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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311

V: The Fourth Crusade,   pp. 152-185 PDF (11.7 MB)

Page 159

 The example set by counts Theobald of Champagne and Louis of Blois inspired
neighboring and related princes of northern France to similar action. At
Bruges on Ash Wednesday (February 23, 1200), count Baldwin of Flanders and
Hainault, who was married to a sister of Theobald, took the cross, together
with his brother Henry and many high barons of the region; in Picardy, count
Hugh of St. Pol; in Perche, count Geoffrey and his brother Stephen, cousins
of Louis of Blois. Thus by the summer of 1200 a considerable crusading army
had been formed. An initial meeting at Soissons was adjourned for two months
to allow time for further enlistments. At a second meeting, held at Compiegne,
each of the three counts, Theobald, Louis, and Baldwin, named two of his
barons to act as his agents in contracting for ships to carry the host overseas.
Some time around the turn of the year the six envoys set out for Venice.<17>
The forces raised in northern France in this first stage of recruiting were
to form the core of the army that went on the Fourth Crusade. The leaders
belonged to the very highest rank of the feudal nobility of France. Theobald
and Louis were scions of the two branches of the family of Blois-Champagne,
one of the great feudal dynasties of France. They were double first cousins,
since their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters. They were
also nephews both of Philip Augustus and of Richard the Lionhearted, their
maternal grandmother, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, having been married
first to Louis VII of France and later to Henry II of England. Thus the mothers
of the young counts were half-sisters of Philip Augustus, as well as of Richard
and John. Participation in the crusading movement had been a tradition with
the family, ever since an ancestor, Stephen of Blois, had taken part in the
First Crusade. Theobald's older brother, Henry, had played a prominent role
in the Third Crusade, and had been ruler of Jerusalem until his death in
1197.<18> Count Baldwin IX of Flanders, who had married Theobald's
and Henry's sister Mary, was also Baldwin VI of Hainault, a fief of the empire,
held of the bishop of Liege. All three of the counts were young men, under
thirty years of age. Villehardouin's list of the northern French barons who
had so far taken the cross includes, notably, Matthew of Montmorency, Reginald
of Montmirail, Simon of Montfort, Reginald of Dampierre, 
 17 Geoffrey of Villehardouin (Conquete, chap. XIV), who was one of the two
agents of the count of Champagne, says that the envoys were given only the
general instructions to arrange for ships at some seaport, and decided among
themselves to apply to Venice. The Devastatio asserts that the choice of
Venice was dictated by the pope, but this statement is unsupported. 
 18 See above, chapter III, pp. 53, 81-85, and below, chapter XV, pp. 522-529.

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