Post-classical history

Saladin Tithe

A tax levied by Henry II, king of England, and Philip II Augustus, king of France, on their respective dominions in order to finance a crusade intended to recover the Christian possessions in the Holy Land overrun by Saladin, ruler of Egypt and Muslim Syria, in the aftermath of the battle of Hattin (4 July 1187).

The tax was proclaimed when the two kings took the cross together in January 1188 and fixed at the rate of one-tenth of the value of revenues and movable goods, to be paid by all those not going on crusade, although the assessment excluded certain categories of property such as precious stones, as well as possessions required for professional purposes by knights (such as horses and weaponry) and clerics (such as books and vestments). Crusaders were exempt from the tax, and were entitled to receive the tithes paid by their vassals and tenants.

The tithe aroused much resentment in both realms, particularly as it was feared that it would create a precedent for future taxation. In Philip’s lands it was collected by lay and ecclesiastical lords, with patchy results. Opposition was so great that Philip eventually suspended collection, rescinded the tithe on movables, and promised never to levy such a tax again. In England and in Henry’s lands in France, collection of the tax was carried out by a system of committees and juries at parish level with the participation of royal officials, and those who failed to pay were threatened with excommunication. The taxes raised from Henry’s dominions went to fund the expedition of his son Richard the Lionheart in the Third Crusade (1189-1192), and the more effective collection in the Angevin realm was one of the reasons why Richard’s expedition was better financed than that of Philip.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!