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The Crusaders by  Alfred J. Church

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HOW DUKE GODFREY WAS CHOSEN KING, AND OF HIS END

[94] THE first care of the leaders of the host was to make the city sure, setting a watch that the gates should be duly kept. For though all the Turks within the city had been slain, there were yet many without, and the Christians were alone in the land, with enemies on every side of them. This done, when also they had taken a little rest and food, of which things they had, as may easily be believed, no small need, they put aside their arms and armour and went to the holy places, and chief of all to the Holy Sepulchre. With many tears they went, though they wept for joy rather than for grief. Nor would I deny that they had true joy in their hearts, aye, and some sorrow for their sins. It was, indeed, a great day, and there was scarce a man but was carried out of himself. 'Twas out of this exaltation of spirit, I doubt [95] not, that there was spread abroad among the people a marvellous report to this effect; that many soldiers and pilgrims, that had perished on the way in battle or by disease, appeared unto their comrades in the streets of the Holy City. How this may have been I know not. None such appeared unto me, but then it was not to be looked for that they should. But the temper of men's minds was such in those days that there was nothing, however marvellous, that might not readily be believed.

Provision having been made for the safe keeping of the city, the next care was that it should be defended from a danger that was more to be dreaded than any force or stratagem of the enemy, to wit, pestilence. So the pilgrims gathered together out of the streets and the houses and out of the Temple, for here there had been a very great slaughter, all the dead bodies; these they buried in pits without the walls. Also they cleansed the churches, and set all things in the city in order.


[Illustration]

DUKE GODFREY AND THE LEADERS OF THE HOST IN THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.

On the eighth day after the taking of the city the nobles met together for the choosing of a king. They inquired with no small pains into the life and conversation of all those that seemed to be likeliest for this honour, calling as [96] witnesses them who seemed the best able to speak, to whom also they gave a pledge of safety that their truth-telling should not turn to their hurt. What they heard about others I know not, and, indeed, all that had part or lot in this inquiry were bound under oath to secrecy; but it was credibly reported that no fault of life and manners was alleged against Duke Godfrey, save only that he was over fond of church-going, practising this to the neglect of other business, and also that he spent more of his substance than was convenient on the adorning of the churches wherein he was wont to worship. That he was a skilful man-at-arms and a wise counsellor all knew, for they had seen it by proofs without number, nor did they forget that when he was absent the affairs of the army seemed to languish, and that they revived when he was present. Some, indeed, favoured the Earl of Toulouse; but they were not earnest for him. So, without more delay than of a few hours or so, Duke Godfrey was chosen king, to the great delight of the common folk, and, I do believe, of the captains also. It may be some of them desired to have the dignity for themselves, but there was scarce one of them but would have put this same duke in the second [97] place. And as in mind and temper, so in look and to the eyes of men he was right worthy of his place, for he was of a stately presence and strong beyond that which is common among men. I myself saw him in a certain battle cleave a Turk in twain from the crown of his head to his saddle. Many tales were told of his strength and courage; many also of his liberal soul. One of these I will relate even as it was related to me, by one that had followed him from his native country.

A certain noble of that same land sued the Duke Godfrey at law before the emperor, claiming for himself a great portion of the land which had come to the duke by inheritance. The pleading of this suit took a long time, and the witnesses that were called did not agree, some affirming one thing on oath and others another; also the lawyers differed from each other. At last the emperor, being greatly wearied of the matter, said, "Let this suit be judged by wager of battle." And the two willingly agreed, for both were great warriors, and had never been vanquished by any man. So, on a certain day, when the lists had been set, and the emperor himself sat to see the trial, the two fought together. After a while, when many blows had been given and re- [98] ceived, the duke smote his adversary so hard a stroke that his sword was broken in pieces, there remaining in his hand no more than a single foot of the blade together with the hilt. When they that looked on saw this thing, they would have had the emperor stay the fight. To them the emperor gladly consented, having a right good opinion of the two, and being loath that either should suffer hurt. But the duke would have no peace. "Hinder me not," he cried, "this is my sword; so long as I am content with it, no man may stay me from using it." Now the adversary, having his sword whole, made no doubt but that he could easily overpower the duke, and so, maybe, bore himself less heedfully than was fitting. Certain it is that the duke took him unawares, and dealt him so mighty a blow with the pommel of his sword on the left temple of his head that he fell from his horse and lay as a dead man on the ground, moving neither hand nor foot. When the duke saw this, he lighted down from his horse and took the sword out of his adversary's hand. Then he stood before the emperor, having the sword in his hand, and said, "Now, my lord, I am willing to have peace; furthermore, I grant all that this my cousin has sued for," for the man was near of [99] kin to him. "This I would not do of constraint; but now, having cleared my honour, I fully grant it. And, indeed, it pleases me well that I may have my kinsman alive though it be by the loss of my land."

When the duke was made king, the chiefs and nobles would have had him crowned, as is the custom of such as are advanced to this dignity or succeed to it by inheritance. But he would have none of such honours. "Nay," said he, "in this Holy City where our Saviour Christ was content to wear a crown of thorns I will not wear a crown of gold." So humble of heart was he. To this it agrees that when the messengers of a certain king came to him bearing gifts, they found him in plain garb, sitting on the ground, and could scarce believe that this was the King of Jerusalem, save that they saw how mighty he was to look upon and of how majestic a countenance.

There is no need to tell of all the labours and trouble that came upon Duke Godfrey after that he was thus made king. Truly he also had a crown of thorns, for he had no rest for body or soul so long as he held the kingdom. But this holding was for a very short space. After he had delivered the city, not once or twice only, from great dangers, he was [100] moved to make an expedition beyond Jordan into the of Arabia. And this he did by reason of his poverty, for there came no revenue to him, so that he could not pay his soldiers, nor yet give them victual. In Arabia he gathered and a hire great spoil of gold and silver, and of kine and sheep. Also, some of the princes of the land gave him many gifts. I have heard it said that one of these princes came into the camp and being hospitably received made bold to ask the king to show him some token of his strength, "for," said he, "it has been told to me that there is no man in the world that can strike so heavy a blow." "Nay," said the king, "that may hardly be true. I doubt not that there are many better than I. Nevertheless as King David by the help of his God could break bow of steel and leap over a wall, so can I strike a blow." Thereupon he took out his sword, and with a single stroke shore off the head of a camel that stood by.

After this the prince could not make enough of the king, sending him gifts of gold and jewels and victual without end. But it was an ill journey for him and for his people, for as he was on his way returning to Jerusalem he fell sick of a fever of which after not many days, he died. And yet when 'tis said that he [101] died of the fever this is but half the truth. For he was worn out both by great troubles of mind and by many ailments of body, for he was wont to spare neither the one nor the other, so that he did his whole duty both to God and to man. I do not doubt that if it had been possible for him to go back to his home so soon as the city was taken he might have lived even to old age, for he was scarce fifty years when he died. But God would have it otherwise, constraining him, if I may so say, to take the kingdom of Jerusalem, than which there was not, I do verily believe, a more uneasy place in the whole world. This kingdom he held for a year less by four days. They buried him with much lamentation and mourning, not of the Christians only but of all that dwelt in the city, whether Jews or Mahomedans. And the place which they chose for his grave was the Mount Calvary.


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