Who was Baldwin II of Jerusalem? – History, Reign, the Crusades, & Major Achievements

Baldwin II of Jerusalem - life, reign and the Crusades

Baldwin II of Jerusalem (also known as Baldwin du Bourg) was a prominent figure in the Crusades and the King of Jerusalem from 1118 until his death in 1131. He was born in the county of Rethel in modern-day France in 1058.

In January 1120, Baldwin II of Jerusalem and the Patriarch organized a general assembly, known as the Council of Nablus. The assembly was attended by prelates and noblemen, who agreed on several important decrees. The clergy was granted the right to collect the tithe and bear arms in defense of the kingdom. The council also passed laws against sexual offenses such as adultery, pimping, sodomy, bigamy, and prohibited sexual relations between Christians and Muslims.

Additionally, penalties were established for theft and for false accusations of crimes. The decisions made during the council marked the first attempts at lawmaking in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

What else was Baldwin II of Jerusalem most known for?

Below, we take an in-depth look at the life, reign and military campaigns of Baldwin II, the second king of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem: Quick Facts

Born: c. 1075

Died: August 21, 1131

Buried: Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Parents: Hugh I, Count of Rethel and Melisende of Montlhéry

Cousins: Godfrey of Bouillon, Baldwin of Boulogne (later Baldwin I of Jerusalem)

Spouse: Morphia of Melitene

Children: Melisende, Alice, Hodiema, Ioveta

King of Jerusalem

Reign: 1118-1131

Predecessor: Baldwin I

Successor: Fulk and Melisende

Count of Edessa

Reign: 1100-1118

Predecessor: Baldwin I

Successor: Joscelin I

Birth and Family

To this day it remains unclear the exact year in which Baldwin II of Jerusalem was born. The popular opinion is that this future king of Jerusalem was born around 1075 in the County of Rethel, which is the present day commune in the Ardennes department in northern France. His parents were Hugh I, Count of Rethel and Melisande of Crécy. Through his mother, he is the grandson of Guy I of Montlhéry.

Baldwin had six siblings, and he was the third child of his parents. Through his sister Cecilia of Le Bourcq, he was the brother-in-law of Roger of Salerno, prince-regent of Antioch. Another sister of his, Beatrix (or Béatrice), married Leo I, Prince of Armenia.

His older brother, Gervais (1056-1124), became Count of Rethel upon the death of his father in 1118.

Involvement in the First Crusade

Heading to calls of Byzantine emperor Alexious I, who was supported by Pope Urban II’s campaigns, for a military initiative in order to take back the Holy Land from Islamic rule, Baldwin joined his cousins Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin of Boulogne (later Baldwin II of Jerusalem) and embarked on the First Crusade. He set out with the army of Western Christian forces in August 1096 and arrived in the Byzantine capital Constantinople on December 23.

Baldwin is said to have represented Godfrey at a meeting to discuss the Crusader army’s fealty to Emperor Alexios I. Once it had been agreed that the crusader army would return any seized lands from the Muslims to the Byzantine Empire, Baldwin and the crusader army were ferried to Asia Minor, where they began waging war to take back the Holy Land.

Baldwin was part of his cousin Baldwin of Boulogne’s breakaway military unit that invaded Cilicia in September 1097. He fought alongside his cousin in a number of campaigns against Seljuq army. He helped in capturing cities like Turbessel, Ravendel and Edessa from Muslim rulers. It was in the latter city, i.e. Edessa, that the first crusader state emerged. Called the County of Edessa, Baldwin of Boulogne proceeded to serve as its first ruler from 1098 to 1100.

He also fought alongside Tancred of Hauteville, an Italo-Norman nobleman who played a leading role in the First Crusade and later became the regent of the Principality of Antioch. Tancred was part of Baldwin of Boulogne’s unit that broke away from the main crusader army to embark on separate missions. Baldwin helped Tancred capture Bethlehem, with very little resistance as the city a Christian majority.

Baldwin participated in the brutal Siege of Jerusalem, which took place in the summer of 1099. During the siege, which ultimately resulted in the capture of the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Muslim Fatimid Caliphate, Baldwin and Tancred are believed to have beheaded a Muslim nobleman simply because he refused to convert to Christianity.

