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The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was a crusader state established in the Southern Levant by Godfrey of Bouillon in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods. The sometimes so-called First Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted from 1099 to 1187, when it was almost entirely overrun by Saladin. After the subsequent Third Crusade, the kingdom was re-established in Acre in 1192, and lasted until that city's destruction in 1291, except for a brief two decades which Frederick II of Hohenstaufen reclaimed Jerusalem back into Christian hands after the Sixth Crusade. This second kingdom is sometimes called the Second Kingdom of Jerusalem or the Kingdom of Acre, after its new capital. Most of the crusaders who settled there were of French origin.

Geography and Climate[]

Located in the Southern Levant, the territory of the Kingdom of Jerusalem is arid, and consists mostly of desert and dry step. Compared to the south and interior of the kingdom, the plains along the coast of the Mediterranean occupied by Jerusalem and the other Crusader States featured a more temperate climate, with more rainfall and cooler temperatures in winter. Such a climate is reminiscent of elsewhere in the Mediterranean, and is much more hospitable to human habitation.

The region is dominated by the Jordan Rift Valley, an active tectonic zone which produces earthquakes in excess of magnitude 7 on the Richter scale on average once every 400 years. One such earthquake occurred in 1033 AD, devastating the region only a few years prior to the outbreak of the crusades. The rift valley is also both one of the hottest places on Earth, with temperatures in the region frequently reaching in excess of forty degrees Celsius, and among the lowest points on Earth, with the shoreline of the Dead Sea sitting 423 metres below sea level. With few sources of water and such extremities of climate, the region is difficult to traverse even with modern supply lines and logistics, let alone at the time of the Crusades.


Although Jerusalem itself has been around for approximately 6,500 years, with evidence of habitation dating to as far back as 4500 BC, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was only founded during the First Crusade. The capture of Jerusalem by Seljuk Turks shook Christian Europe, prompting Pope Urban II to call for a Holy War to liberate the city at the Council of Clermont. Amid promises of absolution of sins, Urban II’s call to arms brought thousands of fanatical warriors from across Europe towards the Holy Land. After invading the Seljuks from the Byzantine Empire, the Crusaders captured Jerusalem by way of Antioch in 1099 establishing a series of Crusader states down the Mediterranean coast. To the Christian forces, the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099 undid over four hundred years of heretic rule over the holy city. To the Muslims, the fall of Jerusalem led to the slaughter of thousands of the city’s Muslim and Jewish inhabitants.

Shortly after the city’s capture, a council was held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in order to elect a king for the newly established Kingdom of Jerusalem. Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the commanders of the Crusade, took control of the city but did not assume the title of King. He quickly set about expanding the borders of the kingdom, and set up the system of vassalage, but died after less than a year of reign. His brother, Baldwin of Boulogne, outmaneuvered his opponents and became the secular King of Jerusalem – and the first to assume the title – while a Latin Patriarch was put in charge of the Christian hierarchy in the city.

Early Successes[]

The kingdom continued to expand under Baldwin I, who did much to turn Jerusalem into a kingdom in truth as well as name. He established a strong monarchy and took over the Palestinian Coast, acquiring the much-needed port cities of Acre, Beirut, and Sidon in the process. Baldwin also reconciled with the crusader barons, establishing Jerusalem as suzerain of the other crusader states – those of Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli – in the process. His leadership solidified the Kingdom of Jerusalem and turned it into a strong bastion of Christianity against its Sunni neighbors. Baldwin died without heirs after 18 years of rule, and his cousin - also named Baldwin - became the king.

Baldwin II continued the progress made by his predecessor, fending off multiple invasions from the Fatimids and Seljuks alike, in addition to founding the first military orders of the crusades - the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar. The kingdom compiled law, signed commercial treaties, and with Venetian support, captured the city of Tyre. Jerusalem’s reach expanded to Edessa and Antioch, as Baldwin II acted as a regent of both cities following the deaths of their leaders in battle. After Baldwin II’s death, Fulk V of Anjou became the King-consort of Jerusalem, bringing Jerusalem into the orbit of the Angevin Empire. The foreign king was unpopular with the other crusader states, prompting Antioch, Tripoli, and Edessa to reassert their sovereignty. Fulk was forced to defeat Tripoli in battle, while he arranged a political marriage in Antioch. Fulk was still unpopular with the nobles of Jerusalem as he preferred an Angevin court to the previously established legal system in the kingdom. Hugh II of Jaffa revolted against Fulk, even going so far as to ally with the Muslims at Ascalon. After an assassination attempt on Hugh was blamed on Fulk, his wife Melisende took control of the government.

