King of Jerusalem Baldwin I

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Baldwin I

Baldwin I (ca. 1058-1118), a Norman known earlier as Baldwin of Boulogne and a chief lay leader of the First Crusade, reigned as king of Jerusalem from 1100 to 1118.

Son of the Norman Count of Boulogne, Baldwin joined the First Crusade with his brothers, Eustace and Godfrey of Bouillon. Baldwin soon left the main army to establish himself in Edessa (modern Urfa, Turkey), a Byzantine town beyond the Euphrates River, at the invitation of the Armenian prince Thoros. Upon the latter's death in 1098 Baldwin became head of the first crusading state in the East. His wife, Godvere of Tosni, died shortly before this successful venture, and Baldwin soon authenticated his position by marrying Arda, an Armenian princess.

When Godfrey of Bouillon died in 1100, a group of knights in Jerusalem asked Baldwin to succeed him. This succession was opposed by the patriarch Daimbert, who wished to maintain his ecclesiastical control of the city, and by the crusader Tancred, who was suspicious of the use to which Baldwin might put his new power. It is indicative of Baldwin's strength that not only did he force Daimbert to crown him king (albeit in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem), but he also kept Tancred at a distance until the latter departed the following year to assume the lordship of Antioch. In 1102 Baldwin deposed Daimbert, and his successors were all royal appointees.

Baldwin then set about to make his military position more secure. He had little effective power until he was able to control the coastal towns, which were vital for communications and supplies. He depended heavily on the loyalty of the vassals of the great fiefs, such as Tiberias, Haifa, and Caesarea, and to a lesser extent on mercenary troops and ships from the Italian cities. Once assured of the oaths of his knights, Baldwin commenced a systematic reduction of the ports so that by 1113 he controlled all the important ones in the vicinity of Jerusalem except Ascalon and Tyre. Although he still opposed Tancred, Baldwin was not above joining him on at least two occasions, in 1109 and in 1112, when preservation of the kingdom made cooperation advisable.

In 1113 Baldwin gave up Queen Arda for Adelaide of Salona, Countess of Sicily and mother of Count Roger II. The historian is obliged to see this as a political marriage which brought a dowry and possibly an heir to the kingdom, since Roger II was named as successor. Baldwin had never been divorced from his former wife, however, and 3 years later he approved the annulment of his union with Adelaide at the price of the enmity of the Sicilian court. Baldwin died near Ascalon on a raiding expedition in Egypt in April 1118. His successor in Jerusalem was his cousin, Baldwin II.

Baldwin I was an impressive figure. By his personal authority, with limited resources, and in the face of constant and powerful opposition from Cairo, Damascus, and his own associates, he established and maintained the kingdom of Jerusalem for 18 years.

Further Reading

There is no biography of Baldwin I in English. Useful sources are John L. La Monte, Feudal Monarchy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1100-1291 (1932); Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, (3 vols., 1951-1954); and A History of the Crusades, vol. 1: The First Hundred Years, edited by Marshall W. Baldwin (1955; 2d ed. 1969). □