Following the capture of Jerusalem in July, mass killings of several thousands of Muslims and Jews were carried out by the European crusader army. Also many Muslim holy sites (on the Temple Mount) were converted to Christian places of worship. After the siege, Baldwin departed Jerusalem and headed for Syria.

Ruler of the County of Edessa

Following the death of Jerusalem’s ruler Geoffrey of Bouillon on July 18, 1100, Baldwin of Boulogne, who was then the Count of Edessa, was elected to the position of King of Jerusalem. When that happened, the crusader County of Edessa passed on to Baldwin. Before becoming the Count of Edessa, the young military leader had to swear fealty to the new King of Jerusalem, his cousin Baldwin of Boulogne.

With the help of troops from Antioch, Baldwin was able to defeat an army of Artuqid around 1101. Led by the Turkmen bey Sökmen, the Artuqids tried to capture Saruj (also known as Suruç in present day Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey).

The Crusader states in 1135

What was the County of Edessa?

The County of Edessa was one of the Crusader states established after the First Crusade. It was located in what is now northern Syria and southeastern Turkey.

The county was established in 1098, shortly after the capture of the city of Edessa by the Crusaders. The first ruler of the county was Baldwin of Boulogne, who later became King of Jerusalem.

The County of Edessa was one of the smaller Crusader states, and its rulers faced constant threats from Muslim forces in the region. Despite this, the county managed to survive for almost 50 years and became an important center of Christian influence in the region.

The county was ruled by a series of counts, including Baldwin II of Jerusalem, who later became the king of Jerusalem. The last count of Edessa was Joscelin III, who was captured by the Muslim forces of the Turkish warlord Zengi in 1144, leading to the fall of the county.

The fall of the County of Edessa was a significant event in the history of the Crusades and was a major setback for the Christian forces in the region. It also helped to spur the launch of the Second Crusade, which was aimed at recapturing the lost territory.

How Baldwin was captured by Sökmen and then released by Jawali Saqawa

In May 1104, Baldwin’s rival Sökmen and Jikirmish, the atabeg of Mosul, joined forces and invaded Edessa. However, before Sökmen could attack, Baldwin, Joscelin and Bohemond marched on Haran (in Şanlıurfa Province, southeastern Turkey). In brilliant military move, Sökmen’s forces were able to ambush Baldwin and Joscelin’s forces. The two Christian crusader military leaders were captured.

During his captivity, Tancred was elected as regent of Edessa. Tancred led Edessa and successfully defended the city against an invading army led by Jikirmish. During the fight, Tancred managed to capture a very importan Seljuq princess of Jikirmish’s court. The Muslim ruler proposed that Baldwin be exchanged for the Seljuq princess. Instead, Tancred and Bohemond opted for a monetary ransom in exchange for the Seljuq princess; and so, Baldwin remained a prisoner of Jikirmish.

Upon the appointment of Tancred to rule on behalf of Bohemond, Richard of Salerno became regent of Edessa.

Baldwin became a prisoner of Jawali Saqawa, a military general who toppled Jikirmish and made himself ruler of Mosul in 1107. A year later, Saqawa released Baldwin for 30,000 dinars as ransom.

Conflict with Tancred

Tancrède de Hauteville by French painter Merry-Joseph Blondel, 1840

Following his release in 1108, Baldwin returned to the County of Edessa. However, Tancred prevented him from returning to his rightful position as ruler of Edessa. Tancred demanded that Baldwin swear fealty to him first.

Angered by Tancred’s demand, Baldwin headed for Turbessel. In order to take back his county from Tancred, Baldwin went into an alliance with Kogh Vasil. With armies from other rulers in the region, Baldwin descended upon Antioch and forced Tancred into a negotiation, which resulted in Tancred backing down. Baldwin was then able to return to Edessa.

The two men were again at each other’s throats when Baldwin and forces of Joscelin of Courtney and Jawali attacked Fakhr al-Mulk Radwan, the Seljuq ruler of Aleppo. Tancred allied with Mulk to fight against Baldwin. Baldwin and his allies suffered a defeat, and the Count of Edessa fled the battlefield. In the end, he managed to escape a siege placed on a fortress by Tancred and returned to Edessa.

Worried that the conflict between Tancred and Baldwin could jeopardize the gains made by the Christian forces in the Holy Land, Baldwin I of Jerusalem ordered the two men to patch things up.

