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“Scandalia … tam in oriente quam in occidente”: The Briennes in East and West, 1213–1221

ByGuy Perry

John of Brienne (king of Jerusalem, 1210-25) was the last king of Jerusalem to habitually reside in any part of the Latin East until the Lusignans of Cyprus succeeded the Hohenstaufen in 1269. By then, the kingdom would be tottering towards its final elimination, and the kingship, especially, would be but a shadow of its former self. And no king of Jerusalem after John would ever again regard that kingdom as his primary base: the Hohenstaufen and Charles of Anjou were based in the West, the Lusignans on Cyprus. If these are principal reasons for taking an interest in John’s reign, then we can narrow down the period in which we are most concerned still further. John spent almost two-thirds of his reign outside his kingdom proper, thereby initiating a trend which was to reach the level of absentee kingship in the next generation. He spent most of 1218-21 in Egypt, trying to lead the Fifth Crusade; he then passed almost all the remainder of his reign, 1222-25, in the Latin West, trying to drum up support for a new crusade once the Fifth Crusade had failed. Thus, the final lengthy period of rule by any king of Jerusalem essentially based and resident in that kingdom was the opening seven years of King John’s reign, 1210-17. This, then, is a time well worth examining in detail.