| Stories from the Crusades|
|by Janet Harvey Kelman|
|Brings the Crusades to life through stories of its most famous participants. Relates how Peter the Hermit leads the first crusade; three kings of Europe, King Richard the Lionhearted of England, King Philip of France, and the Emperor Frederick of Germany, join efforts in the third crusade; and King Louis of France launches the last crusade. Ages 9-12 |
HOW FREDERICK CAME TO HIS KINGDOM
 The kingdom of Jerusalem was in dire need of help. But
all the powerful people in Europe were busy fighting
with each other. Once the thought of the Crusades had
been enough to stir every heart, now the great wars had
become the games of children. In the villages, children
played at sieges and battles. The priests still longed
to see the Holy City the centre of a strong kingdom.
They spoke to kings and nobles, and pled with them to
go forth bravely as others had done to win renown in
wars of the Cross. But no one heeded them. They
watched the children playing at war, and the thought
came that if the men would not go, the children might.
It was many years since
 Richard and Philip had set forth, and men had a little
forgotten how hard the way was. Besides, some people
thought that if children left their homes and all the
ease of life to fight in a holy war, God would give
them the strength of men, and would make everything
easy before them. So when the warriors would not
listen, the priests preached to the children. They told
them that a dry pathway would be made through the great
sea, and that the children would have the strength of
heaven in their arms. And the children listened and
followed the preachers. Here and there a lad knew what
the priest meant and believed what he said, and caught
sight of the grand dream that had made Tancred and
Godfrey leave all for Jerusalem so long before. But
most of the children knew but little of what they
wished or of what a Crusade meant. They had played at
battles till they liked nothing else so much, and now
they ran and danced along through the villages of
Europe as merrily as if they had only been going to see
a fair in the
 nearest town. Mothers and fathers pled with them to
stay. They tried to keep them back by force. But they
had only one answer:
When they reached the shore, the waves on the beach
broke against their feet quietly and steadily. No path
opened before them. Those who tried to wade in soon
scrambled back to land. They had neither money nor
food. They were a sorrowful band, and kind people in
Italy drew those who would come into their homes, and
allowed them to grow up amongst their own children. But
there were many who would neither go back to their own
lands nor stay in Italy. They wandered by the shore and
dreamed of the Holy City. Then they heard of ships that
were to sail to the south. The captains offered to
take the little Crusaders to the Holy Land without
payment. The children crowded on to the vessels, and
thought that now at last they were on the way to save
Jerusalem. But ere many days
 had gone by they looked at each other with
sad and frightened faces. The captains were wicked,
cruel men, and the little children were sold as slaves.
Though the children fought no battle, the story of
their sorrows roused Europe to a new Crusade. This time
the armies tried to reach Jerusalem from the South.
They landed in Egypt at the mouth of the Nile, and took
the town of Damietta. But they were not strong enough
to drive the enemy away from their camp beside the
city. Every day the two forces fought with each other.
Besides those who fell in battle, hundreds of warriors
were drowned in the Nile. In each camp envy and spite
were dividing those who ought to have thought only of
the cause for which they fought. Into the midst of all
this hatred a strange figure came. It was the figure
of St. Francis. He was very unlike all others in the
crusading camp, for he did not come to fight, but only
to help and to love. He nursed the sick and wounded by
day and by night, and as he went from tent
 to tent the rough soldiers looked at him with awe. His
body was worn and spent, yet he never showed that he
was tired. It seemed as if he could make himself do
whatever he willed to do, even when it was something
that men thought impossible.
As he went through the camp, he often looked across to
the Saracen tents.
"If they only knew," he thought.
He wished to tell them about Jesus Christ. He did not
think that any one who knew about Him could do anything
but love and serve Him. The longing to tell them grew
so strong that he could not stay. He went alone to the
enemies' camp and entered the sultan's tent. He told
him of Jesus Christ and of the Christian faith, but the
sultan listened carelessly. He was not moved by the
passionate words of St. Francis, who grew more and more
"Test what I say by fire," he said. "Choose the most
faithful follower of your prophet, and he and I will
walk through fire together. Then you will know that the
one whom the
 flames do not hurt is the one that God owns."
