Montferrat, Count Of
MONTFERRAT, COUNT OF, a title derived from a territory south of the Po and east of Turin, and held by a family who were in the 12th century one of the most considerable in Lombardy.
In 1147 a count of Montferrat took part in the Second Crusade; but the connexion with the Holy Land begins to be intimate in 1176. In that year William Longsword, eldest of the five sons of Count William III., came to the kingdom of Jerusalem, on the invitation of Baldwin IV. and the baronage, and married the heiress of the kingdom, Sibylla. He died within a few months; but his wife bore a posthumous son, who became Baldwin V. Count William III. himself (uncle to Philip of France and brother-in-law to Conrad III.) afterwards came to the Holy Land to watch over the interests of his grandson; and he was among the prisoners taken by Saladin at Hittin in 1187. Shortly after the battle of Hittin there appeared in Palestine the ablest and most famous of the family, Count William's second son, Conrad. Conrad, following the family tradition, and invited by the emperor Isaac Angelus, had gone to serve at the court of Constantinople. He soon became a considerable person; married Isaac's sister, and defeated and killed a usurper; but he was repaid by ingratitude and suspicion, and fled from Constantinople to Palestine in 1187. Putting into Tyre he was able to save the city from the deluge of Mahommedan conquest which followed Saladin's victory at Hittin. He established himself firmly in Tyre (refusing admission to Guy, the king of Jerusalem); and from it he both sent appeals for aid to Europe which largely contributed to cause the Third Crusade and despatched reinforcements to the crusaders, who, from 1188 onwards, were engaged in the siege of Acre. His elder brother had been the husband of the heiress Sibylla; and on the death of Sibylla, who had carried the crown to Guy de Lusignan by her second marriage, Conrad married her younger sister, Isabella, now the heiress of the kingdom, and claimed the crown (1190). The struggle between Conrad and Guy paralysed the energies of the Christians in 1191. While Richard I. of England espoused the cause of Guy, who came from his own county of Poitou, Philip Augustus espoused that of Conrad. After the departure of Philip, Conrad fomented the opposition of the French to Richard, and even intrigued with Saladin against him. But he was the one man of ability who could hope to rule the debris of the kingdom of Jerusalem with success; he was the master of an Italian statecraft which gave him the advantage over his ingenuous rival; and Richard was finally forced to recognize him as king (April 1192). In the very hour of success, however, Conrad was struck down by the emissaries of the Old Man of the Mountain (the chief of the Assassins).
Still another son or Count William III. achieved distinction. This was Boniface of Montferrat, the younger brother of Conrad, who was chosen leader of the Fourth Crusade in 1201, on the death of Theobald of Champagne. In the winter of 1201-1202 he went to Germany to visit Philip of Swabia; and there it has been suggested, he arranged the diversion of the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople (see CRUSADES). Yet in the course of the crusade he showed himself not unsubmissive to Innocent III., who was entirely opposed to such a diversion. After the capture of Zara, however, he joined the crusaders, and played a great part in all the events which followed till the capture of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204. But Baldwin of Flanders was elected emperor over his head; and his irritation was not wholly allayed by the grant of Macedonia, the north of Thessaly, and Crete (which he afterwards sold to Venice). In 1207 he died, killed in battle with the Bulgarians. He left a son Demetrius, who assumed the title of king of Thessalonica, which the father had never borne (cf. Luchaire, Innocent III.: La question d 'Orient, p. 190). In 1222 Demetrius lost his kingdom to Theodore Angelus, and the house of Montferrat its connexion with the East.
Sec Savio, Studi storici sul marchese Guglielmo III. di Monferrato (Turin, 1885); Ilgen, Markgraf Konrad von Montferrat (1880); and also the works of Cerrato (Turin, 1884) and Desimoni (Genoa, 1886).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)