Nick Name: Tthe Saint
Birthday: April 25, 1214
Died At Age: 56
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Saint Louis
Born Country: France
Born in: Poissy, France
Famous as: King of France
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Margaret of Provence
father: Louis VIII of France
mother: Blanche of Castile
siblings: Alphonse; Count of Poitiers, Charles I of Anjou, Isabelle of France, Robert I; Count of Artois
children: Agnes of France; Duchess of Burgundy, Blanche de France, Blanche of France; Infanta of Castile, Isabella of France; Queen of Navarre, John of France, John Tristan; Count of Valois, Louis of France (1244–1260), Margaret of France; Duchess of Brabant, Peter I; Count of Alençon, Philip III of France, Robert; Count of Clermont
Died on: August 25, 1270
place of death: Tunis, Tunisia
Louis IX of France, later canonized Saint Louis, was a Christian crusader and monarch of the 13th century. He inherited the French throne at the age of 12. His reign is marked by a series of reforms, which brought about peace and stability in his kingdom. He reorganized the justice system, forbade practices like 'trial by ordeal' and introduced 'presumption of innocence' in criminal cases. Louis IX is also known for the Seventh and Eighth Crusades that he launched against Islamic rulers. Guided by Catholic passion, he believed that he was appointed by God to rule justly and that he was put on earth to serve his people. The compassionate king patronized various charitable deeds, thus being considered the co-patron of the 'Third Order of St. Francis'. He condemned blasphemy and punished people by mutilating their tongues and lips. As a patron of art, he commissioned the building of various churches, schools, hospitals and cathedrals that brought about a cultural change in Europe. 'Sainte-Chapelle' is one of the most significant examples of architectural achievements of his reign. His impact on the world can be gauged by many monuments, missions and organizations named after him.
Early Life & Childhood
Louis IX of France was born on April 25, 1214, in Poissy, near Paris. His father Louis the Lion was King of France and his mother Blanche of Castile was the empress.
King of France, Philip II, was his paternal grandfather, while his maternal grandfather was Alfonso VIII, King of Castile.
His mother took a keen interest in his education and appointed tutors to properly train the young prince. As a result of that, Louis IX was well versed in Latin, military strategy, writing, public speaking, and government affairs.
When he was nine, his father Louis VIII became king following the death of his grandfather Philip II. Three years later, on 8 November 1226, his father also passed away.
Within a month of his father's death, the 12 years old prince was crowned King of France at the Reims Cathedral. His mother ruled on his behalf, as Louis IX was still a young boy. She raised him to be a devoted Christian and a great leader.
Although the precise year when Louis IX began to rule independently remains unclear, historians believe it to be 1234, with his mother assuming the role of an advisor to the king.
Until her death in 1252, Blanche continued to have the king's ear and exercised considerable influence over his decisions.
Most facts about his lifetime are known courtesy his biography 'Life of Saint Louis', which was chronicled by Jean de Joinville. Joinville was an advisor, close friend, and confidant to the king.
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Louis IX of France was married to Margaret of Provence on 27 May 1234, and she was crowned queen the following day in Sens cathedral.
The couple had 11 children together, out of which Philip III succeeded him as the king.
His union with Margaret proved to be a politically influential one, as she was the elder sister of Eleanor, who later married Henry III of England.
Just like Louis IX, Margaret was also a devout Christian. They shared a loving relationship and had common interests like reading, horseback riding, and music.
In 1248, Louis IX decided to embark on a journey to Egypt, which had become the power center of Islam. Driven by his obligation to serve the Church, he left his kingdom for six years to carry out a Crusade.
On 5 June 1249, he and his followers reached Egypt and began the Crusade by capturing the Port of Damietta. This strike on the Ayyubid empire caused a major upheaval because the sultan Al-Malik as-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub was on his deathbed.
His quick success was hampered when his army started struggling to reach Cairo due to the rise in the Nile and the tropical heat.
When the sultan died, his wife Shajar al-Durr became the queen and eventually placed the Mamluk dynasty in power.
After his defeat at the Battle of Mansurah, Louis IX was taken prisoner on 8 February 1250. The Egyptians demanded a payment of 400,000 livres tournois and the abdication of Damietta in exchange for his freedom.
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Upon his release, he went to the Latin kingdoms of Caesarea, Acre, and Jaffa. He lived there for four years, helping the Crusaders strengthen their forces and establish diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria.
After his mother’s death in 1254, Louis IX came back to France. Upon his return, he noticed several administrative mismanagements and started taking steps to amend them. It was found that his officers were misusing their powers in his absence.
He appointed royal inspectors to address the complaints against his officials. Laws were enacted in 1254 and 1256, providing a detailed description of the tasks assigned to the officials. He also kept the royal officials under close scrutiny.
As per the new decree, the officers were not allowed to go to pubs or gamble. Their marriages and other financial affairs could not be carried out without the king's approval. He also banned prostitution and ‘trials by ordeal'. His legal reforms included the introduction of 'presumption of innocence.'
He reformed the French economy by levying punishments for counterfeiting, which increased the usage of the royal currency.
On 24 March 1267, Louis IX vowed to launch a Crusade against the city of Tunis. He set out on a journey to Tunis, along with his followers and the members of his family.
They reached Tunis during the unforgiving African summer, which resulted in the spreading of a dysentery epidemic among the crusaders, also affecting the king and his son.
A few weeks after his son John’s death, Louis IX also succumbed to dysentery on 25 August 1270. His brother Charles of Anjou arrived shortly after his death and secured a treaty with the sultan of Tunis.
Patron of Sacred Arts
King Louis IX had a fascination with art and architecture, which led to France flourishing culturally during his reign. He encouraged the construction of cathedrals, abbeys, and chapels all across the country.
Gothic art and architecture were on the rise and cathedrals like Amiens, Rheims, and Beauvais were built in his era.
He was responsible for the construction of 'Sainte Chappelle' where the precious relic 'Crown of Thorns' of Jesus Christ was housed. The holy chapel is considered to be a prime example of Gothic architecture during the Rayonnant period.
Louis IX is also attributed to the construction of various schools and colleges, including the College of Sorbonne in Paris, which was the center for theological studies.
He commissioned to build several monasteries, hospitals, and schools. He also built hospitals for the blind and a hostel for poor women, known as the 'House of the Daughter of God'.
In 1297, Pope Boniface VIII announced the canonization of Louis IX to Saint Louis. He is the only French king to have attained sainthood. He was the epitome of a perfect Christian ruler, and unsurprisingly, many of his descendants were named after him.
There are various charities, congregations and missions named after him. Religious orders like the 'Sisters of Charity of St. Louis' and 'Sisters of St Louis' are among many that honor him.
He is regarded as the co-patron of the 'Third Order of St. Francis', of which he is considered to be a member. However, critics doubt the claim that he ever joined the order.