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The Battle of Nazareth, 1 May 1187

t was again at that time that the Crusaders were enmeshed in a leadership dispute which had been going on since 1185. While the Franks argued over who should be the true leader of the Crusader states, the Muslims shifted their forces and prepared for war. The Templars were once more walking the tightrope, trying to maintain a balance between all the factions. By remaining mostly noncommittant but still rendering services to those who requested them, they managed to serve many masters whose interests clashed often with vigour.

R aymond, Count of Tripoli, had made a truce with Saladin, which the other leaders thought was traitorous. The truce was delicate and hard to maintain. Still, King Guy of Jerusalem needed Raymond's help against the Muslims, and therefore he seeked reconciliation with Raymond. For some reason whose logic is completely unintelligible, he chose Gerard de Ridefort, Grand Master of the Order, to head the negotiating party. Gerard was the most outspoken enemy of Raymond, but still he was sent to Tiberias to try and get Raymond to fall in line with the rest of the Franks.

A t the same time, Al-Afdal, one of Saladin's sons, wanted to cross Raymond's land, and according to the rules of the truce, he stopped to request Raymond's permission to do so. When the Grand Master learned that Al-Afdal's forces had made camp just outside Nazareth, he collected a team of 90 Templars and prepared for attack. Both the Master of the Hospitallers, Roger of Moulins, and the Marshal of the Templars, James of Mailly, tried to restrain Gerard, but he would not listen.

T he Grand Master led his troops in a headlong attack against the numerically vastly superior Muslim contingency, much in the same fashion as was seen in the Charge of the Light Brigade later in military history. In the process of attack, he managed to get all but himself and two or three other knights killed. In this attack, a very important portion of the best knights in Palestine were senselessly lost, which was later to be regretted. Al-Afdal, on the other hand, had only been attempting a transfer of troops, but by sheer luck he managed to wipe out a big bunch of knights. The Grand Master was of course fingered as the cause of the stupid attack, but he retained his position. Muslims rejoiced very much over the death of Roger of Moulins, whose fierce valour in battle was feared by many.

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