Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Conrad of Montferrat, or Conrad I of Jerusalem (Piedmontese: Corad dël Monfrà; Italian: Corrado del Monferrato; mid-1140s28 April 1192) was one of the major participants in the Third Crusade. He was the de jure King of Jerusalem from 24 November 1190, but officially elected only in 1192, days before his death.

Early life
In 1179, following the family's alliance with Manuel I Comnenos, Conrad led an army against Frederick Barbarossa's forces, then commanded by the imperial Chancellor, Archbishop Christian of Mainz. He defeated them at Camerino in September, taking the Chancellor hostage. (He had previously been a hostage of the Chancellor.) He left the captive in his brother Boniface's care and went to Constantinople to be rewarded by the Emperor,
However, feeling that his service had been insufficiently rewarded, wary of Byzantine anti-Latin sentiment (his youngest brother Renier had been murdered in 1182) and of possible vengeance-seeking by Branas's family, Conrad set off for the Kingdom of Jerusalem in July 1187 aboard a Genoese merchant vessel. Some popular modern histories have claimed that he was fleeing vengeance after committing a private murder: this is due to a failure to recognise Branas's name, garbled into "Lyvernas" in the Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (sometimes known as The Chronicle of Ernoul), and Roger of Howden's abridgement of his own Gesta regis Henrici Secundi (formerly attributed to Benedict of Peterborough). Roger had initially referred to Conrad "having slain a prominent nobleman in a rebellion" - meaning Branas; in his Chronica, he condensed this to "having committed homicide", omitting the context.

Defence of Tyre
In summer 1188, Saladin released Guy of Lusignan, the husband of Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem, from captivity. A year later, in 1189, Guy, accompanied by his brother Geoffrey, appeared at Tyre and demanded that Conrad hand over the keys to the city to him. Conrad refused this demand, and declared that Guy had forfeited his rights to be king of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin. He said that he was holding the city until the arrival of the kings from Europe. By this, he was invoking the terms of Baldwin IV's will, in the event of the death of his nephew Baldwin V - terms already broken by Guy and Sibylla: that Baldwin V's "most rightful heirs " were to hold the regency until the succession could be settled by the King of England, the King of France, and the Holy Roman Emperor. He would not allow Guy and Sibylla to enter the city, but did allow them to camp outside Tyre's walls with their retainers.
Conrad was persuaded by his cousin once-removed, Ludwig III, Landgrave of Thuringia, to join Guy in the Siege of Acre in 1189. The siege lasted for over two years. In summer 1190, Conrad travelled north to Antioch to lead another young kinsman, Frederick of Swabia, safely back to Acre with the remnants of his cousin Frederick Barbarossa's imperial army.
When Queen Sibylla and their daughters died of disease later that year, Guy, who had only held the crown matrimonial, no longer had a legal claim to the throne - but refused to step aside. The heiress of Jerusalem was Isabella of Jerusalem, Queen Sibylla's half-sister, who was married to Humphrey IV of Toron, of whom she was fond. However, Conrad had the support of her mother Maria Comnena and stepfather Balian of Ibelin, as well as Reginald of Sidon and other major nobles of Outremer. They obtained an annulment on the grounds that Isabella had been under-age at the time of the marriage and had not been able to give consent. Conrad then married Isabella himself, despite rumours of bigamy because of his marriage to Theodora, who was still alive. (However, Choniates, who usually expresses strong disapproval of marital/sexual irregularities, makes no mention of this. This may imply that a divorce had been effected from the Byzantine side before 1190, by which time it was obvious that Conrad would not be returning.) There were also objections on grounds of canonical 'incest', since Conrad's brother had previously been married to Isabella's half-sister, and Church law regarded this kind of "affinity" as equal to a blood-relationship. However, the Papal Legate, Ubaldo Lanfranchi, Archbishop of Pisa, gave his approval. (Opponents claimed he had been bribed.) The marriage, on 24 November 1190, was conducted by Philip of Dreux, Bishop of Beauvais - son of Conrad's cousin Robert I of Dreux. Conrad was now de jure King of Jerusalem. However, he had been wounded in battle only nine days previously, and returned with his bride to Tyre to recover. He came back to the siege in spring, making an unsuccessful sea-attack against the Tower of Flies at the harbour entrance.
As Guy was a vassal of Richard I of England for his lands in Poitou, Richard supported him in this political struggle, while Conrad was supported by his cousin Leopold V of Austria and cousin once-removed Philip II of France. Conrad acted as chief negotiator in the surrender of Acre, and raised the kings' banners in the city. Afterwards, the parties attempted to come to an agreement. Guy was confirmed as king of Jerusalem, and Conrad was made his heir. Conrad would retain the cities of Tyre, Beirut, and Sidon, and his heirs would inherit Jerusalem on Guy's death. In July 1191 Conrad's kinsman, King Philip, decided to return to France, but before he left he turned over half the treasure plundered from Acre to Conrad, along with all his prominent Muslim hostages. King Richard asked Conrad to hand over the hostages, but Conrad refused as long as he could. After he finally relented (since Richard was now leader of the Crusade), Richard had all the hostages killed. Conrad did not join Richard on campaign to the south, preferring to remain with his wife Isabella in Tyre - believing his life to be in danger. It was probably around this time that Conrad's father died.
During that winter, Conrad opened direct negotiations with Saladin, suspecting that Richard's next move would be to attempt to wrest Tyre from him and restore it to the royal domain for Guy. His primary aim was to be recognised as ruler in the north, while Saladin (who was simultaneously negotiating with Richard for a possible marriage between his brother Al-Adil and Richard's widowed sister Joan, Dowager Queen of Sicily) hoped to separate him from the Crusaders. The situation took a farcical turn when Richard's envoy, Isabella's ex-husband Humphrey of Toron, spotted Conrad's envoy, Reginald of Sidon, out hawking with Al-Adil. There seems to have been no conclusive agreement with Conrad, and Joan refused marriage to a Muslim.

