The Battle of La Forbie (1244) and its Aftermath – Re-examination of the Military Orders Involvement in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in Mid Thirteenth Century
By Shlomo Lotan
Ordines Militares: Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders, Vol. 17 (2012)
Introduction: During its two hundred years of existence, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem had known periods of prosperity as well as periods of warfare. Notable amongst these is the famous battle in which Jerusalem was captured in 1099, at the end of the First Crusade, and the Battle of Hattin, which decided the fate of the first Kingdom in 1187 and led to the downfall of most crusader strongholds. Another such significant event was the conquest of Acre in 1291, during which the kingdom’s de facto capital fell, despite its considerable fortifications. Yet another, almost forgotten, is the Battle of La Forbie (Forbia – Hirbiya) of 1244, which took place between Ascalon and Gaza.
The Battle of La Forbie, which took place on October 17th 1244, is referred to as the greatest setback since Hattin. Despite the defeat in the battlefield and the death of many nobles, warriors and clergymen, including thousands of knights from the Military Orders, modern crusader research seems by and large to have overlooked it. This might be attributed to the surprising survival of the Latin Kingdom after its colossal defeat in this battle and the delayed exit of the next Crusade sent to the rescue of the Latin East. This Crusade, The Seventh Crusade, captured researchers’ interest because of its political and military influence on the Latin East. Led by King Louis IX (Saint Louis), it left France four years after this battle and eventually ended up in Egypt, far away from the Holy Land. Yet ulti- mately, after its end in 1250, it arrived in the Latin Kingdom and assisted in the rehabilitation of its main strongholds as well as improving its military situation which remained strong until the final downfall of the Latin Kingdom in 1291.
To date, there is no complete, reliable answer as to what happened in the Latin Kingdom in second half of the 1240s. How did the kingdom’s leaders cope with the battlefield defeat? How did the settlements survive? Above all, what was the Military Orders’ contribution to the kingdom’s stability after the chaos following the battle?