PETER THE HERMIT
 IN this chapter I shall have more to tell you of a
strange, ugly-looking little man called Peter the
Hermit than of Henry's son, who now became Philip I.
Philip had been a lazy, selfish boy, and he grew up
into a wicked, self-pleasing man. And so when the
chance came to do a noble deed, an unselfish act,
Philip thrust the opportunity from him, that he might
live idly and undisturbed in his luxurious palaces.
When William of Normandy asked the king to join him in
his great expedition to conquer England, Philip would
have nothing to do with the plans of his ambitious
So William sailed for England with a great army, and,
as you know from your English history, he fought and
won the battle of Hastings, in 1066, against King
Harold of England.
From that day the Norman duke became also the King of
Philip I. may now have been sorry that he had not
joined William in his great enterprise. In any case he
became jealous of his powerful vassal, and resolved
when the opportunity arrived to injure him.
About nine years passed, and then the chance for which
Philip was waiting came.
Robert, the son of William the Conqueror, was angry
with his father because he had refused to make him
governor of Normandy.
 Philip I. was only too pleased to encourage
Robert's anger, and to help him to stir up rebellion in
When William the Conqueror found out what Philip was
doing he was very angry, and his anger was a thing to
be feared. He at once went to war with his enemy, and
had already taken one of Philip's towns and burned it
to the ground, when, as he rode through the conquered
city, his horse slipped on a burning cinder. King
William was thrown forward on his horse, and was so
badly hurt that six weeks later he died.
Philip I. was not sorry that the enemy he had provoked
could trouble him no more. It was the easier for him to
spend his time in pleasure and in idleness. And this he
still did, while France, and indeed the whole of
Europe, was being roused as by a trumpet call.
The Holy City, Jerusalem, had been for many years in
the hands of the Turks. As you know, they were a fierce
and cruel people, and imprisoned, tortured, and even
killed, the pilgrims to Jerusalem.
At last Europe was roused to try to rescue the Holy
City from the hands of these cruel people. The
expeditions which set out from France, from England,
from Germany, for this purpose, were called Crusades,
and the people who took part in them the Crusaders. It
is of the first crusade that I wish now to tell you. It
was a strange little man who wandered through France,
calling on the people to rouse themselves to set the
Holy City free. Peter the Hermit, as he was called, was
ugly and small, but the keen bright eyes that looked
out of his thin pinched face seemed to see right into
the hearts of those to whom he spoke. He was not old,
this plain-looking little man, but he had suffered
much, so that already his hair and beard were white.
The Hermit wore a woollen tunic, and over that a serge
cloak, which reached to his feet. His arms and his feet
 were bare. Often he was to be seen riding on an
ass, and holding in his hand a crucifix.
"OFTEN HE WAS TO BE SEEN RIDING UPON AN ASS."
Peter had once journeyed to Jerusalem, and he had seen
for himself how pilgrims were robbed by the Turks; how
the places where Christ's blessed feet had trod were
defiled by cruelty too great to be told.
So when Peter left Jerusalem he journeyed to Rome, his
heart on fire with the evils he had seen and the wrongs
he had borne in the Holy City. He was going to Rome to
tell the Pope all that he had seen and suffered.
When the Pope, Urban II., had heard Peter's tale, he
blessed him, bidding him go from town to town, from
land to land, to tell all who would hear of the things
he had seen in Jerusalem.
Thus it was that in 1094 the First Crusade began to be
At first but a few came to hear Peter speak. There was
nothing about the plain-looking little man to make them
come. But the few who listened to his words soon
brought others to hear, and gradually crowds gathered
wherever Peter went. For this man, so small, so plain,
had a great gift from God, the gift of speech.
When Peter spoke, his words fell as fire upon the
hearts of those who pressed around him. As he told of
all that he had seen in Jerusalem, the people almost
believed that they were in Jerusalem, seeing the very
sights Peter had seen. His words were indeed as a fire,
and kindled in the hearts of the people a flame that
did not die even when in very truth they stood at the
gates of the Holy City.
For a year Peter went through France rousing the
people. Then in 1095 many of those who had listened to
him journeyed to a town called Clermont, where the
Pope, Urban II., was now going to hold a great Council.
The days were already cold and wintry, for it was
November when the people crowded into Clermont. Soon
all the houses in the town were full, as well as those
 villages round about. And still the people
came in great
numbers. Many of them were forced to put up tents in
the meadows, where they would have been cold indeed,
save for the fire which Peter had kindled in their
In an open space in the centre of the town a platform
was erected. Here, on a certain day, in the midst of a
great throng of people, stood the Pope, with Peter the
Hermit by his side.
"Men of France," cried Urban II., "right valiant
knights . . . it is from you above all that Jerusalem
hopes for help. Take part in this Holy War, I beseech
you, and all your sins will be forgiven." Peter also
talked to the people, telling them yet again of all the
misery that Christians in Jerusalem suffered, until at
length a great shout went up from the hearts of the
people. "God willeth it! God willeth it!" they cried,
and these words became the battle-cry of the crusaders.