Struggle for the crown
In April 1192, the kingship was put to the vote. To Richard's consternation, the barons of the Kingdom of Jerusalem unanimously elected Conrad as King. Richard sold Guy the lordship of Cyprus (where he continued to use a king's title) to compensate him and deter him from returning to Poitou, where his family had long had a reputation for rebelliousness. Richard's nephew Henry II of Champagne brought the news of the election result to Tyre on 24 April, then returned to Acre.
But Conrad was never crowned. Around late morning or noon on 28 April, Isabella, who was pregnant, was late in returning from the hammam to dine with him, so he went to eat at the house of his kinsman and friend, Philip, Bishop of Beauvais. The bishop had already eaten, so Conrad returned home. On his way, he was attacked by two Hashshashin, who stabbed him at least twice in the side and back. His guards killed one of his attackers and captured the other. It is not certain how long Conrad survived. Some sources claimed he died at the scene of the attack, or in a nearby church, within a very short time. Richard's chroniclers claimed that he was taken home, received the last rites, and urged Isabella to give the city over only to Richard or his representative: this is open to doubt. He was buried in Tyre, in the Church of the Hospitallers. "[T]he Frankish marquis, the ruler of Tyre, and the greatest devil of all the Franks, Conrad of Montferrat -- God damn him! -- was killed," wrote Ibn al-Athir. Certainly, the loss of a potentially formidable king was a blow to the kingdom. He was about 46 or 47 at the time of his death.
The murder remains unsolved. Under torture, the surviving Hashshashin claimed that Richard was behind the killing, though this is impossible to prove. A less likely suspect was Humphrey IV of Toron, Isabella's first husband. Saladin's involvement has also been alleged, but as Conrad was in the middle of negotiations with him, this also seems unlikely; Saladin himself had no love for the Hashshashin. In 1970, Patrick A. Williams argued a plausible case for Henry of Champagne's guilt, but if so, it is difficult to imagine him taking such a bold step without his uncle Richard's approval.
Later, while returning from the crusade in disguise, Richard was recognised by Meinhard II of Görz, who is described as Conrad's nephew (which suggests the identity of his first wife), and then imprisoned by his cousin Leopold V of Austria. Conrad's murder was one of the charges against him. Richard requested that the Hashshashin vindicate him, and in a letter allegedly from their leader, Rashid al-Din Sinan, they appeared to do so. The letter claimed that in 1191, Conrad had captured a Hashshashin ship that had sought refuge in Tyre during a storm. He killed the captain, imprisoned the crew, and stripped the ship of its treasure. When Rashid al-Din Sinan requested that the ship's crew and treasure be returned, he was rebuffed, and so a death sentence was issued for Conrad of Montferrat. However, this letter is believed to have been forged: Sinan was already dead, and apart from this letter and the chronicle entries based upon it, there is no other evidence for the Hashashin being involved in shipping. The timing of the murder, and its consequences - the pregnant Isabella was married off to Henry of Champagne only seven days later, much to the disgust of Muslim commentators - suggest that the chief motive may be sought in Frankish politics.

