Conductors in the Crusades: An earlier Conductor reference!

We are often informed that ‘The Ancient and Honourable’ title of Conductor was first used in 1327 according to the Statute of Westminster of that date.

May I add something to this interesting debate?

The most popular of contemporary accounts of the First Crusade was the anonymous work known as the Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolimitorum. This account describes, inter alia, that the armies of the First Crusade under the Command of Bohemond I, of Taranto laid siege to Antioch in June 1098. Amongst the senior officers was Stephen Count of Blois. Stephen of Blois was married to Adela the daughter of William the Conqueror and was the father of Stephen 1st of England.

The Gesta Francorum (IX,27) , described Stephen of Blois as having been elected ‘ductor’ of the Army.

This certainly cannot mean that he was appointed Commander in Chief or political leader of the Crusade as he never took the lead in military operations, while Adhemar, Bishop of Le Puy was the only person recognised as having any political authority over the princes.

Sir Steven Runciman in his authorative work A History of the Crusades (Cambridge 1951) writes:

‘It is probable that Stephen was put in charge of the administrative side of the Army and was responsible for the organisation of supplies’
So it seems that the Father of a former King of England may have been the first ‘ductor’, with a job description to go with the appointment. This rather derides Mr L Brady’s disdain at the previous status of Conductors

‘Until the use at Sergeants as Conductors is the Crimean War and later (in New Zealand) in 1860, Conductors through the ages had bees (sic) civilians. They did not enjoy a very high status, for example during the Peninsular Campaign of 1912, although Conductors were employed in large numbers (154) they were ranked fourth in the pecking order of Commissariat personnel, below clerks, interpreters, storekeepers receivers and issuers, only ahead at artisans such as bakers and carpenters’

W.L. Cunningham, BA(Hons) History, M.Phil.
Former Conductor RAOC


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