The ninth Capetian king, he was born in 1214 and ruled from 1226 to 1270. He was an extra-pious king and was soon declared a saint after his death. Pope Boniface VIII called him a “superman,” religiously speaking.
This post has addenda with write-ups about his wife Margaret of Provence, his mother Blanche of Castile, his brothers Charles and Alphonse, and son Robert.
Louis IX was super-devout. His friend and long-lived biographer John (Jean) de Joinville wrote of him:
St. Louis loved God with his whole heart, and it was on Him that he modeled his actions … In eating he was so temperate that never once in my life did I hear him order any dish for his table, as many rich men do. He was content to eat what his cook prepared for him and what we set before him. In his speech he was restrained. Never in my life did I hear him speak ill of any man nor name the devil … He mixed his wine with water … Often in the summer he went after mass to the wood of Vincennes, sat down with his back against an oak tree and made us sit around him. Everyone who had an affair to settle could come and speak to him without the interference of any usher or other official (Qtd. in Bradbury).
To get the big picture, let’s begin with two genealogical tables from the Encyclopedia Medieval France:
PRESTWICH’S PEDIGREE TABLES
They are about English kings in relation to the French kings.
Let’s get started with Louis IX.
The points are numbered for clarity and conciseness.
- He was born to Louis VIII at the Castle of Poissy (Yvelines) 25 Apr 1214. He liked to be called Louis of Poissy, since he was baptized there.
- He was tall, blond, bleu-eyed, rosy complexioned, a delicate nose and small mouth. His hair turned prematurely white. He was athletic and trained in war. He could ride and swim.
- He grew up strictly, beaten if necessary. He could read Latin and made friends with scholars.
- He was anointed King at Reims on 29 Nov 1226.
- Before then the north and south of France challenged the rule of a twelve-year-old and the regency of a foreign woman, his mother, Blanche of Castile.
- Even King of England Henry III helped the rebels, to undo the conquests of the previous half-century, particularly under Philip II. Louis defeated all these revolts and became the effective ruler of his enlarged realm.
- He married Marguerite (or Margaret) of Provence, another southerner, by papal dispensation dated 2 Jan 1233/34 because they were related in the 4th She was a daughter and co-heiress of Raymond Berengar V, Count and Marquis of Provence, Count of Forcalquier, by Beatrice, daughter of Thomas I, Count of Savoy, Marquis of Italy. (See write up about her, below.)
- They were married at Sens on 27 Mar 1234.
- The young couple preferred the palace at Pontoise because Louis’s room was above his wife’s and they could meet on the staircase or go unseen to each other’s bedroom without being seen.
- He did not engage in sexual relations for the first three nights of the wedding because of an obscure passage in the apocryphal book Tobias, which says that Tobias married a woman whose seven prior husbands had died on the wedding night before they consummated the marriage. The archangel Raphael told him not to have sex for three nights. The church recommended this.
- He was devoted to his mother and took her advice in political matters, except one: Fulfilling a vow to go on a crusade in late 1244, though it took four years of preparation.
- Margaret did not like her mother-in-law. When Blanche died, Margaret was crying. Friend John of Joinville was surprised. She explained that she did not weep for her, but for her husband’s grief.
- Louis dominated his wife and children. Kind, yes, but domineering. In 1242 Margaret had to swear she would abide by royal policy regardless of her own interests. She was not as trusted as his mother Blanche was.
- In 1215 the papacy said confession was obligatory once a year, but Louis did this weekly and kept on ready confessors night and day.
- There are no reports of mistresses or affairs.
- He dressed drably. He watered down his wine. He drank beer only because he did not like it.
- He handfed poor men and washed the feet of monks.
- He secretly carried a flagellation instrument of five small iron chains with small ivory boxes at the end. He gave such things as gifts to his friends and families. He required his main confessor Geoffrey of Beaulieu to hit him with the whip. If he did so too softly, the king asked him to hit harder.
- He suffered from erysipelas (red rash) that broke out three or four times a year.
