate, and Conon of Béthune, who was in charge of the city.

As the defeated troops struggled back towards Rodosto they met some comrades who had come over from Asia Minor and were heading to join the main force. Many of these men, such as Peter of Bracieux, were vassals of Count Louis and were grief-stricken at the loss of their lord. There was little time for mourning, however: Johanitza had marched up to Adrianople, discovered that the Latins had fled and was now in hot pursuit. Villehardouin urged the new arrivals to take over as the rearguard while the wounded and the weary carried on to Rodosto as swiftly as they could. They managed to reach the town in safety, where they encountered Henry of Flanders and more reinforcements. Had the whole force assembled before riding to Adrianople, the outcome of the campaign – assuming greater discipline – might well have been very different. The Latins were now in a deeply perilous position and they made Henry of Flanders regent of the empire, pending his brother’s possible release from captivity. In the meantime, as Johanitza’s men ravaged across the region, almost the entire mainland territory of the Latins went over to the Bulgarian king.

Back at Constantinople the remaining leaders resolved to ask for help from Pope Innocent, from Flanders, France and other countries in the West. In doing so they were following a practice long established by the Christian settlers in the Holy Land. Throughout the twelfth century the settlers in the Levant had turned to their fellow-Catholics in Europe seeking military and financial support. Sometimes they had been rewarded with a new crusade; more usually, however, only small groups of knights responded to these appeals because – excepting the most urgent of occasions, such as the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 – the remainder were too occupied in their own affairs to help. In 1205 the Latins chose the bishop of Soissons and two senior French knights to convey these requests while their colleagues remained at Constantinople in fear of their lives.

Around the same time, Doge Dandolo sent a letter to Pope Innocent asking to be absolved from his pilgrim’s vow to relieve him of the need to journey to Jerusalem. Perhaps the news of the plague that was affecting Acre, coupled with his age and the prospect of another long voyage to the Levant, caused the Venetian to fear for his survival in the next part of the expedition. He may also have wanted to return home to die and to better assure the succession of his son as doge. Dandolo assured the pope that his departure would not affect the presence of the Venetian fleet and insisted that it would continue to serve the crusade as arranged.

The case for recognising Dandolo’s increasing frailty was obvious, yet Innocent politely, but firmly, rejected it. He had abhorred the doge since the siege of Zara and here – gently and, one suspects, with some degree of satisfaction – he turned the other crusader leaders’ praise of the old man back against Dandolo. Surely, Innocent argued, on account of the importance that Emperor Baldwin and his colleagues attached to the doge’s advice, it would not be prudent to approve the request, lest it caused the army going to the Holy Land to fail. Furthermore, he continued, ‘someone or other could fault you’ for having been a crusader who had avenged the injuries done to the Venetians at Zara, but who had not avenged the injuries done to Christ by the enemies of the faith. Innocent intimated, therefore, that he was acting in Dandolo’s own best interests by protecting him from accusations of wrongful motivation and insisting that he stayed on the crusade.

Innocent’s response was, in fact, almost irrelevant because in June 1205 there was yet another heavy – if by now hardly unexpected – blow to the Latin presence in Byzantium when, aged over 90, Dandolo died. He was buried with due honour in the church of Hagia Sophia, where a small memorial to him still stands. The doge was probably the most remarkable of all the crusaders: neither his age nor his blindness prevented his agile mind and unparalleled grasp of strategy from exerting the most powerful influence over the expedition. If his insistence on the campaign at Zara brought him criticism from some quarters, it is noticeable that his standing amongst his fellow-leaders on the crusade remained extremely high; and on many occasions his were the ideas and plans employed by the westerners. His loss meant that only Marquis Boniface (based at Thessalonica), Conon of Béthune, Villehardouin and Henry of Flanders remained alive, and at liberty, from amongst the senior nobility who had set out on the original expedition.

While some knights and nobles from the Fourth Crusade settled in Greece and began to set up flourishing dynasties, many of the other crusaders returned home. A number travelled via the Holy Land where they completed their pilgrimage vows; the others sailed directly back to the West. They had been away for more than three years. Children had grown up, parents and relatives may have died, lordships and abbacies changed hands. The crusaders themselves had endured the most appalling hardships, had seen horrors and wonders beyond imagination, and now they came home, relieved and thankful to have lived through the great ordeal. They carried news of fine deeds, of the forging of new friendships, the loss of companions, the splendour of Constantinople and the perfidy of the Greeks. Many brought back treasure and valuable reliquaries that did much to repay the money they had needed to set out in 1202.

