Part 13: XIII. Anselm I 1366-1399 A.D.
War came again a few years later, in 1368. The Emirate of Azerbaijan, on Jerusalem's northern border, launched an unprovoked attack against the Kingdom, and King Anselm marched out to eliminate the tiny Muslim power.
It should have been an easy campaign. To this day, historians still argue over what possessed King Anselm in Azerbaijan. All that is known for sure is that he left the field of battle shortly after crossing into the Emirate. Some say he fled, cowardly, unmanned by one fight too many. Others say he rushed back to Jerusalem to prevent a political plot on his throne.
Regardless of the cause, when his soldiers learned their King was no longer amongst them, they deserted en masse, melting away into the countryside. It was a humiliating loss, nearly ten thousand soldiers, the vanguard of Jerusalem abandoning the field to the enemy.
Although more troops were brought north, the King's heart was plainly not in the war. Azerbaijan offered large gifts worth thousands of gold, and King Anselm accepted them in exchange for a peace treaty.
In another age, another kingdom, Anselm might have lost the Throne for such cowardice. But the behavior of his soldiers had not been much better and the general attitude in Jerusalem was that the whole affair was best forgotten.
Over the years the family d'Anjou had become large and prestigious. The bloodline had branches all across the continent. The Duke of Damietta in northern Egypt was a man named William d'Anjou, a Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandson of Charles the Mad. In 1374, William inherited the Throne of the Kingdom of Bohemia in central Europe. He took his Duchy of Damietta with him.
King Anselm was, of course, both pleased and outraged. On the one hand, it was wonderful for the family to have expanded it's influence thusly. The House of d'Anjou now ruled two great Kingdoms. But to lose the rich Nile Delta to a foreign power was unacceptable.
There was a problem, however. William's inheritance was fully legal and correct. King Anselm lacked any claim whatsoever on the territories of Damietta or the Ducal title. He literally could not declare war without justification.
It would be fairly straightforward for Jerusalem to push a claim on the individual provinces they had lost, but without the ability to take the Ducal title from King William, the local counts would remain loyal to Bohemia. King Anselm decide to wait, and build his prestige for a while, in order to be able to take back all the land lost in a single war.
But another distraction was coming…
The bubonic plague began to sweep through Iraq in the spring of 1376. The peasants were dying in droves. Corpses began to pile in the street. A terrible darkness was rolling into Europe.
Day after day, week after week, reports came of the spread of the Plague. Many fled Jerusalem. By August the satanic disease had arrived in the Holy City.
Almost immediately, King Anselm's beloved wife, Juliana contracted the plague. She died within days.
Many believed that the End Times had come. They prayed to Christ, cried out for the protection of the Virgin Mother, begged for mercy from the Lord, but received no answer. Indeed, things only got worse.
No one who was not there, no one who did not live through it, can ever truly know the horror of the Black Plague. Over the coming years it would devastate Europe, killing nearly a third of the population.
After several years of suffering and intense prayer, the worst of the plague gradually passed. It still lingered, and the plague carts did not leave the streets of Jerusalem, but life in the Kingdom continued on, after a fashion.
With some reluctance, King Anselm resolved to remarry. He had loved his wife, but the two boys she had given him had died as children. The Kingdom needed an heir. In 1378 he remarried.
That summer, one of the counties in Bohemian Egypt broke away from distant King William.
King Anselm forced a claim on the lands and sent a small detachment in to secure them. The local Count, faced with the army of the Kingdom, willingly reswore his loyalty to Anselm and Jerusalem.
That winter, Queen Gerberga gave birth to a daughter. The young baby promptly caught the plague.
One blessing was the passing of the plague from Jerusalem in 1380. A special Mass was held for all those who had been taken and those who remained thanked the Lord for their deliverance from death.
That year, also, King Anselm finally pressed his rights against the King of Bohemia, pushing into Egypt.
Wracked by the Black Plague, Bohemia was unable to put up much of a fight. By the spring of 1381 the Duchy of Damietta had been reannexed to the Kingdom.
Over the next few years, Gerberga gave birth to several daughters. In January of 1389, finally, she gave birth to a son, who the 50 year old King Anselm named Martin.
In 1393, the Pnumonic Plague entered the Kingdom.
Fortunately this plague was not as virulent as the last. Although a few notable figures died, including the Bishop of Jerusalem, it quickly ran it's course and retreated. Those who were left in Jerusalem were already strong and winnowed by the Black Death.
The only major Muslim power that had survived the Crusades was the Abbasid dynasty. Once they had ruled Baghdad, now they had mostly retreated to the western part of North Africa. Their capital however, oddly enough was in Byzantine lands, and there, apparently the leader of the Abbasid had learned of the one True Faith and abandoned his previous heresies.
Certainly, the Orthodox rituals were not the same as the Catholic ones, but they were far better then the lies of Islam. It was increasingly clear that the great war between the faiths was ending and that Christ had triumphed.
Cheered by this Good News, old King Anselm quietly went to see his Maker.
His nine year old son, Martin, inherited all the titles, rights, and claims of the Kingdom.
On February 15, in the year 1399, King Martin II took his throne.