Baldwin IV

Baldwin IV of Jerusalem (1161–16 March 1185[1]), called the Leper or the Leprous, the son of Amalric I of Jerusalem and his first wife, Agnes of Courtenay, was king of Jerusalem from 1174 to 1185. His full sister was Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem and his nephew through this sister (who succeeded him) was the child-king Baldwin V. He had a half sister through his father’s second marriage, the princess Isabella of Jerusalem, and a younger brother who was the child of both his parents but who died in infancy.

Early life

Baldwin spent his youth in his father’s court in Jerusalem, having little contact with his mother, Agnes of Courtenay, Countess of Jaffa and Ascalon, and later Lady of Sidon, whom his father had been forced to divorce. Baldwin IV was educated by the historian William of Tyre (later Archbishop of Tyre and Chancellor of the kingdom), who made a disturbing discovery about the prince: he and his friends were playing one day, attempting to injure each other by driving their fingernails into each other’s arms, but Baldwin felt no pain. William immediately recognized this as a sign of serious illness, but it was not conclusively identified as leprosy until a few years later: the onset of puberty accelerated his disease, in its most serious lepromatous form.

Baldwin’s father died in 1174 and the boy was crowned at the age of thirteen, on 15 July that year. In his minority the kingdom was ruled by two successive regents, first Miles of Plancy, though unofficially, and then Raymond III of Tripoli, his father’s cousin. In 1175, Raymond III, the acting king of Jerusalem, made a treaty with Saladin.

As a leper, Baldwin was not expected to reign long or produce an heir, and courtiers and lords positioned themselves for influence over Baldwin’s heirs, his sister Princess Sibylla and his half-sister Princess Isabella. Sibylla was being raised by her great-aunt Ioveta in the convent of Bethany, while Isabella was at the court of her mother, the dowager queen Maria Comnena, in Nablus.

Baldwin’s rule

Raymond’s regency ended on the second anniversary of Baldwin’s coronation: the young king was now of age. He did not ratify Raymond’s treaty with Saladin, but instead went raiding towards Damascus and around the Beqaa Valley. He appointed his maternal uncle, Joscelin III, the titular count of Edessa, seneschal after he was ransomed. Joscelin was his closest male relative who did not have a claim to the throne, so he was judged a reliable supporter: indeed, he proved his loyalty.

In his capacity as regent, Raymond of Tripoli had begun negotiations for the marriage of princess Sibylla to William of Montferrat, a first cousin of Louis VII of France and of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. William arrived in early October and became Count of Jaffa and Ascalon upon his marriage. It was hoped that he would be able to govern for the king when he became incapacitated, and succeed him with Sibylla.

Meanwhile, Baldwin was planning an attack on Saladin’s power-base in Egypt. He sent Raynald of Chatillon (the former prince of Antioch through marriage to Amalric I’s cousin Constance of Antioch) to Constantinople as envoy to Manuel I Comnenus, to obtain Byzantine naval support. Raynald had recently been released from captivity in Aleppo: Manuel paid his ransom, since he was the stepfather of the Empress Maria of Antioch. Manuel sought the restoration of the Orthodox patriarchate in the kingdom, and arranged the marriage of Bohemond III of Antioch to his great-niece Theodora Comnena, sister of the queen-dowager Maria. Reynald returned early in 1177, and was rewarded with marriage to Stephanie of Milly, a widowed heiress. This made him lord of Kerak and Oultrejourdain. Baldwin tried to ensure that Reynald and William of Montferrat co-operated on the defence of the South. However, in June, William died at Ascalon after several weeks’ illness, leaving the widowed Sibylla pregnant with the future Baldwin V.

In August the king’s first cousin, Philip of Flanders, came to Jerusalem on crusade. Philip demanded to wed Baldwin’s sisters to his vassals. Philip, as Baldwin’s closest male kin on his paternal side (he was Fulk’s grandson and thus Baldwin’s first cousin; Raymond was Melisende’s nephew and thus first cousin of Baldwin’s father), claimed authority superseding Raymond’s regency. The Haute Cour refused to agree to this, with Baldwin of Ibelin publicly insulting Philip. Offended, Philip left the kingdom, campaigning instead for the Principality of Antioch. The Ibelin family were patrons of the dowager queen Maria, and it is possible that Baldwin of Ibelin acted this way in hopes of marrying one of Baldwin’s sisters himself.

In November, Baldwin and Raynald of Chatillon defeated Saladin with the help of the Knights Templar at the celebrated Battle of Montgisard. That same year, Baldwin allowed his stepmother the dowager-queen to marry Balian of Ibelin, a concilatory move to both, but it carried risks, given the Ibelins’ ambitions. With Maria’s patronage, the Ibelins tried to have the princesses Sibylla and Isabella married into their family as well.

