Fulk, count of Anjou, came from a family that was both militant and eccentric. His father, Fulk Rechin, was count of Anjou and Touraine. Fulk’s mother, Bertrada, was the scandal of Christendom. When her children were still quite young, she ran off with Philip I, king of France, who dumped his first wife for her. No amount of threats, not even excommunication, could separate the couple. They had three children together, including a daughter, Cecilia, who married Tancred, count of Tripoli, and would have many encounters with her half brother when he became king of Jerusalem.1
Unlike his parents, Fulk had a fairly quiet and apparently happy first marriage to Eremberga, the heiress to the county of Maine. They had four children: Geoffrey, Hélie, Sybilla, and Matilda. Before Fulk left for Jerusalem, he saw to it that Geoffrey married the daughter of Henry I of England. Sybilla had already married Thierry, count of Flanders. Matilda, who had briefly been married to Henry, crown prince of England, was widowed when he drowned in the disaster of the White Ship. She entered the convent of Fontevraud.2 Hélie seems to have died young. These family connections were to be important to the Latin kingdoms for the next three generations.
In his mid thirties, after the death of his wife, Fulk went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he first encountered the Templars. He was very impressed with them.
Fulk, count of Anjou . . . became very anxious to seek reconciliation with God and procure his salvation. He devoted himself to penance for the crimes he had committed and . . . , he set out for Jerusalem, where he remained for some time, attached to the Knights of the Temple. When he returned home, with their consent, he voluntarily became their tributary, and paid out to them thirty livres a year in the money of Anjou. So by divine inspiration the noble lord provided an annual revenue for the admirable knights who devote their lives to the bodily and spiritual services of God, and rejecting all the things of this world, face martyrdom daily.3
Fulk was in his late thirties when the embassy came from Baldwin II asking him to leave his home and children for the crown of Jerusalem and the hand of its eighteen-year-old heiress.
It is not recorded how long it took Fulk to decide.
He left the county in the hands of his son, Geoffrey, a year younger than his new fiancée. Geoffrey’s wife, Matilda, was eight years older than her new husband and had already been an empress. The young count may have been envious of his father’s luck.
One of the men who brought the invitation to the count was Hugh de Payns, whom Fulk must have known well from his stay with the Templars in Jerusalem. Hugh was at the beginning of his tour of England, Flanders, and France in a search for support for the new order. The knowledge that the soon-to-be king of Jerusalem was already in favor of the Templars could only have encouraged Hugh.
Fulk confirmed his donation to the order before he went to Jerusalem to marry Melisande.4
Melisande was probably aware of who Fulk was, even though she had been about ten when he had lived in Jerusalem. Whatever her private feelings were, she seems not to have protested the match. William of Tyre writes, “Fulk was a redhead . . . faithful, gentle, and unlike most of that coloring, affable, kind and merciful.”5Perhaps kindness won out over looks. The two were married as soon as Fulk arrived. As a wedding present, Baldwin gave them the towns of Tyre and Acre. They repaid him by producing a son almost immediately.6
Fulk was apparently content to hold the title of count until the death of Baldwin on August 21, 1131. Three weeks later he and Melisande were crowned king and queen of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.7
One of the first tasks before Fulk was to deal with his sister-in-law Alice, who was determined to rule Antioch for her young daughter. One of her supporters was the count of Tripoli, Pons, who just happened to be married to Cecilia, Fulk’s half sister by his mother and King Philip of France. So his first battle was not fought against Saracens but family.8
Fulk won the battle and also managed to patch up a peace with the count and settle affairs in Antioch under a constable, although Alice was not a woman to stay down for long.
In 1133, Fulk heard that the Turks had invaded from Persia and were attacking Antioch. He was on his way to help them when he was met by Cecilia. She had come to beg him to come to the aid of her husband, who was being besieged in his castle of Montferrand by Zengi, the atabeg of Aleppo. Fulk apparently had no grudge against his sister for the attack two years before and detoured to help Pons. Now, William of Tyre says that Zengi learned that Fulk and his army were approaching and abandoned the siege.9However, Ibn al-Qalanisi reports that Zengi marched out to meet Fulk’s army and nearly beat them, but they retreated.10 At any rate, Pons and his men were rescued. The Templars are said to have been in the army at that time although they are not singled out for any important roles.
Fulk spent a lot of his time over the next year or so fending off attacks on the city of Antioch. His wife seemed to be keeping things running well enough in Jerusalem, but the nobles of Antioch really wanted their own ruler. The rightful heir, Constance, was still only nine years old, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
After many secret meetings between the king and the nobles, as well as the patriarch of Antioch, it was decided to send for Raymond, the brother of William, duke of Aquitaine. Raymond was about twenty and not yet attached. So a Hospitaller named Jeberrus was sent with letters asking Raymond how he felt about marrying a little girl and becoming lord of Antioch.11
Raymond thought it would be fine. According to law, the marriage couldn’t be consummated before Constance was twelve but he must have thought the title was worth the inconvenience. Just to be sure that Constance’s mother, Alice, didn’t find out about these plans, the patriarch apparently convinced her that Raymond was coming to marry her.12 You can imagine her feelings when Raymond arrived and was very hastily married to little Constance.
