Melisende: A True Queen
By Jennifer Edie
Loyola University Student Historical Journal, Vol.30 (1998-9)
Introduction: The idea of a dynasty was the backbone of medieval politics. A period of royalty and lordship, the middle ages’ political integrity hinged on the idea that the blue blood of leadership flowed through a monarch to the child. However, in this patriarchal society what would happen if no male heir was produced? How can one continue a dynasty when only daughters are born? These questions had no definite answer, and throughout the middle ages the necessity to produce a male heir was one of the largest problems faced by rulers. Louis VII of France clearly stated the view of rulers concerning the need for a male heir in 1165 when his first male son was born:
“An ardent desire that God would give us progeny of the better sex inflamed us, for we had been terrified by a multitude of daughters.” King Louis VII fully expressed the need for a member of the “better sex” in this one simple line. For without a male heir a simple line is exactly what the royal family would lack. There would be no heir apparent that would demand respect and be capable of ruling a great nation, or would there? Must gender play a role in the choosing of an heir or is it possible that when there are only a “multitude of daughters” that a woman can inherit rulership?
Although Louis VII managed to avoid the problems that would come with only female offspring, not all of his contemporaries did. Baldwin II of Jerusalem was given the terrifying multitude that Louis and his wife had prayed to God to keep away. The Kingdom of Jerusalem would be faced with the problem of female succession five times during the reign of Baldwin’s dynasty from 1099 to 1228. However, the dynasty founded by Baldwin II managed to thrive under these less than ideal conditions by reinventing the role of a queen.
Before diving into the roles that the Queens of Jerusalem played in the Latin Kingdom, let us first view the over all history and culture of the area leading up to the multitude of daughters. Jerusalem was the center of the world for many religious groups, and as the place of the death and resurrection of Christ to the Christian world it held this place of honor as well. For years Jerusalem had been the goal of pilgrimage, but now the pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem carrying weapons and dreaming of a kingdom. The crusade began on November 27, 1095 when Pope Urban first preached the Crusade. With the cry that it was the will of God, the crusaders set forth to free the holy city of Jerusalem from the infidel. After much pillaging, sieging, and plundering the crusaders arrived before Jerusalem on June 7, 1099. On July 15, 1099, the crusaders stormed the city of Jerusalem, and with much bloodshed and slaughter it was taken.