Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Journey Through Wales and the Third Crusade

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.

Crusader

After all the effort of travelling all the way around Wales preaching the crusade (and there were similar efforts elsewhere too), what happened to the crusade? Nothing, because the crusade didn't happen. England and France had long been enemies, but the two kings had made a truce in the face of the greater cause, which broke down almost straight away. Within two months of Gerald's return to Hereford, the two countries were at war again.

Gerald said:

During this long, laborious and praiseworthy mission, about three thousand men were signed with the cross. All of them were very handy with spears and arrows, well experienced in the art of war, and ready to attack the enemies of the faith at the first opportunity… If only the crusade itself had proceeded as quickly, and achieved as much success. 

The following year Prince Richard joined King Philip of France against his own father and some think the betrayal caused King Henry to give up the fight. He died in despair at Chinon on 6 July 1189. There was no one to stop Saladin in the Holy Land.

St David's Cathedral Pembrokeshire

Gerald had a nightmare about Saracens mutilating Christ's body, probably from guilt over not going on crusade. But the death of Henry II meant he had no one to pay for his journey and the new King Richard wanted him to work for him in Wales. Gerald, along with many other Welshmen, was eventually released from his crusaders vow. They were all ordered to give funds to the crusade instead and also aid the building of St Davids Cathedral.

Some Welshmen did keep their crusader vow, including Archbishop Baldwin and Ranulph de Glanville, when King Richard eventually went on crusade in July 1190. In fact Baldwin and de Glanville pressed on when Richard delayed in Sicily and Cyprus and led a force straight to Palestine, where it brought new heart to the demoralised army besieging Acre. The Archbishop became a hero, despite his age and poor health, commanding the Christian camp and blessing the storming parties. Unfortunately de Glanville died within a month, of disease and starvation, followed by Baldwin on 19 November 1190. He bequeathed all his possessions to further the crusade he had preached so fervently in Wales.

Richard the Lionheart statue (w)

King Richard's crusade eventually failed and a treaty was agreed which allowed pilgrims access to the Christian shrines. Gerald's highly successful preaching had raised many recruits, but few of them actually reached Palestine, and those that did fell far short of their aim. Yet his involvement in the campaign to raise recruits produced an enduring personal triumph: his Journey Through Wales, one of the most fascinating and delightful books of medieval times.

[adapted from A Mirror of Medieval Wales by Charles Kightly]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

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