Baldwin of Le Bourq accomplished the dream of many of the knights of the First Crusade. He went from being a shirttail relative of Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother, Baldwin I, the heroes of the crusade, to becoming king in his own right, marrying a princess and ruling a realm that had been conquered for the glory of God.
He also was the man who first gave the Temple of Solomon to Hugh de Payns and his knights, thus starting both the reality and the legend of the Templars.
Baldwin was the son of Hugh, count of Rethel, and a cousin of the Lotharingian brothers Eustace, Godfrey, and Baldwin. He went with them on the First Crusade and remained. When Eustace returned home to become count of Boulogne, Godfrey, “the Protector of the Holy Sepulcher,” died and Baldwin became the first king of Jerusalem; their cousin was given the county of Edessa to rule.
When the crusaders arrived, Edessa had only been under Moslem control a short time, and three-quarters of its population was Christian. 1 Most of them were Armenian Monophysites, who were considered heretics by the Greek Orthodox Byzantines2 Thoros, the Orthodox previous ruler of the county, had been deposed by his people shortly after the arrival of the crusaders.3 The Armenians were willing to be ruled by the Western crusaders as long as they could practice their form of Christianity.
Unlike many of the early settlers, Baldwin seems to have adapted to the customs of his new land. He accepted the Armenian patriarch with “all the honors due to his high ecclesiastical dignity, gave him villages, loaded him down with gifts and showed him great friendship.”4 The different Christian sects of the county were allowed to continue their forms of worship, not forced to conform to the Roman rites.
In his desire to assimilate with his new subjects, Baldwin also took an Armenian bride. Her name was Morfia and she was the daughter of Khoril, prince of Melitene. Although it was a politically sound move and she came with an excellent dowry, there also seems to have been genuine affection between Baldwin and Morfia. The rest of the marriages among the noble families of the Latin kingdoms make the steamiest soap operas look tame, but in their years together Baldwin and Morfia provoked no scandal and no talk of divorce. When only daughters were born to them, Baldwin saw no reason why the eldest one shouldn’t inherit Edessa.
When in 1118, Baldwin I, king of Jerusalem, died without an heir, he left no provision for the succession to the throne.5 The patriarch of Jerusalem, Arnulf, called the lords together to decide what to do. Some felt that the king’s last remaining brother, Eustace, should be summoned from Boulogne to take up the kingship. Others felt that it was unsafe to wait for Eustace. The time it would take to send a messenger to Europe and back would leave the kingdom open to anarchy and attack6
Jocelyn of Courtenay, another early crusader, put in a vote for Baldwin of Le Bourq. Baldwin was of the same family as the late king, he had done a good job ruling Edessa, and, even if his children were all girls, he had proved he could produce children. There was still hope for a boy.7
Just by chance (or perhaps not), Baldwin of Le Bourq was visiting Jerusalem at the time. He accepted the nomination and was crowned without delay.
It turned out that Eustace wasn’t thrilled with the idea of taking over the governance of Jerusalem. He had started out for the Holy Land when he heard of his brother’s death, but had only reached Italy when he learned of Baldwin’s coronation. He was apparently quite content to go back to his home in Boulogne.8
Eustace may have realized that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was a prize that would need constant defending. Or he may have remembered what the summer sun in the Near East does to fair northern skin. So Baldwin became the second king of Jerusalem without a serious struggle. He gave Edessa to his supporter Jocelyn of Courtenay9
The new king faced a mountain of problems, both military and economic. The capital city of Jerusalem had been cleared of all non-Christians by the first crusaders and there hadn’t been much interest among the Franks to repopulate it. The city was a place for pilgrims to visit, see the sights, buy some souvenirs, and go home. Baldwin gave concessions to anyone “Latin” who would set up shops and homes. He also gave Syrians, Greeks, and Armenians—everyone except Saracens and Jews—the right of free trade, especially in foodstuffs.10 It worked to some extent, but Jerusalem was important more for its historical and religious connections rather than as a major center of trade. It was the port cities that maintained the crusaders’ hold on the land and most of the Westerners lived along the coast.
Outside of the cities, there was little control over the area. The pilgrims, who brought cash in, were being waylaid on the road by robbers. It was impossible to patrol the whole area between Jerusalem and the port cities. Also, many of the pilgrims couldn’t seem to understand that they couldn’t just trot off to spend a day in Bethlehem or go for a dip in the Jordan without guards. Baldwin had neither the men nor the resources to protect them. And yet, without the pilgrims, Jerusalem could not survive.
It’s not certain whether it was Baldwin or Hugh de Payns who first suggested that a group of knights take on the job of pilgrim herding. 11 In either case, Baldwin was undoubtedly thrilled to turn the problem over to the new Order of knights. The Hospitallershad long been established within Jerusalem to provide shelter and care to the pilgrims, many of whom came with the intention of dying in the Holy Land. But in 1119, when the Templars were founded, the hospital had no military duties. So there was a definite niche for the knights to fill.
