The Crusader King


A knight on the horse, a statue in front of the Brussels royal palace. A hero of his time and a person symbolic for many years of the European history. Even if many hundred years after his undertakings we may look on them with more or less skepticism.

Godfrey of Bouillon, known informally as the King of Jerusalem or the Crusader King was one of the four leaders of the First Crusade from 1096 to 1099 that ended with possession of Jerusalem by Western knights army. Some people before tried to fight on their own hand for the Holy Land listening to the pope Urban II’s call, but the march led by Godfrey as well as three other crusaders’ armies was the first invasion well organised by the European knighthood. The invasion had two major goals. The first one was to defend Constantinople against the Turkish influence. Today Istanbul in Turkey, hundreds of years ago Constantinople was one of two major powers of the western civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire. The other goal was to ‘protect’ the Holy Land, which meant in practice reinstating the Christian rule in Palestine.

To gather his huge army of forty thousand knights and infantry Godfrey sold or mortgaged most of his lands. For most of the time, during the marches and sieges of the First Crusade Godfrey played a minor role, letting the more powerful to make the politics. Yet, at the final stage during the siege of Jerusalem in July 1099 he and his knights were the first to enter the city. As a key player he was considered to become a new ruler in the Holy Land.

Finally chosen, he declined the title of the King of Jerusalem as inappropriate in the religious context. Still informally, he is today referred as such. His rule lasted several months marked by warfare, further conquests and defeats. It is not sure whether he died of a battle wound, by poison or some other disease. He was succeeded by his younger brother Baldwin, who officially accepted the tile of the king in December 1100.