Crusaders in the Red Sea: Renaud de Châtillon’s raids of AD 1182–83
By William Facey
People of the Red Sea: Proceedings of the Red Sea Project II, edited by Janet C.M. Starkey (Archaeopress, 2005)
Excerpt: The hero, or rather the villain, of this short but dramatic episode in Red Sea history isa celebrated figure in the history of the Crusades. Renaud de Châtillon (aka Reginald, Reynald), arch-enemy of Saladin, needs no introduction to those already familiar with the last years of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was shortly to fall to the great Muslim leader at the Battle of Hittin in 1187. The intention here is to introduce the colourful Renaud to Arabian and Red Sea studies, where he deserves a place. In looking at his deeds afresh, the idea will be to consider the point of view not just of the north – Egypt, Syria and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem – but of the south too: the India trade, the Red Sea, and the Muslim Holy Cities.
This fresh look at Renaud’s exploit is intended to clarify some of the motives, facts and geographical details of the campaign, though much still remains obscure. Equally important, the episode sheds interesting light on contemporary Latin geographical knowledge of the Red Sea, its trade and the Muslim holy places. The plain facts may even allow us to deduce a pattern of intentions adding up to a grand strategy. If we can do that, Renaud becomes more than a mere brigand and chancer – still a brigand, indeed, but a brigand with vision. That should lead historians to take him more seriously.
Top Image: Ile de Graye, blockaded by Raynald of Châtillon’s ships. Photo by Tamerlan / Wikimedia Commons