- To reform his realm, he deployed investigators to identify injustices in his government. The investigators were friars and clerics and mendicants, who took the job seriously. The people appreciated the efforts.
- In 1243 Louis crushed the Cathar or Albigenses heresy in the south of France. The defenders resisted. Even women “manned” stone-throwing machines. The bishop of Albi manned the trebuchet against them. A traitor told the French army how to get in the fortress, which surrendered on 2 Mar. They had to recant or die. On 16 Mar 200 Cathars were burned on a great pyre at the foot of castle hill.
- Now Louis had a port from which to launch campaigns against Muslims. He wanted to convert Muslims. “If the whole visible world were mine, I would give it all in return for the salvation of souls.” And “I would not even want to return to my realm of France provided that I gained for God your [the sultan of Egypt’s] soul and that of other infidels.” (qtd. in Bradbury). He saw Muhammad as a magician and enchanter and the Quran as literally full of sh*t.
- While ill, he had a vision: “My spirit has long been over the sea, and if God wishes it, my body will follow and conquer the land from the Saracens.” Many tried to stop him from launching the crusade, but he did not listen.
- In 1248, Louis went to the church St. Denis and took the oriflamme (standard of the church) and the pilgrim’s scrip (wallet) and staff. He departed with his wife and three brothers Robert, Alphonse, and Charles on the Sixth Crusade to take the Holy Land from Muslims, who had been waging jihad for 400 years and had been blocking the trade and pilgrimage routes in cultural imperialism.
- He left with an army of 15,000-25,000 men and wintered on Cyprus. He began the invasion of Egypt in May 1249, but fierce resistance led to French defeat and Louis’s capture in April 1250. Margaret escaped capture.
- After negotiations he was ransomed, as his mother oversaw extending the one-tenth tax on the church. France had to pay 500,000 livres. The whole expedition cost 1,537,540 livres. (Wow!)
- The King’s brothers Alphonse of Poitiers (see the write up about him, below) and Charles of Anjou (see his write up) left for France, while Louis remained for the next several years in the Christian states of the Holy Land to rebuild fortifications and strategize and see the sites. He was upset that they did not visit him in prison.
- The Queen-Mother died in November 1252, and reports say that his grief was so deep that it troubled his courtiers and commanders around him. A steady stream of news told him that the conditions in France necessitated his return. He landed near Marseille.
- He was convinced that his failure during the crusades was caused by his sinfulness.
- So he restrained the excesses of the Inquisition, reintroduced the investigators to reform the administration of Paris, and transformed the administration of the provinces.
- One of the benefits of increase was an improvement in law and order. He sought to end private wars. He demanded a forty-day cooling off period before any baronial conflict. He also demanded that no tournaments can be held or baronial conflicts for four years.
- He went about the realm to hear cases personally. Ninety percent of the petitioners who complained against the government won their cases.
- The significant of Parliament grew, which was the king’s court to make judicial decisions. In 1254, Louis instituted registering the acts of Parliament. But royal ordinance or decree was the king’s command.
- He also tightened restriction on Jews with the aim to get them to convert. He outlawed usury (interest). About 100,000 Jews lived in France, 7,500 in Paris. His persecution followed papal encouragement. He did not allow the Talmud, and copies were seized and set to flames. In one fire 22 cartloads were destroyed.
- He was stringent against citizens swearing. Sometimes he had the offender branded on his lips. A noble woman committed adultery and encouraged her lover to kill her husband. She repented and suggested to the king that he forgive her. He had her burned to death in public.
- He stopped his own brother Charles from gambling at backgammon on a ship, throwing the board and dice overboard. (Later his brothers kept playing with dice.
- In building programs, St. Denis became the necropolis for royals. Paris became a great capital of Europe, with 200,000 people and 5,000 university students. Notre Dame Cathedral was finished. He built libraries and archives. The early interior Gothic work at St. Deni was going strong in 1231. The west front of Reims was built in 1244-50. Chartres was consecrated in 1260, Amiens in 1264. By about 1260 the new Gothic style was established and dominated architecture for a century.