Robert of Clari probably departed for France in the late spring of 1205. The death of his lords, Peter of Amiens (summer 1204) and Hugh of Saint-Pol (March 1205), may well have prompted him to leave shortly before the defeat at Adrianople. Robert brought back various relics, including a part of the True Cross, one of several treasures he gave to his local abbey of Corvey. Aside from this and the writing of his narrative we know nothing more of his fate, other than that he was alive in 1216, the last event mentioned in his work.

For prominent men, such as Bishop Conrad of Halberstadt, there is a record of their journey. Conrad sailed to the Holy Land in August 1204 and his voyage from Constantinople to Tyre took almost seven weeks. Soon after he arrived, the archbishop of Tyre prepared to set sail for Greece, and in the light of Conrad’s status as a bishop, he asked the German to look after his flock during his absence. Conrad gladly agreed and took up residence in the archiepiscopal palace where he consecrated various churchmen and conscientiously oversaw the repair of the city walls after an earthquake. He also toured pilgrimage sites, including the church of Our Lady in Tortosa (a beautiful building that still exists today in southern Syria) where the saint cured him of a bout of fever. The following spring Conrad took leave of the people of the Holy Land and, after a two-month voyage, reached Venice on 28 May 1205. News of his return had been sent ahead and the dean of Halberstadt and others from the church travelled down to Venice to meet their superior. The Venetians also paid Conrad great respect and on the day of Pentecost (29 May) he was led by Renier Dandolo, the vice-doge, and the clergy of Venice to St Mark’s church where they celebrated mass.

Before travelling north to Germany, Conrad visited the pope. He carried with him a letter from King Aimery of Jerusalem (1197–1205) and the churchmen of the Holy Land, which recommended him as a person worthy of apostolic favour. Innocent duly acknowledged this and, fortified by a papal benediction, Conrad began the last leg of his journey. As he approached Halberstadt, Duke Bernhard of Saxony, his nobles and churchmen came out to meet the bishop and celebrate his homecoming. Conrad obviously had a good eye for public display and he arranged for a bier to be carried before him upon which were shown the relics he had taken from Constantinople. The entire local population flocked to see such a great spectacle and all cried out blessings on the man who had brought such valuable articles back to their land.

On 16 August 1205 Conrad was escorted to the doors of the church of St Stephen where the clerics happily sang the antiphon Iustum deduxit Dominus (‘The Lord has led forth the just man). Then Conrad delivered a sermon identifying all of the relics that he had gathered – objects that would now reside in the church. He also proclaimed an annual festival throughout the diocese to honour the day of the relics’ arrival and, in one sense, to commemorate his own achievement. These joyful events offer a glimpse of what some returning crusaders could expect. Not all could boast the reception arranged at Halberstadt, but the process of celebration, reception of relics and then storytelling was, in outline at least, repeated widely across western Europe.

The End of the Fourth Crusade and the Early Years of the Latin Empire, 1204–5 Part III

If the final destiny of some of the crusaders is relatively clear, the fate of the first Latin ruler of Constantinople was not. As we saw above, Emperor Baldwin had been captured by King Johanitza at the Battle of Adrianople in April 1205. Niketas Choniates reported that the prisoner was taken to Tirnovo, Johanitza’s capital, deep in the Balkan mountains, where he was cast into a dungeon with metal bands clamped around his neck. Pope Innocent III wrote to Johanitza to try to convince him to release the emperor, but in vain. By the summer of 1206 it was generally believed that Baldwin was dead, and on 20 August Henry of Flanders was crowned emperor in the Hagia Sophia.

The precise details of his brother’s death are elusive and for that reason generated an intense amount of speculation. Niketas reported that when, in the summer of 1205, one of Johanitza’s Greek allies, Alexander Aspietes, defected to the Latins, the king was thrown into an uncontrollable rage. He ordered Baldwin to be brought before him and commanded that his legs be chopped off at the knees and his arms be severed at the elbows. In this horrifying, crippled condition, the mutilated emperor was cast into a ravine where he lived for three days before expiring. A sanitised confirmation of Baldwin’s fate was to come from Johanitza himself, who replied to Innocent III’s request to free the emperor by writing that this was not possible because the prisoner had died. Unsurprisingly perhaps, he did not provide any further details.

