Beirut raised his voice again to ask in a voice that now rang and reverberated in the arches overhead, “My lords, particularly my lords of the Church, is it not so that when a man takes the cross, he is exempt from all duties to his secular lord?”
“Aye!” “Indeed.” “Just so!” the answers echoed back to him from multiple prelates in the choir.
“So, it follows that an armed pilgrim in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ does not conquer in the name of whatever liege that pilgrim served before—and will serve again after—his pilgrimage. Am I right?”
The affirmatives were even louder and more numerous this time.
“We know that to be the case, because we know that at the end of that first glorious armed pilgrimage in which, by the Grace of God, our ancestors reclaimed Jerusalem, the Kings of France and England, of Hungary and Castile, and all the other sovereigns and lords to whom those pilgrims owed fealty, did not snatch pieces of the land on which our Savior had walked, but rather entrusted that land, the Holy Land, to the rule of one single king—the King of Jerusalem.”
The knights and barons of Jerusalem gathered in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Acre broke into cheers. Beirut had appealed to their identity. The men collected here were, with few exceptions, men born in Outremer. They did not identify with the lands of their ancestors, but with the Holy Land. They did not feel a twinge of loyalty to the kings and lords their ancestors had once served.
Beirut let the cheers fade naturally before he continued. “And that, sirs, means that when soldiers recruited in the Holy Roman Empire threw the Saracens out of Beirut in 1197, they did so in the service of Christ, not the Emperor, and they delivered the land to the King of Jerusalem, not the Holy Roman Emperor.”
“Hear! Hear!” They exploded with enthusiasm.
“If then, my lords, sirs, you agree that the Lordship of Beirut is a component part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem—”
“Yes! Yes!” They shouted.
“—then it can only be bestowed—and disseized—by the King of Jerusalem. Correct?”
“Of course! Yes!” The affirmatives came from every corner of the cathedral, and Beirut looked hard at Sidon and the men around him. Garnier l’Aleman looked decidedly worried and several of the others nervous and uncomfortable, but Sidon looked as if he had simply turned to stone. Beirut continued. “At the time Beirut was recaptured by the soldiers of Christ, Aimery de Lusignan ruled jointly with my sister Isabella, the daughter of King Amalaric. King Aimery and Queen Isabella jointly granted Beirut to me, as I can prove with the appropriate charters, which I submit to the court as evidence.” Beirut gestured to his son Baldwin to go forward and place the charters upon the high altar. Some of the barons nearest went to look at them, but the majority of the High Court was content to believe Beirut would not have dared lay them out if they said anything other than what he claimed.
“Is there agreement in this Court that Beirut is a component part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and I received the titles directly from the King of Jerusalem in accordance with the laws and customs of this kingdom?” Agreement was unanimous. Not one voice was raised in dissent.
Beirut nodded and muttered almost inaudibly, “Thank you, my lords, good sirs.” Then as silence again settled, Beirut continued, “Now, let us examine the demand put forward by the Holy Roman Emperor’s representative that I should surrender my legally-held barony.” He paused dramatically before stating firmly: “In the Kingdom of Jerusalem, my lords, sirs, no vassal can be disseized without a judgment of this court.” He paused to be sure they were still with him, but to do otherwise was to deny their own jurisdiction and power. As he had calculated, hoped and prayed, they did not.
“My lord and cousin of Sidon did not, to my ears, present evidence of why I should be disseized, arguing instead that Beirut was not legally mine in the first place. Since we have jointly refuted his argument and established that the King of Jerusalem was within his rights to bestow the lordship on me 33 years ago, I trust in the judgment of this court to render justice in the name of God.”
Beirut collected the notes which he had not needed and started down the spiral stairs. By the time his foot touched the flagstones of the cathedral the clapping had become a drumbeat to underline the shouts of “Ib-lin! Ib-lin!”
Beirut turned to Sidon. “Do you want to call for a vote?”
Sidon shook his head. “No point. Nevertheless, I am not sanguine about Frederick Hohenstaufen’s response when he hears the news.”
“I will cross that bridge when I come to it—in the knowledge that I have the law on my side,” Beirut replied.
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