Louis IX
In 1226, during an expedition to put down the Albigensian heretics, Louis VIII lost his
life. His son, Louis IX, became the new king at the tender age of twelve. Louis IX’s mother,
Blanche of Castille, was to be the regent until he reached maturity (Jordan, 1986, p. 674). A
revolt by Philip Hurepel, Peter Mauclerc, the Duke of Brittany, Theobald IV, and Hugh Count of
La Marche occupied Blanche's immediate attention. The rebels allied themselves with Raymond
VII of Toulouse and with King Henry III of England who saw an opportunity to reclaim lost
lands in France (Previte-Orton, 1951, p. 113; Hallam, 1980, p. 207). Theobald IV soon switched
sides, while Peter Mauclerc and Hugh of La Marche submitted to the queen in 1227 (Hallam,
1980, p. 208). Toulouse was ravaged by the royal army which led to Raymond's submission in
1229 (Previte-Orton, 1951, p. 113). Henry III landed an army in northeastern France at SaintMalo in 1230 and was supported by Peter Mauclerc. But, their armies were reluctant to fight,
and the partnership collapsed. By the end of 1230, peace had been established in north France
(Hallam, 1980, p. 210). Minor rebellions continued to arise, however, and a major threat arose in
1242 when Henry III, in cooperation with Raymond VII of Toulouse, tried to reconquer Poitou.
Louis' army routed them at the Battle of Taillebourg (Previte-Orton, 1951, p. 113). The Poitevin
lords then made peace with Louis, and Henry entered into a five year truce (Hallam, 1980, p.
213). The barons’ resistance faded away as Louis became the supreme ruler in his kingdom.
Louis was regarded as a simple, good-natured king by his people (Fawtier, 1960, p. 29).
Although he hated Jews, he thought of himself as one of the old kings of Israel. He allowed the
people to bring their problems directly to him as he sat under a tree at his court in Vincennes
(Armstrong, 1988, p. 436). He believed that God had placed him on the throne to lead the
French people out of their sin towards eternal salvation (Fawtier, 1960, p. 30).
His relationship to the church reflected both his devotion and his growing sense of
absolutism. He built the magnificent Saint Chapelle at Paris to accommodate the relics of
Christ's Passion that the Emperor Baldwin II had sold to him in order to raise money to manage
the part of the Greek empire that he had conquered in the Fourth Crusade (Jordan, 1986, p. 675;
Armstrong, 1988, p. 436). Louis was also a great supporter of the friars and monks. William of
Saint-Pathus estimated that Louis spent 7,000 pounds each year on them and gave them
additional food and clothing (Hallam, 1980, p. 232). His admiration of them was so great that he
took to wearing a mendicant-style tunic (Jordan, 1986, p. 675). However, he did not accept the
church's position without question. Although he recognized the supremacy of the papacy, he
refused to yield to the pope's attempts to interfere in his own jurisdiction. Louis gave the
Inquisition more support and freedom than any other European monarch which resulted in greater
successes for the Church Court. But, he refused to confiscate for the clergy any property
belonging to the excommunicated (Previte-Orton, 1951, p. 115).
Louis also reordered the administration of his kingdom. Baillis were placed over the
prévôts who were in charge of collecting, "subsidies for communes, regalian dues, fees for the
use of the royal seal, and payments raised from the royal forests” (Hallam, 1980, p. 239). These
prévôts gave their records to the baillis who presented them at Paris for the yearly audit. The
baillis were also responsible for overseeing the castles in their district and for raising troops for
the royal army. Starting in 1247, Louis sent enqueteurs, usually friars, out into the country to
collect complaints about royal officials and to remedy them (Hallam, 1980, p. 239-240).
In addition to his reforms, Louis was the last great Crusader. In 1244, a severe illness led
him to take the Cross. His army set sail in August 1248 and wintered in Cyprus where it was
decided that they would attack Damietta. On June 5, the French landed and quickly routed the
Egyptian defenders. Damietta was conquered the next day and by December, the French were
outside of Mansourah. Decimated by weakness, hunger, and the constant attacks of the Muslims,
Louis' army began retreating to Damietta, but were captured in April. The French queen,
Margaret, was in Damietta and persuaded the Italian merchants not to abandon the city, which
would give her a bargaining chip in securing Louis' release (Mayer, 1988, p. 260-264). After
paying 400,000 bezants, Louis went to Acre where he oversaw the repair of the area's
fortifications (Mayer, 1988, p. 264; Armstrong, 1988, p. 446). In November of 1252, Blanche
died and Louis returned to France in 1254 (Jordan, 1986, p. 675).
He was convinced that the Crusade had failed so that God could teach him about humility
(Armstrong, 1988, p. 446). As a kind of penance, his compassion for the poor, widows, orphans,
and the sick deepened (Jordan, 1986, p. 675). In 1254, he issued a reforming ordinance that
forced royal officials to swear to good conduct. Louis amended the ordinance with "instructions
on public morality, against usury, blasphemy and prostitution, games of chance, and the
frequenting of inns meant for travellers" (Hallam, 1980, p. 243). Judicial duels, private wars,
tournaments, feudal coinage, and feudal arbitrariness in the administration of justice were all
restricted (Jordan, 1986, p. 675).
The crusading spirit in Louis had not been dampened by his defeat. In 1267, he began
preparing for a new Crusade against Egypt (Jordan, 1986, p. 675; Previte-Orton, 1951, p. 118).
The goal of Tunisia was added at the last minute. Louis believed that the Moslem Emir of
Tunisia was at the point of conversion, and Louis reasoned that an invasion would win him over.
In addition, Tunisia would be an excellent headquarters for campaigns against Egypt (PreviteOrton, 1951, p. 118). On July 18, the Crusaders landed in Tunisia and settled in to await the
arrival of Charles of Anjou. Dysentery or typhus ravaged the camp and Louis, already in poor
health, died on August 25, 1270 (Riley-Smith, 1987, p. 175; Armstrong, 1988, p. 449). He was
succeeded by Philip III (Jordan, 1986, p. 676).
Armstrong, K. (1988). Holy war. New York: Doubleday.
Fawtier, R. (1960). The Capetian Kings of France. (L. Butler and R.J. Adam, Trans). New
York: St. Martin's Press.
Hallam, E. M. (1980). Capetian France, 987-1328. London: Longman.
Jordan, W. C. (1986). Louis IX of France. In J.R. Strayer (Ed.), Dictionary of the Middle ages
(pp. 670-675). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Mayer, H. E. (1988). The Crusades. (J. Gillingham, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Previte-Orton, C. W. (1951). A History of Europe from 1198 to 1378. London: Methuen & Co.,
Riley-Smith, J. (1987). The Crusades. New Haven: Yale University Press.