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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Louis IX of France


Louis IX was born on April 25, 1214 at Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis the Lion and the dominating, half English Princess Blanche.

He was baptized in La Collégiale Notre-Dame church.

His grandfather on his father's side was Philip II, king of France; while his grandfather on his mother's side was Alfonso VIII, king of Castile.

Tutors of Blanche's choosing taught Louis most of what a king must know—government, Latin, military arts, public speaking and writing.

Louis' mother trained him to be a great leader and a good Christian.


Louis was twelve years old when his father died on November 8, 1226. He was crowned king within the month at Reims cathedral.


Because of Louis' youth, his mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled France as regent until 1234, when Louis was deemed of age to rule himself. She continued as an important counselor to the king until her death in 1252.

Louis once received the contents of a dumped chamber pot on his royal cloak. He dismounted to investigate the owner of the foul mess. When he found him to be a student who had risen early to study he awarded him a scholarship.

Louis successfully reformed the French taxation system.

Louis IX faced recurring conflicts with some of the most powerful nobles, such as Hugh X of Lusignan and Peter of Dreux.

Henry III of England tried to restore his continental possessions, but was defeated at the 1242 Battle of Taillebourg and was forced to renounce his claims to Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Poitou.

His palace was at Pontoise, near Paris.

A patron of architecture, it was under Louis patronage that Robert of Sorbonne founded the College de la Sorbonne.


Louis married Marguerite de Provence (1221–December 21, 1295) on May 27, 1234. She was the sister of Eleanor of Provence, the wife of King Henry III of England.

The marriage of Marguerite de Provence and Louis IX.

At first obedient to his mother's wishes they saw little of each other and they had to meet on a small private turning stair which linked their apartments. Louis remained faithful to Eleanor and she bore him 11 children.


Louis had a deep faith, indeed at one time he thought of joining the Cistercians or the Franciscans until his wife intervened.

He spent hours at a time praying and fasting, confessing regularly and habitually attending Mass. Louis faithfully got up at midnight to hear the Mass for the dead. The saintly king also subjected himself to disciplines such as hairshirts, kissing lepers and self-flagellation.

Louis IX allowing himself to be whipped as penance.

Loiis tried to attain mystic ecstasies and while praying could lose all contact with the material world. Often in church the king prostrated himself for so long on the floor that his attendants grew impatient. When he eventually roused himself he sometimes did not know where he was.

Louis once invited to dinner twenty poor people, whose smell so revolted the soldiers of the guard that they voiced their objections to the king.

Louis kept with him a monk who was a leper as a close companion.

The saintly king once asked his close friend Joinville, if he would rather wash the feet of lepers or commit a mortal sin. Joinville answered he would much rather commit a mortal sin. "That is ill said " said the horrified King.

Early every morning, Louis would leave his palace in unregal like clothing to distribute money to the poor. He often fed the beggars and washed their feet.


In 1244, after a serious illness Louis decided on a crusade. Four years later he sailed to Cyprus with his wife on the Seventh Crusade so she could reap the spiritual reward. The crusaders took Damietta the following year but Louis was unable to control the violence and disease amongst his troops and on April 6, 1250 Egyptian Ayyubids annihilated the crusader army at the Battle of Fariskur.

Louis was taken prisoner having failed in his aim of taking Jerusalem, but he obtained his own release and that of other prisoners after a month in captivity in return for a large ransom and the surrender of Damietta.

Louis IX was taken prisoner at the of Battle of Fariskur, during the Seventh Crusade (Gustave Doré).

After being released as a prisoner, in 1250 Louis sailed onto Palestine where he visited the Holy Places and encouraged the Christians there.


Louis was very tall, thin, fair haired, with blue "dove's" eyes. He was very good looking.

Louis IX of France, considered to be true to life - Early 14th century statue from the church of Mainneville, Eure, France

The French king was a simple dresser. He often wore basic robes trimmed with rabbit or squirrel and was frequently mistaken for a monk.

The saintly Louis regularly put on hairshirts to keep his mind on higher things and on Fridays he never wore a hat in memory of the crown of thorns.

Louis was charming, temperate, chaste, always cheerful. Yet despite his soft Christian image he was a man of action and strong willed.  His reputation for integrity was such that foreign monarchs regularly asked him to arbitrate their disputes. Even his enemies admired him for his fairness.


Louis' patronage of the arts drove much innovation in Gothic art and architecture. 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 many daughters to foreign husbands and their subsequent introduction of Parisian models elsewhere.

On Fridays Louis avoided all gaiety. The rest of the week he was partial to a sing song.


On hearing the reports of the missionaries, Louis resolved to land at Tunis for the Eighth Crusade. The crusaders, among whom was Prince Edward of England, landed at Carthage July 17, 1270, but disease broke out in the camp. Many died of dysentery, and on August 25, 1270 Louis himself passed away.

Death of Saint Louis: On 25 August 1270, Saint Louis dies under his fleurdelisé tent before the city of Tunis. Illuminated by Jean Fouquet, Grandes Chroniques de France (1455–1460)

Saint Louis IX is probably to this day the most popular King in French history, and the nearest to a perfect Christian King over the past millennium. He was canonized in 1297 and his feast day is August 25th.

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