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Woman Warriors 2- A closer look:

As discussed in the conclusion of the previous article, we will look at a few women of the Crusades a little more in depth. For your reading and study pleasure, I encourage you to do some research and submit it for the members of the Palace as I firmly believe that we take more pleasure in the things that we help to build, it does not all have to come from the top, it can come from within. That said, here are some woman knights for you to take pride in and do further research on, I will discuss some and leave some for a later time:

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Melisende, Adele of Blois, Queen Sibylla, Queen Urraca, Anna Comnena, Lady Alice Knyvet, Maria Comena, Hildegard of Bingen, Sharat-at Durr, Sybilla of Flanders, Threrasia of Portugal, Eleanor of Castille, Berengaria of Navarre, Catarrina Benicasa, Mitilda of Tuscany, Yvetta (a.k.a Joveta) Daughter of Baldwin II of Jerusalem, Theodora Comnena, Joanna of Sicily, Blanche of Castile, Helena of Milly, Stephanie of Milly, Juliana of Caesaria and Isabelle of Torn, Alice of Armenia, Matilda de Braose and Countess Blanche of Champangne and Virgin Mary.

Many women participated in the Crusades and contributed much to Crusading efforts. Yet, they have rarely gotten their due until recent years during which the study of gender, as it related to the Crusades, has become increasingly popular. Let us look at a few:


Perhaps the most well known woman associated with the crusades. She was among the most powerful and influential woman of the twelfth century, and certainly one of the most interesting. Highlights concerning her are: Her adultery during the Second Crusade Being the Mother of King Richard I Her legacy in relation to the so-called Hundred Year War


Queen Melisende of Jerusalem was the eldest daughter of the Frankish King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and his Armenian wife Queen Morphia. She was born into the atmosphere of the new royal authority of the Franks as had been established in the wake of the successful conquest of Jerusalem by the First Crusaders. Melisende is one of the most fascinating women of the crusading women of the crusading era due to her influence throughout much of the twelfth-century over the important crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1129, she married Fulk V of Anjou who had been brought from France at her father’s request specifically to marry Melisende with the promise of becoming King upon Baldwin II’s death. Yet upon Baldwin’s death, the King altered his agreement slightly to allow for the joint ruler ship of Fulk and Melisende, as well as allowing for the future ruler ship of the first born of their two sons, Baldwin III and Amalric I. Following the death of Melisende’s father in 1131, they officially became joint rulers of Jerusalem, but in reality, Fulk dominated the Kingdom during the early part of their reign. In the mid-1130s, accusations of infidelity on the part of Milesende brought civil war between the married couple, as Fulk believed the accusations and provoked a war. The Queen’s forces were ultimately successful and she won favorable terms, which included greater authority in the affairs of the city. As a result, Fulk always sought her council before initiating anything of substance in the Kingdom until his death in 1143. During this period, Melisende is perhaps best known for her patronage of the arts and she is credited with founding the large abbey at Bethany. After the death of Fulk, Melisende became regent for her son Baldwin III, who was only thirteen at the time of Fulk’s death. When her son came of age, Melisende did not relinquish power to him, as she was required, and in 1145 when Baldwin III was to assume his authority Melisende ignored the date and continued to rule. In 1152, Baldwin III demanded from the high court of Jerusalem that the realm be divided and this was done, with Melisende in control of Judea and Samaria and her son Baldwin III in charge of the North. As the nobility increasingly gave their support of Baldwin III, Melisende eventually turned over control of her lands to her son, allowing for the consolidation of the Kingdom under Baldwin III. Queen Melisende and Baldwin III grew close again and she became his most trusted advisor, even serving as his regent during his occasional absences from the Kingdom until her death in1160.


Queen Sibylla was Queen of Jerusalem from 1186-1190. Her reign followed in the tradition of her grandmother Melisende, the former Queen of Jerusalem, as an influential female ruler. Among the more interesting aspects of her queen ship was her coronation in 1186 as sole ruler of Jerusalem. She died of disease while under siege at the Battle of Acre I 1190.


The Byzantine Princess Anna Comena has left one of the most informative and unique sources of the First Crusade. As the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, Anna wrote her history of her father’s reign from a Byzantine perspective and her work, The Alexiad, represented one of the few female sources of the entire crusading era. Anna received an excellent education as a young girl and later married a historian. She ultimately retired to a monastery known for learning in which she was 55 years old when she began work on The Alexiad. In her work, she gave a glowing review of her father’s reign, often portraying Alexius I as sincerely seeking the benefit of his people and the empire while dealing shrewdly with the crusaders, whom she depicted as rude and dangerous. Some have compared her work on her father to hagiography. Anna detailed her father’s efforts at securing oaths from the crusading princes and their movement through Constantinople into the Holy Land. She especially details her father’s efforts with the crusaders as a victory for her father in that it led to the return of several lands and cities to Byzantine control including Nicaea, Chios, Rhodes, Smyma, Ephesus, Philadelphia, Sardis and most of Asia Minor. Among the more interesting details of her work is her portrayal of the crude and rude nature of the crusaders as compared with the more sophisticated portrayal she allows for her father and other Byzanites. At Alexius I’s well-known failure to provide assistance to the crusaders at Antioch, which he had earlier promised, Anna colors the account to depict her father’s actions in the best possible way. This event led the crusaders to claim that Alexius had not held to his agreement and became the stated justification of the crusaders for the establishment of four crusader states at Jerusalem, Antioch, Edessa and Tripoli.


