Crusade and Prophecy in the Angevin Vision of Empire

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 9:00 AM
Room 302 (Hilton Atlanta)
Katherine L. Hodges-Kluck, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
In 1190, while wintering in Sicily on his way to the Holy Land, the Angevin king Richard I met with the Calabrian monk Joachim of Fiore, the leading apocalyptic thinker of the Middle Ages. Historians have long remarked on this meeting, at which Joachim explained his belief that Richard was destined to defeat the Muslim sultan Saladin (the predecessor to Antichrist, according to Joachim). Joachite scholars tend to read the episode for its clues about the monk’s early exegesis. On the whole, however, this encounter between the Angevin king and the famous apocalypticist remains a side note in most histories of the Third Crusade and biographies of Richard, featuring as a noteworthy yet fleeting moment in the larger narrative of Richard’s crusading activities. This paper suggests that Richard’s meeting with Joachim needs to be reconsidered as part of a broader Angevin interest in prophecy. Focusing on the Angevin chronicles of the period, especially those by Ralph of Diceto and Roger of Howden, I argue that Richard’s contemporaries in England actively used prophecy to construct a triumphal narrative of imperial and religious conquest centered around the English king and the Third Crusade. Drawing upon ancient history, Richard’s English and Angevin ancestry, and both old and new eschatological theories, these chroniclers portrayed Richard’s reign as the fulfillment of a prophetic, even apocalyptic, destiny that united West and East under Angevin rule. In the Angevin imagination, if not in reality, Richard’s reign represented a revival of Roman imperial authority. In the context of the crusade, the apocalyptic implications of this imagination cast the Angevin king Richard as the Last World Emperor, destined to reunite the Roman Empire before the Second Coming of Christ.
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