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Having taken the crusader’s vow and raised an army of thousands, why did Stephen II of Blois forsake the enormous prestige associated with crusading and risk shame and accusations of cowardice by abandoning the First Crusade? Then there is also the fact that the cost of crusading was enormous as crusaders bore most (if not all) of the military and other expenses. Why did he basically throw everything away by leaving?

Stephen was apparently close to his wife Adele, daughter of William the Conqueror and sister of Henry I of England, but even she felt he had not fulfilled his vow. Perhaps regretting what he had done, Stephen did later go on another crusade and was killed in the Holy Land in 1102.

None of the online sources I’ve seen give a clear reason, but I can think of a number of possible ones:

  • he fell out with other leaders of the crusade

  • he felt that Antioch, after a lengthy siege, could not be taken and that the crusade was doomed to fail

  • Wikipedia says he fled the battlefield at Antioch, implying he was coward

  • he was in poor health after such a long siege in what, to a north European, was a hostile climate

  • he ran out of money.

Is there any evidence as to which (if any) of the above reasons might be correct.

3

Stephen of Bloch "deserted" the First Crusade at a critical time in theSiege of Antioch. It's true that the Crusaders had beaten off two relief expeditions and were about to capture the city. But there was a third, larger relief expedition on the way, and the Crusaders were low on food.

Stephen's worst fears were realized when the besiegers became the besieged. They managed to defeat the Turks countersiege by breaking through from the inside, but that is a rare, unexpected result. The likelihood was that they would have been forced to surrender or starve.

Stephen may have left thinking that "discretion was the better part of valor," that escaping and living to another day was better than "certain death." He did not realize that the Crusaders had a chance to survive.

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    Your answer makes a good circumstantial case for what seems to be the most likely reason (so upvote), but is there any more direct evidence for this or do we only have circumstantial evidence to go by? Is there anything in the chronicles of the time? – Lars Bosteen Oct 26 '17 at 7:39
  • So basically you are endorsing the "coward" theory, right? – Felix Goldberg Oct 26 '17 at 7:44
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    @FelixGoldberg I would say "sensible" theory. Crusaders managing to break the siege was a one-time miracle that couldn't be predicted. – Rekesoft Oct 26 '17 at 7:52
  • @FelixGoldberg: I would call it the conventional wisdom theory, that defenders can survive a siege only 1) if they are well provided with food and outlasting the besiegers, or 2) if they are relieved from the outside. One almost "never" sees a besieged army conducting self-relief, that is, beating back a siege on its own. – Tom Au Oct 26 '17 at 9:16
  • @Felix Goldberg. I think the reason Tom Au gives is the most plausible - he's right to state that the crusaders' breaking of the counter-siege was unexpected. Added to that, the crusaders were not in a good shape after besieging Antioch for so long. That some should panic and flee is perhaps not surprising, but I was also wondering if Stephen, like Raymond of Toulouse, did not agree with Bohemond of Taranto becoming Prince of Antioch if he could lead the crusaders to victory. Either way, I would like to see some evidence and sources if there are any. – Lars Bosteen Oct 26 '17 at 9:25

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