|Fig.1: Even this guy was dead a |
hundred years before the Eighth
and Ninth Crusades.
Once again, let's start with our major players:
Third Crusade, but knowing how well the French and English would get along for the next six hundred years, I wouldn't have high hopes for that.
The Spanish, under King James of Aragon, also agreed to join Louis on the Crusade, but as the Spanish are wont to do, their fleet was destroyed in a storm. Nevertheless, Louis and Charles planned to set sail with their armies in June 1270, with Edward stating he would be fashionably late but get there by autumn. The question remained of where to sail to: should the Crusaders head straight to the Holy Land, or attack Baibars' capital of Cairo in Egypt, or maybe even head over to Constantinople and rough up those Byzantines again before heading south to Jerusalem? In typical SAT fashion, the answer was "None of the above," as Louis announced they would first attack the city of Tunis, capital to a small Muslim kingdom in present-day Tunisia. Why the Crusaders chose to go to Tunis, which was essentially as important as Wyoming in a U.S. Presidential Election, remains a mystery. Did they believe that an easy victory over a weaker Muslim foe would build up their momentum moving forward? Did they think cutting off trade with the Mamluks' neighbors would inflict damage on their ability to defend their territory? Was Charles just looking out for his own kingdom in Sicily, which was within rafting-distance of Tunis? Or did they just want to find a brand new way to screw up another crusade? Well (spoilers), the latter was exactly what was going to happen.
|Fig.2: Louis IX's last words of "Jerusalem!" would|
lead to an unsuccessful manhunt to find his
childhood sled with that name.
As the king of good timing as well as Sicily, Charles of Anjou would arrive in Carthage with his army the very night his brother died. Though Louis's oldest son, Philip, was now King of France, he too had a little dysentery in his system (which was pushing everything else out of his system, if you know what I mean), so Charles took over command of the Crusade. A few small battles were waged against al-Mustansir, but it was clear that Charles really didn't much more heart in fighting the Crusade as I do writing about it (sorry, but I'm sure you've had enough of these things too). By October 1270, Charles and al-Mustansir reached an agreement for the former to pull his troops out of Africa if the latter paid a bunch of money to the Sicilian government. And so the eighth attempt to bring Christian rule back to the Holy Land ended with the brother of the guy who called it getting rich off of a Muslim city 1,500 miles away from that Holy Land. As you could imagine, the soldiers who agreed to join this Crusade were a little peeved about the whole thing, though the ones who would have been really mad were the thousands who died of disease without a single major battle being fought. Nevertheless, the reputation of Louis IX never wavered; in 1297, he was canonized as Saint Louis, with many churches and cities (especially ones who can't hold on to a football team) being named for him in the centuries to come.
Well that's it for the Eighth Crusade, but there was still a major player who hasn't shown up yet. Prince Edward of England finally got around to joining the French in November 1270, just in time to see Charles of Anjou packing up to return to Europe. The English were a little annoyed about this, but that's akin to complaining about your friends already eating dinner when you decided to show up to their place around midnight. Charles offered to allow Edward and his army to camp in Sicily for the winter before sailing to the Holy Land the next spring; this would be considered the Ninth Crusade by historians (Canned and otherwise), though contemporaries might have seen it as merely a "Plan B" to a Louis-less Eighth Crusade. The Crusaders arrived in Acre in May 1271 and just in time too, as Baibars was laying siege to the nearby town of Tripoli. Nevertheless the arrival of just a measly thousand troops, with many of them being French, did not scare Baibars too much, and he planned to take Acre by the end of the year. Edward planned to throw a wrench in this plan by allying himself with Abaqa Khan, Mongol ruler of Persia. In October 1271, 10,000 Mongol horsemen (which is the scariest 10,000 of anything in 1271 except for plague-infested rats) invaded Mamluk territory in Syria, and caused enough damage to distract Baibars from his famous Baibar-beques (his lamb kabobs were to die for...literally, if you were a Christian). Unfortunately for the Crusaders, they were never able to coordinate a combined attack with the Mongols, and Abaqa Khan eventually got fed up with the Crusade (I hear ya, man) and retreated.
|Fig.4: If more stuff like this happened in the|
Ninth Crusade, I wouldn't have procrastin-
ated for two years to write this history!
With Edward's departure, the last official crusade to the Holy Land was at an end. Sure, popes and kings would call for additional crusades, but that was like saying you're going to go to the gym when you know you're just going to stay home and eat a brick of cheese instead. Even when Acre was finally taken by the Mamluks in 1291, which effectively ended the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Crusaders' power in the region, not a finger (or a cross) was raised in Europe to help. Crusades, many realized, were too expensive, too lengthy, too complex, too stringy. They involved cooperation and teamwork among different groups, which was becoming increasingly difficult as Europe was fracturing into separate political identities with their own interests (mostly land and money, though silly chivalry still counted for something). Believe it or not, there are other "crusades" whose main goal wasn't the capture of Jerusalem and therefore aren't part of the numbered ones (oh, believe me, I'll get to those in the years to come). It would not be until 1917, when the British Army defeated the Ottoman Empire during World War I, that a European power would once again control the holiest city (and then they proceeded to carve everything up in a way that would breed conflict in the Middle East for a century...so far). In the end, the First through Ninth Crusades can be summed up with a famous 19th century painting entitled "The Last Crusader."
|Fig.5: This knight's face, which represents the dejection Crusaders felt after repeated|
failures in the Holy Land, is quite the opposite of mine now that I'm done writing
about these confounded things!