Conflicts with the Atabegs of Mosul

During his time as Count of Edessa, Baldwin II had to fend off a number of attacks from many Muslim rulers, especially from Mawdud ibn Altuntash, the atabeg of Mosul from 1109 to 1113.

Mawdud was a Seljuk Turkic ruler who ruled over the Great Seljuk Empire in the 11th century. He was the son of Malik Shah I, and he became the governor of Mosul and later, the governor of Azerbaijan. Mawdud was known for his military campaigns against the Byzantine Empire, and he even marched on Jerusalem in 1076.

Resolution of the conflict between the crusader leaders

Tancred and Baldwin engaged in a series of conflict over the County of Edessa. The former claimed that the crusader county was his as the territory had been subject to Antioch under the Byzantine Empire.

The conflict between the crusader leaders was resolved through the marriage of Baldwin’s sister, Cecilia, to Roger of Salerno, the successor of Tancred in Antioch. Joscelin in turn married Roger’s sister, Maria.

Marriage and children

As part of efforts to consolidate his power in Edessa, Baldwin tied the knot with Morphia, the daughter of a rich Armenian general and lord of Melitene. The marriage, which took place around 1101, made the predominantly Greek Orthodox city of Melitene a vassal of Edessa. By Morphia, Baldwin fathered four daughters: Melisande, Alice, Hodierna, and Ioveta.

Because his marriage to Morphia failed to produce any male child, some of his courtiers encouraged him to take another wife. However, Baldwin was said to be very loyal to Morphia, and as such, he refused parting ways with her. His devotion to Morphia was so strong that he even postponed his coronation as King of Jerusalem so that Morphia would be able to be crowned queen alongside him. He and his wife were crowned king and queen in Bethlehem on Christmas Day in 1119.

Morphia, in turn, remained very devoted to Baldwin; she was heavily invested in the quest to secure his freedom after he had been captured in 1123.

Baldwin and the Council of Nablus

Baldwin of Bourcq

Baldwin presiding at the Council of Nablus

The Council of Nablus was a gathering of prelates and noblemen that took place on January 16, 1120, in the city of Nablus, located in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The council was convened by King Baldwin II and Patriarch Warmund to address various issues facing the kingdom.

During the council, important decisions were made, including the confirmation of the clergy’s right to collect tithes and bear arms for the defense of the kingdom. The council also issued decrees against various sexual offenses, such as adultery, pimping, sodomy, and bigamy, and prohibited sexual relations between Christians and Muslims. Penalties were also established for theft and for making false accusations of crimes.

The decisions made at the Council of Nablus represented some of the first attempts at lawmaking in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and played an important role in establishing the legal framework for the kingdom.

Baldwin II and the Knights Templar

Established by Flemish knight Godfrey de Saint-Omer and Hugh of Payns, the Knights Templar were a religious warrior-monk group that was established to keep pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land safe. Baldwin II allowed the Knights Templar to take residence on the Temple Mount.

As king of Jerusalem, Baldwin II supported many of the activities of the Templars as he was completely devoted to keeping the Holy Land firmly in the hands of the Christians. He also wrote a number of letters to Rome, appealing to the Pope to provide support towards this goal of his.

He solicited the help of Venetian noblemen to provide ships that could be used to fend off attacks from the Fatimids in Egypt.

How Baldwin was captured by the Muslims for the second time

Capture of Baldwin II of Jerusalem

In an attempt to rescue Joscelin, then-regent of Edessa, from the captivity of Belek Ghazi, a Turkish bey and nephew of Illghazi, Baldwin II marched his troops to raid the town of Kharput (present day Elazığ in Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey). Joscelin and a number of noblemen from Edessa were being held prisoners in Kharput.

Unfortunately, just before he could marshal an assault on Belek’s forces, Belek attacked his camp in the early hours of April 18, 1123. Many of his men were killed, and Baldwin was taken prisoner – a second time in his life.

The King of Jerusalem was held by Belek’s forces in a fortress in Kharput. After a failed attempt by Baldwin and his Armenian allies at defending the fortress, Baldwin was once again captured. He was transferred to Harran and then imprisoned in the Citadel of Aleppo in modern-day Aleppo, Syria.

