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Villehardouin: Grandeur and Nobility Essay

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Geoffroy de Villehardouin was a French noble born in the middle of the twelfth century who participated in the Fourth Crusade. After the crusade he wrote Chronicles of the Crusades which covers not only the foundation of the Fourth Crusade and events up through the conquest of Constantinople, but the ensuing conflicts after as well. Prior to the crusade he was Marshal of Champagne, and while this did not give him direct experience in war he probably took part in disputes in Champagne. This position probably gave him an administrative and military focus which explains the general statesmanlike tone throughout the book, as well as his choice to describe strategies.
Throughout the book, Villehardouin makes his religiosity clear. This is hardly surprising considering the status of religion in the time period and the fact that Villehardouin is a crusader. The reverence for crusaders among European nobles likely also contributed to his values. Early on, he speaks in the typical vocabulary of the crusades by speaking of acting “in God's name” or “by God's Grace.” More interestingly, he repeatedly relates the days of their events to religious days. He observes that the day of the agreement between the Venetians and the envoys was in Lent, the day the siege of Zara began was Saint Martin's Day, the day of departure from Scutari was Saint John the Baptist's Day, the day Constantinople was taken was the Monday before Palm Sunday, and so on. This suggests the level of importance he attributes to the events of the Fourth Crusade. It is not merely a matter of conquest, personal pilgrimage, or military glory, but something deeply tied to the history and health of Christendom in the eyes of Villehardouin.
Additionally, the repeated use of r...


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...ious nobles, so that those noble families who read the chronicle may come to learn how their relative died in these events, as opposed to simply being missing in action.
Villehardouin's background as a French noble as well as his apparent admiration for French nobility probably lead him to write in a way that utilized religious and other imagery to sanctify the Fourth Crusade and its participants. The religious themes, glorious descriptions, and attention given towards nobles may explain a lot about both Villehardouin himself and the target audience of his book, which was likely the nobles of France.



Works Cited

Villehardouin, Geoffroy de and Jean de Joinville. Chronicles of the Crusades, translated and edited by M.R.B. Shaw. London: Penguin, 1963.

Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.


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