King Baldwin gave them the use of a section of the royal palace, thought to be on the site of the Temple of Solomon, and left them to settle in as best they could.
The next few years for Baldwin were spent outside of Jerusalem. He had to mop up after Roger of Antioch decided to ride out and fight the Ortoqid Turk Ilghazi without waiting for reinforcements. The place where Roger realized that he’d made his last mistake was ever after known as the “Field of Blood.”12
Baldwin took over the governance of Antioch until Roger’s heir, Bohemond, could reach adulthood and arrive from his home in Apulia. He also kept an eye on Edessa and when, in 1123, Count Jocelyn was captured by Ilghazi’s nephew Balak, Baldwin rushed north to maintain order in the city. Unfortunately, Baldwin fell into the same trap as Jocelyn had and became Balak’s prisoner in April 1123.
The barons of Jerusalem chose a regent, Eustace de Garnier, lord of Sidon and Caesarea. He held things together quite well until Baldwin was released in 1124, after paying a heavy ransom and giving Balak his five-year-old daughter, Yveta, as a hostage.
During his captivity the city of Tyre was captured from the Turks by the Franks and the Venetians. The unimportance of the Templars at this time is clear from the fact that the treaty was signed by the patriarch of Jerusalem, the archbishop of Caesarea, three other bishops, the abbot of Santa Maria of Josaphat, and the priors of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple of the Lord, and Mout Sion. The master of the Temple isn’t even among the witnesses.13
As soon as he was free, Baldwin needed to reassert his authority. He immediately gathered his troops to fight the Turks in northern Syria. He then attempted to take Damascus, but, like all the crusaders after him, failed.14
In between battles, Baldwin was busy marrying off his daughter, Alice, to the count of Antioch, Bohemond II, now old enough to take charge. His third daughter, Hodierna, was then married to the count of Tripoli. For his eldest daughter, Melisande, Baldwin sent a delegation back to Europe to ask for the hand of the widowed count of Anjou, Fulk. Although there isn’t much mention of the Templars in Jerusalem up to this point, Hugh de Payns and Godfrey of St. Omer, the two first knights of the order, were in the party.15
This mission back to Europe was the turning point for the Templars. Hugh and Godfrey returned with men, money, and papal approval. This last allowed them to collect donations and set up branch houses to manage property. The houses, called preceptories or commanderies, provided horses, fodder and food as well as cash for the constant needs of the front line Templar knights.
The trip was also good public relations for Baldwin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Hugh and Godfrey reminded people of the purpose of the crusades. The Templar knights were not looking for individual wealth or land or political power. The order itself wound up having all three but no one could have foreseen that in 1125, when the men set out. What people in Europe saw were men of good birth who had abandoned their lands and families in order to defend the places where Christ had lived and died for all people. The example of the Templars was a shaming reminder to those who had stayed behind.
When Baldwin II died in August 1131, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was firmly established. His daughter and son-in-law had given him a grandson, the future Baldwin III, who would carry on his line. Construction on the new Church of the Holy Sepulcher had begun. He must have felt that he had given his people a good base to continue expanding the territory.
He may not have considered the Templars one of his major accomplishments but they would outlast the Latin city of Jerusalem by more than a hundred years and their legend would survive long after the mighty castles of the crusaders had become only crumbling piles of stone.
1René Grousset, Histoire des Croisades et du Royanme Franc de Jérusalem (Paris, 1934) p. 388.
2Monophysites: This is a Christian sect that stresses the divine nature of Jesus over the human one. The Armenian Monophysites began in the fifth century and still exist.
3Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades (Oxford University Press, 1988) p. 49.
4Grousset, p. 259 (quoting Matthew of Edessa).
5He had been married twice, once to an Armenian princess whom he had refused to accept because she had been captured for a short time by Moslems and he said she had been raped by them. The second time was to Adelaide of Sicily, whom he repudiated. Mayer says that “to all appearances, the king was homosexual” (p. 71) but he doesn’t say what those appearances were. Baldwin was buried next to his brother, Godfrey.
6 William of Tyre, Chronique ed. R. B. C. Huygens, CCCM 63 (Turnholt, 1986) 12, 3 p. 549.
7Ibid., p. 549 (I added the part about his daughters). William listed the other reasons.
8Ibid., p. 550.
9Grousset, p. 537.
10William of Tyre, p. 565. “Dedit etiam Surianis, Grecis, Armenis et harum cuiuslibet nationum hominibus, Sarracenis etiam nichilominus, liberam potestaem sine exactione aliqua inferendi in sanctam civitatem triticum, ordeum et quodlibet genus qequminus.”
11Please see chapter 1, The Beginning of the Order.
12Mayer, p. 73.
13William of Tyre, 12, 28, p. 581.
14Mayer, pp. 79-80.
15Please see chapter 2, Hugh de Payns.