Citadel of Aleppo

The Citadel of Aleppo is a massive medieval fortress located in the center of the Syrian city of Aleppo. The fortress is believed to have been built in the 10th century, though much of its current form dates to the 13th century, when it was extensively renovated and expanded by the Ayyubid ruler Saladin.

In his absence, the noblemen of Jerusalem elected Eustace Granier as regent of Jerusalem. Upon the death of Grenier in June, William of Bures was elected regent. There were even some attempts from some sections of the city to give the throne to Charles the Good, Count of Flanders. Charles declined the offer.

Upon the death of Belek on May 6, 1124, Baldwin was passed on to Timurtash, one of the sons of Ilghazi. Shortly after negotiations were initiated for the release of Baldwin. Morphia, Baldwin’s wife, and Joscelin played a key role in securing 80,000 dinars for the release of Baldwin. The Christians also had to cede a number of Antiochene territories to the Muslims, including Azaz, Zardana, and Atarib. Ultimately, Baldwin secured his freedom on August 29, 1124. He returned to Jerusalem about eight months later.

Battle of Azaz (1125)

The Battle of Azaz was a military conflict that took place in 1125 between the Crusader States and the Seljuk Turks, Artuqids and Burid dynasty. The Crusader states were led by Baldwin II of Jerusalem, while the Muslims were led by Aq-Sunqur and il-Bursuqi Toghtekin. The battle was fought near the city of Azaz, located in modern-day Syria.

The conflict was sparked by the expansion of Crusader territories in the region, which threatened the Seljuk Turks’ control over the area. The Seljuks gathered a large army marched on the Crusader-held town of Azaz.

The Crusader army, led by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Count Joscelin I of Edessa, was significantly smaller than the Seljuk force. However, they were able to use their superior cavalry tactics to outmaneuver the larger Seljuk army and achieve a decisive victory.

The Crusaders were able to capture a number of Seljuk prisoners and secure control over the region. The Battle of Azaz was a significant victory for the Crusaders and helped to solidify their hold over the area.

Rise to the throne of Jerusalem

Baldwin II’s coronation

Upon the death of a childless Baldwin I of Jerusalem on April 2, 1118, Baldwin succeeded to the throne of Jerusalem. In his will, Baldwin I stated that should his brother Eustace III of Boulogne fail to succeed him, the throne of Jerusalem should pass on to his cousin, Baldwin of Bourcq.

The Count of Edessa put his affairs in order and journey to Jerusalem. He arrived in April, and a debate over Baldwin I’s successor ensued. Baldwin of Bourcq had the backing of noblemen such as Arnulf of Chocques, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Josecelin of Courtenay. Ultimately, Baldwin was anointed ruler of Jerusalem on April 14, on Easter Day.

Following his coronation, noblemen in Jerusalem swore fealty to him. It is said that Eustace III of Boulogne was on his way to Jerusalem when news of Baldwin II’s coronation reached him. Exhausted from his journey, the frail Count of Boulogne decided to return home.

As king of Jerusalem, Baldwin II had to constantly deal with attacks from Muslim rulers in the region. His forces and that of Joscelin’s carried out campaigns against Toghtekin in Damascus. In one of their raids, they successfully defeated Taj al-Muluk Buri, the son of Toghtekin.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem

Battle of Ager Sanguinis

The Battle of the “Field of Blood”, also known as the Battle of Ager Sanguinis, was a significant battle that took place on June 28, 1119, between the Crusader states and the Muslim forces of the Seljuk Empire.

The battle was fought near the town of Sarmada in northern Syria, and it was part of the wider conflict between the Crusaders and the Muslims for control of the Holy Land. The Crusader army, consisting of soldiers from the County of Edessa and the Principality of Antioch, was led by Roger of Salerno, who had assumed the position of regent of the County of Edessa after the death of its ruler, Baldwin II.

The Muslim forces were led by Ilghazi, the Atabeg of Mosul, who had united several Muslim emirs in the region to fight against the Crusaders. The battle was fiercely contested, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. According to some sources, the fighting was so intense that the field became soaked in blood, giving the battle its nickname.

In the end, the Crusaders were defeated, and their losses were so severe that they were unable to continue their campaign in the region. The Battle of the “Field of Blood” was a significant setback for the Crusaders, and it demonstrated the strength and resilience of the Muslim forces in the region.

