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Amalric I of Jerusalem
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Amalric I of Jerusalem

Amalric I (also Amaury or Aimery) (1136-1174) was king of Jerusalem from 1162 to 1174.

Amalric was the son of Fulk of Jerusalem, and the brother of Baldwin III. He was married twice, first to Agnes of Edessa, with whom he had two children, Baldwin IV and Sibylla. With his second wife, Maria Comnena, daughter of Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, he had a daughter, Isabella, who became Queen of Jerusalem and married Amalric of Lusignan, afterwards Amalric II.

The reign of Amalric I was focused on Egypt. Both Amalric and Nur ad-Din, ruler of Mosul, Aleppo, and Damascus, wanted control of Fatimid caliphs of Egypt; the crusaders had wanted to conquer Egypt since the days of Baldwin I, and even Godfrey of Bouillon had promised to cede Jerusalem to the Patriarch Dagobert of Pisa if he could capture Cairo. The capture of Ascalon by Baldwin III in 1153 made the conquest of Egypt more feasible, and the Knights Hospitaller began preparing maps of the possibly invasion routes.

On the other hand, Nur ad-Din wanted Egypt, as it was an important source of trade and also because it would allow him to surround the Kingdom of Jerusalem. For five years Amalric and Shirkuh, the lieutenant of Nur ad-Din, fought a war for the possession of Egypt. In 1164, 1167, and 1168, Amalric unsuccessfully invaded Egypt; the third invasion was a joint naval operation with Emperor Manuel I, which was defeated at Damietta. The war ended when Saladin, the nephew of Shirkuh, set himself up as vizier. In 1171, after the death of the Fatimid caliph, Saladin made himself sultan.

Amalric believed his kingdom was on the verge of being destroyed, and envoys were sent to the West to appeal for help in 1169, 1171 and 1173. In 1170 Saladin attacked the kingdom and captured Eilat, on the Red Sea, but he was more occupied with Nur ad-Din, who tried to limit Saladin's power. Both Amalric and Nur ad-Din died in 1174. Saladin was then able to take power for himself in Syria as well as Egypt, and a series of weak rulers in Jerusalem would eventually lead to the destruction of the kingdom.

Amalric I, the second king to be born in Jerusalem rather than in Europe, was, like his brother Baldwin III, more of a scholar than a warrior. Amalric commissioned William of Tyre to write his history of the kingdom, and he often studied the laws of the kingdom in his leisure time. The Catholic Church did not trust him, and William of Tyre was once astonished to find him questioning, during an illness, the resurrection of the body. He also taxed the clergy, which they naturally opposed. However, he helped maintain both the kingdom and church, and is considered the last of the "early" kings of Jerusalem. His son and successor Baldwin IV was young, weak, and a leper, and the series of regencies and alliances over the following decade would eventually lead to the fall of Jerusalem.

Preceded by:
Baldwin III
King of Jerusalem Succeeded by:
Baldwin IV

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.