Baldwin of Flanders

The late count of Flanders and Hainaut, as well as the first Latin Emperor of Byzantium. Baldwin was noted for his valour, piety, and talent for negotiating the pitfalls of continental politics. He died in 1205, a prisoner of the Tsar of Bulgaria.


This knight was clearly a man of great importance, for he carried himself with the natural confidence and dignity reserved only for royalty and the high nobility. His strong features were handsome enough, but it was his energetic, bright blue eyes that drew the eye of those around him. Prior to his ascension, he wore the black and yellow of the House of Flanders, and his mail and weapons are of the finest quality. After he became emperor, he did not change his habits of dress, although his new heraldry was displayed proudly.

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The Coat of Arms of Baldwin IX Count of Flanders and the VI Count of Hainaut.


The Coat of Arms of Baldwin I, Latin Emperor of Constantinople


(modified from the wikipedia article)

Baldwin was the son of Baldwin V of Hainaut and Margaret I, Countess of Flanders and sister of Count Philip of Alsace. His family has been tied to the rule of the Flemings since the county’s earliest days, and they have locked horns with the French crown for almost as long. The region’s strategic importance regarding its proximity to England, as well as the growing power of the Flemish merchants, makes Flanders extremely important to the territorial integrity and prosperity of France. This lends the Count of Flanders an extraordinary amount of influence in the uncertain political climate of the times. Baldwin, like several of his contemporaries on the 4th Crusade, was related by marriage to both King John of England (through Marie, his wife) and King Phillip II of France (through his wife as well as his sister, the late Queen Consort Isabelle of Hainaut).

Throughout much of the 12th century, the history of Flanders and her ruling house revolved around the competing intrigues of the French and English crowns, and a desire by Baldwin’s predecessors to retain a degree of independence and advantage. His father largely failed in that regard, losing much of Artois to the machinations of Phillip II, who arranged it as a dowry for his bride (Baldwin’s sister) Isabelle. When she died in 1190, the king kept the dowry as inheritance for their son, Louis. In return Baldwin would later ally with Richard the Lionheart and King Otto IV of Germany in various quarrels with Phillip II, eventually regaining much of the lost land in a settlement with his liege in 1200.

in 1179, as is often the case with the high nobility, when he was just seven years of age Baldwin was betrothed to the even younger Marie of Champagne, daughter of Count Henry I of Champagne and Marie of France. The two were married in 1186, and their wedding was one of the most lavish celebrations of the latter 12th century. It is said that young Baldwin was utterly infatuated with his bride, and never swerved from his devotion to her and her alone. Unfortunately for Baldwin, the Countess largely preferred prayer to the marital bed and while they had produced two daughters, Marie was unable to give him a son. To earn her love, the young noble threw himself into a dedication to chaste living and the pursuit of martial excellence, and he was widely considered to be one of the best knights and captains of France.

Through Marie, Baldwin gained a number of connections and obligations to the defenders of the Holy Land: her late 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). Indeed, Marie’s uncles Richard I of England and Philip II of France had both just participated on the Third Crusade.

Baldwin’s own family had also been involved in the defence of Jerusalem, and his uncle Philip had died on the Third Crusade. Baldwin’s mother’s mother was great-aunt of Queen Isabella of Jerusalem and the counts of Flanders had tried to help their eastern relatives in their struggle. Baldwin wanted to continue the tradition, and he honed his skills and devotion to that purpose. His mother would pass away in 1194, leaving him the County of Flanders, and his father died the next year, making him Count of Hainault as well.

When the Fourth Crusade was declared, Baldwin and his brother-in-law Thibault III of Champagne were among the first to enthusiastically take the cross. It was their time to do their religious duty and earn glory, and the two nobles threw all their energies into the effort of organising the pilgrimage. In 1200, when Thibault died suddenly, Baldwin naturally expected to be declared the leader, and it is rumoured that he accepted the election of Boniface of Montferrat with poor grace. The two men were unfailingly polite to each other at all times, but behind closed doors the politics of the Fourth Crusade were treacherous indeed. While Boniface was recognised as the nominal leader of the crusade, the pious and valourous Baldwin was admired by all, and was by far the most popular leader among the soldiery. Baldwin’s strongest supporter among his fellows was his uncle, Count Hugh of Saint-Pol.

Baldwin was involved with the crusade at every turn, save for sending another in his place to Venice to negotiate passage. While publicly he was considered a figure of grace and noblesse oblige, behind closed doors he was rumoured to bitterly resent the manipulations of the Venetians, the failure of his contemporaries to effectively deal with them, and the disloyalty of some of his own vassals, who left the crusade surrounding the events at Zara. His own younger brother, Henry, left for Palestine after an acrimonious public argument with Baldwin regarding the direction of the crusade, although love and loyalty eventually brought him back. Finally, Baldwin was also a strident public critic of the plan to attack Egypt, feeling that the Crusader States in Palestine needed bolstering first.