The sultan looked at him. He thought that the Christian
monk was mad. He would not hear of sending one of his
men to walk through fire. But Francis tried once more
to win his Church's enemy.
"I will pass alone through the fire," he said, "if you
will promise to worship Christ if I am not burned."
The sultan would not promise, and the Saracen soldiers
shouted, "Behead him, behead him!"
But the sultan was not angry with him. He liked him
because of his courage, and though he would not do what
Francis wished, he offered him many costly gifts.
Francis would not take one. They had no charm for him.
He had vowed to be poor all his life.
He was very sad as he left the camp. He had been so
eager to win the Saracens by love, to believe in
Christ, and they would not even think of what he said
All who joined this Crusade were not
 like Francis in their thoughts and wishes. Frederick,
Emperor of Germany and King of Italy, was very unlike
the gentle monk. He had married the daughter of the
Queen of Jerusalem, and called himself King of
Jerusalem, although his father-in-law was still alive.
He wished to reign over the Holy Land, but he liked the
ease of his court too well to be in haste to fight. He
had friends, too, amongst the Saracens, so though the
Pope bade him set forth on the Crusade, he always found
an excuse for delay. At last he did sail, but he became
ill and landed again in three days.
The Pope was so angry that he preached against him. He
said that the illness was not real.
The clergy and the Pope stood round the altar in the
great cathedral at Rome. The bells clanged above.
Each man except the Pope carried a lighted torch. After
the Pope had spoken of all the wrong things the emperor
had done he paused. Then in the dim light he prayed
that God would curse
 Frederick. As he prayed, the clergy lowered the torches
and dashed out their flames against the stone floor to
show the darkness in which they wished that Frederick's
soul might be.
All this was told to Frederick. He was terribly angry.
He had not cared much about the Crusade before, but now
that the Pope had cursed him, he made up his mind that
come what might he would reign in Jerusalem.
He set sail once more, but while he went slowly with
his heavy war ships towards Acre, a swift ship passed
his fleet. It reached the Holy Land long before he did,
and two monks who had sailed in it, and who had been
sent by the Pope, raised the Christians against him.
When he landed, no welcome waited him, though he had
come to fight for the kingdom of Jerusalem against the
Saracens. Although the knights would not serve under
him, yet nothing could daunt him. He had learned the
language of the Saracens, so when the Christians would
not own him he planned a treaty with their foes.
 The sultan promised to give up Bethlehem, Nazareth, and
the whole of the city of Jerusalem except the part
where the mosque of the prophet had stood for ten
years. But though this pleased the sultan and
Frederick, it did not please any one else. The Saracens
were angry that the Holy City had been given to the
Crusaders. The Pope and the Christians were angry that
the worship of the prophet should have any place within
Jerusalem. The Pope was still more enraged to think
that the man that he had cursed would be king in
For years the Pope had been urging his people to go on
pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Many had hastened to the Holy
Land, and thought gladly now that they could do as they
had vowed, but the Pope sent messages from Rome that no
one who cared for his wishes was even to pray at the
Frederick entered Jerusalem. He passed through empty
streets, for priests and men and women fled from him.
 He marched to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre followed
by a small band of his warriors. He entered the empty
church. He saw that the images of the apostles were
veiled, and that no priest stood by the altar. No sound
of music or of song rose on the air. Only the armour of
the soldiers clanked on the pavement, and the step of
Frederick rang hard and sharp as he strode to the
He lifted the crown that lay there and placed it on his
head, but none save the handful of knights who followed
him owned him King of Jerusalem.
Frederick did not long enjoy even this empty title of
king. He went back to Europe, and ere long Jerusalem
was taken by other victors than either sultan or
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