Post-classical history

Raymond of Poitiers (d. 1149)

Prince of Antioch (1136-1149) as consort of the Princess Constance.

Raymond was the second son of William IX, duke of Aquitaine, himself a notable crusader. In 1133, while still a young man at the court of King Henry I of England, Raymond received an offer from King Fulk of Jerusalem, who was then acting as regent of the principality of Antioch, to marry Constance, the daughter and heiress of Prince Bohemund II (d. 1131). Despite the opposition of Bohemund’s cousin Roger II of Sicily, and his widow, Alice, Raymond made his way via Apulia to Antioch and was invested as prince upon his marriage to Constance in the second half of 1136. Raymond’s accession brought a new southern French influence to the principality, whose ruling class had hitherto been predominantly Norman. As prince he commissioned the earliest literary work in French known to have been composed in Outremer: the poem Les Chétifs, dealing largely with the Crusade of 1101, in which his own father had taken part.

Raymond’s status as an independent ruler was challenged by the Byzantine emperor John II Komnenos, who had sought Constance in marriage for his own son. John swept though Cilicia and laid siege to Antioch in the summer of 1137, reasserting long-standing Byzantine claims to the principality as former Byzantine territory. Raymond was obliged to become John’s vassal, and he agreed to surrender his principality to direct Greek rule in exchange for Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Shaizar if these territories could be conquered from the Muslims. Raymond’s lack of cooperation in the joint Byzantine-Frankish invasion of Muslim territory launched the following year caused the emperor to abandon the siege of Shaizar in frustration and to withdraw to Cilicia. Raymond was able to see off another invasion by John in 1142, and he took the offensive against Byzantine Cilicia the next year. However, the increasing danger posed by the conquests of Zangi, as well as a further Byzantine invasion in 1144, forced Raymond to do homage to John’s successor Manuel I Komnenos at Constantinople.

The arrival of the armies of the Second Crusade in Outremer (1148) brought Raymond great hopes of military assistance, particularly from King Louis VII of France, whose wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was Raymond’s niece. However, he was unable to persuade Louis to join him in an attack on Aleppo, the power base of Nûr al-Din, and relations between the two men were further strained by Raymond’s close relationship with and obvious influence over Eleanor. In consequence Raymond took no part in the attack on Damascus, which the crusade armies and the Franks of Jerusalem chose as their objective in June 1148, and the failure of this enterprise left Antioch as vulnerable as before. Raymond was killed in battle on 29 June 1149 while attempting to relieve the fortress of Inab from the forces of Nûr al-Din, who had the prince’s skull mounted as a trophy for the caliph at Baghdad.

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