Maria Comnena was the grand niece of Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus. Maria was not known for her beauty, yet due to her royal status, she was a much sought after bride. Perhaps her most notable marriage was as the second wife of Almaric I, King of Jerusalem. They were married in Tyre in 1167. When Almaric died, he left Nablus (a major city in the West bank north of Jerusalem) to Maria, making her a dowager queen. Throughout her life, Maria would remain involved in the politics of the Levant. After Almaric’s death in 1174, Maria became the wife of Balian of Ibelin. They were married in 1177. Balian received the Lordship of Nablus as a result of the marriage. This contributed to making them among the most powerful noble families in the Kingdom and rulers of Beirut. During the siege of Jerusalem Balian was heavily involved in negotiations with Saladin and was at one point granted permission to retrieve Maria from the city. After Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem, Balian and Maria fled to safety on the coast and Balian fought on behalf of Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade. Balian was again heavily involved in negotiations between Saladin and Richard, leading to the conclusion of the Third Crusade. Maria, who died in 1206, outlived Balian, who died in 1193. Maria’s sister was married to Bohemund III of Antioch and her brother, Alexios, was briefly Emperor of Thessalonica. Maria had three children, including Isabella, by Almaric, and two sons by Balian, John of Ibelin and Phillip of Ibelin.


The Spanish Princess Berengaria of Navarre became Queen of England with her marriage to Richard the Lionheart n May of 1191. She had the distinction of being the only Queen of England to never have actually been to England. Berengaria was the daughter of King Sancho VI and Blanche of Castille. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, reportedly chose her as Richard’s bride. Beregnaria’s marriage to Richard was especially useful in that her dowry provided considerable funding for the King’s efforts during the Third Crusade. From Sicily, Berengaria and Richard’s sister Joan set sail to join Richard in the Holy Land, but their ship wrecked off the coast of Cyprus where they were taken prisoner by Isaac Comnenus. This led to Richard’s conquest of Cyprus, as he and some of his forces landed to free the two women and in doing so took control of Cyprus. The couple was then married and spent a relatively short time together in the Holy Land before Berengaria returned to France. In 1192., when Richard made his way back to Europe he was captured and held prisoner in Germany and only finally ransomed by his mother in 1194. Their marriage never amounted to more than a formality and they had no children. After Richard’s death, his brother King John seized much of Berengaria’s property causing her to live in relative poverty until John’s death and the ascension of his son, Henry III, who paid Berengaria most of what was owed her. Berengaria died in 1230, still in France.


References to the Virgin Mary are found throughout the ecclesiastical writings and literature of the middle ages. There is no doubt that her popularity among medieval Christians was greater than any other saint, perhaps greater than all of them put together. As a result, it is unsurprising that the effect of medieval Christian devotion to the Virgin Mary is found in the ecclesiastical and popular records of the crusading movement. Perhaps the most notable example, certainly the earliest, of the Virgin Mary’s interaction with the crusaders is recorded as taking place during the First Crusade at the siege of Antioch. When the crusaders found themselves having problems during the siege, they gathered to discuss the cause of the problems. According to the anonymous author of the Gest Francorum, a priest told the crusaders of a vision in which Jesus, Mary and St. Peter appeared to the priest. Jesus told the priest that he was not allowing the successful conquest of the city due to the sins and immorality of the crusaders. At this point, the priest describes the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who along with St. Peter fell at the feet of Jesus; they then implored Jesus to allow the crusaders to successfully conqueror the Antioch. At this, Jesus relented and imposed a five days of prayer on the crusaders as a penance for their sins and, if this were done, would provide his divine aid. Shortly later, the obedient crusaders were finally victorious. Additionally, there is the so-called Black-Madonna, known as the Blessed Virgin Mary of the crusades and pilgrimages. Many of the religious orders of the crusading movement were devoted to the Blessed Virgin. As early as 1127 in Palestine, a group of Germans founded the Order of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1198, they were made into a chivalric Order and became known as the Teutonic Knights, changing the focus of their order from charity to arms. In 1222, Pope Honorius III officially recognized the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. The fall of Acre in 1291, led to the end of the Order’s presence at Mount Carmel. Pope Leo XIII confirmed even the Rosary, a popular set of prayers said in devotion to the Virgin Mary, as originating with the crusades preacher St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. Although this is a popular and widely believed story, even today, it may not be true as the Rosary may date back to the ninth-century.

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