Tancred, Prince of Galilee

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Tancred (1075 – December 5 or December 12, 1112) was a Norman leader of the First Crusade who later became Prince of Galilee and regent of the Principality of Antioch. Tancred had a great-grandfather with the same name, Tancred of Hauteville; since both Tancreds were from the house of Hauteville, they may be confused.

Early life[edit]

Tancred was a son of Emma of Hauteville and Odo the Good Marquis. His maternal grandparents were Robert Guiscard and Guiscard's first wife Alberada of Buonalbergo. Emma was also a sister of Bohemond of Taranto.

First Crusade[edit]

In 1096, Tancred joined his maternal uncle Bohemund on the First Crusade, and the two made their way to Constantinople. There, he was pressured to swear an oath to Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, promising to give back any conquered land to the Byzantine Empire. Although the other leaders did not intend to keep their oaths, Tancred refused to swear the oath altogether.

He participated in the siege of Nicaea in 1097, but the city was taken by Alexius' army after secret negotiations with the Seljuk Turks. Because of this, Tancred was very distrustful of the Byzantines. Later in 1097, he captured Tarsus and other cities in Cilicia and assisted in the siege of Antioch in 1098.

In 1099, during the assault on Jerusalem, Tancred, along with Gaston IV of Béarn, claimed to have been the first Crusader to enter the city on July 15. However, the first crusader to enter Jerusalem was Ludolf of Tournai, and he was followed by his brother Englebert. When the city fell, Tancred gave his banner to a group of the citizens who had fled to the roof of the Temple of Solomon. This should have assured their safety, but they were massacred, along with many others, during the sack of the city. The author of the Gesta Francorum (Deeds of the Franks) records that, when Tancred realised this, he was "greatly angered". When the Kingdom of Jerusalem was established, Tancred became Prince of Galilee.

Regent of Antioch[edit]

In 1100, Tancred became regent of Antioch when Bohemund was taken prisoner by the Danishmends at the Battle of Melitene. He expanded the territory of the Latin principality by capturing land from the Byzantines, although, over the next decade, Alexius attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring him under Byzantine control. In 1104, he also took control of the County of Edessa when Baldwin II was taken captive after the Battle of Harran. After Baldwin's release in 1107, he had to fight Tancred to regain control of the county; Tancred was eventually defeated and returned to Antioch. After Harran, Bohemond returned to Europe to recruit more Crusaders, again leaving his nephew as regent in Antioch. Tancred's victory over Radwan of Aleppo at the Battle of Artah in 1105 allowed the Latin principality to recover some its territories east of the Orontes River.[1]

In 1108, Tancred refused to honour the Treaty of Devol, in which Bohemund swore an oath of fealty to Alexius, and for decades afterwards Antioch remained independent of the Byzantine Empire. In 1110, he brought Krak des Chevaliers under his control, which would later become an important castle in the County of Tripoli. Tancred remained regent in Antioch in the name of Bohemund II until his death in 1112 during a typhoid epidemic. He had married Cecile of France, but died childless.

The Gesta Tancredi is a biography of Tancred written in Latin by Ralph of Caen, a Norman who joined the First Crusade and served under Tancred and Bohemund. An English translation was co-published in 2005 by Bernard S. Bachrach and David S. Bachrach.

Nicolas Poussin's Tancred and Erminia (Hermitage Museum).

Tancred in fiction[edit]

Tancred appears as a character in Torquato Tasso's 16th-century poem Jerusalem Delivered, in which he is portrayed as an epic hero and given a fictional love interest, the pagan warrior-maiden Clorinda. He is also loved by the Princess Erminia of Antioch. Portions of Tasso's verses were set by Claudio Monteverdi in his 1624 dramatic work Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. He also appears in one of the scenes in Imre Madách's The Tragedy of Man. He also appears as a character in Tom Harper's "Siege of Heaven" and is depicted as a violent psychopath. His portrayal is similar although slightly more humorous in Alfred Duggan's novel Count Bohemond. Tancred also appears as one of the Crusade leaders in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Count Robert of Paris' who returned to Constantinople from Scutari to ensure a fair contest between Count Robert and his challenger. The novel Tancred, or the New Crusade by Benjamin Disraeli centres around the adventures of an imagined modern descendant and namesake of the Prince of Galilee. Rossini's opera Tancredi is not about Tancred Prince of Galilee, but is based on based on Voltaire's play Tancrède of 1759.

References[edit]

  • Robert Lawrence Nicholson, Tancred: A Study of His Career and Work. AMS Press, 1978.
  • Peters, Edward, ed., The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998)
  • Smail, R. C. Crusading Warfare 1097–1193. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, (1956) 1995. ISBN 1-56619-769-4

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Smail, p. 28

External links[edit]