Two further accounts offer even more imaginative versions of the Fleming’s fate. The Greek writer George Akropolites claimed that Johanitza cut off the emperor’s head, hollowed out the skull and used it as a drinking cup. As we saw earlier, Gervaise of Bazoches had claimed the dubious precedent for a crusader’s head becoming a posthumous drinking vessel, a fate also shared by the Antiochene noble, Robert fitz-Fulk the Leper, after he died at the hands of Tughtegin of Damascus in 1119. It is also possible that Johanitza was copying one of his own ancestors who had treated enemies in this way; in any case, Akropolites confirms that Baldwin died in captivity.

Alberic of Trois-Fontaines supplies a different story and one that he himself voiced doubts about, although he still chose to include it in his chronicle. He described how a Flemish priest journeying through Tirnovo had heard that Johanitza’s wife tried to seduce Baldwin and get him to promise to take her away if she would free him. Given Baldwin’s impeccable behaviour thus far, even as a widower, he was unlikely to be tempted by his captor’s wife. When he spurned her, the angry queen told Johanitza that Baldwin had promised to marry her if she helped him to escape. The king was furious and started drinking heavily; then, in his drunken rage, he ordered that Baldwin should be executed and had his corpse thrown to the dogs. The truth of this version may be tenuous, but again the end result was the emperor’s death in captivity.

Baldwin’s disappearance did not just cause problems in Constantinople, but also raised considerable difficulties back in his native Flanders. It seems that some did not believe – or did not choose to believe – that he was dead. The ambiguous status of a prisoner meant that it was hard for families to move on with their lives: some captives died in jail, a few were incarcerated for decades and then returned home, while others simply disappeared. The fact that Count Baldwin had left two infant daughters, and that he ruled over one of the most wealthy and important areas of northern Europe, created conditions tipe for controversy, and various political players tried to exploit the situation for their own ends. The detailed ramifications of this episode are not relevant here, but an historian has drawn attention to a bizarre episode that stemmed from the turmoil in Flanders and the mysterious fate of its crusading emperor.

After Baldwin’s death, his daughter Joan steered the county into a closer relationship with the French crown – a policy opposed by some within Flanders. In 1224 a hermit in the village of Mortaigne, near Tournai, was identified as a crusading companion of Baldwin, but this he denied. Within a year, however, as various nobles and clerics came to see him and talk to him, the man eventually stated that he was the count himself. In Holy Week 1225 he showed scars that the real Baldwin had allegedly possessed. Inconveniently, however, he was about a foot shorter than the count, his local geography was hazy and his French was rather more erratic than people remembered. One writer put these factors down to advancing age and time spent in Greek ptisons. With this flexible approach to memory and physical likeness, the town of Valenciennes received the individual they called ‘emperor’ and he took a ceremonial bath and had a shave. Such was their delight at his ‘reappearance’ that the monks of St John’s abbey kept his whiskers and drank his bathwater.

The man now began to tell of his escape from Johanitza, the tortures that he had endured (which included the loss of some toes), his suffering during several periods of captivity at the hands of Muslims, and his final journey back to the West. Joan of Flanders sent her lover to interview the hermit and he was convinced that the man was her long-lost father. More and more towns came out in support of the returned hero – and thereby created a vehicle to assert Flemish independence from France and to turn against Joan’s rule. She tried to have him discredited: Baldwin’s former chancellor could not recognise him, and the hermit could not remember the old court official. In spite of testimonials by men claiming to have seen Baldwin killed on the battlefield (another error because, as we have seen, all the sources indicated that he was captured), the imposter rallied massive popular support and Joan was forced to flee to Paris. The hermit was taken so seriously that King Henry III of England wrote to him to ask for a renewal of earlier alliances between Flanders and England.

Joan turned to her ally, King Louis VIII of France (1223–6), for help. The king sent his aunt Sibylla, who was also Baldwin’s younger sister, to meet the claimant. She did not recognise the man, but hid this from the hermit and convinced him to meet King Louis. Before this, with his confidence now at a peak, the impostor processed through Flanders dressed as an emperor and with his adherents walking ahead, bearing a cross and banners. He even issued charters, knighted ten men and confirmed documents with a seal that described him as the count of Flanders and Hainault and the emperor of Constantinople. The cities of Lille, Courtrai, Ghent and Bruges all welcomed him as he went on to an audience with the king at Péronne.

