Loyalty Trumps All Self-Interest in Count Raymond’s Military Counsel to the King

June 20, 2019

After the rupture of the truce, Saladin employed himself in getting together a formidable army. Turks, Arabs, Kurds, and Egyptians flocked to his standard; he promised the spoils of the Christians to the Mussulman families that had been driven to Palestine; he distributed cities and provinces beforehand to his faithful emirs, and held out to all his soldiers the certainty of pillage or a glorious martyrdom. The caliph of Baghdad and all the imams of Egypt, Syrian, and Mesopotamia put up prayers for the triumph of his arms and the deliverance of Jerusalem. He crossed the Jordan, and advanced into Galilee at the head of eighty thousand horse.

Guy de Lusignan, count of Tripoli.

In a council held at Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, the count of Tripoli, and the barons deliberated upon the measures most proper to be adopted to save the kingdom. The knights of the three military orders [Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights], the troops of the king and the nobles, the garrisons of cities, with all Christians able to bear arms, received orders to assemble on the plain of Sephouri. It was determined to employ in the prosecution of the war the treasures sent by Henry II, which were kept in the house of the Temple; and to associate the English monarch in the glory of this expedition, the arms of England were represented on the standards of the Christian army. The wood of the true cross, which had so often animated the Crusaders in fight, was exhibited to the people as a last means of safety, and carried in triumph to the place where the defenders of Jerusalem were assembled.


An army of fifty thousand fighting men had been collected on the plain of Sephouri, when the leaders learned that Saladin had carried the city of Tiberias by assault, and threatened the citadel, in which were shut up the women and children of the count of Tripoli. The Christians who had escaped from the sword of the Saracens, in the utmost terror, took refuge in the camp of Sephouri, conjuring the king and the chiefs to put an end to the ravages of the infidels. The barons assembled in the tent of Guy, and all at once exclaimed that it was necessary to march immediately against the enemy. Raymond then arose and demanded permission to speak. “I am about,” said he “to lay before you advice which will surprise you; but I offer it with the greater confidence from its being opposed to my personal interests. My desolated country, my cities in ashes, my subjects ready to submit to death or slavery, my wife exposed to the insults of the Mussulmans all implore instant succor from me and you; but it is my duty to think of the safety of the Christian cities now left without garrisons. In this army assembled on the plain of Sephouri exists the only hope which the Christians of the East have left. You behold here all the soldiers of Christ, all the defenders of Jerusalem; if they perish, the infidels have no other foes to dread. Beware, then, of leading this multitude of men and horses into a dry and arid country, where the season, with thirst and hunger, must soon deliver them up without defense to the enemy. The number even of the Christian soldiers inspires me with more alarm than confidence. They present nothing but a confused troop of men got together in haste, and totally unable to support fatigue. The Mussulman archers are more skillful than our soldiers in casting javelins, and may harass us on our march, without our being able to defend ourselves; the cavalry of Saladin is more numerous and better trained than ours, and may attack us with advantage on the plains, across which we must pass. Abandon, then, I entreat you, Tiberias to the Mussulmans, and let us save an army which may yet repair our losses.

“I swear before God and before man, that I would willingly abandon the county of Tripoli, with all the lands I possess, to procure the safety of the city of Christ. Our only aim must be to destroy the power of Saladin, and at the same time to preserve some defenders for the kingdom of Jerusalem. If we go to meet the enemy and should be conquered, God himself will not be able to save the Christians, but will allow us to be delivered up to the infidels. If, on the contrary, the enemy come to offer themselves to our arms, all our losses will be repaired, and the evils that will fall upon me, will become for me a source of gratification, since I shall have suffered for the cause of Christ and the safety of his people.”

The more generosity there was in this advice, the less sincere it was esteemed. The grand master of the Templars, blinded by his hatred for Raymond, interrupted him several times; he reminded the assembly of the alliance of the count of Tripoli with Saladin [Editor: an alliance that no longer existed], and exclaimed aloud that he could plainly perceive the wolf’s skin under the fleece of the sheep. When Raymond invoked the name of Christ, the grand master repeated with bitterness, that the name of Mahomet was better fitted to the mouth of a traitor. The count of Tripoli made not the least reply to the insulting words of the grand master, but finished his speech by these words, uttered with an accent of perfect conviction: “I will submit to the punishment of death if these things do not fall out as I have said.

The council of the knights and barons adopted the opinion of Raymond; but when Guy was left alone in his tent, the grand master came to him, and infused into his mind the blackest suspicions of the conduct and secret designs of the count of Tripoli. The feeble Lusignan, who had already issued several contradictory orders, gave the command for marching to meet the enemy. For the first time, the king of Jerusalem was obeyed, and that was for the ruin of the Christians.


Joseph François Michaud, The History of the Crusades, trans. W. Robson (New York: Redfield, 1853), 1:416-9.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 680


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