A military commander in one of the contingents of the so- called People’s Crusades of 1096. Although Walter’s surname has sometimes been translated into English as “the Penniless,” it more probably derives from the village of Boissy-Sans-Avoir, west of Paris.
In the spring of 1096 Walter and his uncle (also called Walter) were inspired by the preaching of Peter the Hermit, but rather than following him, they departed with a separate band of crusaders via Cologne and Hungary, arriving (the first contingent of the People’s Crusades to do so) in Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey) in July 1096. They crossed the Bosporus into Bithynia along with Peter the Hermit’s main army and crusader groups from northern Italy (6 August 1096), and this combined force based itself at the fortress of Kibotos on the Sea of Marmara to await the arrival of further armies. Walter seems to have been recognized as military commander among the French crusaders during Peter’s absence in Constantinople, but he was unable to prevent crusader incursions into the territory of Qilij Arslān I, sultan of Rum, who annihilated a German-Lombard force that had seized a castle called Xerigordon. Walter was killed when, against his counsel, the remaining crusaders at Kibotos marched out to confront the approaching Turkish forces and were rapidly ambushed and routed (October 1096).