Louis received the ‘emperor’ with due courtesy and started to question him. Perhaps the man was by now so assured that he did not anticipate such an interrogation: in any case he was ill-prepared. He could not recall where, and how, he had done homage for Flanders to Louis’s father, King Philip; nor was he able to recollect being knighted, or his marriage to Marie of Champagne. His supporters argued that he refused to respond to such questions out of pride; soon, however, he asked for a rest and a chance to eat. Once he had left, several churchmen rushed forward to claim they recognised the man as a jongleur who had once tried to impersonate Count Louis of Blois, another noble killed on the Fourth Crusade. The bishop of Beauvais claimed to have had the man in his prison; he was a professional hoaxer and a charlatan who had lost his toes to frostbite, rather than torture.

Even as he left the interview chamber the impostor realised that he was in trouble and escaped back to Valenciennes, where many of his baronial supporters abandoned him, although the poor continued to proclaim their loyalty and prepared to resist Joan by force. Next, the hermit fled first towards Germany and then southwards into Burgundy where he was captured and sent to Louis. The French king had found the whole affair at Péronne highly entertaining and passed the prisoner on to Joan with a recommendation that she spare his life. Joan was far less amused and had the hermit tried and condemned to death at Lille. He was made to confess his true identity as a jongleur and put in the pillory between two dogs. He was then tortured, hanged and his body impaled upon a pole surrounded by armed guards. The mob, it seems, still refused to accept that he was not Baldwin and accused Joan of parricide. In modern times, DNA testing means that such a hoax could not hope to succeed for so long. In the thirteenth century the fact that no one had seen Baldwin die, coupled with a strong desire by many nobles and lesser people to find a way to oppose Joan’s pro-French policies, led to the impostor having such a lengthy career. In reality, Baldwin of Constantinople had died thousands of miles from his homeland at the hands of a violent and unforgiving king of Bulgaria.

While the strange tale of the impersonator of Baldwin of Flanders is one legacy of the Fourth Crusade, perhaps the most intriguing and dramatic reactions to the capture of Constantinople belong to Innocent III. Over the course of the campaign he had watched with growing alarm as his great project – for which, as head of the Catholic Church, he bore full spiritual responsibility – had veered from Zara to Corfu and thence to Constantinople. He had seen how his bull of excommunication, the supreme papal sanction, had been cynically suppressed. Yet still he held firm to the hope that the core of the crusaders could extricate themselves from their paralysing debt to the Venetians and somehow get help to the Holy Land. He had tried to create a balance between his role as leader of the Catholic Church and the need to make allowances for the practical demands of the expedition. There had been times, particularly in the case of the Venetians, when he felt that the proper boundaries had been overstepped, yet he recognised the requirement for a degree of flexibility to prevent the whole enterprise from grinding to a halt. Coupled with these competing tensions were the problems of distance and poor communications. At times, therefore, the pope was only the passive recipient of news and, if the crusaders had acted of their own accord, he could only react to, rather than direct, events.

From the start, Innocent had made plain his opposition to any attacks on Christian lands, yet to the modern reader the inclusion of clauses allowing this in conditions of necessity always leaves a slightly ambiguous feel to his pronouncements. He tried to include safeguards concerning the need to secure the permission of his legate before making such moves, but the churchmen on the expedition did, at times, perform in ways that their master found frustrating. Given this fact, as well as the Venetians’ apparent willingness to ignore his threats of excommunication at Zara, it might be thought that creating any potential loophole in the ban on attacking Christian territories left a hostage to fortune.

Such was Innocent’s overpowering obsession with regaining the Holy Land that there is no doubt where his ultimate priorities lay, yet one wonders what conflicting emotions he felt on hearing of the capture of Constantinople. He had castigated the Greeks for their failure to support the crusade back in 1198; he knew that they had broken their promises to the westerners and had murdered their emperor (whose case he had earlier declined to support). He was also a pope who, above all others in the medieval period, had a staggeringly high conception of papal authority that stretched across the ecclesiastical and secular worlds and undoubtedly encompassed Rome’s supremacy over the schismatic Greek Orthodox Church. With the crusaders achieving victory, surely God had ruled on whose cause was right?

