Duke of Hazards

Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lorraine, was just 15 when he inherited his lands, castle, and title in 1076. He was soon fighting for them and for his life against powerful local lords who wanted all four, and who thought they would easily get them. Godfrey proved them wrong in a war that culminated in a siege of Bouillon Castle in 1086, from which he emerged victorious.

In 1095, Pope Urban II called for an "armed pilgrimage" to liberate Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks and ensure safe passage for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Godfrey was one of the first to answer the call, mortgaging his castle to the prince-bishop of Liège to finance an expedition. By June 1099, he stood before the walls of Jerusalem at the head of the combined Christian army.

On July 15, the Crusaders stormed the Holy City and massacred its Muslim inhabitants. Setting aside his armor, Godfrey put on a linen robe and prayed barefoot at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Offered the title King of Jerusalem, he refused it, saying he "would not wear a crown of gold in the city where Our Lord had worn a crown of thorns." He accepted instead the title Defender of the Holy Sepulcher. Godfrey did not long survive his victory. He died in 1100 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Latin inscription on his tomb reads: "Here lies the renowned Godfrey of Bouillon, who brought this whole region under Christian sway. May his soul rest in the peace of Christ."

Back in Bouillon, the prince-bishop of Liège called in the mortgage and pocketed Bouillon Castle.

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