This was a nice surprise to wake to this morning.
Peter the Hermit: Straddling the Boundaries of Lordship, Millennialism, and Heresy
Peter the Hermit led the "People's Crusade." It ended in absolute disaster just beyond Constantinople in September, 1096. He later joined the main crusading armies as a preacher, mascot, and ambassador.
My original question was: Why was he allowed to join these armies with that kind of track record?
I argued that Peter the Hermit wasn't really a hermit, but a minor noble seeking lands and wealth in the Levant. While he may have once been a hermit for a time after his wife died, his name actually derives from the "L'Ermites," and family of nobles in France who lineage continues to this day. He was seeking lordship over sacred and material wealth.
What Peter a heretic? No, but he defied church doctrine by preaching the First Crusade--he wasn't a priest. At this point, Peter was one of many itinerant preachers who were starting to cause headaches for the church, such as Robert of Arbrissel. Indeed, he set the example for other, later, popular heretical preachers like Tanchelm of Utrecht and Henry Le Mans.
He encouraged the common folk to go on the crusade, which really wasn't called a "crusade," but a pilgrimage. The term "crusade" didn't come into use until around the Second Crusade. But it was supposed to be a pilgrimage for the knightly class, not for the poor.
All of this happened as millennial undercurrents flowed through medieval society. All who died on the journey, according the the versions of Pope Urban II's speech at Clermont in 1095, would become a living sacrifice to God. The People's Crusade bore striking resemblances to both contemporary and modern popular millennial movements.