One of the leaders of the First Crusade (1096-1099) and a participant in the Crusade of 1101.
Hugh was a younger son of Henry I of France (d. 1060) and Anna Yaroslavina of Kiev (d. 1076). He was nicknamed “the Great,” which possibly stems from a Latin mistranslation of the French for “the Younger.” Around 1064 he married Adele of Vermandois (d. 1120) and had twelve children, including Ralph I, count of Vermandois (d. 1152). Hugh’s elder brother King Philip I of France (d. 1108) had been excommunicated at the Council of Autun in 1094 for adultery, a decision confirmed by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095. In July 1096 Hugh took crusading vows, and Philip wrote to Urban II announcing his submission; Hugh’s decision to join the First Crusade appears to have been the result of the political difficulties of his brother.
Hugh’s crusading activity suggests he was a reluctant crusader. He was the first of the crusading princes to depart, leaving in late August 1096. At Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey) he swore an oath of fealty to the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos for any lands the crusaders might gain. He participated in the battle of Dorylaion in July 1097 and the capture of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) in 1098, but then was sent by the crusading leaders to ask Alex- ios to take possession of Antioch. Hugh remained in Constantinople and then returned to France.
Hugh later joined the Aquitanian expedition commanded by Duke William IX on the Crusade of 1101 and fought in the second battle of Herakleia (mod. Eregli, Turkey) around 26 August 1101, where he was injured. Hugh escaped to Tarsos (mod. Tarsus, Turkey), only to die there on 18 October 1101.