The Military Orders and the Secular Rulers

T he Princes of Palestine were always between a rock and a hard place. They were supposed to hold land in the Holy Land, protect their vassals and act as mediaeval rulers did in general. However, the eager resistance of the Muslims put serious strains to the Franks, who, as a result, often resorted to having quarrels between them on how to come to terms with the dilemma. Another constant worry to the princes was the lack of funds available. Land only yielded so much and to have an army was exceedingly expensive.

S o it is small wonder the Templars and the Hospitallers were a welcome addition to the fighting stock of any lord in Palestine. Their drilled knights and supporting fighters were indeed valuable reinforcements to all possible campaigns, and indeed they were part of each and every campaign after the latter half of the twelfth century. The only problem was that the Orders were fiercely independent and, when on a campaign, they demanded to have all military command on the field. After all, they were not subject to any secular ruler, and just barely subject to even the Pope. They only worked with the rulers as independent allies, never as vassals. The Orders were fully able to enter truces with Muslims against the will of a prince, who had to comply, but as universal affirmatives are only partially convertible, the Order could resist a truce and consider not to be bound by it. This surely was a major source of aggravation to the princes. Yet another point was that the Orders did not share plunder; what they considered was won by them, it was all kept by them, and no dividends went to the princes. Apparently quality had a price even then.

T his was of course detrimental not only to the princes and lords, but to the Orders themselves in the long run. It all worked into the fatal weakness of the Latin kingdom in Palestine: dispersed military power, twisted chains of command, and conflicting interests. These are very visible in, for example, the Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort's ridiculous charge against superior enemy in Nazareth. He just thought to have a go at some Muslims, without thinking of the bigger picture. In total, the problem of the rulers was a mediaeval Catch-22: to survive, Franks needed both a field army and garrisoned outposts. The garrisons were mostly run by the Templars and the Hospitallers. But at times of warm they needed a well-trained field army, which also was supplied by the Orders, who by entering the army had to abandon the outposts. Lack of funds and means prevented the Franks from having both. Then, if the field army took a licking such as at Hattin 1187, outposts were also lost for a great deal. In fact, some only had two or three knights left behind when the rest marched off to a campaign.

W ith such problems, it is not hard to see that the Latin Kingdom, however nice an idea it was, needed more than it had to survive. War of attrition chipped away at the meager resources the Franks had, and despite the heroic and often unbelievable military action the Orders put up, they had a losing hand from the start.

Armory Bailey Barracks Chapel Dungeon Library Pub

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