Gerard de Ridefort

From Academic Kids

Gerard of Ridefort (died October 1, 1189) was Grand Master of the Knights Templar from 1184 until his death.

He was the younger son of a Flemish lord, and, seeing no opportunity for success in Europe, joined the Second Crusade in 1146. After the failure of the crusade, he remained in the Holy Land, in the service of Raymond III of Tripoli. Raymond promised Lucia of Botrun to him, which would give him a valuable piece of land in the County of Tripoli, but Raymond later broke his promise when he was offered money by a Pisan merchant. Gerard then left Raymond's service and joined the Knights Templar. Around 1183 he became seneschal of the order, and in 1184 became Grand Master.

Because of the broken marriage promise, Gerard held a grudge against Raymond for the rest of his life. In 1186, when Baldwin V of Jerusalem died, Gerard took the side of the royal court faction in the ensuing succession struggle, simply because Raymond was the leader of the baronial faction. Raymond opposed the accession of Guy of Lusignan, but Gerard and the Templars gave him the support he needed to counteract Raymond's influence.

In 1187 Gerard seized part of money sent by Henry II of England to be cared for by the Templars and the Knights Hospitaller. This money was part of Henry's penance for the murder of Thomas Becket, and was supposed to be spent at Henry's request, assuming he ever arrived in the kingdom. Instead, Gerard spent it raising mercenaries to defend the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Saladin. On May 1, Gerard and fewer than 100 Templars attacked Saladin at the Battle of Cresson; Saladin, however, had over 5000 men, and Gerard was one of the only survivors.

In July of the same year Gerard led the Templars at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin had captured Tiberias and Guy was contemplating a march on the city to retake it. Raymond advised him to wait for Saladin to come to them, since they were in a well-defended, well-watered position, and would have to cross a dry open plain to reach Tiberias. Gerard opposed this, probably only because it was Raymond who proposed it, and convinced Guy to continue the march. He was supported by Raynald of Chatillon, a fellow participant in the Second Crusade decades before, and a fellow enemy of Raymond.

The Crusaders ended up trapped on the dry plain and were massacred on July 4. Raymond escaped but Gerard, Guy, and Raynald were captured by Saladin. The rest of the Templars were executed but Guy convinced Saladin to set Gerard free. Saladin did so on the condition that Gerard would surrender Gaza to him.

In 1189 Gerard led the Templars against Saladin in the Siege of Acre. This time he did not escape, either dying in battle or being captured and executed by Saladin on Octoberérard de Ridefort


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