Ninth Crusade


The Ninth Crusade, which is sometimes grouped with the Eighth Crusade, is commonly considered to be the last of the medieval Crusades to the Holy Land.

The cause of the crusade was the continuing growth and power of the Mamluk Empire, centred on Egypt, and the imminent collapse of the few remaining crusader strongholds along the Mediterranean coast. The Eighth Crusade in Northern Africa and the Ninth Crusade in the Holy Land were part of a larger strategy which included actions by the Spanish kings in the Reconquista, the military orders against pagans in Eastern Europe, and alliances with the Mongols in Central Asia and the Middle East against the Mamluks and Turks. The crusader participants ranged in diversity from European princes such as Prince Edward of England and Louis IX of France to religious leaders such as the pope and the Byzantine emperor, and from the Mongol leaders Mongke and Hulagu Khan to the Mamluk sultans Baibars and Qutuz.


The primary cause of the crusade was the defeat of the Mongol armies by the Mamluks in 1260 at the Battle of Ain Jalut by Qutuz and his general Baibars. Following the defeat of the Mongols, Baibars had Qutuz assassinated and claimed the sultanate for himself. As Sultan, Baibars proceeded to attack the Christian crusaders in Arsuf, Athlith, Haifa, Safad, Jaffa, Ashkalon, and Caesarea. As the Crusader fortress cities fell one by one and their populations were enslaved or killed, help was sought from the various rulers in Europe; but their assistance was slow in coming. In 1268 Baibars captured Antioch, the last remnant of the Principality of Antioch, and killed or enslaved the population, thereby securing the Mamluk northern front and threatening the Crusader County of Tripoli.

The crusade in North Africa

Having already organised a large crusader army with the intent of attacking Egypt, Louis IX of France's crusade was diverted instead to Tunis, where Louis himself died in 1270, with the word "Jerusalem" on his lips. Prince Edward of England arrived in Tunis too late to contribute to the remainder of the crusade in Tunis. Instead, he continued on his way to the Holy Land to assist Bohemund VI, Prince of Antioch and Count of Tripoli, against the Mamluk threat to Tripoli and the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Crusader operations in the Holy Land

It was decided that Edward along with Louis' brother Charles of Anjou would take their forces onward to Acre, capital of the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the final objective of Baibars' campaign. The army of Edward and Charles arrived in 1271, just as Baibars was besieging Tripoli, which as the last remaining territory of the County of Tripoli was full of tens of thousands of Christian refugees. From their bases in Cyprus and Acre, Edward and Charles managed to attack Baibars' interior lines and break the siege. For the remainder of the year Prince Edward awaited further reinforcements, including the crusaders from Louis IX's expedition, while building up further defences and repairing old ones.

In the interim, Baibars came to suspect there would be a combined land-sea attack on Egypt. Feeling his position sufficiently threatened, he endeavoured to head off such a manoeuvre by building a fleet. Having finished construction of the fleet, rather than attack the Crusader army directly, Baibars attempted to land on Cyprus in 1271, hoping to draw Hugh III of Cyprus (the nominal King of Jerusalem) and his fleet out of Acre, with the objective of conquering the island and leaving Edward and the crusader army isolated in the Holy Land. However, in the ensuing naval campaign the fleet was destroyed and Baibars' armies were forced back.

Following this victory, Edward realised that to ensure long-term resistance it was necessary to end the internal unrest within the Christian state, and so he mediated between Hugh and his unenthusiastic knights from the Ibelin family of Cyprus. After the mediation, Prince Edward of England began negotiating an eleven-year truce with Baibars, although this negotiation almost ended when Baibars treacherously attempted to assassinate him by sending men pretending to seek baptism as Christians. Edward and his knights personally killed the assassins and at once began preparations for a direct attack on Jerusalem. However, when news arrived that Edward's father Henry III had died, a treaty was signed with Baibars, allowing Edward to return home to be crowned King of England in 1272 and Baibars to lick his wounds in Cairo.


Edward had been accompanied by Theobald Visconti, who became Pope Gregory X in 1271. Gregory called for a new crusade at the Council of Lyons in 1274, but nothing came of this. Meanwhile new fissures arose within the Christian states when Charles of Anjou took advantage of a dispute between Hugh III, the Knights Templar, and the Venetians in order to bring the remaining Christian state under his control. Having bought Mary of Antioch's claims to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he attacked Hugh III, causing a civil war within the rump kingdom. In 1277 Hugh of San Severino captured Acre for Charles. Although the internicine war within the crusaders' ranks had proven debilitating, it provided the opportunity for a single commander to take control of the crusade in the person of Charles. However, this hope was dashed when Venice suggested a crusade be called not against the Mamluks but against Constantinople, where Michael VIII had recently re-established the Byzantine Empire and driven out the Venetians. Pope Gregory would not have supported such an attack, but in 1281 Pope Martin IV assented to it; the ensuing fiasco helped lead to the Sicilian Vespers on March 31, 1282, instigated by Michael VIII, and Charles was forced to return home. This was the last expedition launched against the Byzantines in Europe or the Muslims in the Holy Land.

The remaining nine years saw an increase in demands from the Mamluks, including tribute, as well as increased persecution of pilgrims, all in contravention of the truce. In 1289, Sultan Qalawun gathered a large army and invested the remnants of the county of Tripoli, ultimately laying siege to the capital and taking it after a bloody assault. The attack on Tripoli however was particularly devastating to the Mamluks as the Christian resistance reached fanatical proportions and Qalawun lost his eldest and most able son in the campaign. He waited another two years to regather his strength.

In 1291, a group of pilgrims from Acre came under attack and in retaliation killed nineteen Muslim merchants in a Syrian caravan. Qalawun demanded they pay an extraordinary amount in compensation. When no reply came, the Sultan used it as a pretext to besiege Acre, declaring a jihad to finish off the last independent Christian state in the Holy Land and fulfill Baibars' ambitions. Qalawun died during the siege, leaving Khalil, the sole surviving member of his family, as Mamluk Sultan. Having conquered the city, Khalil killed 60,000 of the citizens and enslaved the rest, and by the end of the year the Crusader States ceased to exist. The period of the Crusades to the Holy Land was over, almost two hundred years after Pope Urban II had called for the first of these holy wars.

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