Fulk, however, was pleased to turn the military protection of Antioch over to someone else. He was learning that the politics of the Holy Land were not very different from those of Europe. He was also learning that the Moslem states were not alike, nor were they unified. In 1129, he was able to acquire the town of Banyas from the Assassins. They preferred paying tribute to the Franks to being at the mercy of Zengi.13 He also established a treaty with Damascus to fight off the same Zengi who had come from Mosul to rule Aleppo and was rapidly carving out territory for himself from both the lands of the Franks and those of sects of Islam that did not agree with his.14
Fulk spent most of his time as king in warfare of one kind or another, against Moslems, Greeks, and relatives. He certainly must have used the Templars to help him, but there is almost no mention of them in surviving records. We are not even sure how Hugh de Payns died, although we know that it was in May 1135 or 1136.
Hugh’s successor, Robert of Craon, had been a member of Fulk’s entourage in Anjou. He witnessed a charter of Fulk’s in 1127, in the Touraine,15 but he seems to have been one of those who stayed in Europe to help with the establishment of local commanderies, for he was in France in 1133, where he is listed as seneschal of the order.16He must have been in France when he was elected Grand Master, for he was still accepting donations there in 1136.17He was in the East by 1139. He was also at the council of war held near Acre in 1148, long after Fulk’s death.18
It may be that in the 1140s the number of Templars still wasn’t very great. Even though membership had grown considerably since the Council of Troyes there still weren’t enough men willing to become fighting monks. But it’s more likely that there once was more information on the Templars during Fulk’s reign that might have told us about the activities of the Templars. Time and war have destroyed many of the documents that the Templars in the Latin kingdoms undoubtedly preserved, as well as the royal records.
One indication that the Templars were earning respect in their chosen profession comes from an account of a siege in 1139. Robert, master of the Temple, fought under Bernard Vacher, one of the king’s knights. They were chasing some Turks who had attacked a village. Thinking they had the enemy on the run, the soldiers “wandered off in all directions, shamelessly hunting out spoils of war instead of pursuing the enemy.”19
The Turks took advantage of this and returned to the attack. Some of the knights hastily tried to organize a defense but the lines broke. The Christians were chased through rocky and harsh terrain outside of Hebron. Among the dead was “the most excellent man, a brother of the knights of the Temple, Odo of Montfaucon. His death brought tears and sorrow to all.”20
While this defeat doesn’t speak well for the crusaders, it is clear that the Templars were not in charge of the knights and they are not mentioned as being among those out looking for booty. The fact that Odo was considered an example of a brave and worthy knight is a sign that the Templars were becoming known.
So we can only assume that King Fulk trusted his former follower, Robert, as Grand Master of the Temple. He needed all the help he could get to maintain a semblance of order in his chaotic realm.
Fulk did not die in battle, as might have been expected. He was out riding with Melisande near Acre one fine autumn day when someone spotted a rabbit running across the fields. In a spurt of boyish zeal, the king joined in the chase. His horse threw him and he was then hit in the head by the saddle. He lay in a coma for four days before dying.21
Fulk’s legacy to Jerusalem was a sound defense, supported by the Templars. He also left two children who would carry on his line and add to the incredibly complex web of family ties that caused conflicts even the Templars could not avoid.
Les Crandes Chroniques de France Vol.V, ed. Jules Viard (Paris, 1928) pp. 82-84.
Alfred Richard, Histoire des Comptes de Poitou t. IV 1086-1137 (Pau: Princi Negue, 2004) p. 163.
Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis Vol. VI, ed. and tr. Marjorie Chibnall (Oxford: Medieval Texts, Oxford University Press, 1978) Book XII 29 (pp. 308-311). “Fulco Andegavorun comes postquam pacem cum Regis Anglorum pepigit, . . . desalute sollicius Deo nichilominus reconciliari peroptauit. Scelrum ergo fecerat penitentiam agerestuduit, . . . Jerusalem perrexit, ibique militibus Templi associates aliquandiu permansit. Inde cum licencia eorum regressus trributarius illis ultro factus est. Sic venerandis militibus quorum vita corpore et mente Deo militat, et comtemptis omnibus mundanis sese martirio cotidie preparat, nobilis heros annum vectigal divino instinctu arogavit.”
Marquis d’Albon, Cartulaire Général de l’Ordre du Temple 1119?-1150 (Paris, 1913) pp. 5-6, no. 7.
William of Tyre, Chronique, ed. R. B. C. Huygens (Turnholt, 1986) CCCM LXIIIA Book 14, 1, p. 631. “Erat autem Fulco vir rufus . . . fidelis, mansuetus et contra leges illius coloris affabilis, benignus et misericors.”
The marriage was in 1129. Baldwin III was born in early 1130.
William of Tyre, p. 634.
Ibid., pp. 635-37.
Ibid., p. 638.
Ibn Al-Qalanisi, The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades, tr. H. A. R. Gibb (London, 1932) p. 222.
William of Tyre, pp. 640-41.
Ibid., p. 641. Since Alice was still in her early twenties, this wasn’t that unlikely. But she wasn’t the heiress.
Please see chapter 20, The Assassins.
René Grousset, Histoire des Croisades et du Royaume Franc de Jérsualem Vol. II (Paris, 1935) pp. 21-22; Ibn al-Qalanisi, pp. 259-60.
Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood (Cambridge, 1994) p. 8.
Marquis d’Albon, Cartulaire Général de l’Ordre du Temple 1119?-1150 (Paris, 1913) p. 44, charter no. 61.
Richard, p. 163.
Barber, p. 35.
William of Tyre, p. 683, “sed ad diversa incaute nimis tendentes, fugientium spoils magis quam stragi hosium insistebant imprudenter.”
Ibid., “vir eximus, frater militia Templi Odo de Monte Falconis, omes morte sua merore et gemitu conficiens.”
William of Tyre, pp. 710-11.