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calendar   Wednesday - February 10, 2016

On This Day In History: February 10

1163: On what would be February 17th by modern reckoning, King Baldwin the Third of Jerusalem- the conqueror of Ascalon- dies childless at the age of 33, among suspicions that he was poisoned by a Syrian Orthodox Christian who was acting as his doctor. A long eight day funeral procession marked by open grief caries him from the place of his death at Beirut to his kingdom’s capitol and place of his tomb at Jerusalem. He started off his reign on a very unpromising start, which among other things featured a civil war against his own mother and going up against none other than Nur-ad-Din, Salah-al-Din (Saladin)’s mentor, including a failure to take Damascus. But that soon changed. He forged an alliance with the Eastern Romans and fought Nur-ad-Din to a standstill, but his real victories were in the South against the Fatmid Caliphate in the South.

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His crowning achievement by far was the siege of the city of Ascalon in 1153. Conventional wisdom of the time in siege warfare was that you needed to block absolutely all routes of supply for the area under siege, have superior numbers to the defenders, and only conduct an assault if you had overwhelming odds. Baldwin had exactly none of these advantages, but managed to siege and storm one of the most fortified cities in the world while outnumbered.  It turned Ascalon into a bulwark of the Christian states in the Levant while serving as a springboard for attacks into Egypt, and the seal of doom for the Fatmid Caliphs and seemed to foreshadow great things.

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But within a decade of that triumph, he was dead at a young age (even for then) and control of the Kingdom of Jerusalem passed to his brother, who spent his reign raiding futilely into Egypt, using manpower that the Crusaders simply did not have. Then he died and bequeathed the crown to his only son, the heroic Leper-King Baldwin the Fourth, who saved Jerusalem from Saladin but could not save his dynasty from lack of heirs. After his death the Kingdom fell victim to ugly infighting and worse leadership, which led to shattering defeat at Hattin to Saladin’s Jihadis. Saladin went on to reconquer and destroy the entire city of Ascalon to prevent it from being a Crusader defensive position, and within three decades of Baldwin III’s funeral the Crusaders were dependent on foreign leaders- most famously the kings of England and France- to avoid destruction. And which slowly led to a death spiral for the Crusader Kingdoms of the Orient, and ultimately Christianity in much of the Levant.


Baldwin III’s a rather forgotten figure in history, including that of the Crusades and Jihads, which is ironic because at the time of his death he stood among the giants of his era. He was well read in everything from history to law, eloquent, intelligent, approachable by those he ruled over, and chivalrous *almost*- almost- to a fault; a strong King who was able to fund a war on multiple fronts against far more numerous enemies without even taxing Church property and was lauded by virtually everyone, including those enemies. At the time of his death well below the expectancy of an adult male for the period, it looked like he was developing into someone who might have qualified as a Christian equal of Saladin himself. We can only imagine what might have happened had he lived, or if he would have continued to improve. But his greatest enemy Nur said

“The Franks (Read: Western Catholic Christians) have lost such a prince that the world has not now his like.”

I am inclined to believe him. And so this post is dedicated to you, King Baldwin. Rest with God.
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Posted by Turtler   United States  on 02/10/2016 at 11:23 PM   
Filed Under: • HistoryMilitaryOBITITUARIESPolitics •  
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