There are two theories about this. One is that the crusade had a secret agenda from the beginning. Philip of Swabia, emperor-elect of the West, supported the deposed emperor Isaac II of Constantinople and Isaac's son Alexius (father and son of Philip's wife Irene). The Fourth Crusade attacked Constantinople to put Alexius on his father's throne. The theory goes that the secret agenda of the crusade had all along been to restore Alexius -- although most of the crusaders knew nothing about it.

The other theory is that the Venetians had plotted from the very beginning to divert the crusade to Constantinople, so that they could conquer the city, win its priceless booty and gain control of trade in the eastern Mediterranean.

Neither of these theories can be proven. Certainly Philip of Swabia supported Alexius, but there is no evidence that he had plotted from the beginning to have Alexius take over the crusade. Certainly the Venetians profited from the capture of the city, but it is another matter to claim that they had plotted this from the very start.

Clearly there were accusations flying around after the city was captured. The account of the crusade by Villehardouin is at great pains to show that there was no malice aforethought and the crusaders acted with the best of motives. Modern historians do not think that there was any conspiracy. Yes, there was bad planning, incompetent leadership and opportunism; but no conspiracy.

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