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However, by February 1200 Thibaut (Theobald) Count of Champagne and Count Baldwin of Flanders, along with his wife, Marie of Champagne, had taken the cross.At a meeting in Soissons in March the French nobles planned the crusade with a preference to travel by sea to the Holy Land and launch an invasion via Egypt.The crusaders requested absolution, but the Venetians did not.With most of their provisions now consumed and little left of the year’s lease on the vessels, the crusade was in desperate straits.
In 1201 the young Alexius Angelus travelled to the west claiming he was the legitimate heir to Byzantium and requested the Crusade stopped off in Constantinople and overthrow the usurper and restore his father to the throne.
In addition, the Venetians agreed to join the crusade themselves providing fifty well-armed war galleys.
All booty would be split evenly between the Venetians and the crusaders. The Venetians suspended all overseas trade and put enormous resources into the project to construct one of the largest fleets assembled in the period, purchasing thousands of tons of provisions, and building and fitting out war vessels at an amazing rate.
This lower numbers of crusaders led to a massive financial shortfall with the Crusade in debt to the Venetians by some 34,000 marks.
In a compromise the crusaders agreed to assist the Venetians in restoring the port of Zara on the Dalmatian coast, their political and economic rival, to their control. When Pope Innocent III learnt of the Crusade's plan to attack Zara rather than relieve Jerusalem, he warned Boniface and his Venetian allies that they would face excommunication if they went ahead with the assault.
With the death of Thibaut in May 1201 the north Italian nobleman Boniface of Montferrat was appointed leader of the crusade.