Baldwin i of constantinople

Baldwin I (July 1172 – c. 1205), the first emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, as Baldwin IX Count of Flanders and as Baldwin VI Count of Hainaut, was one of the most prominent leaders of the catastrophic Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the sack of Constantinople and the conquest of large parts of the Byzantine Empire (then called the "Empire of Romania" by westerners), and the foundation of the Latin Empire, also known as Romania (not to be confused with the modern state Romania). He lost his final battle to Kaloyan, the emperor of Bulgaria, and spent his last days as his prisoner.


Early life and family history

Baldwin was the son of Baldwin V of Hainaut and Margaret I, Countess of Flanders and sister of Count Philip of Alsace.[1] When the childless Philip of Alsace left on his first crusade in 1177, he designated his brother-in-law Baldwin V his heir. When Philip returned in 1179 after an unsuccessful siege of Harim during his campaign for the Principality of Antioch, he was designated as the chief adviser of prince Philip II Augustus by his sickly father Louis VII of France.[1] One year later, Philip of Alsace had his protégé married to his niece, Isabelle of Hainaut, offering the County of Artois and other Flemish territories as dowry, much to the dismay of Baldwin V.[2] In 1180, war broke out between Philip II and his mentor, resulting in the devastation of Picardy and Île-de-France; King Philip refused to give open battle and gained the upper hand, and Baldwin V, at first allied with his brother-in-law (Philip of Alsace), intervened on behalf of his son-in-law in 1184, in support of his daughter's interests.[3]

Count Philip's wife Elisabeth died in 1183, and Philip Augustus seized the province of Vermandois on behalf of Elisabeth's sister, Eleonore. Philip then remarried, to Princess Matilda of Portugal, daughter of Afonso I, the first King of Portugal, and Maud of Savoy. Philip gave Matilda of Portugal a dowry of a number of major Flemish towns, in an apparent slight to Baldwin V. Fearing that he would be surrounded by the royal domain of France and the County of Hainaut, Count Philip signed a peace treaty with Philip Augustus and Count Baldwin V on 10 March 1186, recognizing the cession of Vermandois to the king, although he was allowed to retain the title Count of Vermandois for the remainder of his life. When Philip died of disease in 1191, unsuccessful in producing an heir with Countess Matilda, he was succeeded in Flanders by Baldwin V, although the two had been on seemingly uncordial terms since the 1186 treaty.[3] Baldwin V thereupon ruled as Baldwin VIII of Flanders by right of marriage.[3] When Countess Margaret I died in 1194, Flanders descended to her eldest son Baldwin, who ruled as Baldwin IX, Count of Flanders.[3]

In 1186, the younger Baldwin had married Marie of Champagne, daughter of Count Henry I of Champagne and Countess Marie of France.[4] The chronicler Gislebert describes Baldwin as being infatuated with his young bride, who nevertheless preferred prayer to the marital bed.

Immediately after this arrangement, the count of Hainaut's son Baldwin, thirteen years old,[5] received as wife Marie, the count of Champagne's sister, twelve years old, at Château-Thierry. This Marie began sufficiently young to devote herself to divine obedience in prayers, vigils, fasts and alms. Her husband Baldwin, a young knight, by chaste living, scorning all other women, began to love her alone with a fervent love, which is rarely found in any man, so that he devoted himself to his sole wife only and was content with her alone. The solemn rejoicing of the wedding was celebrated at Valenciennes with an abundance of knights and ladies and men of whatever status.[6]

Through Marie, Baldwin had additional connections and obligations to the defenders of the Holy Land: her brother Henry II of Champagne had been King of Jerusalem in the 1190s (leaving a widow and two daughters who needed help to keep and regain their territories in Palestine). Marie's uncles Richard I of England and Philip II of France had just been on the Third Crusade.

Baldwin's own family had also been involved in the defence of Jerusalem: his uncle Philip had died on Crusade. Baldwin's mother's mother was great-aunt of Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem and the Counts of Flanders had tried to help Jerusalem relatives in their struggle. Baldwin wanted to continue the tradition. Margaret died in 1194, and the younger Baldwin became Count of Flanders. His father died the next year, and he succeeded to Hainaut.

Count of Flanders and Hainaut

Baldwin took possession of a much-reduced Flanders, lessened by the large chunk, including Artois, given by Philip of Alsace as dowry to Baldwin's sister Isabelle of Hainaut, and another significant piece to his own wife. Isabelle had died in 1190, but King Philip still retained her dowry, on behalf of Isabelle's son, the future Louis VIII of France. The eight years of Baldwin's rule in Flanders were dominated by his attempts to recover some of this land, culminating in January 1200 in the Treaty of Péronne, in which Philip returned most of Artois.[7]

In this fight against the French king, Baldwin allied with others who had quarrels with Philip, including kings Richard I and John of England, and the German King Otto IV. A month after the treaty, on 23 February 1200, Baldwin took the cross—that is, he committed to embark on a crusade. He spent the next two years preparing, finally leaving on 14 April 1202.

As part of his effort to leave his domains in good order, Baldwin issued two notable charters for Hainaut. One detailed an extensive criminal code, and appears to be based on a now-lost charter of his father. The other laid down specific rules for inheritance. These are an important part of the legal tradition in Belgium.[8]

Baldwin left behind his two-year-old daughter and his pregnant wife, Countess Marie. Marie was regent for Baldwin for the two years she remained in Flanders and Hainaut, but by early 1204, she had left both her children behind to join him in the East. They expected to return in a couple of years, but in the end neither would see their children or their homeland again. In their absence Baldwin's younger brother Philip of Namur was regent in Flanders, with custody of the daughters. Baldwin's uncle William of Thy (an illegitimate son of Baldwin IV of Hainaut) was regent for Hainaut.[9]

Meanwhile, the crusade leaders had set holy war aside and diverted to Constantinople, the largest and richest Christian city in the world. In April 1204, after numerous negotiations attempting to extort funds from the Byzantines, the Crusaders breeched the city's defenses and engaged in an orgy of rape, looting, and murder. The Crusaders then partitioned the empire based on the division of spoils agreed to months before. That portion of the seized territory centered on the devastated capital was set up as a new Empire, and Baldwin was placed on the throne.

