Post-classical history

Stephen of Blois (d. 1102)

One of the leaders of the First Crusade (1096-1099), who died during the Crusade of 1101.

Stephen (more correctly Stephen-Henry) was born around 1045, a son of Thibaud III, count of Blois and Champagne, whom he succeeded in 1089. It is commonly believed that Stephen was persuaded to take his crusading vows by his wife Adela (d. 1137), daughter of William the Conqueror. While on crusade he wrote three letters to his wife, two of which survive; he emerges from these as an enthusiastic and insightful crusader.

Stephen traveled east with his brother-in-law Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, and with Robert II, count of Flanders. During the siege of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey), however, Stephen deserted from the crusade army (2 June 1098) and returned to France; he became an object of contempt for abandoning his vows and was continually reproached by his wife.

To restore his reputation Stephen joined the Crusade of 1101, traveling out with other northern French nobles, who joined with a force of Lombards in Asia Minor. When they were defeated at the battle of Mersivan in August 1101, Stephen returned to Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey) and eventually sailed to Antioch, where the survivors of the crusade were regrouping. After marching south to Jerusalem, Stephen fought bravely against the Fātimids alongside King Baldwin I at the second battle of Ramla on 17 May 1102 and is widely believed to have died in the fighting, although James Brundage argued in 1960 that there is evidence that Stephen may have been captured and executed at Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel) on 19 May 1102. His third son, Stephen (d. 1154), became king of England in 1135.

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