When he left for the marshalling of the crusade in Venice, the young count left his 2 year old daughter, Joan, and his pregnant wife behind. Countess Marie gave birth to Margaret in June of 1202, and as soon as she was well enough to travel she left her children in the care of Baldwin’s younger brother, Marquis Phillip of Namur, and set off on pilgrimage herself. Voyaging to the east on pilgrimage to Palestine, the countess expected to join her husband when the crusade arrived in Egypt.

Fate took a different turn.

First, the acrimony between Baldwin and Boniface continued to grow into a rivalry. The charismatic and chivalrous Theobald of Champagne had been a natural partner, and while he was the nominal leader and the lightning rod for the support that gathered for the crusade, he was happy to defer on certain matters to his more experienced older cousin. Boniface of Montferrat, a valourous and famed lord in his own right, was many years Baldwin’s senior, and a very capable captain. He had little use for a young man’s advice, making the Fleming count dislike the Lombard marquis immediately, if privately, and his feelings were soon returned.

Next, the envoys sent to Venice had negotiated in good faith, based on expected numbers. Sadly, they had drastically overestimated the numbers of men that would eventually arrive, meaning that the vast fleet that the Serene Republic leveraged itself to build could not be paid for with the funds that were brought, and the debt could not be forgiven without the Venetians also making huge losses. Blocked from easy means of egress, tens of thousands of crusaders languished on the Lido for months, growing weaker from disease and poor nutrition, while the leadership negotiated, hoping in vain for more of those who had taken the cross to arrive. Finally, the Venetians relented and even agreed to join the crusade itself, provided the leadership agreed to undertake a number of enterprises to aid the republic in return for a postponement of payment.

The first target was the city of Zara, which had ousted the soldiers of Venice and now stood as a rival under the protection of the king of Hungary. Pope Innocent III excommunicated the entire crusade for conquering and sacking that city, although he later forgave all save the Venetians. In droves, great men and small also deserted the crusade, feeling that it had abandoned its holy imperatives. Baldwin fought to keep the army together, all the while resenting Boniface for dodging the excommunication with a convenient alibi in the north, even though he was secretly seen among those fighting over the spoils.

Next came Corcyra, which had for years stood as a haven for Genoese privateers, using it as a base to bedevil Venetian shipping. Discontent grew among the soldiery, especially when a particularly virulent pestilence broke out in the camp, and talk of desertion became an epidemic to match. Boniface returned with Alexius Angelus, who had pledged that he would discharge the entire debt owed to Venice, an extra 200,000 silver marks to the crusaders, 10,000 veteran Romaioi soldiers, the maintenance of 500 knights in the Holy Land, the service of the Byzantine navy to transport the Crusader Army to Egypt. Furthermore, he would place the Eastern Orthodox Church under the authority of the Pope. In return, they would divert the crusade to Constantinople, depose his uncle Alexius III, and return his father, Isaac II, to the throne.

The offer seemed too good to be true, and in council Hugh of Saint-Pol argued that it almost certainly was, but Boniface convincingly returned that it was the best of a table full of poor choices. Reservedly, Baldwin was forced to agree, and together they assembled the leadership and humbled themselves before a parliament of worthies who had otherwise decided to depart. Overcome by the gesture, the majority of their fellows agreed to stay on for the nonce.

Among the Cainite Crusade, it was increasingly obvious that the orders of Guy of Provence were being flouted. It had been decided that the vampires on the crusade were passengers on the pilgrimage, not its driving force, and none of the barons should be unduly influenced by the vampires in their midst. However, erratic behaviour by a number of the barons suggested that they were being secretly manipulated and, moreover, that others among the mortal leadership knew it. Based on the investigations of Petrus, Iulia and her ghoul, Marius de Ş was discovered that the pious Count Baldwin was one such. Indeed, he seemed to be under the protection of a priest known as Father Robert of Bruges, who led a cadre of mortal clergymen and knights that numbered several magi among their number.

The crusade took a number of other Byzantine possessions on the way to the Queen of Cities, and arrived before Constantinople itself in June of 1203. War was declared, battle joined, and the Latins were victorious, with Count Baldwin earning considerable fame for leading the van of the army with great skill. The city was beaten, if not conquered. Alexius III fled, and Prince Alexius was raised to the imperial throne with his blind father, Isaac II, reinstated as co-emperor.

The fortunes of the crusade began to rise, and hope briefly blossomed. The young emperor began to make good on his promises, though his promised coin was far short and he was forced to strip his monuments, churches, and monasteries of wealth to pay his debts. Unfortunately unrest resulted, and to placate his subjects Alexius IV distanced himself from his former allies. Quarrels arose between crusaders and the Romaioi over the following months; a terrible fire destroyed much of the heart of the city, riots erupted and many local Latins were slain. Those that survived made it to the camp of the crusade, spoiling for revenge. By the new year, the gates of the city were closed to the foreigners, negotiations to receive the promised monies were failing, food was scarce, desertion was rife, and the army was preparing for war once more.