Latin Emperor

The imperial crown was at first offered to Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, who refused it. The choice then lay between Baldwin and the nominal leader of the crusade, Boniface of Montferrat. While Boniface was considered the most probable choice, due to his connections with the Byzantine court, Baldwin was young, gallant, pious, and virtuous, one of the few who interpreted and observed his crusading vows strictly, and the most popular leader in the host. With Venetian support he was elected on 9 May 1204, and crowned on 16 May in the Hagia Sophia at a ceremony which closely followed Byzantine practices. During his coronation, Baldwin wore a very rich jewel that had been bought by Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos for 62,000 silver marks. Baldwin's wife Marie, unaware of these events, had sailed to Acre. There she learned of her husband's election as emperor, but died in August 1204 before she could join him.

The Latin Empire was organized on feudal principles; the emperor was feudal superior of the princes who received portions of the conquered territory. His own special portion consisted of the city of Constantinople, the adjacent regions both on the European and the Asiatic side, along with some outlying districts, and several islands including Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios and Tenos. The territories still had to be conquered; first of all it was necessary to break the resistance of the Greeks in Thrace and secure Thessalonica. In this enterprise in the summer of 1204, Baldwin came into collision with Boniface of Montferrat, the rival candidate for the empire, who received a large territory in Macedonia with the title of King of Thessalonica.

Boniface hoped to make himself quite independent of the empire, to do no homage for his kingdom, and he opposed Baldwin's proposal to march to Thessalonica. The antagonism between Flemings and Lombards aggravated the quarrel. Baldwin insisted on going to Thessalonica; Boniface laid siege to Adrianople, where Baldwin had established a governor; civil war seemed inevitable. An agreement was effected by the efforts of Dandolo and the count of Blois. Boniface received Thessalonica as a fief from the emperor, and was appointed commander of the forces which were to march to the conquest of Greece.

During the following winter (1204–1205) the Franks prosecuted conquests in Bithynia, in which Henry, Baldwin's brother, took part. But in February the Greeks revolted in Thrace, relying on the assistance of Kaloyan, tsar of Bulgaria, whose overtures of alliance had been rejected by the emperor. The garrison of Adrianople was expelled. Baldwin along with Dandolo, the count of Blois, and Marshal Villehardouin, the historian, marched to besiege that city. The Frankish knights were defeated (14 April 1205); the count of Blois was slain, and the emperor captured by the Bulgarians (see Battle of Adrianople).

For some time his fate was uncertain, and in the meanwhile Henry, his brother, assumed the regency. Not until the middle of July the following year was it ascertained that he was dead. The circumstances of Baldwin's death are not exactly known. It seems that he was at first treated well as a valuable hostage, but was sacrificed by the Bulgarian monarch in a sudden outburst of rage, perhaps in consequence of the revolt of Philippopolis, which passed into the hands of the Franks. According to a Bulgarian legend, Baldwin had caused his own downfall by trying to seduce Kaloyan's wife. The historian George Acropolites reports that the Tsar had Baldwin's skull made into a drinking cup, just as had happened to Nicephorus I almost four hundred years before.

Tsar Kaloyan wrote to Pope Innocent III, reporting that Baldwin had died in prison. A tower of the Tsarevets fortress of the medieval Bulgarian capital, Veliko Tarnovo, is still called "Baldwin's Tower"; supposedly, it was the tower where he was interned.


It was not until July 1206 that the Latins in Constantinople had reliable information that Baldwin was dead. His brother Henry was crowned emperor in August.

Back in Flanders, however, there seemed to be doubt whether Baldwin was truly dead. In any case, Baldwin's other brother Philip of Namur remained as regent, and eventually both of Baldwin's daughters Jeanne and Margaret were to rule as countesses of Flanders.

The false Baldwin

Twenty years later, in 1225, a man appeared in Flanders claiming to be the presumed dead Baldwin. His claim soon became entangled in a series of rebellions and revolts in Flanders against the rule of Baldwin's daughter Jeanne. A number of people who had known Baldwin before the crusade rejected his claim, but he nonetheless attracted many followers from the ranks of the peasantry. Eventually unmasked as a Burgundian serf named Bertrand of Ray, the false Baldwin was executed in 1226.[10]




  • Angold, Michael, The Fourth Crusade: Event and Context, Harlow: Pearson, 2003. ISBN 978-0582-35610-8
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  • Harris, Jonathan, 'Collusion with the infidel as a pretext for military action against Byzantium', in Clash of Cultures: the Languages of Love and Hate, ed. S. Lambert and H. Nicholson, Turnhout: Brepols, 2012, pp. 99–117. ISBN 978 2503 520643
  • Van Tricht, F., The Latin Renovatio of Byzantium: The Empire of Constantinople (1204-1228), Leiden: Brill, 2011
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Baldwin I of Constantinople
House of Hainaut
Born: July 1172 Died: c.1205
Regnal titles
New creation
Latin Emperor of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Henry of Flanders
Royal titles
Preceded by
Margaret I of Flanders
with Baldwin VIII

Succeeded by
Joan, Countess of Flanders
Preceded by
Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut


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