Died At Age: 24
Also Known As: Baldwin IV
Born in: Kingdom of Jerusalem
Famous as: King
Emperors & Kings
father: Amalric I of Jerusalem
mother: Agnes of Courtenay
siblings: Queen of Jerusalem, Sibylla
Died on: March 16, 1185
Who was Baldwin IV of Jerusalem?
Baldwin IV was a revered King of Jerusalem who reigned from 1174 till his death in 1185. He was also known as the 'Leper King' of Jerusalem. His reign, even though brief, is of significance in medieval history. He was crowned at the age of thirteen and led several military campaigns against the infamous Saladin. Afflicted with a serious disease, he not only overcame his challenges, but also managed to rule his kingdom efficiently, becoming a popular king. At that time, there were a lot of stigmas associated with leprosy, but he questioned and confronted them till his early demise at just twenty-four years old. He has gone down in history as a courageous ruler because despite suffering from leprosy, a disease so feared that afflicted people had to adhere to some strict rules, he still managed to reign with a firm hand. In modern depictions, he is often seen wearing a mask, while there is no evident record of him ever hiding under a cover.
Childhood & Early Life
Baldwin IV was born in the summer of 1161 to Amalric I of Jerusalem and his first wife, Agnes of Courtenay, in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
King Baldwin III was his uncle, and he died without producing an heir. Therefore, the throne was inherited by his father, Amalric I. However, the High Court of Jerusalem refused to acknowledge his father's legitimacy until he divorced Agnes.
His childhood was spent in his father’s court, away from his mother. He was educated under the tutelage of Archbishop William of Tyre, who was also the chancellor of the kingdom.
He had one older sister, Sibylla, and a half-sister, Isabella, from his father's second marriage.
Archbishop William was the one who discovered that Baldwin suffered from leprosy even though it wasn't evident. However, his illness was concealed for as long they could. His disease only accelerated when he reached puberty.
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Accession & Reign
Baldwin’s father passed away in 1174. At just 13, Baldwin IV was crowned on 15 July 1174. As he was a minor, two regents were appointed to rule in his stead. The unofficial regent was Miles of Plancy. Raymond III of Tripoli later took over the post.
Baldwin took on his duties as king when he was 15. His first step was to bring his mother back to court. He also appointed his uncle Joscelyn of Edessa as the Seneschal of Jerusalem. The former regent now took more of an advisory role to the king.
Owing to Baldwin's serious disease, it was believed that he would not produce any heir. Therefore, his sister Sibylla was regarded as his possible heir. Many suitors were in line to marry her in hopes of being the future ruler of Jerusalem.
Sibylla was married to William de Montferrat, a prominent man who was also Louis VII of France's first cousin. However, he died in 1177 when Sibylla was only 17 and pregnant.
In 1174, as soon as Baldwin was crowned, he broke the treaty made with Saladin by his uncle and marched towards Damascus in an attempt to remove Saladin from Aleppo. Even though he was limited in his capabilities due to his leprosy, Baldwin never let his disease get in the way of his duties.
By 1176, he led his armies towards Damascus and Andujar to defend themselves against the Muslim troops. He also ambushed Saladin in Egypt, where he was on the battlefront, ready to charge in the Battle of Montgisard.
His successes in the battles made him a popular king at home, and he received love and adoration from his people.
Along with triumphs, he also faced some defeats at the hands of Saladin. On 10 April 1179, he attacked Banias but was taken aback by Saladin's nephew Farrukh Shah's troops.
On 10 June 1179, Baldwin assembled his armies, and alongside Raymond of Tripoli and the Grand Master of the Templars, marched to Marj Uyun. But they were captured by Saladin's forces.
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In August 1179, Saladin laid siege to the castle at Jacob's Ford and killed Baldwin's garrisoned troops.
In 1180, Sibylla was married to Guy of Lusignan, who was the brother of the constable Amalric of Lusignan. By 1182, Baldwin was almost blind, and he made Guy the regent of his kingdom. Guy, however, was later disgraced and removed.
Family & Personal Life
Baldwin was never married and consequently produced no heir. He ruled his country with the help of several regents but remained a king till the time of his death.
His sister Sibylla was to succeed him on the throne; however, he chose his nephew Baldwin of Montferrat as his successor. His decision was backed by his mother Agnes, Raymond, and also other nobles.
Baldwin of Montferrat was placed in the custody of Raymond, who was also appointed as regent. On 20 November 1183, his heir was crowned as Baldwin V and the co-king.
In 1884, Baldwin tried to nullify the marriage between Sibylla and Guy, but failed because Guy never showed up for the formal event. In the same year, his mother passed away.
In 1185, shortly after the passing of his mother, his health deteriorated. Although his mind was sound, he couldn't carry out his royal duties physically.
Baldwin also offered to step down, but his request was declined as a gesture of respect and honor. He passed at the age of 24 on 16 March 1185, and was buried at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Baldwin V succeeded to the throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem with Raymond of Tripoli serving as regent.
Baldwin IV has been an inspiration for various art forms. His battle of Montgisard has been portrayed in illustrations by Charles-Philippe Larivière in Salles des Croisades.
Many authors have drawn inspiration from his life, and he is depicted in works like Zofia Kossak-Szczucka's 'Król trędowaty,' Manuel Mujica Láinez's 'El unicornio' (The Wandering Unicorn), Cecelia Holland's 'Jerusalem,' and 'The Knights of Dark Renown' by Graham Shelby.