Post-classical history

Henry of Champagne (1166-1197)

Ruler of the kingdom of Jerusalem (1192-1197) as consort of Queen Isabella I.

The eldest son of Henry I “the Liberal,” count of Champagne, Henry (II) succeeded to his father’s lands in 1181. In 1190 he arrived at Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) at the head of a large contingent of French knights to join the Third Crusade (1189-1192). As a nephew of both Richard I of England and Philip II of France, Henry was one of the crusade army’s early leaders.

Henry played a prominent part in the siege of Acre (1190-1191) and led a contingent on campaign with Richard. On the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat (April 1192), who had just been recognized as king of Jerusalem, Henry was asked to marry his widow, Queen Isabella I, and rule the kingdom. With King Richard’s consent, and having been persuaded that the English monarch would return to Outremer with reinforcements, he agreed. Henry was de facto ruler of the realm but was never crowned. He styled himself count palatine of Troyes and only once (1196) used the title “lord of the kingdom of Jerusalem.”

Henry was not associated with the discord that had prevailed within the kingdom during the 1180s and secured peace. He concluded a treaty with Cyprus intended to safeguard the future ofOutremer. It included an attempt to unite the two ruling houses through the marriage of Henry’s three daughters to the three sons of Aimery of Cyprus. Henry also reconciled Bohemund III of Antioch with Leon II of Armenia, used his revenues from Champagne for the benefit of the kingdom, and extended the truce with the Muslims. When the truce expired in 1197, Henry mustered his troops to defend Jaffa (mod. Tel Aviv-Yafo), but he died on 10 September, having fallen from a window when the railings he was leaning upon broke.

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