God’s Wolf: The Life Of The Most Notorious Of All Crusaders, Scourge Of Saladin, by Jeffrey Lee
This book is a labor of love, and is demonstrative of a desire to give a fair shake to someone who is typically viewed as one of the worst villains of the Crusades. Now, I think at the outset in a review like this that it is good to lay one’s cards on the table. There is just enough virtue present in both Count Baldwin of Tripoli and Prince Reynault of Chillon for one of them to be virtuous, and whatever one feels about one, one will likely feel the opposite about his rival. This particular author sees no particular reason to apologize about the Crusades and does not appear to think European imperialism something that should be apologized for and does not have positive feelings about Muslim rulers like Saladin. I think the author’s viewpoint is fair and similarly feel no need to champion brutal Muslim thugs as chivalrous leaders, and so the author’s revisionist history in favor of Reynault is something I can definitely appreciate and is a case that I can find to be compelling, especially in light of Baldwin’s trechery and in light to the bias of many of the historical sources we have.
This book is about 300 pages long and is divided into 21 chapters that deal in a chronological order with the life of the subject. The author notes the hostility that his subject has drawn throughout history all the way up to the present day, to the point where jihadis still draw upon his memory to anger the faithful. After that the author talks about the call of the second crusade that led Raynault to go to the Middle East to try his look at serving God and advancing himself, and at least by his own lights he succeeded at both. He rose from the position of a mercenary soldier to the husband of the heiress of Antioch, helping to raise her children and a few of his own, dealing with diplomacy with other crusader states and the Byzantine Empire. And then the author talks about his time in prison, as well as his release from prison and his taste for provocative acts of violence that were recorded in history. And the author gives a great discussion of his subject’s behavior in politics and his sad and catastrophic end that helped prompt the third crusade.
The author notes that Reynault and his times were exceedingly violent, and those who are not interested in reading about the violence of medieval life or Reynault’s particular gift for provocative violence that tended to get under the skin of his opponents. This is not something I necessarily find objectionable, given the acceptability of violence in certain circumstances. The author notes his subject’s ability to overcome the problems of imprisonment, given that he was taken prisoner after a battle and locked in Aleppo for about fifteen years or so, forcing him to start over as his step-son had established his rule over Antioch by the time he was released, and his choice in starting over was to seek an heiress to marry and a position to make provocative attacks against the Muslim hajjis, something that no one had apparently ever done to that point and something which really attacked at the prestige of Saladin as protector of the faithful, something that is worth considering as an option in the future should such a need to deal with Muslims exist in the future.