| 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 THE KINGS FOUGHT FOR GLORY AND NOT FOR CHRIST
 After Godfrey died many kings reigned in Jerusalem, but
amongst them all there was not one who was like him.
The head of the Christian Church in the Holy Land was
called the Patriarch of Jerusalem. There was great
power in his hands, and often he and the king were
enemies. Instead of trying to help one another to make
the Christian power strong, they used each to try to
get all the power away from the other. If it had not
been for two great orders of knights, the Moslems would
soon have swept the new kingdom away.
Long before the first Crusade, a hospice had been built
near the Holy Sepulchre. The Brothers who lived there
 pilgrims and were kind to the poor. At the time of the
taking of Jerusalem, they gave such ready help to the
armies of the Cross that many crusading knights joined
their brotherhood. These men promised always to fight
against the Saracens and also to seek no wealth for
themselves. They were called the Knights Hospitallers.
They wore a long black robe with five white crosses on
it in time of peace, but in time of war they wore an
upper robe of red with a silver cross on its shoulder.
The knights of the other order were named Templars.
They wore a long white mantle with a red cross on the
shoulder. In battle they carried a flag, half white and
half black. It meant that they were simple and frank to
Christians, but dark and fearsome to Moslems. The
Templars were so proud of their vow of poverty that
their seal was two knights on the back of one horse.
But though they boasted of it they often forgot it in
If King and Patriarch, Hospitallers and
 Templars, had remembered that white-and-black banner,
and had always been frank and simple to Christians,
nothing could have stood against them. Instead of that,
they often fought amongst themselves and said bitter
things about each other, and weakened the kingdom they
had vowed to strengthen.
In Europe there had been many changes. The Crusade had
done far less for the Christians in the Holy Land than
Peter had dreamed it would do. But it had done much for
the countries to which the Crusaders belonged. It had
made people think for themselves.
But every one did not think that that was a good thing.
Bernard, who preached the second Crusade, did not think
so. He wished the power of the Church to rule
everything and every one. He was a very great man, and
while he lived kings and emperors obeyed him, as if
they had been little children. The Pope himself used to
ask him to tell him what he must do.
 Bernard always knew what he wished, and he quickly
found the best way to gain his ends, for his heart was
simple, and he coveted no earthly honour nor wealth for
himself. He had become a monk when he was very young.
Though he had been brought up in great comfort, he only
ate coarse bread soaked in warm water. He was as
unwilling to give pleasure to his mind as to his body.
One time some friends came to see him and made him
smile. He thought this was a great sin, and he lay
before the altar for twenty-five days praying for
When any one wished to enter his order, he said to
them, "You must leave your body outside, only spirits
can enter here."
Yet though Bernard was a great and strong man, the
Crusade he planned ended in failure. Thousands of
knights and soldiers died in Asia, and the leaders came
back to Europe with only a handful of the men who had
followed them in the wars.
Not very long after the return of these fighting men, a
lad named Saladin went
 to Egypt from Damascus. Saladin liked pleasure and
idleness, and he was very unwilling to leave his happy
home in the north to go to Egypt to fight under his
uncle. When he was told that he must do this, he said,
"I go, but with the despair of a man led to death."
The ruler of Egypt had many men around him who wished
for more power and honour than they had, and he was
afraid that one of them would kill him and take his
place. He saw Saladin, and noticed that he seemed
careless about making a name for himself, and yet that
he was a very great fighter when he was roused by
battle. This made him wish to have him always with him,
and so Saladin was made ruler of the forces.
But then a strange change came over Saladin. He no
sooner had charge of men than he ceased to be a
thoughtless lad, and became a serious leader of armies.
Instead of growing slowly, as most people do, he seemed
to change all at once from a playful, self-willed child
to a strong man, who could bear all hardships to gain
his end. Soon the
 ruler of Egypt died, and Saladin reigned in his place.
Ere long he was Lord of Bagdad too, and that meant that
he had power over the whole Moslem world.
