The Concord of Ashes
Count Baldwin of Flanders
The formidable Count of Flanders and Hainaut. Baldwin is noted for his valour, piety and talent for negotiating the pitfalls of continental politics. He is a powerful player in the Fourth Crusade.
This knight is clearly a man of great importance, for he carries himself with the natural confidence and dignity reserved only for royalty and the high nobility. He strong features are handsome enough, but it is his energetic, bright blue eyes that draw the eye of those around him. He wears the black and yellow of the House of Flanders, and his mail and weapons are of the finest quality.
The Coat of Arms of Baldwin IX Count of Flanders and the VI Count of Hainaut.
(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, is 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 her house has revolved around competing intrigues of the French and English crowns and a desire by Baldwin’s predecessor’s 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.
As is often the case with the high nobility, Baldwin was betrothed in 1179, at the tender age of seven, 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 to this day is devoted to her and her alone. Unfortunately for Baldwin, the Countess largely prefers prayer to the marital bed and while he has two daughters the young count is still without a male heir. To earn her love, the young noble threw himself into a dedication to chaste living and the pursuit of martial excellence, and he is widely considered to be one of the best knights and captains of France.
Through Marie, Baldwin has 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). Marie’s uncles Richard I of England and Philip II of France had just been on the Third Crusade.
Baldwin’s own family had also been involved in the defence of Jerusalem: his uncle Philip had died on the Third Crusade. Baldwin’s mother’s mother was great-aunt of Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem and the Counts of Flanders had tried to help Jerusalem relatives in their struggle. Baldwin wanted to continue the tradition. Margaret died in 1194, and the younger Baldwin became Count of Flanders. His father died the next year, and he succeeded to Hainaut.
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 crusade. 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 are unfailingly polite to each other at all times, but behind closed doors the politics of the Fourth Crusade are treacherous indeed. While Boniface is recognised as the nominal leader of the crusade, the pious and valourous Baldwin is admired by all, and is by far the most popular leader among the soldiery. Baldwin’s strongest supporter among his fellows is his uncle, Count Hugh of St. Pol.
Baldwin has been involved with the crusade at every turn, save for sending another in his place to Venice to negotiate passage. While publicly he is a figure of grace and noblesse oblige, behind closed doors he is 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. He was also a strident public critic of the plan to attack Egypt, feeling that the Crusader States in Palestine need bolstering now.
Baldwin left his two young daughters (Joan, born 1200, and Margaret, born 1202) in the care of Marie and his younger brother, Marquis Phillip of Namur, but the countess too has journeyed to the east on pilgrimage to Palestine, and expects to join her husband in Egypt.