Well I finally got around to investigating the First Crusade but was a bit disappointed because I'd thought the Crusaders were terribly brave and upstanding men and they were basically Europeans who came from the upper echelons of society and were bored and at a loose end...
They looted and pillaged and are known to have resorted to cannibalism when they ran out of food supplies and the villagers refused to help them...so they ate some...including children who were impaled on sticks...
The First Crusade...and there were many during the following years...ran from 1096-1099 and took place in Palestine in an attempt to regain control from the Muslim Conquests of 632-661...The Crusaders 'won' the First Crusade but not without heavy losses of men and horses...and resorting to eating innocent people.
I rather gained the impression they were much like mercenaries...they weren't paid for their exploits as modern mercenaries are, but they did loot as much as they could carry and the battles appeared to be more 'unholy' than Holy...
Actually the entire episode was such a muddle to me...I rather think you'd need some previous knowledge of the Muslim Empire to grasp why the Europeans became involved...and a sound understanding of the way the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope operated in those times...
Many of my extremely remote cousins went on the First Crusade and died in the process...either from wounds sustained in battles or from fevers. I had felt quite sad for them dying so far from home until I read about the indiscrimate looting and the deliberate burning of buildings which sheltered refugees from the fighting...then when I discovered they'd eaten 'pagan babies' any sympathy went straight out of the window!
Those Crusaders who survived and came back to England brought rice and apricots...the knowledge of algebra...root ginger...and coffee. And other foodstuffs w hich had previously been unknown in England until then...they also knew how to build a waterwheel and how to build a properly fortified castle...Caernarvon Castle was built with the knowledge gained from seeing the castles in Palestine...
It has been argued that the West would have discovered coffee and rice in it's own good time...we'd probably have honed our ability to build castles...but that is from the Anti-Crusaders view...Pro-Crusaders argue that without the Crusades, the Middle East would have quickly returned to Biblical times with all that would have meant for the people.
This is a time when I think I'll sit on the fence because I don't know enough to voice an opinion and I'm not sufficently interested to explore that part of history any further...
There were quite enough battles and intrigue in the Royal household during the 1030's and onward to keep me occupied for some time to come without getting embroiled in a part of history I have little interest in and no desire to find out more either...I'm much more interested in Matilda/Maud and her devious scheming...and the vast numbers of children the Earls and Counts and Kings managed to father from their assortment of concubines, mistresses and proper offical wives...