Crusader Kings[]

Jerusalem faced another rival shortly after - Zengi of Mosul, who was rampaging throughout Mesopotamia and expanding into Syria, having taken the city of Aleppo and threatening the city of Damascus. The Byzantine Emperor John II Komnenos failed to stop Zengi, prompting Jerusalem and Damascus to ally in an attempt to stop the advance of Zengi, while Fulk took the opportunity to build a number of castles on the kingdom’s frontier. Soon after, Baldwin II was killed in a ‘hunting accident’, leaving the throne to his thirteen-year-old son, Baldwin, for whom Melisende ruled as regent. Zengi took the ensuing political turmoil while Jerusalem was ruled by a woman and a child as a chance to attack, defeating Edessa and conquering the city of Damascus. As the Christian eyes of Europe again turned to the military events of the Levant, Baldwin III’s rule began with the calling of a Second Crusade, the primary goal of which was the reconquest of Damascus and its return to Christian control. Ultimately this attempt was unsuccessful, and Damascus remained in Muslim hands.

The failure of the Crusade caused further unrest within Jerusalem, which in turn resulted in a division within the kingdom and the outbreak of civil war between Baldwin III and his mother, Melisende. Baldwin controlled Acre and Tyre while Melisende controlled Jerusalem. Baldwin quickly invaded Melisende’s holdings, and Baldwin III became the sole ruler of Jerusalem. Baldwin rebuilt the kingdom’s political stability and unity on a domestic level, while at the same time seeking a greater position internationally through an alliance with the Byzantine empire. This was accomplished by Baldwin III marrying a niece of Emperor Manuel Komnenos.

Amalric and Saladin[]

Upon Baldwin III’s childless death in 1163, the kingdom passed to Amalric, his younger brother. Amalric was quick to further develop ties with the Byzantines, who encouraged him to join them in an invasion of Egypt. The invasion showed early signs of success, however Amalric was forced to withdraw his forces when Nur ad-Din, Zengi’s successor, invaded Antioch in the north. Nur ad-Din, along with his nephew Yusuf ibn Ayyub, better known as Saladin, were frequent enemies of Amalric and the crusaders for the remainder of Amalric’s rule.

Baldwin IV took the kingship of Jerusalem after the death of Amalric, but was a leper and thus could not produce an heir or be expected to rule for a long term. Baldwin, knowing that western support was essential to ensure the ongoing existence of the Kingdom, married his sister Sibylla into the families of Louis VII of France and the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.

European leaders continued to show interest in the holy land, with Philip of Flanders having arrived in Jerusalem on pilgrimage, upon which he took much of Jerusalem’s army north to attack Hama. Saladin, who at this point controlled much of both Egypt and Syria, took the clear opportunity of most of the Kingdom’s forces being away to invade Jerusalem. Baldwin managed a victory at Montgisard despite being outnumbered and out-armed, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem would endure to fight another day.

Betrayal and Defeat[]

Further forays into Arabia met with little success, despite Saladin remaining unable to take Aleppo. Saladin responded with yet another invasion, and was defeated once again. Neither side did significant damage in this conflict, until Raynald of Chatillon took a naval expedition on the Red Sea, an endeavour which had little to no strategic value. The rogue Crusader King’s expedition ended as an unmitigated disaster, and Saladin eventually was able to take control of Aleppo and put full pressure on the City of Peace. Baldwin IV finally died of his leprosy and was succeeded by yet another Baldwin, his nephew King Baldwin V. And then he died a year later, and was succeeded by Guy of Lusignan, in light of several other candidates refusing to take the position given Jerusalem’s declining political position.