- He renovated coinage in 1266. He minted new symbolic gold coins and sol tournois (silver shilling). Two types of livres: the parisis and the tournois.
- As to the church, the popes were weak and French influence strong. Two French popes emerged: Urban VI and Clement IV.
- Louis resided many days in abbeys, as a monk.
- He aided the poor. He encouraged and funded numerous institutions for the poor and ill, including a hospital for the blind and a House of the Daughters of God for former prostitutes.
- He wrote a book of advice in French titled Instructions (Enseignements) for his son Philip (III) and his daughter Isabelle. Examples: He advised his son not to criticize the church. “When I think of the honor that Our Lord has done me, I prefer to put up with a hurt rather cause a breach between myself and the church” (Qtd by Bradbury). “Uphold the poor rather than the rich until you know the truth; when the truth is known, do justice” (Qtd. in Bradbury).
- He was an avid collector of relics. Supposedly the Holy Nail, one of the three that pinned Christ to the cross, went missing from St. Denis on 28 Feb 1232. Louis said he would rather have his best city destroyed than lose the nail. He advertized the loss in Paris with criers, offering 100 livres. The nail was recovered by a miracle.
- But not even Louis could match Henry III’s public display of piety. In travelling to France, Henry stopped every time he saw a church with an open door and a priest and made him perform mass. Louis ordered the priests to stay out of site and the doors closed.
- In foreign policy Henry III of England tried to win back some of his grandfather’s territories in France, but he was easily rebuffed. In 1259, he signed the Treaty of Paris. He had to accept the loss of Anjou, Maine, Touraine, Poitou, and Normandy (huge!), but retained Gascony.
- In the late 1260s he committed himself to another crusade. He took the oriflamme and pilgrim symbols at St. Denis on 14 Mar 1270. He walked barefoot to Notre Dame. At Vincennes he said farewell to Queen Margaret.
- His army of 5,000 to 10,000 strong succeeded only in taking Carthage.
- His son John-Tristan died on 3 Aug 1270, for dysentery or typhus struck the army.
- The king fell ill. He could not speak for four days. He lay out on a bed covered with ashes. He crossed his arms on his chest. His final words were religious, including “Jerusalem! Jerusalem!” He begged for God’s mercy on his people. His final words, in Latin, were to commend his spirit to God. He died, probably from typhus, on 25 Aug 1270, at Carthage, at three o’clock in the afternoon.
- His body was boiled and was taken back to Saint-Denis and laid to rest. Miracles were claimed in the presence of the bones. His grandson Philip IV wanted to have his remains moved to Ste. Chapelle. The overseers of St. Denis resisted the removal (offerings were made from pilgrims). Most of Louis’s head was moved to Ste. Chapelle and a rib went to Notre Dame. Certain bones remained at St. Denis, including the chin, teeth and lower jaw.
- A few years later canonization was set in motion. In 1297 he was raised to sainthood as St. Louis the Confessor.
They had five sons:
Philip (III), King of France;
Jean or John, a.k.a. Tristan, Count of Valois, Crécy, and Nevers;
Pierre or Peter, Count of Alençon, Blois, Chartres, and Avênes;
Robert, Count of Clermont-en-Beauvais, who married Beatrice of Burgundy, though one researcher says she was of Bourbon (see the write up about him);
They had six daughters:
Blanche: She was the firstborn, and the bishop of Paris had to console Louis that the child was not a son and heir;
Isabelle, wife of Thibaut II, King of Navarre;
Blanche, wife of Fernando de la Cerda;
Marguerite, wife of Jean or John I, Duke of Lorraine, Brabant, and Limburg;
Agnes, who married by contract dated 20 Oct 1272 Robert II, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Auxonne and Chalon, King of Thessalonica, Chamberlain of France, Lieutenant of the King in Lyonnais, third son of Hugues (Hugh) IV, Duke of Burgundy, and so on. Robert died at Vernon-sur-Seine on 21 Mar 1306 and was buried in the chapel of Citeaux Abbey. Robert left a will dated 25 Mar 1298. She died at Chateau de Lantenay on 19 Dec 1325. Children of Agnes of France and Robert II, duke of Burgundy: Marguerite of Burgundy, who married Louis X;
Jeanne or Joan of Burgundy, who married Philip VI of France, King of France through Valois line;
Marie of Burgundy, married Edouard (Edward), Count of Bar, seigneur of la Puisaye.
