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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years

XIX: The decline and fall of Jerusalem, 1174-1189,   pp. 590-621 PDF (10.8 MB)

Page 591

 Contemporary chroniclers generally agree that the men of Jerusalem had brought
disaster on themselves through their own mistakes. It is true that the short
reigns of Baldwin IV and Baldwin V witnessed quarrels over the regency, dissension,
wasted effort, and, above all, ill-conceived diplomacy and blundering strategy.
But the contemporary historian, lacking the perspective of later years, was
too much concerned with apportioning the blame. Since the kingdom of Jerusalem
was split into two factions during its last years, partisan historians handed
down to posterity two sets of villains and heroes. As a consequence, although
the accounts of William of Tyre and his continuators have gradually for sound
reasons found favor, modern interpretations have long echoed the ancient
controversies. Hence an understanding of the opposing factions is essential.
 In the kingdom of Jerusalem, as in the Latin east generally, baronial participation
in government was exceptionally well developed. It is also a fact of capital
importance that Amalric's capable administration was followed by the troubled
reigns of Baldwin IV (1174—1185) and Baldwin V (ii8~—ii86). Since
each, for reasons of health or youth, was unable consistently to assume full
executive responsibility, baronial rule — or, as it sometimes happened,
misrule — triumphed over royal power. The normal functioning of administration
was upset because the proper balance between the two organs of government,
the king and the high court, was destroyed. 
 History records few more tragic careers than that of Baldwin IV, the "leper
king". Only thirteen at the time of his father's death, afflicted with a
terrible disease which sapped his strength and caused an untimely death,
he nevertheless in the short years of his life displayed heroic fortitude
and remarkable intelligence. He had been tutored by William of Tyre and during
most of his reign owed much to that exceptional man's wisdom and experience.
Baldwin possessed an admirable understanding of the needs of the monarchy
of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, his health frequently forced him to relinquish
the responsibilities of government to various regents, who were called baillis
or procurators. The very choice of a bailli, whether by royal appointment
or baronial selection, often raised opposition and ultimately contributed
largely toward dividing the kingdom into two factions. Each faction endeavored
to control policy. Each attempted to promote the interests of its adherents
through influencing the helpless king or securing the bailliage. 

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