Louis IX, commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237.
Born: April 25, 1214, Poissy
Died: August 25, 1270, Tunis
Spouse: Margaret of Provence
Children: Philip III of France, Robert, Count of Clermont, John Tristan, Count of Valois, Isabelle of France, Queen of Navarre, Peter, Count of Perche and Alençon, Agnes of France, Duchess of Burgundy, Blanche of France, Infanta of Castile, Marguerite of France
Siblings: Charles I of Naples, Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, Isabelle of France, Robert I, Count of Artois
Parents: Louis VIII of France, Blanche of Castile
Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270), commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile. He worked with the Parliament of Paris in order to improve the professionalism of his legal administration.
He is the only canonised king of France; consequently, there are many places named after him, most notably St. Louis, Missouri, Île Saint-Louis in Paris, Saint-Louis, Haut-Rhin and Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in the United States, São Luís do Maranhão, Brazil and both the state and city of San Luis Potosí in Mexico
Much of what is known of Louis's life comes from Jean de Joinville's famous Life of Saint Louis. Joinville was a close friend, confidant, and counsellor to the king, and also participated as a witness in the papal inquest into Louis' life that ended with his canonisation in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.
Two other important biographies were written by the king's confessor, Geoffrey of Beaulieu, and his chaplain, William of Chartres. The fourth important source of information is William of Saint-Parthus' biography, which he wrote using the papal inquest mentioned above. While several individuals wrote biographies in the decades following the king's death, only Jean of Joinville, Geoffrey of Beaulieu, and William of Chartres wrote from personal knowledge of the king.
Louis was born on 25 April 1214 at Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis the Lion and Princess Blanche, and baptised in La Collégiale Notre-Dame church. His grandfather was King Philip II of France. Tutors of Blanche's choosing taught him most of what a king must know—Latin, public speaking, writing, military arts, and government. He was 9 years old when his grandfather died and his father ascended as Louis VIII. A member of the House of Capet, Louis was twelve years old when his father died on 8 November 1226. He was crowned king within the month at Reims cathedral. Because of Louis's youth, his mother ruled France as regent during his minority.
His younger brother Charles I of Sicily (1227–85) was created count of Anjou, thus founding the second Angevin dynasty.
No date is given for the beginning of Louis's personal rule. His contemporaries viewed his reign as co-rule between the king and his mother, though historians generally view the year 1234 as the year in which Louis began ruling personally, with his mother assuming a more advisory role. She continued as an important counselor to the king until her death in 1252.
On 27 May 1234, Louis married Margaret of Provence (1221 – 21 December 1295), whose sister Eleanor later became the wife of Henry III of England.
Louis went on two crusades, in his mid-30s in 1248 (Seventh Crusade) and then again in his mid-50s in 1270 (Eighth Crusade).
The seventh crusade
He had begun with the rapid capture of the port of Damietta in June 1249, an attack which did cause some disruption in the Muslim Ayyubid empire, especially as the current sultan, Al-Malik as-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub was on his deathbed. But the march from Damietta toward Cairo through the Nile River Delta went slowly. The rising of the Nile and the summer heat made it impossible for them to advance and follow up their success. During this time, the Ayyubid sultan died, and a sudden power shift took place, as the sultan's wife Shajar al-Durr set events in motion which were to make her Queen, and eventually place the Egyptian army of the Mamluks in power. On 6 April 1250 Louis lost his army at the Battle of Fariskur and was captured by the Egyptians. His release was eventually negotiated, in return for a ransom of 400,000 livres tournois (at the time France's annual revenue was only about 1,250,000 livres tournois), and the surrender of the city of Damietta.
Following his release from Egyptian captivity, Louis spent four years in the Crusader kingdoms of Acre, Caesarea, and Jaffa, using his wealth to assist the Crusaders in rebuilding their defences and conducting diplomacy with the Islamic powers of Syria and Egypt. Upon his departure from the Middle East, he left a significant garrison in the city of Acre for its defence against Islamic attacks; the historic presence of this French garrison in the Middle East was later used as a justification for the French Mandate.
