Guy de Lusignan finally agreed that if he could retain the crown of Jerusalem during his lifetime he would pass it on to Isabella and Conrad after his death. King Richard, however, wanted no loose ends left behind before he returned to England and demanded a final decision. In 1192 the nobility elected Conrad as the one, true King of Jerusalem; however, he died only a few days later. Guy de Lusignan purchased the island of Cyprus from the Knights Templars and ended his days as master of that land which his descendants carrying on the line for some time. As for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem he had once claimed, without the Holy City upon which it was founded, it slowly withered on the vine though the titled continued to be passed on for some time. King Henry I was elected in 1194 and following him was King Amalric II of Lusignan, brother of Guy, former constable of Jerusalem and fourth husband of Queen Isabella. When the Fourth Crusade, called by the mighty Pope Innocent III, diverted from the Holy Land to Constantinople, he was forced to make peace with the Muslims for five years, possible mostly because Saladin was having family problems to deal with.
Rather than his daughter the Jerusalem nobility elected the daughter of Isabella and Conrad of Montferrat as Queen Mary I of Jerusalem. King Philip Augustus of France was asked to provide a husband for her and his choice was John of Brienne, who was also regent of the Latin Empire in Constantinople and rather reluctant to take the job but finally did so after receiving considerable support from the pope in the hope of initiating another crusade. The resulting Fifth Crusade was launched against Egypt, as Innocent III had intended the fourth to be, but met with defeat and John was forced to return to Europe in the hope of obtaining more foreign assistance. He met Pope Honorius III, the kings of France and England but most significantly the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of the powerful Hohenstaufen family. Frederick II was probably an atheist and no great friend of the Church, but he was a force to be reckoned with and was known as Stupor Mundi; the Amazement of the World. The Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights arranged a marriage with John between his daughter Yolanda and Emperor Frederick II.
To most people in Christendom the whole expedition frankly stunk. Frederick had embarked on a crusade while being an excommunicate, to claim a crown that; following the death of his wife the Queen, he no longer had right to, made a deal with the Muslims and crowned himself without the Patriarch even being present. Later, Frederick sent Field Marshal Richard Filangieri to take over the regency of Jerusalem, but he met with little success and in 1243 the nobles finally declared they had had enough of the regency of the hated Emperor Frederick and declared that Conrad, his young son by Isabella II, should assume the throne. However, King Conrad II proved to be no great improvement. Queen Alix of Cyprus assumed the regency as the nearest relative of Isabella II and Conrad died an excommunicate after invading southern Italy only to be defeated by the Pope who then offered Sicily to the son of the King of England.
|King St Louis IX of France|
Today, the Kingdom of Jerusalem is not very commonly remembered. The Crusades which gave it life tend to be portrayed, nowadays, as a shameful act of aggression on the part of Christians against a peaceful, Muslim population. There were undeniably atrocities on the part of both sides but it should not be forgotten that the Crusades were defensive wars meant to take back lands that were originally Christian and had been conquered by the Muslims coming up from the south out of Arabia. It was a remarkable feat of skill and endurance that during the Middle Ages the armies of Europe were able to travel such distances, sustain armies in inhospitable areas and survive despite being constantly surrounded and outnumbered by massive Muslim forces. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was also extremely tolerant for the time, officially Roman Catholic, but allowing various rites, Eastern Orthodox, Jew and Muslim to all live and practice their religion peacefully. The Crusader states were, in a way, the first effort of European colonization and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem has often been called the purest example of feudalism in action. Its history also dispels a number of myths about the Christendom of the Middle Ages. There was religious tolerance, a very cosmopolitan atmosphere and it was not an aribtrary monarchy but a kingdom where the rule of law was supreme and where what power the king did have was balanced by the High Court as well as the Latin Patriarch who was the second most powerful figure in the country. Orders such as the Knights of St John, the Teutonic Knights and the Knights Templar also provided a greater decentralization of power as these were all independent organizations. It is also noteworthy that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was able to have a larger budget than most European governments of the time and this was possible almost exclusively because of customs duties (managed by Arabic bookkeepers) and caravan tolls rather than on heavy taxation of the populace.
In light of the sad recent history of the Holy Land, it is particularly timely to give the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem a second look. During the era of the kingdom the world saw, however briefly, perhaps the only occasion in which Christian, Jew and Muslim lived together peacefully. We should also remember, and defend against those who would spread disinformation, that the founding of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was not an aggressive action but rather a defensive action taken in response to Muslim aggression. The Christians did not initiate the Crusades but rather they were an effort to defend Christian lands and to take the battle to the enemy. Although the Christians did not hold Jerusalem and its surroundings indefinitely; it is remarkable that they did for so long considered the distances involved from their bases of support in Europe as well as the vast Muslim forces arrayed against them. Many modern minds, a great deal of them propagandists, focus on the real or invented negative aspects of the Crusades and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. However, their arguments should be countered with the truth: that the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded in self defense, not aggression; that it was cosmopolitan and not xenophobic and that it was a kingdom of decentralized power, not one of royal absolutism. For all of these reasons the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem illustrates a great many things we would do well to emulate today.