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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Raynald of Châtillon 1125 - 1187 - Why Wolf of Kerak was a Mad Holy Land Crusader

A Knight Crusader could achieve great social standing in the Holy Lands
It attracted pious and holy men plus ambitious and unscrupulous people too. 

Raynald of Châtillon is a very controversial crusader knight of the middle ages. He was born in France in 1125, but his origins are vague. He was a man of middle-class ranking in Middle age French society and his father was said to be a Lord of Châtillon. However history seems unsure if Raynald came from Châtillon Sur/on Marne or Châtillon on Loing - each Châtillon is on a river.


This young man seems to have been a reckless and rebellious character and was sent away on the second crusade at age 22 years in 1147. He entered the service of Constance of Antioch - a noble born lady who would be widowed in 1149. Raynald of Châtillon was to spend the next 40 years in the Holy Land until the end of his life aged 62.


Raynald of Châtillon must have made some impression upon Constance of Antioch - perhaps the lady was taken by the brash young chancer - there would have been an obvious element of danger about the young man. It is also possible that the young noble lady of Antioch was manipulated in some way for she was used as a commodity of power from a young age. Her mother, Alice of Antioch, had tried to marry her to a Muslim Prince to gain control over Antioch as a reagent. This was when Constance was an infant. Alice of Antioch was banished for this deed, and when she was allowed to return, she tried to broker a marriage alliance for herself with a Christian Crusader called Raymond of Poitiers. Through this marriage, they could both rule Antioch, by her young daughter, as regents. Again Alice was foiled by Raymond of Poitiers for he married her 9-year-old daughter in secret and Alice was forced into humiliated exile. This was in the year of 1136.

In the Holy Land, lower ranked individuals could rise in social standing, far easier than in Europe, doing service for the Holy Roman Empire in the Holy Land. Here, the new Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem had been founded in 1099 AD. Areas all about the Middle East were being colonised by Christian invaders and small vassal kingdoms were being set up in various surrounding cities. The Crusader state of Antioch was one such place and now, through devious means, a low-rank knight had won control of a small kingdom state within the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.


A situation had developed in the Holy Land where wealthy men were pedalling the religion of Christianity as a material business. Anyone could jump on the band waggon and all were deluding themselves that they were doing God's work. Some may have believed this, but many that were intelligent enough to grasp the situation of ambition and acquisition, easily manipulated more pious and devoted men, of lower rank, to naively support hidden and unscrupulous causes. The example of Raymond of Poitiers and Alice of Antioch is such an example. The 9-year-old wife could hardly have known what was going on.


Then at the age of 20, Constance of Antioch sees a young knight from France come into her service, though more likely under the command of her husband. This is Raynald of Châtillon's first appearance in the Holy Land. Did he quickly grasp the situation coupled with his rebellious streak?


Raynald of Châtillon would have witnessed Muslims and Hebrews being subjugated to Christian rulers - immigrants who believed their prophet Jesus Christ should have Christian people rule the area. He may have been indifferent to them and probably the lower ranks of his own kind. It is hard to put oneself in the mind of such men when they could do underhand things and pedal forgiveness and penance so easily through their church. Imagine - suddenly there is a land of milk and honey to plunder and there is a God given right to do what you want, provided you rule as a believer of the Christian religion - or say you do if you are of an unscrupulous and cunning mind.


In 1149, two years after Raynald of Châtillon arrived at Antioch, his Lord and master were killed at the Battle of Inab. Raymond of Poitiers - the husband of Constance of Antioch, was beheaded by his Muslim enemy when captured during the battle. His head was sent to the Caliph of Baghdad as a gift. Why young Raynald of Châtillon was not on this expedition is not known for he was in the service of Constance and Raymond the co-rulers of Antioch.


Four years passed for the widow Constance of Antioch, then one day in 1153, she secretly married Raynald of Châtillon. How this secret marriage came about is not well known but it was not approved by King Baldwin III of Jerusalem. Together Raynald and Constance would have two daughters. The marriage of Constance to a man of such low birth was not permitted, but this was the Holy Land where men could better themselves in the service of God. Raynald had got his foot on the ladder of ambition and climbed up a few steps.


From the start, the rebellious and reckless young man caused controversy, often raiding and plundering neighbouring Muslim states in the name of God and the Holy Church of Rome, becoming a difficult person to control within his Crusader state of Antioch.


Raynald of Châtillon became very angry and resentful towards the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I, who Raynald believed, owed him a vast a sum of money. As a form of revenge and punishment, Raynald wanted to invade the island of Cyprus which was ruled by the Byzantine Emperor. For this, Raynald requested that the Patriarch of Antioch (Bishop) grant him the funds necessary to finance such an invasion. When the Patriarch refused this, Raynald had the Patriarch stripped naked and covered in honey. He was then put out in the hot sun for a great length of time until the exhausted holy man was forced to relent and grant the funds required.