And war did come. A palace coup in February saw Alexius IV and Isaac II deposed, and replaced by Alexius V Ducas, called Mourzophlos. Alexius V had no love for the foreign army at his doorstep and, furthermore, both Alexius IV and Isaac II were dead within weeks. Murder, cried the barons of the crusade, and fighting broke out once more.

The siege was hard-fought, but the crusaders broke through on the 12th of April, and all resistance in the city had been broken by the middle of the following night. With fires raging, the crusaders looted the city for 3 days and nights. Pillage, rape, murder, and despoilment of the holy places of the Romaioi took place. Ultimately the fire burned out after a week, the loot was gathered, and a measure of order was restored. Throughout it all, Baldwin was one of those who did not descend into mindless greed and aggression. Instead, his reputation was secured as he worked to battle the fire and prevent the worst of the atrocities.

A parliament was held, and the twelve delegates chose Baldwin over his rival, Boniface. In truth, the youth, popularity, and piety of the younger captain was the deciding factor, although Boniface arguably had a hgreater right to the throne. To forestall the likelihood that the slighted marquis might desert the formative Latin Empire, Boniface was to be granted the Kingdom of Thessalonica as Baldwin’s vassal. This would make him the second most powerful man in the empire. The Lombard reluctantly agreed, especially since he would have to conquer Thessalonica first, and Baldwin privately worried that he would not truly accept the decision of the parliament in any case.

Baldwin was crowned emperor of Constantinople on the 16th of May, 1204. Immediately after the coronation, Boniface took his men to conquer the western provinces, knowing full well that Baldwin had every intention of also claiming as much territory there as soon as he had stabilised the capital. The move set the stage of a quarrel between the two leaders that almost set the new realm to immediate civil war, but disaster was prevented with the intervention of Louis of Blois and Doge Enrico Dandolo, both of whom worked to cool tempers and restore good will. King Boniface would indeed take Thessalonia, and now confirmed as a vassal of the Latin Empire he would go on to spearhead the conquest of Greece.

Shortly thereafter, Baldwin received word that his beloved wife, Marie, had fallen ill and passed away while preparing to join him in Constantinople. Heart-broken, Baldwin had little time to grieve for the death of his love.

Throughout the remainder of 1204, he led armies to pacify Bithynia and Asia Minor while making war on the newly formed Empire of Nicaea. Then he was forced to cast his attention once more to the west, as Tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria was moving aggressively on Thrace, aided by a revolt of the local Greek populations of Adrianople and Didymoteicho.

The armies of the Latins and those of the Bulgarians joined battle outside the besieged city of Adrianople on the13th and 14th of April, 1205. The western army was comprised of some 4000 French and Venetian soldiers and 300 elite knights, one and all veterans of the 4th Crusade. The Bulgarian army was a mixture of some 40 000 Bulgarian and Vlach light infantry and archers, and a further 14000 Cuman light cavalry. On the second day of the fighting, the impulsive Louis was incensed by the Cuman attack and he led a pursuit of the retreating nomads straight into an ambush. Emperor Baldwin sought to assist his cousin and friend, but he too was surrounded and taken prisoner. Dramatically outnumbered, Geoffrey of Villehardouin and Enrico Dandolo were forced to break the siege on the city and flee to safety across the river with the remainder of the army.

He was carried off to the Bulgarian capital, Veliko Tarnovo, and imprisoned there. Although initinally treated well, it is said that Kaloyan eventually tortured and slew him in a jealous rage because his wife, Tsaritsa Anna, claimed that Baldwin had tried to seduce her in order to facilitate an escape. Others more knowledgeable of his character claim that Baldwin piously refused Anna’s amorous advances, and she manipulated her husband into exacting her vengeance. Whichever the case, some claim that Tsar Kaloyan had a chalice made from Baldwin’s skull, in emulation of the deed done by Tsar Krum against the Emperor Nicephorus I some 400 years earlier.

The Latin Imperial court learned of his death perhaps eight months later. His brother, Henry, who had stood as his regent during his captivity, was elected emperor in August of 1206. Baldwin’s friend and mentor, Father Robert of Bruges, transferred his loyalty and that of his minions to Henry immediately, thus ensuring that the House of Flanders would not fall prey to supernatural influences in their new exalted station.

Although neither Maude nor Iulia have been able to confirm them, rumours persist that Baldwin’s shade made the crossing into the Shadowlands, and now stalks the lands of Bulgaria across the Shroud.

Baldwin of Flanders

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