During all this time the kings of Jerusalem were weak,
powerless men. At first Saladin wished to make a truce
with the one who reigned when he became Lord of Bagdad.
This was not because he had any kind feeling towards
him. He only wished to get time to make his own kingdom
strong ere he fought for the little belt of Syrian land
that belonged to the Christians. It was the only bit
in all that part of the world that he did not rule.
But a noble of the kingdom of Jerusalem, named the Lord
of Carac, broke the truce. He robbed caravans and
killed Moslems whenever he could. Saladin was very
angry. He could wait no longer, but decided to fight
for Jerusalem at once.
In the Holy City, jealousy and bitterness were making
strife amongst those who ought to have been friends.
 knights hated white cross knights. When
they did uphold each other it was not in order to fight
the foe, but to fight the priests. They even shot
arrows at them in the streets of Jerusalem. The priests
gathered up the arrows, laid them out under the open
sky, and prayed that God would punish the knights. And
when the time came to face Saladin, it was not possible
to get the Christian army to fight as one man.
The Saracens took the town of Tiberias on the Lake of
Galilee. The news of this was brought to the King of
Jerusalem as he rode out to meet Saladin. Count
Raymond, in whose land Tiberias was, rode beside the
king. The Count's wife and children were in the town,
but yet Raymond said:
"This army is all we have: if we lose it, the Holy City
will be lost. Let us go to some place where Saladin
will have to attack us, where we shall hold the
fortress instead of attacking him. I would rather lose
this country and all that I possess, if by that I might
save the Holy City."
 But the other knights made the king believe that
Raymond said this because he was really on Saladin's
side, and wished him to win. The king yielded to them,
and the army marched forward to Tiberias. When they
reached the town, they found that all the heights on
the hills round it were fortified. For two days a
terrible battle raged. The Moslems even were astonished
at the brave way the crusading army fought to save the
wood of the true Cross which they had carried into the
fight. They said that "the knights flew round it like
moths round a candle."
But at last the bishop who bore it was killed, and the
Cross was carried to Saladin's camp. When the Crusaders
raised the body of the dead bishop they found that he
had worn a coat of mail under his robe, and they
thought that it was because of his want of faith that
they had lost the battle, for always before, the bearer
of the Cross had gone unarmed into battle.
When the Cross was taken, the crusading
 army lost all courage. One after another
of the leaders was taken prisoner. Count Raymond
escaped, but soon he died of misery for a lost cause
and a lost home.
When the king and the Lord of Carac were brought before
Saladin the Moslem welcomed the king kindly. He offered
him a great goblet full of cool wine. The king was hot
and faint from battle. The wine was pleasant to him,
and it made him hope for kindness from Saladin.
The king drank. Then he passed the goblet to the Lord
of Carac, but Saladin seized his arm
"That traitor shall not drink in my presence," he
The count looked at him with scorn, and made his rage
hotter by acting as boldly as if he had been a free man
in his own castle.
"Choose between the Moslem faith and death!" said
Saladin. Carac had not been true to the truce, but he
would not give up his loyalty to the Crusaders in order
his life. Quick as thought the scimitar of a
 Turkish soldier severed the head of the count from his
body, which fell lifeless at the feet of the king. Then
the captive knights were led in.
"Slay every one his man. I will rid the earth of these
unclean races," said Saladin to his warriors. They hung
back. The knights were prisoners of war and unarmed,
and the Moslem soldiers did not wish to butcher them.
But Saladin would not listen even to his own soldiers
when they asked him to spare his captives. They had to
do his will, and knight after knight fell dead before
After these terrible days Saladin went with haste to
Jerusalem. He sent this message to the Christians in
"I, as well as you, count Jerusalem to be the house of
God; I will not defile it with blood if I can gain it
by peace and love. Give it up, and I will give you
freedom to go where you will, and as much land as you
But they answered:
 "We cannot yield the city in which our God died. Still
less can we sell it to you."
