The Third Crusade

The Third Crusade (1189-1192) was launched as a direct result of the loss of Jerusalem to the Muslims in October 1187.   The loss of Jerusalem was occasioned by the destruction of the crusaders at the Battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187.[1]  Hattin was a disaster for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, most of the army was destroyed with only a small party led by Raymond of Tripoli escaping.   The king Guy of Lusignan (b.1150-d.1194) was captured as well the masters of the Templars and Hospitallers.   All the military monks were executed and most of the prisoners were sold into slavery.

After Hattin, Saladin (b.1138-d.1193) the king of Syria and Egypt proceeded to systematically conquer the major cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem ending with Jerusalem itself on October 2, 1187.   Only the coastal cities of Antioch, Tripoli, and Tyre remained in Christian hands.[2]  This disaster led the pope Gregory VIII (P.1187) to issue the encyclical Audita tremendi in October calling for a new Crusade to be launched to aid the Kingdom of Jerusalem.[3]  The loss of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was a shock to Christendom.   The impulse to crusading had faded after the failure of the Second Crusade (1145-1149) and the seeming security of Outremer because of the disorganization of the Muslim lands after the death of Nur ad Din (r.1146-1174).

After the death of Gregory VIII, a new pope Clement II (P.1187-1191) continued the call to crusade and did his utmost to make this a royal crusade, trying to get the reigning monarchs of Europe to take the cross.   He was largely successful in this as after intense negotiations Henry II (r.1154-1189) of England, and Philip II (r.1180-1223) of France, signed a truce and both took the cross.   The first western king to go to the aid of the Holy Land was William II (r.1166-189) king of Sicily, who took a fleet to Tripoli and helped to save the city from capture.   Unfortunately, shortly after relieving Tripoli, William II died and the Norman fleet disintegrated and took no further part in the crusade.  

In April 1189, the German emperor Frederic I Barbarossa (r.1152-1190) agreed to join the Crusade and set out to march across Europe following the route of the First and Second Crusades.   The Germans ran into trouble in Byzantium where the locals harassed them until Frederic I captured a Byzantine town forcing the Byzantines to agree to provide provisions and transport across the Hellespont.   Frederic I had negotiated a treaty with the Turks for safe passage but the treaty was worthless and the Germans fought and defeated a Turkish force on May 18, 1190.   The crusade continued, but after Frederic I drowned in an accident on June 10, 1190, at Konya in Anatolia,[4]  the German crusade fell apart with only small force under his son Duke Frederic of Swabia continuing on to the Holy Land.[5]

Despite their assumption of the cross, the French and English kings were too suspicious of each other and neither would leave for the Holy Land while the other remained in Europe.   Henry II died in 1189 and was succeeded by his son Richard I, The Lionheart (r.1189-1199).

The kings of England and France finally set sail for the Holy Land in July of 1190; Philip went straight to the Levant and joined the siege of Acre.   Richard I had a more adventurous trip to Outremer.   He wintered in Sicily where he became embroiled in a succession dispute and ended up capturing the city of Messina before continuing.   As his fleet approached Cyprus, a storm scattered his fleet and the ship holding his queen was held hostage by the Byzantine governor, the usurper Isaac I Comnenus (r.1184-1191).[6]  Richard I captured the island in a lightning campaign and then continued to Acre, where he arrived in June of 1191.

The Third Crusade arrived in the middle of a dispute over who was the rightful king of Jerusalem, Conrad of Montferrat (c.1140’s-1192), and Guy of Lusignan.   Predictably, the western kings were split with Philip supporting Conrad and Richard I supporting Guy.   Eventually a compromise was reached whereby Guy would be king, but Conrad would get the crown upon Guy’s death.[7]

With the arrival of the English, the siege of Acre entered its final stages, and the city surrendered on 12 July.   The crusaders agreed to spare the lives of the Muslim defenders for 200,000 Dinars and the return of the True Cross.  On August 16, after claiming Saladin had failed his treaty obligations, Richard I ordered over 2,700 prisoners executed outside the walls of the city.[8]  Philip returned to France after the siege of Acre, upset at being outshone by King Richard I.

The next stage of the Crusade was to be the capture of Jerusalem but Richard I wanted to secure the coast before attempting an assault on the city.   During the march to Jaffa the crusaders defeated Saladin’s army in September in the Battle of Arsuf.   They then continued and took the coastal cities of Jaffa and Ascalon.

The crusaders captured and restored forts on the road to Jerusalem and even approached the city twice in November of 1191 and June of 1192, but Richard I feared that even if the crusaders took the city they would be unable to hold it once the western crusaders returned home.[9]  In April of 1192 Richard I, received word of plots to usurp the throne by his brother c.1166-1216).   He began negotiating with Saladin and after concluding a truce on September 2, 1192 that provided for pilgrimage rights in Jerusalem, he set sail for England on October 9, 1192.   The bulk of the western crusaders returned to Europe at the same time as Richard I thus ending the Third Crusade.[10]

[1] Madden, Thomas F.   The New Concise History of the Crusades. pp. 74-76

[2] Ibid., p. 78

[3] Madden, Thomas, F. ed. The Crusades: An Illustrated History, p. 80

[4] Maalouf, Amin.   The Crusades through Arab Eyes. p. 207

[5] Madden, Thomas F.   The New Concise History of the Crusades. p. 82

[6] Ibid., p. 88

[7] Ibid., p. 89

[8] Ibid., p. 88, and Madden, Thomas, F. ed. The Crusades: An Illustrated History, p. 87

[9] Ibid., pp. 91-93

[10] Madden, Thomas F.   The New Concise History of the Crusades. p. 94