The Crusades >> The
First Crusade >> Other Participants
A number of other crusader armies set out in 1096. The very first one to
leave was led by Count Hugh of Vermandois, brother to the King of France.
When he set out, he sent an arrogant letter to Emperor Alexius announcing
his departure and demanding a fitting reception. Hugh marched down through
Italy, receiving the standard of St. Peter at Lucca from the Pope himself.
He proceeded to Bari, where he crossed the Adriatic in September. Much of
his army was scattered by a storm. Hugh survived and was picked up by
Alexius' nephew, John Comnenus, who sent fed and clothed the survivors and
sent them on to Constantinople under guard.
Robert Count of Flanders also went on crusade taking the Italian route.
He was joined by Duke Robert of Normandy (one of William the Conqueror's
sons and Count Robert's cousin) and Count Stephen of Blois (a cousin by
marriage to the Conqueror's daughter, Adèle). One of Pope Urban's first
letters after Clermont was addressed to the Flemings, so the response from
here is not surprising. Robert of Flanders is a good example of those barons
who went on crusade mainly out of pious zeal. Robert of Normandy mortgaged
Normandy to William II of England in order to finance his participation. The
army was mainly Flemish, as the Norman lords didn't think much of their duke
and were unwilling to follow him.
The Flemings went from Rome to Monte Cassino, to visit the monastery of
St. Benedict, then went to Bari. Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois
decided to wait out the winter, for the Adriatic is a dangerous passage in
winter. Robert of Flanders, though, crossed anyway, without incident. Robert
of Normandy and Stephen followed the next spring. The army took ship on 5
April, but was struck by catastrophe. One of the larger ships broke up in
full view of those on shore. About four hundred people, plus horses,
supplies and money were lost. A large number of pilgrims decided on the spot
to return home. The rest crossed safely and managed to go through Byzantine
territory without fighting with the locals. The Flemish army arrived at
Constantinople on May 14, 1097.
The Crusaders were now all assembled at Constantinople. Some of them had
been there since the previous winter and were very anxious to move on.
Moreover, relations between the Latins and the Greeks were becoming