By and by, when they saw that they could not hold out
against Saladin, they offered to agree to what he had
"It is too late," replied Saladin; "look at my yellow
banners floating from the wall!" He did not know how
brave the men were. When they heard his answer they
sent this message:
"Very well, we will destroy the city. Your mosque and
the stone of Jacob which you worship shall be made into
dust. Five thousand Moslem prisoners shall be slain.
Then we will kill our wives and our children, and march
out to you with fire and sword. Not one of us will die
till ten Moslems lie slain by his sword."
When Saladin heard these threats, he said he would let
each citizen who could pay for his ransom go free.
On the day on which the Christians were to leave
Jerusalem, Saladin sat on a throne and watched the
stream of people press
 out of the gate. First came the priests. They bore the
Communion vessels and the ornaments of the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre. Then the queen came, and with her a
band of nobles, and then the great crowd of people.
They were very sad. They were leaving their homes and
their city, and some of them were leaving friends for
whom no ransom money could be found. Now and again the
line was broken and some one took courage to fall
before the Sultan to beg for the freedom of husband or
of children who had been left behind. Saladin and his
brother paid the ransom money for thousands, and only a
small band stayed to be the slaves of the Moslems.
The saddened Christians were gone from the streets of
the Holy City, and a crowd of joyous and excited people
surged everywhere. Jerusalem was nearly as sacred to
the Moslems as to those they had conquered. They hurled
down a great cross from the dome above which it stood.
They washed the mosque of Omar within
 and without with rosewater, that no Christian dust even
might lie on the walls or floors. Allah is the name by
which Moslems speak of God, and Saladin was welcomed
everywhere as "the bright star of Allah."
When the news of the fall of Jerusalem reached Europe,
the grief was terrible. The Pope died of sorrow. The
royal courts went into mourning. The priests veiled the
statues in the churches. Songs of love and chivalry
were forgotten, and the minstrels sang only of the
Three great kings vowed to regain the Holy City. They
were King Richard of England, King Philip of France,
and the Emperor Frederick of Germany. The emperor was
the first to set out. He is called "Barbarossa,"
because that means "red beard," and he had a great red
beard. He had an army of strong warriors. His men loved
him, and they did what he bade them without a murmur.
He never allowed them to idle away their time or to
grow soft and lazy after a victory, but swept them on
 in perfect order from battle to battle and carried all
before him. The news of his great march came to
Saladin, and even he feared lest his armies might not
be able to face so great a band of warriors. But one
day as Frederick rested on the banks of a river that
flowed through the country north of the Holy Land, he
longed to bathe in the cool stream. He plunged in, but
something stunned him, and the great Emperor Barbarossa
was drawn up on the bank only to die. He was buried in
the Crusader Church at Tyre. But his people in Germany
could not believe that he was dead. They made this
beautiful legend about him. They said he had been borne
from the East by magic, and that he lies in a great
hall in Germany and waits there until his country needs
him. When her need is greatest he will waken, they say,
and burst the doors of his prison and come to save her.
But no one has seen the red glow of Barbarossa's beard
in the dimly lighted hall, nor has any one found the
castle in which he lies.
Barbarossa waits until his country needs him.
 Many soldiers in France and England grew weary of
waiting for their kings, and hastened to fight under
the banner of the King of Jerusalem.
When at length King Philip and King Richard set out,
they were stayed by a storm at an island on their way
to the Holy Land. They spent the winter there, but they
lost much more than time. For years they had been
friends, but now that they had set out on the same
quest, they quarrelled so fiercely, that though they
both did many brave deeds, all were marred by the
bitter hatred and jealousy that had sprung up between
When Philip reached the Christian armies, he found that
they were laying siege to Acre. They were in great
danger. Their camp lay round the landward walls of the
city. But beyond their tents lay the Moslem camp, and
when the knights attacked Acre, bands of their foes
could rush on the camp and destroy those who were left
to guard it. The sails of Philip's fleet were seen with
 joy by the crusading army, but when he landed he said
he would not fight till Richard came. Even when at
length both kings were in the camp, the whole force
would not fight together. Richard was so much afraid
that Philip's army would be praised for what the
English knights had done, and Philip was so much afraid
that England would be praised for the brave deeds of
the French, that when the one king fought, the other
Sometimes days and even weeks passed with no fighting.
