Tancred (1075 – December 5 or December 12, 1112) was an Italo-Norman leader of the First Crusade who later became Prince of Galilee and regent of the Principality of Antioch. Tancred had a great-grandfather with the same name, Tancred of Hauteville; since both Tancreds were from the house of Hauteville, they may be confused.
Tancred was a son of Emma of Hauteville and Odo the Good Marquis. His maternal grandparents were Robert Guiscard and Guiscard's first wife Alberada of Buonalbergo. Emma was also a sister of Bohemond of Taranto.
In 1096, Tancred joined his maternal uncle Bohemund on the First Crusade, and the two made their way to Constantinople. There, he was pressured to swear an oath to Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, promising to give back any conquered land to the Byzantine Empire. Although the other leaders did not intend to keep their oaths, Tancred refused to swear the oath altogether. He participated in the siege of Nicaea in 1097, but the city was taken by Alexius' army after secret negotiations with the Seljuk Turks. Because of this, Tancred was very distrustful of the Byzantines.
In 1097 the Crusaders divided their forces at Heraclea and Tancred entered the Levant by passing south through the Cilician Gates. He displayed the skills of a brilliant tactician by seizing five of the most important sites in Cilicia Pedias, which included the ancient cities of Tarsus and Adana, the great emporium at Mopsuestia, and the strategic castles at Sarvandikar and Anazarbus. The last three settlements were annexed to the Principality of Antioch. During their fourteen-year occupation of Anazarbus the Crusaders built the magnificent donjon atop the center of the fortified outcrop. At Sarvandikar, which controlled the strategic Amanus Pass, Tancred imprisoned Raymond of Saint-Gilles in 1101/02.
He assisted in the siege of Antioch in 1098. One year later, during the assault on Jerusalem, Tancred, along with Gaston IV of Béarn, claimed to have been the first Crusader to enter the city on July 15. However, the first crusader to enter Jerusalem was Ludolf of Tournai, and he was followed by his brother Englebert. When the city fell, Tancred gave his banner to a group of the citizens who had fled to the roof of the Temple of Solomon. This should have assured their safety, but they were massacred, along with many others, during the sack of the city. The author of the Gesta Francorum (Deeds of the Franks) records that, when Tancred realised this, he was "greatly angered". When the Kingdom of Jerusalem was established, Tancred became Prince of Galilee.
Regent of Antioch
In 1100, Tancred became regent of Antioch when Bohemund was taken prisoner by the Danishmends at the Battle of Melitene. He expanded the territory of the Latin principality by capturing land from the Byzantines, although, over the next decade, Alexius attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring him under Byzantine control. In 1104, he also took control of the County of Edessa when Baldwin II was taken captive after the Battle of Harran. After Baldwin's release in late 1108, he had to fight Tancred (probably early 1109) to regain control of the county; Tancred was eventually defeated and returned to Antioch. After Harran, Bohemond returned to Europe to recruit more Crusaders, again leaving his nephew as regent in Antioch. Tancred's victory over Radwan of Aleppo at the Battle of Artah in 1105 allowed the Latin principality to recover some its territories east of the Orontes River.
In 1108, Tancred refused to honour the Treaty of Devol, in which Bohemund swore an oath of fealty to Alexius, and for decades afterwards Antioch remained independent of the Byzantine Empire. In 1110, he brought Krak des Chevaliers under his control, which would later become an important castle in the County of Tripoli. Tancred remained regent in Antioch in the name of Bohemund II until his death in 1112 during a typhoid epidemic. He had married Cecile of France, but died childless.
The Gesta Tancredi is a biography of Tancred written in Latin by Ralph of Caen, a Norman who joined the First Crusade and served under Tancred and Bohemund. An English translation was co-published in 2005 by Bernard S. Bachrach and David S. Bachrach.
Nicolas Poussin's Tancred and Erminia (Hermitage Museum).
Tancred in fiction
Tancred appears as a character in Torquato Tasso's 16th-century poem Jerusalem Delivered, in which he is portrayed as an epic hero and given a fictional love interest, the pagan warrior-maiden Clorinda. He is also loved by the Princess Erminia of Antioch. Portions of Tasso's verses were set by Claudio Monteverdi in his 1624 dramatic work Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. He also appears in one of the scenes in Imre Madách's The Tragedy of Man. He also appears as a character in Tom Harper's "Siege of Heaven" and is depicted as a violent psychopath. His portrayal is similar although slightly more humorous in Alfred Duggan's novel Count Bohemond. Tancred also appears as one of the Crusade leaders in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Count Robert of Paris' who returned to Constantinople from Scutari to ensure a fair contest between Count Robert and his challenger. The novel Tancred, or the New Crusade by Benjamin Disraeli centres around the adventures of an imagined modern descendant and namesake of the Prince of Galilee. Rossini's opera Tancredi is based on Tasso, via Voltaire's play Tancrède of 1759.