In the film “Kingdom of Heaven” the masked Baldwin IV, dying of leprosy, reminisces on a great victory in battle when he was only 16 years old. That victory was genuine. It was the battle of Montgisard, on this day in the year 1177.
Saladin led his Mameluke army from Egypt to attack a Crusader Castle, possibly Blanchegarde on Tell es-Safi near Ramla.
Baldwin IV, king of Jerusalem, Raynald of Châtillon, Bailan of Ibelin and the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Odo de St Amand all featured and you will hear these names bandied about in the movie, but beware the poetic licence taken by Ridley Scott with the characters.
The truth is that an outnumbered army of Christian knights prevailed and drove Saladin out of the Holy Land. Saladin returned to Egypt with only one tenth of his force. It was a disastrous defeat for him.
It took ten years for Saladin to get his revenge at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187.
Unpicking the details it seems that Saladin sent a detachment of his forces to bottle Baldwin up in Ashkelon and mistakenly thought he had neutralised that threat. Believing himself in control Saladin permitted his forces to break up to pillage the country and forage for supplies. Recent rains caused a stream to flood and his baggage train became enmired in the crossing.
When the Christian knights appeared the Mameluke army was in disarray. Many of them charged back to the baggage train to retrieve weapons. The Christian army brought out the relic of the true cross. Baldwin IV dismounted and prayed before it for strength from God. He rose to the accolade of his troops, his leprosy bandaged, and charged the Muslim army. Saladin, it is said, escaped only because he had a racing camel at his disposal.
The Crusaders; by Edward George Dyson
What price yer humble, Dicko Smith,
in gaudy putties girt,
with sand-blight in his optics, and much
leaner than he started,
round the ‘Oly Land cavorting in three-
quarters of a shirt,
and imposin’ on the natives ez one Dick
the Lion ‘Earted?
We are drivin’ out the infidel, we’re hittin’
up the Turk,
same ez Richard slung his right across the
in old days of which I’m readin’. Now
we’re gettin’ in our work,
‘n’ what price me nibs, I ask yeh, ez a
‘Ere I am, a thirsty Templar in the fields of
where that hefty little fighter, Bobby
Sable, smit the heathen,
and where Richard Coor de Lion trimmed
the Moslem good ‘n’ fine,
‘n’ he took the belt from Saladin, the
slickest Dago breathin’.
There’s no plume upon me helmet, ‘n’ no red
cross on me chest,
‘n’ so fur they haven’t dressed me in a
swanking load of metal;
We’ve no ‘Oly Grail I know of, but we do
our little best
with a jamtin, ‘n’ a billy, ‘n’ a battered
ole mess kettle.
Quite a lot of guyver missin’ from our brand
We don’t make a pert procession when
we’re movin’ up the forces;
We’ve no pretty, pawin’ stallion, ‘n’ no
pennants flowin’ free,
‘n’ no giddy, gaudy bedquilts make a
circus of the ‘orses.
We ‘most always slip the cattle ‘n’ we cut out
all the dog
when it fairly comes to buttin’ into battle’s
goin’ forward on our wishbones, with our
noses in the bog,
‘n’ we ‘eave a pot iv blazes at the cursed
Fancy-dress them old Crusaders wore,
and alwiz kep’ a band.
What we wear’s so near to nothin’ that it’s
often ‘ardly proper,
and we swings a tank iv iron scrap across
the ‘Oly Land
from a dinkie gun we nipped ashore the
other side of Jopper.
We ain’t ever very natty, for the climate here
When it isn’t liquid mud the dust is thicker
than the vermin.
Ten to one our bold Noureddin is some wad-
dlin’ Turkish pot,
‘n’ the Saladin we’re on to is a snortin’
But be’old the eighth Crusade, ‘n’ Dicko
Smith is in the van,
Dicko Coor de Lion from Carlton what
could teach King Dick a trifle,
for he’d bomb his Royal Jills from out his
or he’d pink him full of leakage with a
quaint repeatin’ rif1e.
We have sunk our claws in Mizpah, and
Siloam is in view.
By my ‘alidom from Agra we will send the
Those old-timers botched the contract, but we
mean to put it through.
Knights Templars from Balmain, the Port,
Monaro, Nhill, andl Ealin’.
We ‘are wipin’ up Jerus’lem; we were ready
with a hose
spoutin’ lead, a dandy cleaner that you bet
you can rely on;
And Moss Isaacs, Cohn, and Cohen, Moses,
Offelbloom ‘n’ those
can all pack their bettin’ bags, and come
right home again to Zion.