And during those times of peace, the two Christian
kings were more friendly with Saladin than they were
with each other. Once they both lay ill. Each of them
thought that perhaps the other had sent poison to him
and caused his illness, but they both took food and
doctors from Saladin without fear. In times of peace
too, the warriors from the Moslem camp and the
crusading knights held tournaments and dances in the
open spaces between the tents. And even in battle,
signs of the strange friendship were seen, for Saladin
 the fight with the badge of chivalry on his breast.
The common soldiers did not know what to think. They
had come with their lords to fight for the Holy City
and to help Christians who were in misery, and their
masters seemed far more eager to give gifts to the
Moslem leaders and to do great deeds of daring than to
But though Richard and Philip forgot to fight only for
the relief of Christians, Saladin did not forget that
he meant to rid the land of Christians. He admired the
brave deeds of Richard, but he meant to drive Richard
from his land.
After two years, Acre fell into the hands of the
crusading armies. The knights wished to make Saladin
promise to give back the wood of the true cross. Those
who really cared about winning the land back for the
kingdom of Jerusalem, thought that the loss of this
precious relic had been the cause of all their trouble.
People believed very queer things in those days, and
one of the things
 they believed was that all over Europe, since the wood
of the true cross had been taken from the bishop at
Tiberias, babies had only had twenty-two teeth instead
of thirty-two. But Richard himself did not care very
much about the wood of the true cross, so he let the
Moslems keep it.
Saladin was very angry when other people did not keep
their promises, but he was in no haste to pay the
ransom he had said he would give if those who lived in
Acre were set free. Richard was so angry at the delay
that he slew five thousand prisoners. Philip was
longing to go back to France, and he made this cruel
act of Richard's his excuse. About this time Richard
offended two other warriors. He vexed a noble called
Conrade, and he tore down the standard of
Leopold of Austria. Philip sailed away, and the other
two nobles allowed Richard to stand alone as the leader
of the crusading army, but they never forgot his pride
As he led his forces south towards
Jeru-  salem a host of Saracens met them. There seemed no hope
of victory or even of safety, but the thought that the
Holy City was near, made the Crusaders fight with all
their might, and the foe fled before them. While they
were rejoicing in this, another Moslem army swept down
on them and all seemed lost, when Richard galloped to
the head of his men, and once more the Christians won
Though King Richard was a great warrior, and though
sometimes the thought of Jerusalem made him wish
nothing so much as that he might win it from the
Saracens, he did not always care to be true to his
vows. After this victory he made a gay court for
himself at a town called Joppa. He rode out to hunt and
to seek adventures. Sometimes he was nearly killed.
Once he was in the midst of a band of Saracens. They
were going to make him prisoner when a French knight
who was with him, shouted:
"Spare me! I am the king!"
 He only said that to let the king go free. The Saracens
rushed at the knight, and the king rode off safely.
Another time Richard saw the enemy come down and attack
a small band of knights who had ridden out to seek food
for their horses. He saw that they were in danger, and
he leapt on to his horse and galloped across the plain.
Those who had been with him hastened to follow him, but
when they saw how many Saracens there were, they begged
him to turn and leave the knights to be taken. He was
full of anger and, turning to them, he said:
"How could I ever bear the name of king again if I left
my followers to die without help."
He rushed at the foe. The knights, who had been taken
by surprise, felt new courage rise when they saw the
king. He and they slashed right and left with their
swords, and ere long Richard led the whole party
joyously back to the camp at Joppa.
While the Crusaders lived in this gay court,
 the Christians at Jerusalem, whom they had vowed to
help, were hard at work building walls and fortresses,
for Saladin wished to make Jerusalem so strong that
even Richard could not take it, so he made the
Christians who were in his power build the walls that
were to keep their friends from helping them.
