Baldwin IV, otherwise know as the “Leper King,” was king of Jerusalem from 1174-1183. He is known for having been brave and just, despite his youth and his debilitating illness. He was, as seen above, only king for a very short time. However, the impression that he left has obviously lasted quite a long time.
Baldwin IV was born in 1161. His father was Almaric I. His mother was Almaric I’s first wife, Agnes of Courtenay. Baldwin IV grew up in Jerusalem, in his father’s court. He had several tutors, one of which was one of the most brilliant men of the time, William of Tyre. William taught Baldwin IV subjects like philosophy and history. Baldwin IV had an embarrassing stutter. He worked hard with his tutors to perfect his speech. He was also taught to be a religious man, a role that he embraced throughout his tragically short life.
When Baldwin IV was nine-years-old, William noticed that he felt no pain when he was roughhousing with his friends. Some time later, it was discovered that Baldwin’s immunity to pain was due to leprosy. The blonde-haired, brave and devout young prince was doomed. It would not be long before the other symptoms of leprosy began to manifest themselves. Baldwin IV would come to suffer from painful and/or painless sores, temporary and later permanent loss of mobility and ultimately, blindness. However, that did not stop him from making the most of his life.
When Baldwin IV was not being tutored by scholars, he was being taught to fight. He became an able equestrian as well as a skilled swordsman. These skills would come in handy during his reign as king. The leader of the Saracens, Saladin, or Salah al-Din, would nearly relentlessly try to take control of Jerusalem from Baldwin IV, a feat that he would eventually accomplish, but not during Baldwin IV’s lifetime.
Baldwin IV’s father died when Baldwin was thirteen-years-old. Thus, he was crowned king of Jerusalem on July 15, 1174. Raymond III of Tripoli was named regent because the young king was not yet of age to rule. On July 15, 1176, he came of age to rule. That same year, Baldwin IV’s sister, and heir to the throne, Sibylla married William de Montferrat. Her union with William had been prearranged by Raymond. William died the following year. Sibylla was pregnant with a son.
The year that Baldwin IV’s brother-in-law died, Baldwin was sixteen-years-old. That year, Baldwin IV proved that he was a skilled military strategist and a dedicated king. He defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard despite being greatly outnumbered and quite ill. He personally led his men to victory. It was the shining moment of his life.
In 1180, Sibylla married Guy de Lusignan. Three years later, Baldwin IV named Guy regent because of his failing health. At the time, the rogue lord of Kerak, Raynald de Chatillon was attacking Muslim caravans and provoking the Saracens. Not long after Guy was named regent, Saladin besieged Kerak. Guy essentially wimped out and Baldwin IV was forced to end the siege himself. Guy still refused to fight Saladin and so, Baldwin IV took back his appointment as regent. Sibylla and Guy then fled to Ascalon.
Baldwin IV then crowned his five-year-old nephew king. Baldwin IV was still acting king, but he may have wanted to ensure that Guy did not become king of Jerusalem through his marriage to Sibylla, should he die. Raymond III was again appointed regent, this time in the event of Baldwin IV’s death. In 1184, Baldwin tried, unsuccessfully, to have Sibylla’s marriage to Guy de Lusignan annulled. Unfortunately, he died the next year. He was only twenty-five-years old.
Baldwin V died not long after his uncle. He had been a sickly child and a last hope to keep Guy from the throne. Sibylla became ruler of Jerusalem upon her son’s death. She subsequently crowned her husband king. Saladin conquered Jerusalem during Guy’s rule.
Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, retrieved 4/21/10, freerepublic.com/focus/news/1628480/posts
Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, retrieved 4/21/10, biographybase.com/biography/Baldwin_IV_of_Jerusalem.html