Guy de Lusignan becomes a regent
Translated by James Brundage
Internal quarrels within the Latin states made it imperative for the Latin settlements in the East to remain at peace with their Moslem neighbors. At the same time the anarchy of the internal politics of the Latin states and the lack of an effective organization for the implementation of policy within the states made it most unlikely that peace could be long preserved. The newcomer group for the most part favored war with the Moslems. War against the infidel was necessary to achieve the goals of the group. The terms of a treaty concluded in 1180 between Saladin and the Latins guaranteed free commercial communication between Christian and Moslem territory. The passage of caravans of Moslem merchants through Latin held country was a constant invitation to lawless and irresponsible men, whom the government of the Latin states could not easily check. Rich caravans owned by infidel merchants passed constantly before the eyes of such men in the Latin states and they well knew that the King and the barons of the realm were unlikely to take serious reprisals against a man who yielded to temptation and plundered a caravan. Although such an action might bring with it the threat of war, still war itself would bring opportunity as well as peril to those clever enough to seize the main chance. In the summer of 1181, Reginald of Chatillon, a handsome, reckless member of the newcomer group, gave in to the lure of easy gain and attacked a caravan en route from Damascus to Mecca. Saladin complained to the Latin authorities of the violation of the treaty. The prostrate Latin King could do nothing to secure redress. After jailing fifteen hundred pilgrims at Damietta as hostages, Saladin took to war.19 Saladin and his Egyptian forces eluded the army of the Latin Kingdom by crossing the Sinai Desert to Damascus. From there the Moslems invaded the Latin states in July 1182. The campaign, however, was inconclusive. Both sides claimed victory and retired to prepare for further combat. By 1182 Baldwin IV bad fallen so grievously ill that to continue his personal direction of affairs was impossible. A regency once more was necessary.
While the army was waiting in this state of suspense at the spring of Saffuriyah the King was at Nazareth suffering from a high fever. His leprosy, which he had had from the beginningof his reign and, indeed, from early adolescence, had grown worse than usual. He bad lost his sight and his extremities were covered with ulcerations so that he was unable to use either his hands or his feet. Although some persons suggested to him that he resign and provide a decent and tranquil life for himself from his royal possessions, nevertheless up to this time he had refused to Jay aside the royal dignity and the administration. Although his body was feeble and impotent, his mind was still strong and vigorous. In order to hide his illness and to carry on the royal duties he had labored beyond his strength. He was laid low, as I have said, by the fever and now be despaired of his life. Now he summoned his princes to him and in the presence of his mother and the lord patriarch he made Guy de Lusignan, the Count of Jaffa and Ascalon, who was his sister's husband . . . regent of the Kingdom. He reserved the royal title for himself and kept only the city of Jerusalem and an annual income of ten thousand gold pieces. He transferred to Guy the free and general administration of the rest of the Kingdom and commanded his faithful men and all of his princes at large to become Guy's vassals and to swear fealty to him. This was done. It is said that, at the King's command, Guy first swore that while the King lived he would not transfer to another any of the castles possessed at present by the King and that he would alienate nothing from the treasury. It is believed that this was carefully and very diligently enjoined on him and that he was obliged to take a solemn oath to observe these stipulations faithfully in the presence of all the princes. This was done because Guy had promised nearly every one of the great princes no small part of the Kingdom in order to gain their support and their votes for the position he sought. It is also said that he bad taken a similar oath to the princes that he would fulfill his promises. I cannot positively affirm this because I do not have definite evidence. Frequent rumors to this effect, however, were current among the people. There were some, indeed, who were not much pleased by this change. Some of these people were inclined to oppose it because of their personal affairs and out of secret reasons. Others opposed it on the grounds of public policy and because they were anxious and disturbed over the state of the Kingdom. The latter group asserted publicly that the aforesaid Count was not equal to the burden of administration and that be was not qualified to conduct the affairs of the Kingdom. There were others, however, who were hopeful that his ascendancy would improve their own lot. These asserted that it was well done. There were murmurs and many dissenting voices among the people and, as it is proverbially said, "many men have many minds." The Count, however, did not rejoice very long in the post which he had long desired and which had now been conferred upon him, as will appear later. At first, indeed, he gloried in it rather rashly.
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