After feasting at Joppa, Richard led his army to
Ascalon. He hoped to capture the town and all the great
forts that had been built there, for Ascalon was one of
the strongest fortresses in the land. When the army
came near the town, the faces of the leaders fell, for
Ascalon was only a heap of ruins. Saladin could not
spare men to defend it, and instead of trying to hold
it he made his men pull down stone from stone, that no
one else might find safety within it. It grieved him to
do this, and he said that he would rather that one of
his sons had died than that the fortress should be
thrown down. But he was not like Richard, who
sometimes wished one thing and
some-  times another. He wished only one thing, and that was
that every crusading knight should either die or leave
the Holy Land. So though it hurt him to destroy the
strong towers and walls of Ascalon, he did it.
When Richard saw the ruins, he cast aside his armour,
and set himself to heave the great stones from the
heaps where they lay, and to build them again into
defences. Knights and soldiers did as they saw their
leader do, and soon the walls began to rise again. For a
short time all went well, but then some of the nobles
grew weary of such heavy work when it had none of the
glamour of war to make up for the hardship. The first
to throw down his building tools was Leopold, whose
banner Richard had torn down at Acre. He turned away
with anger, and said:
"I am not a carpenter nor yet a mason."
Others did as he
had done, and looked on with scorn on those who still
worked with Richard. Even amongst those who were
 not idle there were many who longed to
hasten on to Jerusalem. They knew that even the great
Saladin feared to meet Richard with his armies. The
courage of the English king was as highly thought of in
the Saracen camp as in his own. It was said that the
manes of the Arab horses bristled when Richard's name
was spoken, and that, if a rider in the Holy Land felt
his horse start beneath him, he would say:
"Dost see King Richard in that bush?"
It was no wonder that the armies, who had suffered so
much to win the Holy City, should grieve that Richard
would not march upon it. At last he yielded to their
wishes, and he and his knights swept across the country
towards Jerusalem. All was joyous and cheerful. The
heralds shouted the old call, "Save the Holy Sepulchre!"
and it seemed as if once more the Banner of the
Cross would wave over the city where Christ died.
Saladin withdrew into the city. Each new messenger told
of the fear and dread that was in the Saracen camp, and
 army of the Cross marched forward with high hopes.
But amongst those who were nearest to Richard, there
were some who urged him to turn back. They said that
even if Jerusalem were taken by them they could not
hold it. Richard listened to them. He wavered. His army
looked eagerly towards the city whose towers and domes
rose dimly into sight in the distance. He gave one
longing look, and turned his back on Jerusalem.
But though Richard turned away towards the sea, he was
scarcely less vexed than his army. He was more enraged
against the Saracens than he had ever been, and from
this time onward he fought with even more reckless
courage than before. He took ship from Acre and sailed
along the coast to Joppa. But ere his ships entered the
harbour, the Saracens seized the town. Richard could
not wait till his vessel reached the harbour. He
plunged into the water, landed, and rushed at the enemy
with his brave knights close behind him. The Saracens
 three days they came back, and Richard was
roused from his sleep by the cry,
There was no time to put on armour.
There was scarcely time even to dress. As
Richard sprang into the saddle, he shouted:
"Fight like men whose only hope is in
courage. Verily, I myself shall sever the
head of him who fails in his duty."
The great host of the Saracens rushed on.
Trumpets pealed, and banners streamed in
the air. There seemed no hope for the small
band of knights. But the lion-hearted king
was with the knights, and victory followed
his sword. Men could scarcely believe that
he was human, for wherever the battle was
hottest Richard seemed to spring from the
ground. Once it seemed as if he were lost
among the Saracens. Fear filled the hearts
of his men, when suddenly Richard rode
towards them from the ranks of the foe.
