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Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of

Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of, feudal state created by leaders of the First Crusade (see Crusades) in the areas they had wrested from the Muslims in Syria and Palestine. In 1099, after their capture of Jerusalem, the Crusaders chose Godfrey of Bouillon king; he declined the title, preferring that of defender of the Holy Sepulcher, but with his election the kingdom may be said to have begun. His brother and successor, Baldwin I, took the royal title. He and his successors were nominal overlords of the principality of Antioch and the counties of Edessa and Tripoli, which, with the royal domain of Jerusalem, constituted the great fiefs of the kingdom. Jerusalem itself contained the counties of Jaffa and Ashqelon, the lordships of Krak, Montreal, and Sidon, and the principality of Galilee.

Due to its existence during the height of feudalism, the kingdom was based on the purest forms of feudal theory. The kingship was elective, and the Assizes of Jerusalem, the law of the country, reflected the ideal feudal law. In practice, however, irregularities soon appeared, and the kings actually were chosen on dynastic considerations. The great feudal lords rarely felt bound to their overlord in the chronic struggles of the Latins among themselves and with the Mamluks of Egypt, the Seljuk Turks, and the Byzantine emperors. The rise of the great military orders, the Knights Templars, the Knights Hospitalers, and the Teutonic Knights, as well as the intrusion of new Crusaders further undermined the royal authority.

Edessa, captured by the Seljuks in 1144, was the first Latin state to fall to the Muslims. The subsequent Crusades did not halt the Muslim advance, and in 1187, Jerusalem itself fell to Sultan Saladin after his victory at Hattin. The city was partially recaptured in 1229 by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, but permanently lost in 1244. The Crusades of Louis IX of France and Edward I of England were failures, and in 1291, Akko, the last Christian stronghold, fell.

The kings of Jerusalem of the house of Bouillon were Baldwin I (reigned 1100–1118) and Baldwin II (reigned 1118–31). The crown then passed to the Angevin dynasty, beginning (1131) with Fulk and ending (1186) with Baldwin V. On Baldwin V's death the title passed to Guy of Lusignan and then to the successive husbands of Isabella, daughter of Amalric I: Conrad, marquis of Montferrat; Henry, count of Champagne; and Amalric II, king of Cyprus. In 1210, John of Brienne received the title; his son-in-law, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, crowned himself King of Jerusalem in 1229. After Frederick's death (1250) the title was held by members of various families that had a claim to it, notably the kings of Cyprus, the Angevins, and the houses of Lorraine and Savoy.

For later history, see Jerusalem.

See studies by M. Benvenisti (1970), J. Riley-Smith (1973), and J. Richard (2 pts., 1978).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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