Margaret of Provence (c. 1221-1295)
- She was the eldest of four daughter of Count Raymond-Berenguer V of Provence. (Her sister Eleanor, second born, married King Henry III of England.)
- When Marguerite was twelve or thirteen she became the Queen of France in 1234 with her marriage to Louis IX.
- She bore in Philip, the future Philip III. She admired her mother-in-law Blanche of Castile and tried to exert the same influence over her son.
- He even took a vow that he would obey her until she was thirty. Louis had the ill-considered oath cancelled.
- When Louis died in 1270, she became more demanding and asserted her political right over Provence, even raising troops to get them to submit, where Louis’s brother Charles held political authority, after his wife’s (her sister’s) death.
- The old count intended otherwise.
- After Philip and Charles of Anjou’s deaths in 1285, the situation was resolved. Philip IV granted her an income from Anjou because she protected Charles’s interests in Provence.
- She founded the Franciscan nunnery of Lourcines in 1289. She promoted the canonization of her late husband Louis.
- She died on 30 Dec 1295 at the convent of the Franciscan nuns in the Faubourg St. Marceau at Paris 20 Dec 1295. She was buried in the church of the Abbey of Saint-Denis, two years before he achieved sainthood in 1297.
Blanche of Castile (1166-1252)
- She was the granddaughter of King Henry II of England. His daughter Eleanor married Alphonse (Alfonso) VIII, King of Castile.
- Blanche was born at Palencia in Castile before 4 Mar 1188.
- And so a Spanish-English woman married Prince Louis of France in the church of Port-Mort (Eure) in Normandy 23 May 1200.
- He reigned briefly as Louis VIII (r. 1223-26), and she took over as regent for her son Louis IX in 1226-36 and 1248-52.
- The army her husband commanded was still intact and she maintained control over it. She was able to deal with revolts against the boy-king without alienating allies or leading them to believe they had power over her.
- She took swift and decisive action against the northerners, which induced the southerners to negotiate their grievances.
- By 1229 and the Treaty of Meaux-Paris, Languedoc admitted defeat. Under her watch the English, traditional enemies, never effectively took back lost territories like Normandy, which the English under King John had lost in 1204.
- As her son grew, however, her role in government diminished, gradually. When her son warred in the East on Crusade in 1244, she kept things stable at home.
- She was devout and so supported the church, particularly the Cistercian order.
- As a Castilian, she fiercely supported Spain’s reconquest from the Moors. She supported rustics who declared themselves crusaders and were determine to rescue the King, but these country crusaders rioted in Paris and pillaged towns, so she organized the army who crushed them.
- She managed a two-year extension of the one-tenth clerical tax to ransom Louis when he was captured in Egypt.
- She died at Paris on 26 Nov 1252 and was buried in the church of Maubisson Abbey near Pontoise. Her son Louis, still in the Holy Land, grieved so profoundly that it troubled his courtiers and commanders.
- He was the son of Louis VIII, King of France, and Blanche of Castile and brother to Louis IX. In 1246, the crown settled him in the counties of Anjou and Maine.
- He married Beatrice of Provence earlier that year, which gave him theoretical authority in the county.
- He had to reduce the rebel nobles with the help of his mother-in-law, his wife’s sisters, the Queens of England and France, after the death of his wife in the later 1250s.
- Charles defeated the Hohenstaufen dynasty in 1266 and so became the King of Sicily (Charles I), and he became the ruler (senator) of Rome, imperial vicar of Tuscany, overlord of Albania, and possessor of concessions in Tunisia, when he commanded his brother’s army there.
- He also secured the rights of Marie of Antioch to become the King of Jerusalem in 1277.
- He was going to invade the Greek kingdom that had be retaken by the Paleologoi, after the Franks dominated there from 1204-1261. But troubles in Sicily stopped him.
