Conrad of Montferrat was, as much as any one man, responsible for the Third Crusade. Compelled to leave the court of Constantinople, which he had been serving, he had sailed for the Holy Land and reached Tyre about three weeks after the battle of Hattin. He had saved Tyre; and from it he sent his appeals to the West. Not the least effective of these appeals was a great poster which he had circulated in Europe, and which represented the Holy Sepulchre defiled by the horses of the Mahommedans. Meanwhile the papacy, as soon as the news reached Rome, despatched encyclicals throughout Europe; and soon a new Crusade was in full swing. But the Third Crusade, unlike the First, does not spring from the papacy, which was passing through one of its epochs of depression; it springs from the lay power, which, represented by the three strong monarchies of Germany, England and France, was at this time dominant in Europe. In Germany it was the solemn national diet of Mainz (Easter 1188) which "swore the expedition" to the Holy Land; in France and England the agreement of the two kings decided upon a joint Crusade. The very means which Philip Augustus and Henry II took, in order to further the Crusade, show its lay aspect. A scheme of taxation - the Saladin tithe - was imposed on all who did not take the cross; and this taxation, while on the one hand it drove many to take the cross in order to escape its incidence, on the other hand provided a necessary financial basis for military operations. (*1*)
The lay basis of the Third Crusade made it, in one sense, the greatest of all Crusades, in which all the three great monarchs of western Europe participated; but it also made it a failure, for the kings of France and England, changing caelum, non animum, carried their political rivalries into the movement, in which it had been agreed that they should be sunk. Spiritually, therefore, the Third Crusade is inferior to the First, however imposing it may be in its material aspects. Yet it must be admitted that the idea of a spiritual regeneration accompanied the crusading movement of 1188. Europe had sinned in the face of God; otherwise Jerusalem would never have fallen; and the idea of a spiritual reform from within, as the necessary corollary and accompaniment of the expedition of Christianity without, breathes in some of the papal letters, just as, during the conciliar movement, the causa reformationis was blended with the causa unionis. We may conceive of the Third Crusade under the figure of a number of converging lines, all seeking to reach a common centre. That centre is Acre. The siege of Acre, as arduous and heroic in many of its episodes as the siege of Troy, had been begun in the summer of 1189 by Guy de Lusignan, who, captured by Saladin at the battle of Hattin, and released on parole, had at once broken his word and returned to the attack. The army which was besieging Acre was soon joined by various contingents; for Acre, after all, was the vital point, and its capture would open the way to Jerusalem. Two of these contingents alone concern us here - the German and the Anglo-French. Frederick I of Germany, using a diplomacy which corresponds to the lay character of the Third Crusade, had sought to prepare his way by embassies to the king of Hungary, the Eastern emperor and the sultan of Iconium.
Starting from Regensburg in May 1189, the German army marched quietly through Hungary; but difficulties arose, as they had arisen in 1147, as soon as the frontiers of the Eastern empire were reached. The emperor Isaac Angelus had not only the old grudge of all Eastern emperors against the "upstart" emperor of the West; he had also allied himself with Saladin, in order to acquire for his empire the patronage of the Holy Places and religious supremacy in the Levant. The difficulties between Frederick and Isaac Angelus became acute: in November 1189 Frederick wrote to his son Henry, asking him to induce the pope to preach a Crusade against the schismatic Greeks. But terms were at last arranged, and by the end of March 1190 the Germans had all crossed to the shores of Asia Minor. Taking a route midway between the eastern route of the crusaders of 1097 and the westerh route of Louis VII in 1148, Frederick marched by Philadelphia and Iconium, not without dust and heat, until he reached the river Salof, in Armenian territory. Here, with the burden of the day now past, the fine old crusader - he had joined before in the Second Crusade, forty years ago - perished by accident in the river; and of all his fine army only a thousand men won their way through, under his son, Frederick of Swabia, to join the ranks before Acre (October 1190).
The Anglo-French detachment achieved a far greater immediate success. War had indeed disturbed the original agreement of Gisors between Philip Augustus and Henry II, but a new agreement was made between Henry's successor, Richard I, and the French king at Nonancourt (December 1189), by which the two monarchs were to meet at Vezelay next year, and then follow the sea route to the Holy Land together. They met, and by different routes they both reached Sicily, where they wintered together (1190-1191). The enforced inactivity of a whole winter was the mother of disputes and bad blood; and when Philip sailed for the Holy Land, at the end of March 1191, the failure of the Crusade was already decided. Richard soon followed; but while Philip sailed straight for Acre, Richard occupied himself by the way in conquering Cyprus - partly out of knight-errantry, and in order to avenge an insult offered to his betrothed wife Berengaria by the despot of the island, partly perhaps out of policy, and in order to provide a basis of supplies and of operations for the armies attempting to recover Palestine. In any case, he is the founder of the Latin kingdom of Cyprus (for he afterwards sold his new acquisition to Guy de Lusignan, who established a dynasty in the island); and thereby he made possible the survival of the institutions and assizes of Jerusalem, which were continued in Cyprus until it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. (*2*)
From Cyprus Richard sailed to Acre, arriving on the 8th of June, and in little more than a month he was able, in virtue of the large reinforcements he brought, and in spite of dissensions in the Christian camp which he helped to foment, to bring the two years' siege to a successful issue (July 12th, 1191). It was indeed time; the privations of the besiegers during the previous winter had been terrible; and the position of affairs had only been made worse by the dissensions between Guy de Lusignan and Conrad of Montferrat, who had begun to claim the crown in return for his services, and had, on the death of Sibylla, the wife of Guy, reinforced his claim by a marriage with her younger sister, Isabella. In these dissensions it was inevitable that Philip Augustus and Richard I, already discordant, should take contrary sides; and while Richard naturally sided with Guy de Lusignan, who came from his own county of Poitou, Philip as naturally sided with Conrad. At the end of July it was decided that Guy should remain king for his life, and Conrad should be his successor; but as three days afterwards Philip Augustus began his return to France (pleading ill-health, but in reality eager to gain possession of Flanders), the settlement availed little for the success of the Crusade. Richard stayed in the Holy Land for another year, during which he won a battle at Arsuf and refortified Jaffa.