After a pre-emptive attack by the crusaders, Saladin pushed into Jerusalem and overran the kingdom. He captured Jerusalem and Guy, with the only remnant of the once-mighty kingdom the port of Tyre, which remained under the control of Conrad of Montferrat, the last King of Jerusalem by default. The fall of Jerusalem triggered the Third Crusade, which ended peacefully and Saladin allowed pilgrimages to be made to Jerusalem, though it remained in his tight grip. The Kingdom of Jerusalem staggered on as the Kingdom of Acre until it too fell in 1291 following a Fatimid siege. Several schemes were made to reconquer the city, but none succeeded - Jerusalem would remain firmly Islamic despite countless failed crusades.

Judgement of History[]

The Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the crusades as a whole, have traditionally been seen in a positive light in the Christian west. Crusaders were seen as noble fighters who ventured to a distant land in the name of God and Christendom, and of a similar vein to knights of medieval Europe who lived by a strict moral code. However, in recent years and as the influence of the Church narrative has declined, new evidence of what would now be considered war crimes committed by the Crusader forces has been uncovered. The Kingdom of Jerusalem also maintained strict control of its territory for non-Christians, in contrast to Saladin's opening of Jerusalem to all faiths upon his rule. As with much in the area of political issues related to any of the Abrahamic religions, the version of events which you're given will often be determined simply by which person you ask, and will vary greatly from one to another.


  • Despite still being known as a kingdom, Jerusalem's first ruler was elected.

Baldwin III[]


Only thirteen when he ascended the throne, Baldwin III was the fourth ruler of Jerusalem (though only the third king,) ruling over the crusader state in the middle of the twelfth century. Under Baldwin's rule, Jerusalem faced a tenuous domestic political climate, with Baldwin eventually forced to defeat his own mother in a civil war. As sole ruler of the kingdom, Baldwin III presided over the Second Crusade, expanded Jerusalem's control into Egypt, and aligned further with the Byzantine empire.

Early Life[]

Little is known of Baldwin's early life, except of his heritage. He was born in 1130 to Melisende, daughter of the reigning king Baldwin II, and Fulk of Anjou, part of the ruling family of the Angevin Empire. From a young age he was faced with political strife, with his parents engaged in a bitter power struggle following the death of his grandfather when Baldwin III was just one year old. Fulk eventually was able to assume the leadership of Jerusalem, and ruled for twelve years until he died of a 'hunting accident', leaving Baldwin III king at the age of 13, as his heir.

Boy King[]

Although now officially King, the young Baldwin was not yet ready for the responsibility of ruling a fragile kingdom beset on all sides by hostile forces. As such, Melisende assumed the role of regent until he was fit to rule the kingdom himself. This, however, further damaged the political stability of Jerusalem, as the kingdom now had a woman and a child in charge at a time when such a position would be almost certainly dominated by a male. The remaining crusader states to the north, previously within Jerusalem's sphere of influence, further exerted their independence, while foreign Muslim powers who had previously stayed at bay due to the influence of Jerusalem in the region took the opportunity to launch campaigns across the region. The most successful of these was Zengi, whose capture of Edessa prompted the Second Crusade.

Now 18, Baldwin played a pivotal role in the crusade, hosting the council which decided upon Damascus as the target over Aleppo. Ultimately however, the crusade resulted in a resounding defeat, damaging morale in the Christian-controlled regions and amongst the crusaders.

Civil War[]

The failure of the crusade prompted Baldwin to take a step back, and re-examine his position within the Kingdom. Despite being old enough to rule alone, he had largely ignored domestic affairs within Jerusalem, allowing his mother to continue her role as regent. Baldwin's attempts to regain control of the kingdom drew the ire of Melisende, and in an attempt to prevent a conflict between the two the royal council split the kingdom into two separate districts - Baldwin controlled the north, and Melisende the south. This, of course, did little to prevent a conflict, and only a matter of weeks after the split Baldwin invaded Melisende's portion. After seeing how quickly Baldwin swept across the rest of his mother's territory, Jerusalem welcomed him as the rightful king in an attempt to prevent further bloodshed. Melisende and her inner circle hid in the Tower of David for protection, and in exchange for her surrender was given control of the city of Nablus by Baldwin.

