1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Godfrey of Bouillon

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21756321911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — Godfrey of BouillonErnest Barker

GODFREY OF BOUILLON (c. 1060–1100), a leader in the First Crusade, was the second son of Eustace II., count of Boulogne, by his marriage with Ida, daughter of Duke Godfrey II. of Lower Lorraine. He was designated by Duke Godfrey as his successor; but the emperor Henry IV. gave him only the mark of Antwerp, in which the lordship of Bouillon was included (1076). He fought for Henry, however, both on the Elster and in the siege of Rome; and he was invested in 1082 with the duchy of Lower Lorraine. Lorraine had been penetrated by Cluniac influences, and Godfrey would seem to have been a man of notable piety. Accordingly, though he had himself served as an imperialist, and though the Germans in general had little sympathy with the Crusaders (subsannabant . . . quasi delirantes), Godfrey, nevertheless, when the call came “to follow Christ,” almost literally sold all that he had, and followed. Along with his brothers Eustace and Baldwin (the future Baldwin I. of Jerusalem) he led a German contingent, some 40,000 strong, along “Charlemagne’s road,” through Hungary to Constantinople, starting in August 1096, and arriving at Constantinople, after some difficulties in Hungary, in November. He was the first of the crusading princes to arrive, and on him fell the duty of deciding what the relations of the princes to the eastern emperor Alexius were to be. Eventually, after several disputes and some fighting, he did homage to Alexius in January 1097; and his example was followed by the other princes. From this time until the beginning of 1099 Godfrey appears as one of the minor princes, plodding onwards, and steadily fighting, while men like Bohemund and Raymund, Baldwin and Tancred were determining the course of events.

In 1099 he came once more to the front. The mass of the crusaders became weary of the political factions which divided some of their leaders; and Godfrey, who was more of a pilgrim than a politician, becomes the natural representative of this feeling. He was thus able to force the reluctant Raymund to march southward to Jerusalem; and he took a prominent part in the siege, his division being the first to enter when the city was captured. It was natural therefore that, when Raymund of Provence refused the offered dignity, Godfrey should be elected ruler of Jerusalem (July 22, 1099). He assumed the title not of king, but of “advocate”[1] of the Holy Sepulchre. The new dignity proved still more onerous than honourable; and during his short reign of a year Godfrey had to combat the Arabs of Egypt, and the opposition of Raymund and the patriarch Dagobert. He was successful In repelling the Egyptian attack at the battle of Ascalon (August 1099); but he failed, owing to Raymund’s obstinacy and greed, to acquire the town of Ascalon after the battle. Left alone, at the end of the autumn, with an army of some 2000 men, Godfrey was yet able, in the spring of 1100, probably with the aid of new pilgrims, to exact tribute from towns like Acre, Ascalon, Arsuf and Caesarea. But already, at the end of 1099 Dagobert, archbishop of Pisa, had been substituted as patriarch for Arnulf (who had been acting as vicar) by the influence of Bohemund; and Dagobert, whose vassal Godfrey had at once piously acknowledged himself, seems to have forced him to an agreement in April 1100, by which he promised Jerusalem and Jaffa to the patriarch, in case he should acquire in their place Cairo or some other town, or should die without issue. Thus were the foundations of a theocracy laid in Jerusalem; and when Godfrey died (July 1100) he left the question to be decided, whether a theocracy or a monarchy should be the government of the Holy Land.

Because he had been the first ruler in Jerusalem Godfrey was idolized in later saga. He was depicted as the leader of the crusades, the king of Jerusalem, the legislator who laid down the assizes of Jerusalem. He was none of these things. Bohemund was the leader of the crusades; Baldwin was first king; the assizes were the result of a gradual development. In still other ways was the figure of Godfrey idealized by the grateful tradition of later days; but in reality he would seem to have been a quiet, pious, hard-fighting knight, who was chosen to rule in Jerusalem because he had no dangerous qualities, and no obvious defects.

Literature.—The narrative of Albert of Aix may be regarded as presenting the Lotharingian point of view, as the Gesta presents the Norman, and Raymund of Agiles the Provençal. The career of Godfrey has been discussed in modern times by R. Röhricht, Die Deutschen im heiligen Lande, Band ii., and Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges, passim (Innsbruck, 1901).  (E. Br.) 

Romances.—Godfrey was the principal hero of two French chansons de geste dealing with the Crusade, the Chanson d’Antioche (ed. P. Paris, 2 vols., 1848) and the Chanson de Jérusalem (ed. C. Hippeau, 1868), and other poems, containing less historical material, were subsequently added. In addition the parentage and early exploits of Godfrey were made the subject of legend. His grandfather was said to be Helias, knight of the Swan, one of the brothers whose adventures are well known, though with some variation, in the familiar fairy tale of “The Seven Swans.” Helias, drawn by the swan, one day disembarked at Nijmwegen, and reconquered her territory for the duchess of Bouillon. Marrying her daughter he exacted a promise that his wife should not inquire into his origin. The tale, which is almost identical with the Lohengrin legend, belongs to the class of the Cupid and Psyche narratives. See Lohengrin.

See also C. Hippeau, Le Chevalier au cygne (Paris, 2 vols., 1874–1877); H. Pigeonneau, Le Cycle de la croisade et de la famille de Bouillon (1877); W. Golther, “Lohengrin,” in Roman. Forsch. (vol. v., 1889); Hist. litt. de la France, vol. xxii. pp. 350-402; the English romance of Helyas, Knyghte of the Swanne was printed by W. Copland about 1550.

  1. An “advocate” was a layman who had been invested with part of an ecclesiastic estate, on condition that he defended the rest, and exercised the blood-ban in lieu of the ecclesiastical owner (see Advocate, sec. Advocatus ecclesiae).