Godfroi de Bouillon, Crusader

Troyes was the governmental center of Champagne, ruled by the powerful Hugues, Comte (Count) de Champagne, a rival of Philippe I, the French King, who held the "royal domain" territory to the west. Just 75 miles east of Troyes was the Duchy of Lorraine, ruled by Godfroi de Bouillon (1060-1100), duke of Lorraine. The de Bouillon family is reputed to be part of the Merovingian Dynasty, the so-called "Lost Kings" of France; de Bouillon's father was Eustache II, count of Boulogne, who accompanied William the Conqueror to England and Godfroi's brother Alex later became the Emperor Henry IV. As we shall see, family genealogy plays a significant role in medieval history. The map below shows French political divisions circa 1095.

Map adapted from French Civilization by Albert Leon Guerard, Houghton Mifflin, 1921 edition

Hearing of the dangerous mobs, Godfroi de Bouillon hastened to build a professional army. He had, according to contemporary chronicler Raoul of Caen, "the lustre of nobility ... enhanced in his case by the splendor of the most exalted virtues, as well in affairs of the world as of heaven ... he shone as a light amongst the monks even more than as a duke amonst the knights." (as quoted in Guizot's History of France , p. 309). By August 1096, de Bouillon was marching south through Germany.

There is a well known Jewish legend that Rashi had an audience with Godfroi de Bouillon prior to his departure to the Crusades in 1096. The story goes as follows:

Why de Bouillon, a politically powerful and daring thirty-six-year-old duke preparing an army in haste, would bother to seek divine guidance from a Jewish rabbi about a Christian military mission makes no sense. Furthermore, de Bouillon died in the Holy Land in 1100 and never returned to France. Also, contemporary accounts of de Bouillon's character seem contrary to the behavior described in the legend. It is more believable is that the legend was a Jewish cover story, created by Rashi's followers, to explain why Rashi survived and how his writings came to be published when virtually all other Jewish archives perished during this period.