Death of Baldwin I, king of Jerusalem

February 28, 2019

Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, painted by Merry-Joseph Blondel

The king of Jerusalem, no longer having the Turks of Baghdad or the Turks established in Syria to contend with, turned his attention towards Egypt, whose armies he had so frequently dispersed. He collected his chosen warriors, traversed the desert, carried the terror of his arms to the banks of the Nile, and surprised and pillaged the city of Pharamia, situated three days’ journey from Cairo. The success of this expedition gave him room to hope that he should one day render himself master of a great kingdom, and he was returning triumphant, and loaded with booty, to Jerusalem, when he fell sick at El-Arrich, on the confines of the desert which separates Egypt from Palestine. His life was soon despaired of, and the companions of his victories, assembled around him, could not conceal their deep sorrow. Baldwin endeavored to console them by his discourses: “My dear companions,” said he to them, “you who have suffered so many evils and braved so many perils, why do you allow yourselves to be overcome by grief? Remember that you are still in the territories of the Saracens, and that you stand in need of all your customary courage. Consider that you only lose in me a single man, and that you have among you several warriors who surpass me in skill. Think of nothing but of returning victorious to Jerusalem, and of defending the heritage of Christ. If I have fought a long time with you, and my many labors give me the right of addressing a prayer to you, I conjure you not to leave my bones in a foreign land, but to bury them near to the tomb of my brother Godfrey.”

The death of Baldwin I by Gustave Doré

The king of Jerusalem then caused his servants to be assembled and gave them orders for his sepulture. After having nominated Baldwin du Bourg as his successor, he expired, surrounded by his companions, who, though deeply grieved, endeavored to conceal their tears, that the Saracens might not learn the great loss the Christians had experienced. . . .

Funeral of Baldwin I, from the book: Les Passages d’outremer faits par les Français contre les Turcs depuis Charlemagne jusqu’en 1462.

The last wishes of Baldwin were accomplished. The Christian army, preceded by the mortal remains of its chief, returned to Jerusalem. Baldwin du Bourg, who came to the holy city to celebrate the festival of Easter and to visit the brother of Godfrey, arrived on Palm Sunday at the hour in which the clergy and the people, according to ancient custom, go in procession to the Valley of Josaphat. As he entered by the gate of Ephraim, the funeral train of Baldwin, accompanied by his warriors in mourning, entered by the gate of Damascus. At this sight melancholy cries were mingled with the hymns of the Christians. The Latins were deeply afflicted, the Syrians wept, and the Saracens, says Foulcher de Chartres, who were witnesses of this mournful spectacle, could not restrain their tears. In the midst of the sorrowing people, the count of Edessa accompanied the funereal convoy to the foot of Calvary, where Baldwin was buried close to Godfrey.

Joseph François Michaud, The History of the Crusades, trans. W. Robson (New York, Redfield, 1853), 1:293-5.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 667



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