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The Story of Old France by  H. A. Guerber
Table of Contents


 

 

THE EFFECT OF THE CRUSADES

THE eight crusade was the last of its kind, for all later crusades were undertaken merely for gain, and not at all in the old religious spirit. Although, with the exception of the first, none of these undertakings proved wholly successful, the crusades brought about many changes for the better in Europe. Not only did they extend people's knowledge, but they furthered commerce, encouraged the navy, and introduced many new customs, new plants, and new goods in the kingdom. Mulberry [136] trees, velvet, silk, linen and cotton goods, windmills, and chickens are a few of the common things which France owes to the crusades.

These expeditions also rid the country of many adventurers, and of most of the undisciplined noblemen, so many of whom perished in foreign lands that very few were left to trouble the public peace. Besides, during the crusades, masters and men so often had to share the same hardships and perils, that they grew to depend more and more upon each other; and, in distance lending enchantment to their homes, they learned to feel much more of a patriotic spirit. Finding, in time of peril, that unity meant strength, the nobles who engaged in the crusades gradually learned to submit to discipline, and instead of fighting independently as before, now began to combine their efforts.

It was during the crusades, and especially at the siege of Antioch,—where such hosts were assembled,—that distinctive signs on arms and banners were first seen. Then, too, family names first came into use, for while baptismal names might do at home, they were not sufficient to distinguish one John, for instance, from another. Thus, John, the son, was distinguished from John, the father, by being called John Johnson; and Thomas the swarthy, and a pale-faced namesake, were called, respectfully, Thomas Brown, and Thomas White. Some were known by the name of the province or town whence they had come, as Godfrey of Bouillon, and others by physical peculiarities, as James Cruikshank (the crooked-legged).

In nearly all the crusades, France bore a prominent part. For that reason the account of the crusades is generally considered part of her history, and France, besides, [137] can claim the honor of having given several kings to Jerusalem.

Philip III.—called the Bold, because when a mere child he boastfully announced that "he was not afraid of the Saracens"—returned home from the fatal eight crusade, bringing with him the coffins of his father, wife, son, brother, and brother-in-law. His first royal act had been to make a treaty with the Bey of Tunis, whereby all Christian captives should be freed, and the war expenses paid. Then, considering it wiser to relinquish all further attempt to carry his father's visionary plans, he returned home, to undertake the government of his realm. By the death of many relatives and subjects at Tunis, his crown estates had been greatly increased, and he soon found himself master, in his own right, of about half the land in all France.

King Philip, having lost his first wife, married a second, but his barber and favorite, becoming jealous of this lady, soon accused her of practicing magic arts, and of having thereby caused the death of her young stepson. The king foolishly listened to these accusations, and the queen might actually have been burned as a witch, had she not been declared innocent by a "wise woman."

Shortly after that, a package of letters was mysteriously brought to the king, who, after reading them, ordered the arrest and execution of the barber, who had hitherto had all his confidence. Although no one ever knew exactly what the papers contained, it was believed that they brought clear proof of this man's guilt, else he would not have been executed so promptly.

Just before the eighth crusade, Charles of Anjou (ăn'joo, [138] or äN-zhoo'), brother of Louis IX., led a French army to the conquest of Sicily and southern Italy, or Na'ples. A few years later his role was interrupted by a terrible massacre of the French troops stationed in Sicily, and as this outbreak took place just as the bells were ringing for evening prayers, it is known as the Sicilian Vespers (1282). Although a few Frenchmen tried to escape by assuming disguises, it is said they were all recognized by being asked to pronounce certain words, which none but Italian natives could utter correctly, thus making new use of an ancient test mentioned in Old Testament history.

After this massacre,—which was laid to the charge of the Spaniards, who also wanted Sicily,—the French king prepared to made an expedition into Spain. But he was taken ill on the way, and died (1285) before he could carry out any of his ambitious plans.


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