Described by Peter les Vaux-de-Cernay as a ‘novel and unprecedented form of induction into knighthood’, the knighting of Amaury de Montfort on the feast of St John the Baptist 1213 defied convention; rather than being elevated to knighthood by a senior secular lord as custom dictated, Amaury was instead knighted by the bishops of Orleans and Auxerre having been led to the altar by his father on one side, and his mother on the other. The ceremony, therefore, offers not only an intriguing perspective on the nature of knighthood in the early 13th century, but also an insight in to how rituals could be used as a means of elevating one’s family, providing a springboard for dynastic ambitions. Amaury’s father, Simon de Montfort, had been the leader of the Albigensian Crusade since the initial campaign to expunge Cathar heretics from the region in 1209. In the years between the Crusade’s beginning and the knighting of Amaury, Simon and his crusaders had carved a small principality in the Midi, usurping the Trencavel lands around Carcassonne and increasingly encroaching upon the lands of the Count of Toulouse. The knighting of Amaury de Montfort, whilst seldom examined, has often been considered in terms of the crusading ambition that drew his father to the Languedoc in 1209. Maurice Keen especially, has suggested that the use of an episcopal dubbing was intended to reflect Simon’s affiliation with the reform of Christian society and the role that he envisaged chivalry playing in that reform. And yet, Keen’s analysis of the ritual ignores the role of Amaury’s mother, Alice, in an intrinsically male rite of passage, a role that suggests a familial motive behind the atypicality of the ceremony. The act of both of his parents physically leading Amaury to his knighting suggests that the ritual sought to publicly proclaim that the next generation of the Montfort family would continue to be dedicated in their service of Christ, as both Simon and Alice had been. Amaury’s knighting, therefore, conformed to a dynastic identity that his parents were seeking to promote. Indeed, the fact that the Montfort’s sidestepped secular authority by turning to princes of the church to knight their son suggests that they were using the ritual as a means of establishing a dynasty that was independent from senior secular authority. Through turning to the church, the Montfort’s seem to have been trying to make their power in the Languedoc absolute. Even their rivals, the Raymondines of Toulouse owed fealty to both the kings of France and Aragon. Amaury, however, did not kneel in supplication before any secular lord, he only knelt before God. Amaury’s knighting displays, therefore, how a ritual, whilst only having a direct effect upon one person, could have a wider effect on those around them. The ritual not only elevated Amaury’s authority, but also the authority of his entire family, making them accountable to none but God.
In 1268 Maria of Antioch, granddaughter of the last reigning Queen of Jerusalem, stepped before the Haute Cour to claim her right to the regency – and therefore, by law, to the queenship – of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. After a contentious trial in which Maria herself delivered a subtle and learned legal argument in front of the assembled noblemen, her claims were passed over in favour of a male relative who in 1264 had used Maria’s own legal argument to win the regency of Cyprus.
Was this defeat due to her gender, as some later contemporaries claimed, or was there another principle at play in a kingdom that had nominally been governed by women for long periods of its history, and whose succession had so often been a matter for the courts to decide?
In reassessing these two regency disputes, a vivid portrait emerges of a society governed by one leading principle: he (or she) with the money and power to defend Jerusalem wins the crown. From the bribing of the Haute Cour to Maria’s sale of her claim to the Crown of Jerusalem, this paper explores the various ways that money became power, and power became money in the Latin East.