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Amalric I of Jerusalem
Amalric I (also Amaury or Aimery) (1136 – 1174) was king of Jerusalem from 1162 to 1174. Amalric was the second son of Melisende of Jerusalem and Fulk of Jerusalem. During the civil war, when his brother Balwin III overthrew Melisende's government in 1152, he was besieged in the Tower of David with his mother.
Amalric married Agnes of Courtenay in 1157. Agnes had lived in Jerusalem since the western regions of Edessa were lost in 1150. Patriarch Fulcher objected to the marriage on grounds of consanguinuity, and it seems that they waited until Fulcher's death to marry. Agnes bore Amalric two children, first Sibylla and then the future Baldwin IV. Both would come to rule the kingdom in their own right.
The marriage, though appropriate in 1157 when Baldwin III could still sire an heir, was objected to in 1163. The Haute Cour refused to endorse Amalric as king unless his marriage to Agnes was annulled. The hostility to Agnes stemmed from two possible sources. First, she is credited with preventing William of Tyre from becoming patriarch in 1157, and a slight on moral character as hinted to in the Chronicle of Ernoul; "car telle n'est que roine doie iest di si haute cite comme de Jherusalem". Both these charges however come from the same sources and may be biased, according to Bernard Hamilton. Hamilton suggests that both Amalric and his councillors believed he could make a more advantageous diplomatic marriage.
The marriage was annulled, although Agnes maintained the title Countess of Jaffa and Ascalon. Agnes soon thereafter married for a second time to Hugh of Ibelin. The church, however, maintained that Amalric and Agnes' children were indeed legitimate and maintained their place in the order of succession. Through her children Agnes would exert much influence in Jerusalem for almost 20 years.
Amalric did make a more advantagous marriage to Maria Comnena, great-grand neice to Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus. The negotiations took two years, mostly because Amalric insisted that Manuel return Antioch to Jerusalem. Once Amalric gave up on this point he was able to marry Maria in Tyre on 29 August, 1167. During this time the queen dowager, Theodora, eloped with her cousin Andronicus to Damascus, and Acre reverted back into the royal domain of Jerusalem.
Maria took no part in government, and bore Amalric two daughters: Isabella, who would also eventually marry Amalric of Lusignan (afterwards Amalric II) and would succeed as queen, was born in 1172; and a stillborn child some time later.
Conflicts with the Muslim states
As a Crusader state Jerusalem was constantly in a state of war. Since Baldwin III's blunder by attacking allied Damascus during the Second Crusade in 1147 the northern frontier was exposed to Nur ad-Din, whose own power continued to grow from his bases in Mosul, Aleppo, and Damascus. Jerusalem lost influence to Byzantium in northern Syria with the loss of Antioch, and though both were allies Byzantium was increasingly beset by its own conflicts, particularily with the Normans in Sicily.
The main theatre of conflict of Amalric's reign was Fatimid Egypt. The Fatimids still resented Baldwin's capture of Ascalon, and sought an alliance with Nur ad-Din. Nur ad-Din sent his lieutenent Shirkuh to advise and lead the Fatimids.
The crusaders had wanted to conquer Egypt since the days of Baldwin I, and even Godfrey of Bouillon had promised to cede Jerusalem to the Patriarch Dagobert of Pisa if he could capture Cairo. The capture of Ascalon by Baldwin III in 1153 made the conquest of Egypt more feasible, and the Knights Hospitaller began preparing maps of the possible invasion routes.
Amalric led unsuccessful expeditions into Egypt in 1164, 1167, and 1168, and even a joint naval operation with Byzantium off the coast of Damietta ended in defeat. Saladin invaded Jerusalem and took the city of Eilat in 1170, severing Jerusalem's connection with the Red Sea. Shirkuh's nephew, Saladin, who was set up as Vizier of Egypt, was declared Sultan in 1171 with the death of the last of the Fatimid dynasty.
Saladin's rise to Sultan was an unexpected reprieve for Jerusalem, as Nur ad-Din was now preoccupied with reining in his powerful vassal. Beliveing his realm in mortal peril, Amalric pleaded with the west for aid in 1169, 1171, and more desperately in 1173. However, the deaths of both Amalric and Nur ad-Din in 1174 allowed Saladin to extend his control into Syria, thus out-flanking Amalric's successor Baldwin IV.
On his deathbed Amalric's bequeathed Nablus to his second wife Queen Maria and his daughter Isabella, both of whom would retire there. Baldwin IV, who suffered from leprosy, would succeed his father and bring Agnes of Courtenay (now married to her fourth husband) back to court. Amalric commissioned William of Tyre to write his history of the kingdom; William described Amalric as more of an academic than a warrior, like his brother Baldwin III, who studied law and languages in his leasure time. William was reportedly astonished to find Alamaric questioning, during an illness, the resurrection of the body. Amalric also taxed the clergy, which they naturally opposed. However, he helped maintain both the kingdom and church, and is considered the last of the "early" kings of Jerusalem.
- Medieval Women, edited by Derek Baker, Ecclesiastical History Society, 1978
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