In a letter to Emperor Baldwin of 7 November 1204, Innocent expressed his joy at the capture of Constantinople and described it as ‘a magnificent miracle’. In this letter, and one addressed to the clerics with the crusading army (13 November), he portrayed the campaign as God transferring the Byzantine Empire from ‘the proud to the humble, from the disobedient to the obedient, from schismatics to Catholics . . .’; this, he concluded, ‘was done by the Lord and is wondrous in our eyes’. Innocent was delighted and placed the Latin Empire under papal protection – a mark of special favour – and decreed that the task of preserving the newly conquered lands should be rewarded with the remission of sins (the same as for a crusader to the Holy Land). In other words, he harnessed a fundamental element of the crusading concept – the defence of Christian lands – to the immediate priorities of Emperor Baldwin. At this point, perhaps rather naively underestimating the work needed to consolidate the new conquests, the pope still imagined that the crusade would be able to continue onwards to the Levant.

A swathe of letters from early 1205 shows Innocent’s euphoria continuing unabated. He seems to have been totally caught up in this mighty step forward for the Catholic Church. For him, the momentous scale of God’s judgement heralded a Golden Age that would see the liberation of the Holy Land, the return of all schismatic Christians to St Peter’s see, the conversion of many heathens and the salvation of Israel – the last of which would signify the Second Coming and the End of Time. This was a remarkable agenda, but one evidently conceivable within contemporaneous currents in papal thought. The pope continued to profess his pleasure at the events in Constantinople: ‘I am enveloped by great wonder, along with those who are with me, at the novelty of such a miracle that has come to pass in these days.’

So content was Innocent that, for the moment, he overlooked yet another arrogation of papal authority by the Venetians. The March Pact of 1204 had stated that the losing party in the imperial election should have the right to provide a patriarch. Thus it fell to the doge’s churchmen to choose a candidate and they elected Thomas Morosini as their head. Unsurprisingly, as a Byzantine, Niketas Choniates found the presence of this man loathsome and he offered a savage pen-portrait of the Venetian: ‘He was of middle-age and fatter than a hog raised in a pit; his face was clean-shaven, as is the case with the rest of his race, and his chest was plucked smoother than pitchplaster; he wore a ring on his hand, and sometimes he wore leather coverings which were fitted to his fingers.’ Innocent was more concerned with Thomas’s spiritual attributes and acknowledged that he was of good character – notwithstanding the fact that the process outlined in the March Pact was a serious transgression of papal prerogatives. The agreement was, after all, a deal concluded between secular parties (the Venetians and the other crusaders), but the relevant clause here concerned election to one of the five patriarchal seats of the Christian Church, something that those enjoined to the contract had no right to decide. For this reason, Innocent had no hesitation in declaring the election void. Yet such was the pope’s positive mood at this time that he listened to representations from Baldwin, Boniface and the other crusade leaders that emphasised the huge Venetian contribution to the campaign and argued that this merited a proper reward. In response, Innocent conceded that Thomas was indeed a suitable candidate for patriarch, regardless of his improper election. Then, most realistically of all, ‘wishing to show favour to the Venetians in the hope that they might be tied more strongly to the service of the Cross of Christ’, he informed the churchmen in Constantinople that he now properly elected and confirmed Thomas as the first Latin patriarch of Constantinople.

By the middle of 1205, however, events in the Holy Land and Constantinople conspired to darken Pope Innocent’s mood considerably. The situation in the Levant plunged into a new crisis with the death (from a surfeit of fish) of King Aimery of Jerusalem, followed quickly by the demise of his infant son. War between the Christian states of Antioch and Armenia, along with a fear that the Muslims of Egypt and Damascus were poised to break a treaty made with Aimery, created huge anxieties for the papacy. The Franks were vulnerable enough anyway and these calamities threatened their fragile hold on the Syrian coastline.

To compound these troubles Peter Capuano, the papal legate, had left the Holy Land – against Innocent’s wishes – and travelled to Constantinople. There, incredibly, he had released all the westerners from their crusading vows. In other words, they were no longer obligated to go to the eastern Mediterranean, the area that Innocent continued to see as the final destination of the expedition and a region now in urgent need of help. Capuano had, in effect, terminated the Fourth Crusade. His reasoning for this is not explicit, although in the way that he had allowed the expedition to attack Zara in order to preserve its unity, pragmatism was probably at the root of his thoughts. He may have taken the view that the best way to sustain the fledgling Latin Empire was to concentrate the crusaders’ efforts in and around Constantinople and that this, rather than an exodus of men to the Holy Land, was in the best interests of the Church. Whatever Capuano’s intentions were, Pope Innocent was livid. On 12 July 1205 he wrote a stinging rebuke to the legate: ‘We leave it to your judgement as to whether or not it was permissible for you to transform – no, rather to pervert – such a solemn and pious vow.’ Ironically, therefore, an agent of the papacy brought the Fourth Crusade to a close. Innocent’s grand design had been grounded on the shores of the Bosphorus and, in the short term, his hopes of reclaiming Christ’s patrimony were ended.