In 1179, the king met with some military setbacks in the north. On 10 April, he led a cattle-raid on Banias, but was surprised by Saladin’s nephew Farrukh Shah. Baldwin’s horse bolted, and in saving him, the much-respected constable of the kingdom Humphrey II of Toron, was mortally wounded. On 10 June, in response to cavalry raids near Sidon, Baldwin took a force, with Raymond of Tripoli and the Grand Master of the Templars, Odo of St Amand, to Marj Uyun. They defeated the raiders fording the Litani River, but were caught by Saladin’s main force. The king (unable to remount unaided) was unhorsed, and had to be carried off the field on the back of another knight as his guard cut their way out. Count Raymond fled to Tyre, and the king’s stepfather Reginald of Sidon rescued a number of the fugitives, but the prisoners included the Grand Master, Baldwin of Ibelin, and Hugh of Tiberias, one of Raymond of Tripoli’s stepsons. In August, the unfinished castle at Jacob’s Ford fell to Saladin after a brief siege, with the slaughter of half its Templar garrison.

Baldwin and Guy of Lusignan

In the summer of 1180, Baldwin IV married Sibylla to Guy of Lusignan, brother of the constable Amalric of Lusignan. Earlier historians claimed that Sibylla’s second marriage was entirely due to the influence of the King’s mother; however, Hamilton argues that this is to reflect uncritically the personal grievances of William of Tyre and of the Ibelins. A plan to marry Sibylla to Hugh III of Burgundy had broken down; Raymond of Tripoli seems to have been attempting to marry her to Baldwin of Ibelin to bolster his power-base. A foreign match was essential to the kingdom, bringing the possibility of external aid. With the new French king Philip II a minor, Guy’s status as a vassal of the King’s cousin Henry II of England – who owed the Pope a penitential pilgrimage – was useful in this respect. Baldwin also betrothed his 8-year-old half-sister Isabella to Humphrey IV of Toron, repaying a debt of honour to Humphrey’s grandfather, who had given his life for him at Banias, and removing Isabella from the control of her mother and the Ibelin faction. (Her betrothed was Raynald of Chatillon’s stepson.)

Guy had previously allied himself with Raynald, who was by now taking advantage of his position at Kerak to harass the trading caravans travelling between Egypt and Damascus. After Saladin retaliated for these attacks in the campaign and Battle of Belvoir Castle in 1182, Baldwin, now blind and unable to walk, appointed Guy regent of the kingdom.

Nevertheless, in 1183, Baldwin had become offended by Guy’s actions as regent. Guy attended the wedding festivities for Isabella (now about 11) and Humphrey, held in Kerak; however, the festivities were interrupted by Saladin, who besieged the fortress with the wedding guests inside. Baldwin marshalled what strength he had and lifted the siege, but Guy refused to fight Saladin and Saladin’s troops simply went home. Baldwin could not tolerate this and deposed Guy as regent. In disgrace, Guy retired to Ascalon, taking his wife the princess Sibylla with him.

Joint kingship with Baldwin V, and death

Although Baldwin seems to have held no ill-will towards his sister, Baldwin appointed his 5-year-old nephew Baldwin of Montferrat as his heir and successor, with the support of Agnes and her husband Reginald of Sidon, Raymond, and many of the other barons, excluding Sibylla from the succession. Raymond was to act as guardian of the infant heir, and later as regent if Baldwin IV was to expire, but Baldwin IV himself would continue to rule. The child was crowned co-king as Baldwin V on November 20, 1183.

In the early months of 1184 Baldwin attempted to have the marriage between Sibylla and Guy annulled. The couple had foiled this attempt by holding fast in Ascalon, not attending the annulment proceedings. The military expedition to relieve Kerak and the dynastic struggle had weakened Baldwin considerably. He died in Jerusalem in spring 1185, a few months after the death of his mother Agnes in Acre late in 1184. Though often suffering from the effects of leprosy and ruling with regency governments, Baldwin was able to maintain himself as king for much longer than otherwise might have been expected. As had been decided, Baldwin V succeeded his uncle, with Raymond of Tripoli as regent.

Leprosy Today

Today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy and most endemic countries are striving to fully integrate leprosy services into existing general health services. This is especially important for those under-served and marginalised communities most at risk from leprosy, often the poorest of the poor.

Access to information, diagnosis and treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT) remain key elements in the strategy to eliminate the disease as a public health problem, defined as reaching a prevalence of less than 1 leprosy case per 10,000 population. MDT treatment has been made available by WHO free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995, and provides a simple yet highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.

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Information campaigns about leprosy in high risk areas are crucial so that patients and their families, who were historically ostracized from their communities, are encouraged to come forward and receive treatment. The most effective way of preventing disabilities in leprosy, as well as preventing further transmission of the disease, lies in early diagnosis and treatment with MDT.

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