- Wales and the Crusades, c.1095–1291 by Kathryn Hurlock
There was no more transnational a phenomenon in Europe than the crusades, although French writers as late as Léon Gautier were inclined to see it as the property of their own country’s history. Crusade was preached in every part of Latin Christendom, and its pull on the peripheral peoples of Europe can tell us a good deal about how its core culture spread and interacted with those outside the mainstream such as the diverse Celtic and Scandinavian cultures of the north and west. Kathryn Hurlock’s study of the impact of the crusades on Wales follows in the track of other studies, such as Eric Christiansen’s distinguished The Northern Crusades (London, 1997); lan McQuarrie’s Scotland and the Crusades, 1095–1560 (Edinburgh, 1997); and Janus Møller Jensen’s Denmark and the Crusades, 1400–1650 (Boston, 2007). Wales has the seductive advantage of having inspired the firsthand account of the 1188 preaching tour of Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury, which was the framework for the writing of Gerald of Wales’s historical and ethnographical masterpiece, the Itinerarium Kambriae. A thorough analysis of this tour makes up an entire chapter of Hurlock’s book, as she picks her way through the complicated politics of Baldwin’s mission and the even more [End Page 118] complicated ethnic and political allegiances of Gerald himself. Preaching the crusade in Wales involved appealing to the indigenous Welsh and the colonizing English alike, and Gerald’s telling description of the two ethnic groups huddled apart from each other to listen to the archbishop’s appeal at Llandaff is rightly famous for what it reveals. The appeal of crusade to each was very real, but past and present tensions made it difficult for Welsh and English to meet it jointly, especially when it came from the direction of Canterbury. Hurlock’s approach is measured and meticulous, attempting to identify all Anglo-Welsh crusaders from the sometimes exiguous sources. She offers treatments of the crusading orders in Wales and the March and the crusading ideal as it featured in Welsh poetry of the gogynfeirdd (the court poets) and the translated pseudo-crusades of the Carolingian epics. Sources for Welsh crusading are less thin than those for Scotland, as the Welsh maintained a vigorous chronicle tradition into the fourteenth century. Even so, sometimes the treatment here becomes threadbare, and “possible” participants become drafted into the thesis who might have been surprised to discover they were Marcher characters (such as Engelger de Bohun, on the basis that he shared a name with the earls of Hereford, and Philip d’Aubigny, a Leicestershire knight who was once governor of Ludlow). Nonetheless, Hurlock works intelligently with what she has and demonstrates that if the response of the Welsh to the crusading movement was not widespread, it was certainly more wholehearted than its response to other aspects of dominant European culture. Welshmen may have been seen and heard at Acre and Damietta, but not one ever rode a horse in a tournament charge in the heyday of that great sport, the catwalk of medieval European nobility.