But far more important than any hostilities are the negotiations which, for the whole year, Richard conducted with Saladin. They show the lay aspect of the Third Crusade; they anticipate the Crusade of Frederick II - for Richard was attempting to secure the same concessions which Frederick secured by the same means which he used. They show again the closer approximation and better understanding with the Mahommedans, which marks this Crusade. Nothing is more striking in these respects than Richard's proposal that Saladin's brother should marry his own sister Johanna and receive Jerusalem and the contiguous towns on the coast. In the event, a peace was made for three years (September 2nd, 1192), by which Lydda and Ramlah were to be equally divided, Ascalon was to be destroyed, and small bodies of crusaders were to be allowed to visit the Holy Sepulchre. Meanwhile Conrad of Montferrat, at the very instant when his superior ability had finally forced Richard to recognize him as king, had been assassinated (April 1192): Guy de Lusignan had bought Cyprus from Richard, and had sailed away to establish himself there; and Henry of Champagne, Richard's nephew, had been called to the throne of Jerusalem, and had given himself a title by marrying Conrad's widow, Isabella. In this condition Richard left the Holy Land, when he began his eventful return, in October 1192.
The Crusade had failed - failed because a leaderless army, torn by political dissensions and fighting on a foreign soil, could not succeed against forces united by religious zeal under the banner of a leader like Saladin. Yet it had at any rate saved for the Christians the principality of Antioch, the county of Tripoli, and some of the coast towns of the kingdom; (*3*) and if it had failed to accomplish its object, it had left behind, none the less, many important results. The difficulties which had arisen between Isaac Angelus and Frederick Barbarossa contain the germs of the Fourth Crusade; the negotiations between Richard and Saladin contain the germs of the Sixth. National rivalries had been accentuated and national differences brought into prominence by the meeting of the nations in a common enterprise; while, on the other hand, Mahommedans and Christians had fraternized as they had never done before during the progress of a Crusade. But what the Third Crusade showed most clearly was that the crusading movement was being lost to the papacy, and becoming part of the demesne of the secular state - organized by the state on its own basis of taxation, and conducted by the state according to its own method of negotiation. This after all is the great change; and even the genius of an Innocent III "could not make undone what had once been done." On the contrary, the thing once done would go further; and the state would take up the name of Crusade in order to cover, and under such cover to achieve, its own objects and ambitions, as in the future it was destined again and again to do.
(*1*) The "economic" motive for taking the cross was strengthened by the papal regulations in favour of debtors who joined the Crusade. Thousands must have joined the Third Crusade in order to escape paying either their taxes or the interest on their debts; and the atmosphere of the gold-digger's camp (or of the cave of Adullam) must have begun more than ever to characterize the crusading armies.
(*2*) The Crusades in their course established a number of new states or kingdoms. The First Crusade established the kingdom of Jerusalem (1100); the Third, the kingdom of Cyprus (1195); the Fourth, the Latin empire of Constantinople (1204); while the long Crusade of the Teutonic knights on the coast of the Baltic led to the rise of a new state east of the Vistula. The kingdom of Lesser Armenia, established in 1195, may also be regarded as a result of the Crusades. The history of the kingdom of Jerusalem is part of the history of the Crusades: the history of the other kingdoms or states touches the history of the Crusades less vitally. But the history of Cyprus is particularly important - and for two reasons.
In the first place, Cyprus was a natural and excellent basis of operations; it sent provisions to the crusaders in 1191, and again at the siege of Damietta in 1219, while its advantages as a strategic basis were proved by the exploits of Peter of Cyprus in the 14th century. In the second place, as the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem fell, its institutions and assizes were transplanted bodily to Cyprus, where they survived until the island was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. But the monarchy was stronger in Cyprus than in Jerusalem: the fiefs were distributed by the monarch, and were smaller in extent; while the feudatories had neither the collective powers of the haute cour of Jerusalem, nor the individual privileges (such as jurisdiction over the bourgeoisie), which had been enjoyed by the feudatories of the old kingdom. Till 1489 the kingdom of Cyprus survived as an independent monarchy, and its capital, Famagusta, was an important centre of trade after the loss of the coast-towns in the kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1489 it was acquired by Venice, which claimed the island on the death of the last king, having adopted his widow (a Venetian lady named Catarina Cornaro) as a daughter of the republic. On the history of Cyprus, see Stubbs, Lectures on Medieval and Modern History, 156-208.
The history of the kingdom of Armenia is closely connected with that of Cyprus. The Armenians in the south-east of Asia Minor borrowed feudal institutions from the Franks and the feudal vocabulary itself. The kingdom was involved in a struggle with Antioch in the early part of the 13th century. Later, it allied itself with the Mongols and fought against the Mamelukes, to whom, however, it finally succumbed in 1375.
(*3*) The kingdom of Jerusalem is thus from 1192 to its final fall a strip of coast, to which it is the object of kings and crusaders to annex Jerusalem and a line of communication connecting it with the coast. This was practically the aim of Richard I's negotiations; and this was what Frederick II for a time secured.
Extracted from the entry for CRUSADES in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.