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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 165

He had escaped from the fiercely anti-Latin atmosphere of Constantinople,
saved Tyre from Saladin in 1187, married Isabel, the heiress to the kingdom
of Jerusalem (whose first husband, Humphrey of Toron, was still alive also),
and considered himself king from 1190 until his assassination in 1192. The
intimate identification of Boniface's whole family with the east, however,
could hardly have been the sole reason why the crusaders chose him as their
commander. The Gesta of pope Innocent III declares that Philip' Augustus
favored Boniface, <31> but it is not clear why. 
 We know that, after leaving Venice, four of the six crusader envoys had
proceeded to Genoa, <32> and it is possible that the Genoese authorities,
intimately linked with the family of Montferrat, had informed them of Boniface's
interest. Two historians report, moreover, that Manuel Comnenus had bestowed
Thessalonica on Renier of Montferrat, and had crowned him "king".
<33> Of course, no Byzantine emperor would have done precisely that,
but we know Manuel had made Renier caesar. Nor is there any thing inherently
improbable about the story that Manuel had given Renier Thessalonica as a
pronoia: in 1081 Alexius I Comnenus, in the first recorded act of his reign,
had made Nicephorus Melissenus caesar, and assigned Thessalonica to him.
<34> After the crusade, Boniface of Montferrat was to insist on having
Thessalonica, <35> and no other property, for himself, and he did in
fact become its first Latin king. We are perhaps justified, therefore, in
assuming that, as early as the spring of 1201, his interest in obtaining
the command of the crusader armies sprang from a determination to fight on
Byzantine soil for what he considered a family fief, <36> and possibly
 31 Gesta, chap. LXXXIII (FL, CCXIV, col. 132): "cum consilio regis
Franciae". Cf. E. Faral, "Geoffroy de Villehardouin: la question
de sa sincèreté," Revue historique, CLXXVII (1936), 57'.
 32 Villehardouin, Conquete, chap. XXXII. 
 33 Robert of Torigny, Cronica (MGH, SS., VI), p. 528; Sicard of Cremona,
Cronica (RISS, VII [1725], col. 612; MGH, SS., XXXI, 173). 
 34 Anna Comnena, Alexiad, II, VIII, 3 (ed. Leib, I, 89). 
 35 See below, chapter VI, pp. 190, 192. Boniface made an agreement with
the Venetians in August 1204 (printed in Tafel and Thomas, Urkunden, I, 512
ff.), the surviving text of which refers to Thessalonica as having been given
by Manuel to Boniface's father; but the emendation of patri to fratri clears
up this difficulty. 
 36 The leading authority on the family of Montferrat, Leopoldo Usseglio,
I Marchesi di Monferrato in Italia ed in Oriente, II (Turin, 1926), 247,
note 2, rejects the story on the ground that no Byzantine emperor ever crowned
a subject king. True, but Usseglio fails to see that the ceremonial bestowal
of the title of caesar, plus a fief in or near or including Thessalonica
(all of which a Byzantine emperor might easily have given), might strike
a western historian like Robert or Sicard, unfamiliar with Byzantine protocol,
as a royal coronation. Authorities taking this view (and both unknown to
Usseglio) are F. Cognasso, "Partiti politici e lotte dinastiche in Bisanzio
alla morte di Manuele Comneno," Memorie della R. Accademia delle Scienze
di Torino, ser. 2, LXII (1912), 220, and J. K. Fotheringham, Marco Sanudo
(Oxford, 1915), pp. 26 ff. 

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