Home and Abroad[]

While Baldwin III had been dealing with events at home in the civil war, his opponents abroad had taken the opportunity of a weakened Jerusalem to expand their own spheres of influence. Most notably amongst these was the Muslim warlord Nur ad-Din, who in this time had taken control of Damascus and Aleppo, forming a unified Syria which proved too formidable for the Christian forces to conquer. Baldwin therefore turned his attention south, and having rebuilt the internal political stability of Jerusalem, sought to again expand his empire through conquest. Baldwin made significant advances in this area, conquering the fortress of Ascalon in 1153 and ensuring that Egypt did not provide a substantial threat to Jerusalem for the remainder of his rule.

Baldwin had just as much involvement in military endeavours in the North as he did in the south. He defeated an invasion attempt from a Turkic state in 1152, as well as attempted an invasion of Syria in 1157. These actions proved him to the west as a strong and capable leader, and earned him the right to form an alliance with the Byzantine empire through marriage in 1158. Despite this, Baldwin died five years later from a rumoured assassination attempt, leaving behind no children - his wife was only 18 at the time of his death - and passing the kingdom to his brother, Amalric. From the great heights reached under Baldwin III, the kingdom began a slow decline over the next century.

Verdict of History[]

By all accounts, Baldwin III was a great leader of Jerusalem. From a childhood in turmoil, he was able to deftly navigate the political situation both within the Kingdom and across the region as a whole, to ensure Jerusalem remained a strong contender. He was able to reunite a divided kingdom, while fending off invasions on all fronts and still managing to expand Jerusalem's reach. Despite his efforts, the kingdom began a steady decline after his rule, no matter how hard he was able to maintain the kingdon's position.

Unique Components[]


Crusaders were a military force sent to fight heathens by the kingdoms of Europe in the name of Christianity. Loosely speaking, a Crusader was anyone who went on Crusade - in some cases, this included Children and irregulars with no military training who sought to repent for prior sins. In modern imagination however, the Crusader has come to be seen akin to the medieval knights, as a proud and chivalrous elite fighting force. Regardless of what Crusaders were in reality, early successes saw the Crusading spirit gain in fervour and establish the crusaders as a military force of lore, and the greatest militarisation in the name of Christianity in history.

Chapter House[]

Often attached to Christian religious buildings, chapter houses are buildings where members of the clergy or the wider religious community are able to meet and conduct business as usual. They would typically be used to host foreign monarchs in medieval times above and beyond the aforementioned purposes, and have since spread to beyond the examples of the Holy Land.



Antioch was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, having benefitted from its situation at the centre of political, economic, and cultural crossroads. The city was founded by the Seleucids on the banks of the Orontes River, and quickly grew to rival Alexandria as the greatest city in the Near East. This development continued under subsequent rulers, with Antioch reaching a population of over 500,000 by the end of the Hellenistic period. Upon its annexation by the Roman Republic in 64 BC it remained officially a free city, yet this did little to stop the adoration which the Romans had for the city -  many Roman leaders and emperors visited the city and commissioned great civic projects to further the star of Antioch within the Near East. These construction projects were plagued with issues however, as Antioch was also situated in an extremely seismicly active area - in 115 AD, the city was devastated by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, which caused an estimated 260,000 deaths.

Despite this, Antioch continued to rebound and remain a peak city in the Near East. Successive emperors continued to rebuild, and the city became home to large populations of Jews and Christians - all living side by side peacefully with those practising traditional beliefs. Antioch became an early centre of the Christian church, with the Christian population reaching 100,000 by the time of Theodosius I. Antioch became on the of the original patriarchates, and still lends its name to the Antiochian Orthodox Church, despite its relocation to Damascus. This history made it attractive as a target to the Crusaders, who recaptured it from the Sultanate of Rum in 1098 and established a Crusader state from the city. The principality of Antioch stood for much of the crusades, until succumbing to a siege by the Mamelukes under the rule of Baibars in 1268, at which point Antioch again fell into Muslim hands. The ensuing religious genocide in the city brought about the beginning of the end for the once-great city, and within 170 years the population had declined to less than 1000.