Mem­bers of As­sas­sins cult kill Con­rad I of Jerusalem

In spite of his renowned vigour and in­tel­li­gence, Con­rad was mur­dered just four days af­ter be­com­ing king

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

C28 April 1192 on­rad of Mont­fer­rat, who be­came king of Jerusalem dur­ing the Third Cru­sade, was widely regarded as one of the most im­pres­sive men of his gen­er­a­tion. “Con­rad was vig­or­ous in arms, ex­tremely clever both in nat­u­ral men­tal abil­ity and by learn­ing, ami­able in char­ac­ter and deed, en­dowed with all the hu­man virtues, supreme in ev­ery coun­cil, the fair hope of his own side and a blaz­ing light­ning-bolt to the foe,” wrote one chron­i­cler. But by that point, Con­rad was also dead.

For Con­rad, the spring of 1192 was dom­i­nated by a bit­ter feud with Richard I of Eng­land over the throne of Jerusalem. On 24 April, se­cure in his fortress at Tyre, Con­rad heard the news that he had been elected king. Only four days later, how­ever, the As­sas­sins struck.

It was lunchtime, and Con­rad was re­turn­ing home from the house of his friend Philip, Bishop of Beau­vais when he was ac­costed by two men, who plunged their dag­gers into his body. Death almost cer­tainly came very swiftly. One of the mur­der­ers was killed on the spot; the other, wounded, was put to tor­ture. It turned out that he was a member of the in­fa­mous As­sas­sins, a Nizari Shia sect led by the ‘Old Man of the Moun­tain’, who sup­pos­edly en­cour­aged them to gear them­selves up for mur­der with co­pi­ous amounts of hashish.

In re­al­ity, many of the lurid sto­ries as­so­ci­ated with the As­sas­sins were probably in­vented. The real au­thor of the plot to kill Con­rad was almost cer­tainly some­body much closer to home: Richard the Lion­heart. In­deed, when Richard was later im­pris­oned by Leopold of Aus­tria, Con­rad’s mur­der fea­tured heav­ily on the charge sheet.

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