Raynald of Châtillon led his Crusader forces against the Byzantine state of Cyprus, the way he attacked Muslim states in the Holy Land. The island was ravaged and plundered by his knights much to the consternation of the King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and the Byzantine Emperor. The shock waves caused Emperor Manuel I to raise an army and move towards the Holy Land.


Raynald of Châtillon was forced to grovel before the Byzantine Emperor in bare feet and dressed in rags. Later the Emperor went to Raynald's Crusader state of Antioch where he was received with pomp and ceremony by Raynald, and then; in full view of his subjects, Raynald of Châtillon, had to be seen leading the Byzantine Emperor's horse through the streets. This was always a mark of humility in the Middle East. Also, Antioch was forced to accept a new Patriarch - an Orthodox Greek Bishop. The last thing wanted by Rome and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was too upset the Eastern Christian Church. This political unrest with neighbouring Byzantine lands was put to rest in 1159.


If 1159 was a bad year for Raynald of Châtillon, then 1160 was to be the beginning of 16 years of trouble and strife. He led an expedition raid against the Muslim Kingdom called Marash and got himself captured. He was taken to the large city of Aleppo in Syria and remained a prisoner for 16 years. He was released in 1176 aged 51. When captured he was 35 years of age and now after a 16-year prison sentence and aged 51, one might think the old ruler of Antioch had mellowed. This was not so. Perhaps, as a high ranked official of Antioch, Raynald of Châtillon's confinement might have been better accommodation than most might expect. The Crusader Knight does not seem to have been humbled or integrated with an understanding of the Muslims where he had lived over the years as a prisoner. His wife, Constance of Antioch, had died in 1163 and all rule of Antioch was passed from him.


In 1176, after his years of confinement, Raynald of Châtillon was released from the Islamic prison and sent back to the Holy Land, where he was married to a Princess called Stephanie of Milly. She had been widowed twice and had children. She would have two more by Raynald of Châtillon and was the heiress to Oultrejordain and owned the castle of Kerak.

Kerak Castle

Raynald was back and into his old habit of attacking Muslim caravans as they travelled through the Kingdom of Jerusalem and her other Crusader states. The signed truces had allowed for this, but Raynald of Châtillon would not abide by these things still - despite all of the trouble this impulsive and disorderly conduct had brought upon him, in the past. History seems to portray him as a very driven pantomime villain, for he would not conform in any way. He even made threats upon the Islamic Holy Temple of Mecca and this brought Saladin the Great upon his castle at Kerak during the year of 1183. At the time there was an arranged marriage ceremony going on between Leper King Baldwin IV's half-sister and Stephanie's son.

The antics of Raynald of Châtillon were a constant cause for concern and when the Leper King Baldwin IV died, the reckless knight supported Queen Sibylla (Baldwin IV's sister) and her husband Guy of Lusignan. This led to a fatal confrontation with Saladin's invading army at Hattin. Raynald of Châtillon continued to attack Muslim pilgrimages and caravans - one had Saladin's sister travelling within. This final outrage brought Saladin the Great into the Holy Land to sort the problem, of rogue Christian attacks, out - once and for all.
The Crusaders suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Hattin
Here Raynald of Châtillon fortune ran dry.

The confrontation at Hattin was a huge defeat for the Crusaders and many prisoners were taken - among them Raynald of Châtillon and Guy of Lusignan (ruler of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.) It was 40 years since 1147 when 22-year-old Raynald of Châtillon arrived in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and by this time in 1187, the 62-year-old Crusader's luck had run dry. Some say Saladin himself plunged a dagger into the unruly Crusader's neck before he was dragged among his Muslim soldiers and beheaded. It was also said to have been done before Guy of Lusignan's eyes. Whatever happened; the problem of Raynald of Châtillon - the mad Christian crusader was put to rest. He died as violently and terribly as he had lived, receiving no mercy for his rank and social standing. In the eyes of Saladin and his Muslim soldiers, Raynald of Châtillon (often called the wolf of Kerak) had shown no such protocol to Muslims - why should he receive such respect for his social standing in return. While convulsively choking from his stab wound in the neck, he was beheaded and probably not too quickly. It is difficult to imagine a person choking for life and standing still so that an executioner can swiftly behead. It was probably a very messy affair.


He died a martyr by the consideration of some Crusaders, but history is less sympathetic to the man in this day and age. For 40 years he lived out in the Holy Land, spending 16 years as a prisoner, midway through this time. His monument among the Muslims is that of a terrible land pirate or plunderer known as The Wolf of Kerak. Among Christians and the western world, he is remembered not. Only historians with a special interest in the Crusader wars would know of this man. He was also portrayed in the Ridley Scott movie 'Kingdom of Heaven.' 




    

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