Post-classical history

Conrad of Montferrat (d. 1192)

Ruler of the kingdom of Jerusalem (1192) as consort to Queen Isabella I. Conrad was born around 1146, the son of William V the Old, marquis of Montferrat. He was a cousin of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and King Louis VII of France.

Conrad’s eldest brother, William Longsword, and their father were involved in the affairs of Outremer during the reign of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem (1174-1185). Conrad spent some time in Byzantine service, but after the Frankish defeat at Hattin on 4 July 1187 he went to Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon), the last stronghold of the kingdom of Jerusalem. In the absence of King Guy, who was a captive of Saladin, and Queen Sibyl, who was still in Jerusalem, Conrad successfully organized the defense of Tyre, which later became the springboard for the reconquest of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) during the Third Crusade (1189-1192). The fierce power struggle between Conrad and King Guy, released by Saladin in the summer of 1188, was stimulated by the deep cleavage within the higher nobility and exacerbated by the rivalry between Genoa and Pisa. The unexpected death of Queen Sibyl and her two small daughters in the autumn of 1190 deprived Guy of his legitimate standing as king of Jerusalem. Shortly afterward Conrad married Isabella (I), Sibyl’s younger sister and heiress to the throne, and thus became titular king. After the reconquest of Acre, a gathering of barons and knights convened at Ascalon by King Richard I of England recognized Conrad as king early in April 1192, yet later that month he was stabbed in Tyre by an Ismâfilï Assassin and died before being crowned.

Conrad was praised by contemporaries for his defense of Tyre and was depicted by some troubadours as the embodiment of true knightly values. A shrewd and determined statesman, he issued generous charters of privilege to the major maritime powers of the West, by which he obtained their military assistance and political support. He apparently did not intend to honor all his promises, yet his legal and fiscal concessions created some weighty precedents, with which his successors had to cope.

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