In conjunction with this disastrous development, the pope’s perception of the capture of Constantinople was changing. Stories concerning the evils perpetrated by the crusaders during the sack of the city were growing ever more unpleasant and troubling. As we saw earlier, the letters sent to Rome by the expedition’s leadership had chosen to pass over the westerners’ brutality. But as the months went by, rumours carried by traders and travellers were supplemented by information from returning crusaders, such as Bishop Conrad of Halberstadt or Bishop Martin of Pairis, and exposed the full horrors of the episode. Innocent was sickened by what he learned – what had seemed a glorious success was in reality a sordid exercise in greed and violence. His letters lamented: ‘By that from which we appeared to have profited up to now we are impoverished, and by that from which we believed we were, above all else, made greater, we are reduced.’ Innocent questioned why the Greek Church might wish to express its devotion to the papacy – as the crusaders so proudly claimed that it would – when it saw in the Latins ‘nothing except an example of affliction and the works of Hell, so that now it rightly detests them more than dogs’. He recounted the crusaders’ merciless slaughter of Christians of all ages, men and women alike, ‘staining with blood Christian swords that should have been used on pagans’. He grimly recited some of the other atrocities: the rape of matrons, virgins, nuns; the sack of the churches and the violation of sacristies and crosses. Initially Innocent seems to have believed that only the imperial treasuries had been looted, but he was horrified to learn of the plunder of churches across the city.

Innocent had also become aware of the Latins’ terrible defeat at Adrianople, yet instead of lamenting the death of so many great knights he described the episode as one of Divine Retribution for the crusaders’ deeds – an uncompromisingly harsh judgement on the loss of many genuinely pious warriors. The pope felt that events of April 1204 damaged future calls for a crusade because those who had been on the campaign would be returning home, dispensed from their vows and laden with spoils.

The details of the sack caused Innocent to express doubts as to the true motives of some of the crusaders. He had already been deeply sceptical of the Venetians’ aims, but now, in a letter to Boniface of Montferrat, he suggested that the marquis had ‘turned away from the purity of your vow when [you] took up arms not against Saracens, but Christians . . . preferring earthly wealth to celestial treasures’. Innocent indicated that ‘it is reputed far and wide’ that the crusaders had behaved disgracefully towards the people and churches of Constantinople.

Yet alongside this anger there was also a sense of puzzlement. As the contemporary churchman and writer Gerald of Wales stated: ‘The judgement of God is never unjust even if it is sometimes hard to understand.’36 The pope struggled to reconcile the divinely approved outcome of the expedition with news of the crusaders’ behaviour during the conquest. In the final analysis Innocent had too much of a pragmatic streak to condemn the crusaders wholeheartedly. He did not, for example, raise the question of excommunicating the army for their deeds, let alone suggest a withdrawal from Byzantium. The pope accepted God’s judgement against ‘an evil people’ (the Greeks) and retreated behind rumination on ‘the incomprehensible ways of God’. He concluded: ‘For who can know the mind of the Lord?’ He also urged Boniface to hold, defend and even extend the lands he now ruled, which shows that Innocent saw the new Latin Empire as a permanent feature of the political and religious landscape. The pope instructed the marquis to do proper penance for his sinful acts and to exert himself for the relief of the Holy Land because ‘through this [Byzantine] land, that [the Holy Land] can be easily recovered’.

If Innocent’s feelings towards the sack of Constantinople now reflected a more accurate sense of what had really taken place, he could not step back from the fact that the Catholic Church had, through its capture of the patriarchal city of Constantinople, derived an enormous (if unforeseen) benefit from the Fourth Crusade. There now remained the need to reinforce and defend this land – yet another onerous responsibility for the head of the Latin Church and one of the most far-reaching consequences of the campaign.