He was mounted on a horse they had not
seen before. His own had fallen under him,
and the brother of Saladin had sent two to
 him in the midst of the battle, because he thought him
so brave and so great a warrior that he could not bear
to see him fight on foot. The Crusaders won the day,
but as they returned to the camp they found another
battle before them. The foe had entered the city. The
day had been long and hard, but the spirit of the
knights was strong and fearless, and soon they were
masters of Joppa again. When all was over they gazed at
each other. It did not seem possible even to themselves
that they had won so great a victory. Hundreds of
Saracens lay dead on the plain and only one knight had
But Richard was eager to return to England. He wished
to make peace. Saladin did not wish for peace. He
wished to sweep every Christian from his land. But his
officers thought that if Richard would only leave the
land they would not fear the other Crusaders, and they
thought he would go at once if Saladin made peace with
him. When the peace was made, it was agreed that
 many seaport towns should belong to the
Christians, and that all might go to Jerusalem
to visit the holy places there. In order that the
promises that were made might be as sacred to one side
as to the other, they were made in presence of the
Bible and of the Koran, for the Koran was as holy to
the Saracens as the Bible was to the Christian army.
Richard had been eager to make peace, but when the
moment came when he had to leave the Holy Land, it
seemed as if his heart would break. Although there were
some in the army who did not trust him, and some who
envied him, there were many hundreds who loved him so
much that they did not care to serve under any other
leader. They gathered round him weeping, and watched
him step on to the vessel. As the king looked back over
the land he had hoped to win, he said:
"O Holy Land! God bless thy people and grant that I may
come again to visit and help thee!"
 Richard did not care to go through France on his way
home, because he had made Philip so bitter an enemy. He
tried to make his way across Europe further west and
north. Sometimes he dressed as a pilgrim,
sometimes as a merchant. But he had been too long a
great king to find it easy to act like any one else.
In one place he had to ask a count to allow him to pass
from one land to another. He called himself the
merchant Hugo, and sent a squire to ask for leave to go
on. He told him to offer a costly ruby ring to the
count to whom he was sent. But the count was a friend
of one of Richard's foes. He had heard much about the
wars, and he at once thought that this great ruby ring
belong to the King of England. He sent back the ring
with a kind message, but though he promised to do as he
had been asked, he laid plans to capture the merchant
Hugo! Richard escaped as a pilgrim, but even after
that he would not be wise, for even in a pilgrim's
dress he went on wearing
 a great ring on his finger, and he let his
squire go to market-places with a purse full
of coins that came from the Holy Land. The lad boasted
of them, and showed them to those who gathered round
him. Then, when it was too late, he saw what he had
done and ran to warn his master, but Richard would not
flee. He was taken prisoner by Leopold, whose banner he
had torn down from the walls of Acre, and who had been
the first to throw away his building tools at Ascalon.
The people of England longed to see him. They had heard
how brave he had been in battle. They loved the thought
of him, but what could they do to save him? They did
not know where he was. The story of the way in which
they found out is a strange one. Before the king went
to the Holy Land, he and his minstrel Blondel had made
a little song which they sang verse about. Blondel
loved Richard greatly, and he set out to search for
him. He asked where Richard had last been seen. Then he
 from village to village. If a castle stood in sight,
he asked if any prisoner lay there. If there was one,
he tried to find out what kind of a man he was. Once he
was in great excitement. The villagers near a castle
told him of a prisoner who seemed to be a man like King
Richard. But Blondel wished to be certain that he was
right before he went back to England. When he was sure
that no one saw him he ran to the castle. He looked at
all sides of it till he thought he knew where the
dungeon was. Then he sang some lines of the old song.
His voice was broken and shaky, and when he stopped and
waited he could scarcely breathe, he was so eager to
know if anything would happen. Something did happen.
Richard's voice from within the castle carried on the
When Blondel reached England and told where the king
lay a prisoner, he soon roused the people to give a
great sum of money in return for his freedom.
Before Richard had landed in England, Saladin lay dead.
As the Christian pilgrims
 longed to go to Jerusalem, so he had longed to go to
Mecca, for that is the holiest city in the world to
those who follow the prophet. But Saladin was too ill
to go to Mecca. When he lay dying in Damascus, he sent
his heralds out to go through the streets of the city.
As they marched, no banners were to stream behind them.
Instead of a banner the shroud he was soon to need was
borne along beside them, while they shouted as he bade
"This, this is all that remains of the glory of Saladin
who conquered the East!"
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