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King Louis IX of France

Article from the 1911 Encyclopedia


LOUIS IX. (1214-1270), king of France, known as Saint Louis, was born on the 25th of April 1214, and was baptized at Poissy. His father, Louis VIII., died in 1226, leaving the first minority since the accession of the Capetians, but his mother, Queen Blanche of Castile, proved more than a match for the feudal nobility. She secured her son's coronation at Reims on the 29th of November 1226; and, mainly by the aid of the papal legate, Romano Bonaventura, bishop of Porto (d. 1243), and of Thibaut IV., count of Champagne, was able to thwart the rebellious plans of Pierre Mauclerc, duke of Brittany, and Philippe Hurepel, a natural son of Philip Augustus. Mauclerc's opposition was not finally overcome, however, until 1234. Then in 1236 Thibaut, who had become king of Navarre, turned against the queen, formed an alliance with Brittany, marrying his daughter without royal consent to Jean le Roux, Mauclerc's son, and attempted to make a new feudal league. The final triumph of the regent was shown when the king's army assembled at Vincennes. His summons met with such general and prompt obedience as to awe Thibaut into submission without striking a blow. Thus the reign of Louis IX. began with royal prerogatives fully maintained; the kingdom was well under control, and Mauclerc and Thibaut were both obliged to go on crusade. But the influence of the strong-willed queen-mother continued to make itself felt to the close of her life. Louis IX. did not lack independence of character, but his confidence in his mother had been amply justified and he always acted in her presence like a child. This confidence he withheld from his wife, Margaret, daughter of Raymond Berenger, count of Provence, whom he married at Sens in May 1234. The reign was comparatively uneventful. A rising of the nobles of the south-west, stirred up by Isabella, widow of King John of England, and her husband, Hugh de Lusignan, count of the Marche, upon the occasion of the investment of Alphonse of Poitiers with the fiefs left him by Louis VIII. as a result of the Albigensian crusade, reached threatening dimensions in 1242, but the king's armies easily overran Count Hugh's territories, and defeated Henry III. of England, who had come to his aid, at Saintes. Isabella and her husband were forced to submit, and Raymond VII., count of Toulouse, yielded without resistance upon the advent of two royal armies, and accepted the peace of Lorris in January 1243. This was the last rising of the nobles in Louis's reign.

At the end of 1244, during an illness, Louis took the cross. He had already been much distressed by the plight of John of Brienne, emperor at Constantinople, and bought from him the crown of thorns, parts of the true cross, the holy lance, and the holy sponge. The Sainte Chapelle in Paris still stands as a monument to the value of these relics to the saintly king. But the quarrel between the papacy and the emperor Frederick II., in which Louis maintained a watchful neutrality - only interfering to prevent the capture of Innocent IV. at Lyons - and the difficulties of preparation, delayed the embarkation until August 1248. His defeat and capture at Mansura, in February 1250, the next four years spent in Syria in captivity, in diplomatic intrigues, and finally in raising the fortifications of Caesarea and Joppa, - these events belong to the history of the crusades. His return to France was urgently needed, as Blanche of Castile, whom he had left as regent, had died in November 1252, and upon the removal of her strong hand feudal turbulence had begun to show itself.

This period between his first and second crusades (1254-1269) is the real age of Saint Louis in the history of France. He imposed peace between warring factions of his nobility by mere moral force, backed up by something like an awakened public opinion. His nobles often chafed under his unrelenting justice but never dared rebel. The most famous of his settlements was the treaty of Paris, drawn up in May 1258 and ratified in December 1259, by which the claims of Henry III. of England were adjusted. Henry renounced absolutely Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine and Poitou, and received, on condition of recognizing Louis as liege suzerain, all the fiefs and domains of the king of France in the dioceses of Limoges, Cahors and Perigueux, and the expectation of Saintonge south of the Charente, and Agenais, if they should fall to the crown of France by the death of Alphonse of Poitiers. In addition, Louis promised to provide Henry with sufficient money to maintain 500 knights for two years. This treaty was very unpopular in France, since the king surrendered a large part of France that Henry had not won; but Louis was satisfied that the absolute sovereignty over the northern provinces more than equalled the loss in the south. Historians still disagree as to its wisdom. Louis made a similar compromise with the king of Aragon in the treaty of Corbeil, 1258, whereby he gave up the claims of kings of France to Roussillon and Barcelona, which went back to the conquest of Charlemagne.

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This article is from the 1911 edition of an encyclopedia, which is out of copyright here in the U.S. See the encyclopedia main page for disclaimer and copyright information.

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