William Longspee II
1212–50), eldest son and heir of Countess Ela of Salisbury (d. 1261) and William Longspee I (d. 1226), is chiefly remembered for his crusading deeds and the manner of his death. He went on crusade twice, which suggests a genuine crusading enthusiasm. He first accompanied Richard of Cornwall
to the Holy Land
in 1240–1. Then, in 1247, he took the cross again and with some 200 English knights joined Louis IX of France
in 1249. The army advanced from Damietta towards Cairo
, but was halted by a waterway it was unable to cross until a ford was discovered. On 8 February 1250 the vanguard, including the English under William, crossed at dawn with instructions to secure a bridgehead and advance no further. But Count Robert of Artois rashly goaded the rest of the vanguard into an assault upon the town of Mansourah, where they were overwhelmed in the narrow streets. A legend concerning William's supposed exemplary last stand rapidly developed in England
, a vehicle for adulation of the English and savage denunciation of the French. For over a century William enjoyed a considerable reputation as a national crusading hero.
S. D. Lloyd