Conrad's brother Boniface was the leader of the Fourth Crusade and a notable patron of troubadours, as was their sister Azalaïs, Marchioness of Saluzzo. Their youngest brother Renier was a son-in-law of Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, and the eldest, William, had been the first husband of Sibylla and father of Baldwin V of Jerusalem. Conrad was also briefly Marquis of Montferrat, following his father's death in 1191. In Montferrat he was succeeded by Boniface, but his own heiress was born posthumously: a daughter Maria of Montferrat, 'La Marquise', who in 1205 became Queen of Jerusalem on Isabella's death, but died young in childbirth. Conrad's ex-wife, Theodora, was still living in the mid-late 1190s, when she was having the monastery of Dalmatios converted into a convent, possibly for her own residence.

Conrad of Montferrat Role in fiction, film and art

Brand, Charles M. Byzantium Confronts the West, 1968, ISBN 0-7512-0053-0
Brevis Historia Occupationis et Amissionis Terræ Sanctæ, in Die Chronik des Propstes Burchard von Ursberg, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger & Bernhard von Simson, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica: Scriptores in Usum Scholarum, (Hannover & Leipzig, 1916), pp. 59-64
Choniates, Niketas, Historia, ed. J.-L. Van Dieten, 2 vols., Berlin and New York, 1975; trans. as O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates, by H.J. Magoulias, Detroit; Wayne State University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-8143-1764-2
Edbury, Peter W. (ed.) The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade, 1998, ISBN 1-84014-676-1
Gabrieli, Francesco. (ed.) Arab Historians of the Crusades, English translation 1969, ISBN 0-520-05224-2
Gilchrist, M. M. "Character-assassination: Conrad de Montferrat in English-language fiction & popular histories", Bollettino del Marchesato. Circolo Culturale I Marchesi del Monferrato, Alessandria, no. 6 (Nov. 2005), pp.5-13. (external link)
Haberstumpf, Walter. Dinastie europee nel Mediterraneo orientale. I Monferrato e i Savoia nei secoli XII–XV, 1995 (external link to downloadable text).
Ilgen, Theodor. Konrad, Markgraf von Montferrat, 1880
Nicholson, Helen J. (ed.) The Chronicle of the Third Crusade: The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, 1997, ISBN 0-7546-0581-7
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. "Corrado di Monferrato", Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. XXIX, Rome 1983, pp. 381-387 (external link)
Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades, 1951-54, vols. 2-3.
Usseglio, Leopoldo. I Marchesi di Monferrato in Italia ed in Oriente durante i secoli XII e XIII, 1926.
William of Tyre, French continuation of. Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum (external link to text in mediæval French).
Williams, Patrick A. "The Assassination of Conrad of Montferrat: Another Suspect?", Traditio, vol. XXVI, 1970.

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