Despite their defeat, the Crusaders continued their efforts to establish a Christian presence in the Holy Land, and they ultimately succeeded in capturing Jerusalem in 1099. However, the Battle of the “Field of Blood” was a reminder of the challenges they faced in their efforts to maintain their foothold in the region.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem

Regent of Antioch

After a humiliating defeat of Roger of Salerno, then regent of Antioch, at the hands of the Artuqids of Aleppo at the Battle of the “Field of Blood” (also known as the Battle of Ager Sanguinis) in late June 1119, Baldwin arrived just in time to protect the Principality of Antioch from Najm ad-Din Illghazi ibn Artuq’s army.

As Roger had lost his life in the battle, the people of Antioch proclaimed Baldwin the regent of the city. Then Prince of Antioch, Bohemond II, was still in his minority years.

Battle of Hab (1119)

Also known as the Second Battle of Tell Danith, the Battle of Hab took place on August 14, 1119 in the County of Edessa. The battle was fought between the Crusader forces of the County of Edessa, led by Baldwin II of Jerusalem, and the Muslim forces of the Seljuk Empire, led by the governor of Mosul, Ilghazi.

Having previously defeated the crusader forces of Antioch at the Battle of the “Field of Blood” and taken control of several important cities and fortresses in the region, Ilghazi marched towards Edessa, hoping to capture the city and expand his influence in the region.

The Crusader forces, which were greatly outnumbered, prepared for a defensive battle and took up positions near the castle of Tell Danith. The battle began with a Muslim attack on the Crusader positions, which was repelled with heavy losses. The Crusaders then counterattacked and were able to break through the Muslim lines, causing significant casualties.

In the end, the Crusaders emerged victorious, and Ilghazi was forced to withdraw his forces. The Second Battle of Tell Danith was a significant victory for the Crusaders and allowed them to maintain their control over the County of Edessa.

Baldwin II succeeded in recapturing all the castles that had been seized by Ilghazi, and effectively blocked his advance towards Antioch.

How did Baldwin II of Jerusalem die?

Baldwin traveled to Antioch in 1130 to handle the power vacuum that had been created following the murder of Bohemond II by Gazi Gümüshtigin, the ruler of the Danishmendids. He placed Joscelin of Edessa as regent as his granddaughter, Constance, was in her minority.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem, also known as Baldwin du Bourg, died on August 21, 1131. The exact cause of his death is not entirely clear, but it is believed that he died of a fever, possibly malaria or typhoid, while he was in the city of Tripoli. Image: Baldwin II of Jerusalem’s funeral

According to Medieval chronicler William of Tyre, Baldwin II took ill after returning from Antioch. Per his will, his son-in-law Fulk V was to succeed him to the throne of Jerusalem.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem passed away on August 21, 1131. He was buried in the Holy Sepulchre.

The Holy Sepulchre is a Christian site located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Christianity, as it is believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.


With no male sons, Baldwin appointed his oldest daughter Melisende heir in mid-1120s. He then proceeded to marry Melisende off to Fulk V, Count of Anjou. Also known as Fulk the Younger, Fulk was the son of Count Fulk IV of Anjou and Bertrade de Montfort. Following the completion of negotiations, Fulk arrived in Jerusalem in 1129.

Upon the death of Baldwin II on August 21, 1131, he was succeeded by his son-in-law Fulk of Anjou. Image: Coronation of Fulk, king of Jerusalem

Baldwin II was succeeded by his son-in-law Fulk of Anjou, who became the King of Jerusalem after Baldwin’s death.

Fulk and his wife Melisende would co-reign from 1131 to 1143, when Fulk died. Melisende would then reign as sole monarch from 1153, when her son, Baldwin III, succeeded to the throne.

Baldwin II’s eldest daughter, Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem


Baldwin II was a prominent figure in the Crusades and had been the Count of Edessa before he was elected as the King of Jerusalem in 1118. He was known for his military prowess and his efforts to expand and strengthen the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

During his reign, Baldwin II faced many challenges, including the threat of invasion from the Muslim states, internal power struggles, and financial difficulties. Despite these challenges, he managed to maintain stability in the kingdom and made significant gains in the ongoing struggle against the Muslims.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem

Family Tree

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