Louis exchanged multiple letters and emissaries with Mongol rulers of the period. During his first crusade in 1248, Louis was approached by envoys from Eljigidei, the Mongol ruler of Armenia and Persia. Eljigidei suggested that King Louis should land in Egypt, while Eljigidei attacked Baghdad, to prevent the Saracens of Egypt and those of Syria from joining forces. Louis sent André de Longjumeau, a Dominican priest, as an emissary to the Great Khan Güyük Khan in Mongolia.
However, Güyük died before the emissary arrived at his court, and nothing concrete occurred. Louis dispatched another envoy to the Mongol court, the Franciscan William of Rubruck, who went to visit the Great Khan Möngke Khan in Mongolia.
The eighth crusade
In a parliament held at Paris, 24 March 1267, he and his three sons took the cross. On hearing the reports of the missionaries, Louis resolved to land at Tunis. Louis ordered his younger brother, Charles of Anjou, to join him at Tunis. The crusaders, among whom was Prince Edward of England, landed at Carthage 17 July 1270, but the disease broke out in the camp, and on 25 August, Louis himself was carried off by the scourge.
Patron of arts and arbiter of Europe
Louis' patronage of the arts drove much innovation in Gothic art and architecture, and the style of his court radiated throughout Europe by both the purchase of art objects from Parisian masters for export, and by the marriage of the king's daughters and female relatives to foreign husbands and their subsequent introduction of Parisian models elsewhere. Louis' personal chapel, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, was copied more than once by his descendants elsewhere. Louis most likely ordered the production of the Morgan Bible, a masterpiece of medieval painting.
Saint Louis ruled during the so-called "golden century of Saint Louis", when the kingdom of France was at its height in Europe, both politically and economically. The king of France was regarded as "primus inter pares, first among equals, among the kings and rulers of the continent. He commanded the largest army, and ruled the largest and wealthiest kingdom in Europe, a kingdom which was the European centre of arts and intellectual thought at the time. The foundations for the famous college of theology which was later known as the Sorbonne were laid in Paris about the year 1257. The prestige and respect felt in Europe for King Louis IX were due more to the attraction that his benevolent personality created rather than to military domination. For his contemporaries, he was the quintessential example of the Christian prince, and embodied the whole of Christendom in his person. His reputation for saintliness and fairness was already well established while he was alive, and on many occasions he was chosen as an arbiter in quarrels among the rulers of Europe.
Shortly before 1256 Enguerrand IV of Coucy arrested and without trial hanged three young squires of Laon whom he accused of poaching in his forest. In 1256 Louis had him arrested and brought to the Louvre by his sergeants. Enguerrand demanded judgment by his peers and trial by battle which was refused by the king because Louis thought it obsolete. Enguerrand was tried, sentenced and ordered to pay 12,000 livres. Part of the money was to pay for masses in perpetuity for the men he had hanged.
In 1258, Louis and James I of Aragon signed the Treaty of Corbeil, under which Louis renounced his feudal overlordship over the County of Barcelona, which was held by the King of Aragon. James in turn renounced his feudal overlordship over several counties in southern France.
The perception of Louis IX as the exemplary Christian prince was reinforced by his religious zeal. Louis was a devout Catholic, and he built the Sainte-Chapelle ("Holy Chapel"), located within the royal palace complex (now the Paris Hall of Justice), on the Île de la Cité in the centre of Paris. The Sainte Chapelle, a perfect example of the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, was erected as a shrine for the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, precious relics of the Passion of Jesus. Louis purchased these in 1239–41 from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres (the chapel, however, cost only 60,000 livres to build).
Louis IX took very seriously his mission as "lieutenant of God on Earth", with which he had been invested when he was crowned in Rheims. To fulfill his duty, he conducted two crusades, and even though they were unsuccessful, they contributed to his prestige. In 1230 the King forbade all forms of usury. Where the profits of the Jewish and Lombard money-lenders had been exorbitant, and the original borrowers could not be found, Louis exacted from the usurers a contribution towards the crusade which Pope Gregory was then trying to launch. Louis also ordered, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX, the burning in Paris in 1243 of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books.
St. Louis installed a house of the Trinitarian order in his château of Fontainebleau. He chose Trinitarians as his chaplains, and was accompanied by them on his crusades.