- Finally the King of Aragon (in Spain), who had married a princess of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, claimed Sicily.
- The great nativist uprising against Charles in Sicily resulted in French royal aid.
- In 1285, Charles’s nephew, King Philip III of France launched a crusade against Aragon in 1285, where Philip perished.
- Charles died early in the same year.
- He was the brother of Louis IX, King of France (St. Louis), and the crown settled him in the territory of Poitou in 1241.
- The nobles of the region resisted and rallied around the English King Henry III, but the cadet-prince told them the distant King of France would be their overlord.
- Yet authority was handed over to Alphonse at a great festival in the heart of Poitou, and again the nobles didn’t like it, so he had to put down a rebellion.
- His mother Blanche of Castile, a fierce woman, also put down a revolt in Toulouse at the death of Alphonse’s father-in-law Count Raymond VII.
- By merely a show of force led by Queen-Mother Blanche, Toulouse capitulated.
- Governing from Paris, he also reformed the administration of his realms, which calmed the discontent in his territories.
- He detested Judaism and exploited the wealth of Jews in his domains.
- He had married Jeanne or Joan of Toulouse, and though she never bore him children, he remained with her.
- They went on Louis’s crusade in 1270, and they died within a few days of each other on the trip homeward, in 1271. Their holdings went to the crown.
Robert of France (1256-1317)
- Born in 1256, he was the eldest son of King Louis IX of France and his wife Marguerite of Provence (see write up about her).
- Robert was the Count of Clermont-en-Beauvais, Chamberlain of France, and in right of his wife, seigneur of Bourbon, Charolais, Saint-Just, and Creil.
- He married at Clermont-en-Beauvais in 1272 Beatrice of Burgundy, daughter of Jean (John) of Burgundy, seigneur of Charolais and Bourbon, by Agnes daughter of Archambaud IX, seigneur of Bourbon.
- They had three sons: Louis (I), duke of Bourbon, Count of Clermont, la Marche, Castres. He will be the first in the Bourbon dynasty; Jean (John), baron of Charolais, seigneur of Saint Just in Champagne; Pierre (Peter), archdeacon of Paris.
- Robert and Beatrice had three daughters: Blanche, wife of Robert VII, Count of Auvergne and Boulogne; Marie (nun); and Marguerite, wife of Jean (John), Count of Namur, seigneur of l’Ecluse.
- In 1269 Robert’s father, King Louis IX granted him and his heirs the county of Clermont and other counties. Robert accompanied his brother, Philip III, King of France, on an expedition to Toulouse in 1272.
- Beatrice died at Murat Castle in Bourbonnais 1 Oct 1310 and was buried in the Church of the Cordeliers at Champagne in Bourbonnias. He died 7 Feb 1317 and was buried in the Church of the Jacobins in Paris.
- The main thing: His son Louis (I) will begin the Bourbon dynasty.
Robert I (r. 922-23) (House of Robertines)
Hugh the Great (r. 938-956)
Hugh Capet (r. 987-996)
Robert II (r. 996-1031)
Henri I (r. 1031-60)
Philip I (r. 1059 or 1060-1108)
Louis VI (r. 1108-1037)
Louis VII (r. 1137-1180)
Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)
Louis VIII (r. 1223-1226)
Louis IX, the Saintly King (r. 1226-1270)
Philip III (r. 1270-1285)
Philip IV (r. 1285-1314)
Louis X (r. 1314-1316)
Philip V (r. 1316-1322)
Charles IV (r 1322-1328) (last Capetian king)
Pippin, Great-Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)
HOUSE OF VERMANDOIS
Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).
Stephen Church, Henry III: A Simple and God-Fearing King, Penguin Books, (UK: Penguin Random House and Allen Lane, 2017).
René de la Croix (duc de Castries), Kings and Queens of France, trans. Anne Dobell (Knopf, 1979.
Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).
Michael Prestwich. Edward I. Rev. ed. Yale Monarch series. (Yale UP, 1997).
Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 volumes (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).