Then from the Pope's own hands the people received the
sign or badge of their great undertaking. There was but
one sign fitting for such a warfare, the sign of the
Cross. This was made of red silk or cloth, and was
fastened on the crusader's cloak, or on the front of
The Pope was a wise man, and he knew that it would take
many months for a great army to get ready to march to
Jerusalem, so he said that the first crusade should not
start until about nine months later, in August 1096.
But although the knights were ready to wait until they
had made preparations for their long and difficult
journey, the mob clamoured to be led to the Holy City
by Peter without further delay. And Peter and one poor
knight, called Walter the Penniless, yielded to these
foolish people. These crusaders, however, were not an
army, but only a vast rabble of men, women and
children, who were all unprepared for the long and
difficult journey to Palestine.
Peter the Hermit, it is true, knew the way to the Holy
Land, but he forgot how difficult it would be to feed
 great a multitude, and how impossible it would
be for these poor folks to wrest the Holy Sepulchre
from the Turks, if they ever reached Jerusalem.
The mob set out in great joy, but it was not long
before the hardships of the journey began to make them
grumble. They grew hungry, for Peter had not stayed to
take provisions for so great a company. In their hunger
they grew desperate, and when they reached a town they
would plunder it, as though they were a band of robbers
rather than pilgrims of the Holy Cross.
Thousands who set out died upon the way, of hunger or
disease, while many more who reached Hungary were slain
by the wild tribes who dwelt in that land.
At length Peter, with those of his company who were
left, reached Constantinople. Here they took ship and
crossed the Bosphorus into Asia Minor, only to be met
by the Turks, who attacked them so fiercely that Peter
was left with scarcely three thousand followers.
We hear no more of these poor people until Peter, and
those who had not died from hunger or sickness, joined
the real crusading army when at length it entered Asia
Meanwhile, the knights of France had assembled two
great armies to fight in the Holy War. The nobles
themselves sold their houses, their lands, their
treasures, that they might have money to equip and feed
Philip I. knew what his nobles were doing, but he
neither helped nor hindered them. His own pleasures
were engrossing all his time and thought.
The two French armies were joined by a third formed of
Norman knights who had settled in Italy. The three
armies were led by nobles who had already won renown on
the field of battle.
Godfrey de Bouillon was one of these leaders. His
father had been a warrior, his mother a saint, and
those who watched Godfrey would say of him, "For zeal
 behold his father, for serving God behold
his mother." And they said this because they believed
that this knight was warrior and saint in one.
Tancred, "a very gentle perfect knight," was another of
the leaders of the first crusade.
The third and oldest of these great leaders was
Raymond, Count of Toulouse. He had vowed that he would
never return to France, but would stay in the east
fighting the Turks as long as he lived in order to
atone for his many sins.
It was a great host that at last, in August 1096, set
out for the Holy Land. It had many hardships to suffer
from famine and disease before it reached Asia Minor.
As soon as they landed, however, the crusaders
detertmined to attack Nicsea without delay. Nicsea was
an important town belonging to the Turks.
As they marched toward this town, they met Peter the
Hermit, followed by a small band of pilgrims. This band
was all that was left of the vast rabble that had set
out from France in 1096.
Peter told the leaders of the real crusade all that had
befallen him and his followers, and then gladly joined
the army for which he had been looking and longing for
many weary months.
Nicaea was reached and at once besieged. The town was
in the hands of a Turkish sultan called Kilidj Arslan.
When the sultan had heard that the crusaders were
drawing near, he had gone to assemble all his forces.
His wife, his children, and his treasures he had left
in the town. He had also sent a message to the people,
bidding them "be of good courage, and fear not the
barbarous people who make show of besieging our city.
To-morrow, before the seventh hour of the day, ye shall
be delivered from your enemies."
The sultan did all he could to make his words come
true. On the following day he arrived before the walls
of his city with a large force, and fell upon the
 army. The crusaders fought bravely,
Godfrey de Bouillon leading them on with the courage
for which he was renowned. He himself killed a Turk,
"remarkable amongst all for his size and strength," and
whose arrows had been causing great havoc in the ranks
of the crusading armies. Kilidj Arslan was defeated,
and withdrew from Niceea to find a fresh army.
For six weeks the crusaders besieged the sultan's town;
and then, just when they believed it was ready to
surrender to them, they saw waving from its towers the
flag of the Greek emperor.
Now the Emperor Alexis had seemed to befriend the
crusaders, but during the siege he had sent secret
messages to the inhabitants of Nicsea, persuading them
to yield to him. And this the people of Nicsea had done
the more willingly because they had once belonged to
the Greek empire, and Alexis had promised not to treat
them as a conquered people, but as those who had
returned to their former masters.
The crusaders were sorely disappointed, for they had
hoped to plunder the town, while their leaders were
wroth because the Emperor Alexis would allow not more
than ten of their number to enter Nicsea at the same
time. But it was useless to show the Greek emperor that
he had angered them, so the knights determined to march
on towards the south-east of Asia Minor, and thus to
In order to get provisions the more easily the vast
army of the crusaders now divided into two.
