From 1095 when Urban II called for the First Crusade, to the late 15th century when the crusading age fizzled out, Britons took part in the military struggles in the Holy Land, but also in Spain against the Moors, Prussia, Lithuania and Novgorod against the pagans there, and in resisting the Turks in Eastern Europe.
Before Richard the Lionheart left England his Archbishop of Canterbury led the English fleet to the Levant, besieging Acre for two years or more, though in the national imagination it is Richard alone who stands out. In British myth Robin Hood fought with Richard in Palestine, but even that combination was ineffectual.
Before departing England Richard nearly ruined the country to pay for his campaign, his actions leaving his brother John (often dubbed 'lackland') to struggle financially, thus playing a part in the chain of events that would end with Magna Carta .
In 1241 Richard of Cornwall, brother to Henry III was forced to agree a truce with Egypt, ending his contribution to the Crusades, and in 1270 Prince Edward took part in another adventure, raiding Saracen territory.
The Scots were equally involved in crusading adventures: Lagmann King of the Western Isles went on the First Crusade; and two Scots bards went on the Third. Earl Patrick of Dunbar died on his way to the Crusades in 1248, and others fought in Granada against the Moors - Black Douglas died at Teba de Hardales in 1330.
There are some interesting legacies of the Crusading era in this land. In Scotland the faerie banner of Dunvegan was supposedly brought back by a McLeod from Palestine; and more importantly, some think that the art of distilling, known to the Arabs, was picked up by the Scots in the Holy Land.
Our heraldic symbols originated in the Crusades, illiterate knights using signs to identify themselves, signs that would evolve into complex coats of arms.
A further vital innovation of the Crusades was the evolution of a banking system to transfer funds to distant lands. The Knights templar played their part in this system, and their power and the power of the Knights Hospitaller grew, seen in their churches and holdings in Britain.
Baldock in Hertfordshire was founded by the Templars; they had large estates in Rochester and Yorkshire; lawyers in London still use the Inner Temple and Middle Temple, in what was their preceptory. But above all many of their churches still embellish the country: the Round Church in Cambridge ; Shipley Church in West Sussex ; Garway Church in Herefordshire ; and a multitude of others.
Strangely, the most famous Templar church now was in fact built 150 years after their dissolution - Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, although it incorporates many of their symbols and designs. A far stronger link with the Crusades, however, can be claimed by one of those hidden gems of British architecture, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton , built in 1100.
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