By Alan V. Murray
PhD Dissertation, University of St Andrews, 1988
Abstract: The starting-point of this thesis is the question of the origin of the nobility in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem up to 1131. This is discussed in parallel with the question of the origins of the monarchy itself and that of relations between the two institutions.
Chapter 1 discusses the European origins of the monarchy which derived from two distinct dynastic traditions, the House of Ardennes-Verdun whose power had declined in the later eleventh century and was extinguished on the eve of the crusade, and the House of Boulogne which was in an ascendant.
Chapter 2 examines Godfrey of Bouillon’s crusading army between 1096 and 1099. Originally almost exclusively Lotharingian in composition, the army absorbed numerous elements from other contingents in the course of the march. The minority who remained in Outremer after 1099 were of diverse origin and had developed strong ties to the Ardennes-Boulogne family.
Chapter 3 re-assesses the generally accepted nature of the state established in Palestine by the First Crusade, arguing that this was a secular monarchy headed by a princeps whose authority derived from God.
Chapter 4 deals with the origins of the nobility and is an analysis of prosopographical material presented in the Appendix, while Chapter 5 is a chronologically-based analysis of relations between monarchy and nobility. The nobility comprised four main groups: Lotharingians and Germans; Normans; Flemings, and Picards; and men from the Ile-de-France and the surrounding areas. The last group increased in numbers and influence after the accession of a new dynasty in the person of Baldwin II. Resentment against his policies, and a growing factionalism based on dynastic loyalties and geographical origins enabled sections of the nobility to threaten the monarchy in this and the next reign.
Introduction: The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, established by the victorious crusaders in Palestine in July 1099, was one of the first colonial societies of the Middle Ages. The paramount criterion of social and legal status was the distinction between conquerors and conquered: on the one hand a privileged minority, French-speaking Western Europeans of the Roman Catholic rite, and on the other the majority indigenous population, consisting predominantly of Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians of various eastern rites, with an admixture of Armenians, Druzes, Jews and Samaritans. The European minority, known collectively as Franks, formed the Staatsvolk of the Latin Kingdom, the only group in full possession of unrestricted legal, social and political rights. As one of the most recent surveys of this dichotomy has expressed it: ‘Any Frank, even the poorest and the lowest, ranked well above the wealthiest of the native population’.
Yet within this privileged minority important distinctions existed. The top rank of Frankish society, and consequently of the entire kingdom, comprised the nobility. In times of war the nobles fought as knights, on_horseback and in heavy armour; they held fiefs from the king or from their own lord who was also a noble; above all, they were distinguished in law from the rest of the Frankish population who belonged to a separate class known as burgesses. In short, the nobility formed the military and administrative class of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.