One morning as Tancred led his host forward, it was
suddenly attacked by a great number of Turks, who
poured down upon it from the neighbouring hills. These
Turkish hordes were led by Kilidj Arslan, who had
followed the crusaders after the fall of Nicsea, and
had now taken them by surprise.
The Duke of Normandy, who was with Tancred, rushed
 into the fray, waving his gold and white banner, and
shouting, "God willeth it! God willeth it!" Another
knight hastily sent a message to Godfrey de Bouillon,
who was not yet
far away, to come to their aid. Godfrey, with about
fifty knights, galloped on before the main body of his
army, and, joining Tancred, flung himself upon the
By noon Godfrey's whole army arrived, with trumpets
blowing and flags waving. Kilidj Arslan began to think
he would retreat, but his retreat was speedily turned
to flight. For the crusaders pursued the Turks so
fiercely that they fled in terror, and "two days
afterwards they were still flying though none pursued
them, unless it were God Himself."
After this victory the crusaders marched on toward
Syria, but for the future they determined to keep
The armies had now to cross great tracts of deserted
country, where neither food nor water was to be found,
where there was no shelter from the burning sun.
Not only the soldiers but the horses suffered terribly
and died in hundreds, and many of the knights were
forced to ride on asses or oxen. These animals were
hardier, and better able to stand the heat than the
horses. And the heat was terrible, and made the whole
army suffer more than ever from lack of water.
One day the dogs that usually followed the army
disappeared for some hours. When they came back their
paws were wet.
The soldiers noticed the wet paws with joy, for they
knew that the dogs must have found water, and without
delay they set out to look for it. You can imagine with
what delight the poor thirsty men at last discovered a
small river, how eagerly they drank, and how they ran
to tell their comrades the good news.
I may not stop to tell you of all the towns the
crusaders besieged on their way to Jerusalem, nor of
all that they suffered, but in the spring of 1099 the
great army really
 entered Palestine, and, in June
of the same year, it at length
caught sight of the Holy City.
"Lo! Jerusalem appears in sight. Lo! every hand points
out Jerusalem. Lo! a thousand voices are heard as one
in salutation of Jerusalem."
Thus, says the Italian poet Tasso, was the army moved
at the sight of the Holy City.
After this first glimpse of the city neither the
knights nor the rough soldiers dared to raise their
eyes to look upon her, so great was their awe.
"In accents of humility, with words low-spoken, with
stifled sobs, with sighs and tears, the pent-up
yearnings of a people in joy and at the same time in
sorrow, sent shivering through the air a murmur like
that which is heard in leafy forests what time the wind
blows through the leaves, or like the dull sound made
by the sea which breaks upon the rocks, or hisses as it
foams over the beach."
Jerusalem was in the hands of a large Turkish army, and
the crusaders at once besieged the city.
Five weeks later she was theirs. Then alas! mad with
triumph, the crusaders forgot that they were soldiers
of the Cross. They slew the helpless inhabitants of the
city; they plundered the houses and churches.
But soon they grew ashamed of their cruel deeds, and
flinging aside their armour they clothed themselves in
white robes. Then in shame and sorrow the crusaders
climbed the hill of Calvary.
Jerusalem was taken on July 15, 1099, and about a week
later the leaders of the crusade met together to choose
a king to rule over the Holy City.
Robert, Duke of Normandy, was the first to be proposed.
"But he refused, liking better to give himself up to
repose and indolence in Normandy, than to serve as a
soldier the King of kings; for which God never forgave
Tancred was then asked to accept the great charge. But
he wished for no higher rank than was already his.
 Raymond, Count of Toulouse, was too old, and said
that he "would have a horror of bearing the name of
king in Jerusalem."
Godfrey de Bouillon did not wish to be king, yet being
chosen not only by Tancred and the Count of Toulouse,
but by all the other knights of the crusading army, he
accepted the trust, although he refused to take the
title of King. He would be called only "Defender and
Baron of the Holy Sepulchre." Nor would he wear a
crown. "I will never wear a crown "of gold in the place
where the Saviour of the world was crowned with
thorns," said the great knight, as simply as a child.
Thus, with the taking of Jerusalem, ended the first
Meanwhile, Philip I. was growing, as slothful people
will ever do, more slothful.
His son Louis was now twenty-two years of age, and
Philip thought it would be pleasant to lay the burden
of kingship upon the shoulders of his son, and perhaps
it was the wisest thing he could have done.
So Louis was crowned king, and Philip was free to live
his own indolent life to the end.
But before he died Philip grew sorry for all the wrong
he had done, and for all the good he had left undone.
And to show that he was really sorry he did public
penance as the priests decreed. He also began to give
alms to the poor. In 1108 Philip I. died, and by his
own wish he was buried in a quiet little church on the
river Loire, rather than in the abbey of St. Denis,
where the kings of France were laid to rest. For at the
end of his life Philip I. knew himself to have been
unworthy of the name of king, and even in death he
wished to humble himself in the eyes of his people.