HOW KING LOUIS CAME TO EGYPT
 WHEN I came to Egypt, returning from Baghdad, I found the country in no small commotion. Report travels fast from
the West to Egypt, and things of which I had not heard at all, or by the very faintest rumour, while I tarried
at Baghdad, were commonly spoken of as established beyond all doubt in Egypt. Now the substance of what I now
heard was this. The taking of Jerusalem by the barbarians from the North of which I have spoken above had so
greatly moved the hearts of the people of the West, that at a council of the bishops of Italy, Germany, and
other lands it had been resolved that there should be made yet another Crusade.
Preachers of this Crusade had gone through all the kingdoms of the West, and, by common consent, King Louis,
ninth of the name, had been chosen to the command. It was told also how this Louis had bound himself in the
 solemn way to service of the Cross. He and his brothers with him, had gone to the Church of St. Denys (whom
they call the patron saint of the land of France), and there had received from the hand of one sent for that
purpose by the Pope of Rome, the Banner of the Golden Fire, and the two things which pilgrims are wont to
carry, namely, the purse for alms and the wayfarer's staff. All the nations of the West were bound under great
curses to keep the peace among themselves, that no one might take advantage for his own profit of his
KING LOUIS RECEIVING THE ORIFLAMME, ALMS-PURSE, AND PILGRIM'S STAFF.
So much I heard on my first coming, and those who talked with me, men of experience, doubted not that these
were true tidings. A few days after there came a galley of the Sultan's, with all sails set, and this though
the wind was over-strong for so much canvas, but the captain thought that he could not make too much haste
when he was bringing news of so great moment. And the news was this, that the ships that carried the army of
the King of France had come to the island of Cyprus. It is true that the man judged rightly; yet, as it fell
out, there was no need of haste, for the King tarried many months in Cyprus. He came there when the summer was
about to end, but
de-  parted not till it had well-nigh come again.
I am no soldier; for though I have followed many occupations, that of the soldier is wholly unknown to me;
nevertheless I have a certain power of judging gained from the experience of many years. The leaders of
expeditions who tarry over-long ere they begin their work, lose thereby no small part of their strength. It is
with them even as it is with an arrow from the bow, which flies the fastest when it is first loosed from the
But now I will tell how King Louis and his army fared in this expedition. Some of the things which I shall
relate I saw with my own eyes; some I heard from others, among whom I make special mention of two, the Lord of
Joinville, a noble of no small renown, and a learned man withal, whom the King held in high honour, and Sir
Pierre Chevetier, a priest. A priest he was, as might be known from the shaving of his crown, for this is the
custom among priests in the West, but to see how he bore himself both in the tent and the field, no one had
taken him for ought but a man-at-arms, and one who had followed the camp from his youth. Never a soldier have
 that was more ready with a blow, or more rough of tongue. And before I go farther I will tell this man's
story, and how, priest as he was, he came to be serving in the King's army. I myself heard it from the Lord of
Joinville, and I will relate it, as near as may be, in his own words.
"I went to the King on a certain day when his great nobles took an oath that they would be true and loyal to
his children, if any mischance should befall him on the way. He would have had me also take the oath, but I
would not, for he had not the right to demand it"—it is passing strange how these nobles hold by their
rights; a king is but half a king with them.
"As I went I saw on a cart three dead men, officers of the King all of them, and it was told me that they had
been all slain by the same clerk, and that their bodies were being carried to the King. It was said, and I
doubt not, that these men, for all that they were royal officers, were villains and thieves, who were wont to
lurk in lonely places to rob the passers by. This they had often done unpunished, but when they came to try
their villainies on
 this clerk, it cost them dear. They stripped him, indeed, of his clothes, leaving him but his shirt, for they
took him unawares and when he carried no arms. The clerk ran to his lodging, and took his cross-bow from the
place where it hung, and gave his hanger to a lad that he might bear it for him. Now the officers were yet in
the lane where they had robbed him, waiting, maybe, for others whom they might serve in the same fashion. When
the clerk saw them he cried, ` Ho! villains, you shall die for your misdoings!' But they took no heed of him.
Then he let fly a bolt from his cross-bow, and smote one of the three to the heart—I have never seen man
that had a more deadly aim. When the man fell to the ground, the two others, his companions, fled on foot as
fast as they could. But the clerk, taking the hanger from the lad, pursued them—and verily if he was
sure of aim so was he also swift of foot. One of them, seeing that he was like to be overtaken, sought to
climb over a hedge into a garden hard by; but the clerk caught him as he climbed, and dealt him such a blow
with the hanger on the leg that but for the boot it had fallen to the ground. As for the other, he thought to
hide himself in a house, which was open to the street, for the people of the
 house had not shut it up. But it availed not. The clerk smote him on the head, and clave it to the teeth. This
done, the clerk gave himself up to the provost, and the provost brought him to the King and told him all that
had come to pass. ` Sir clerk,' said the King, ` you are a good man-at-arms, but an ill priest; for priests
may not do such deeds as these. Come, therefore, with me over the sea, and do your duty in the way that is
best befitted to you. But know this, that I will not suffer any man in my army to behave himself amiss.' "It
was then from this priest and from the Lord Joinville, with whom I became acquainted as will be told
hereafter, that I heard many things which did not come within my own knowledge. But in the telling of them
again I shall not distinguish between things seen and things heard.
King Louis sailing from Cyprus about the 24th day of May came with a fair wind to Egypt in some four days,
having a great fleet of ships, numbering in all, it was said, some eighteen hundred, great and small. And now
there fell upon him the first stroke of misfortune. There arose a strong wind from the south which scattered
the fleet, so that not more than a third part remained with the King. As for the others, they were blown far
 to the north, even to the town of Acre, and, though none were cast away, it was many days before they could
return. Now the King's purpose was to lay siege to the town of Damietta, a town which is built on the midmost
of the seven mouths of the Nile. It was commonly agreed that whoever should hold possession of this said town
of Damietta might go whithersoever he would in the whole land of Egypt, and further, that whosoever should be
master of Egypt could do what he would in the land of Palestine.
When the King came with what was left to him over against the city of Damietta there was much debate between
him and his counsellors as to what might best be done. The counsellors, for the most part, would have had him
delay his landing till they that had been separated from him should return. Nor did this counsel seem to be
devoid of reason. The army of the Sultan was drawn up on the sea-shore, a very great array of men, most nobly
equipped with gilded arms, and with such a din of drums and trumpets that even those used to battle might well
have been amazed. But the King would have none of such advice. "Nay," said he, "I have no mind to turn back,
having, by the grace of God, come so
 far. Say you that I should do well to wait for those who have been separated from us? That I would gladly do,
for it grieves me much that they lose, so far, their share in this great enterprise. But two reasons constrain
me to do otherwise. Firstly, it would put the infidel in great heart if they should see me so delay to make
trial of them; and, secondly, there is no harbour here or safe anchorage where I might wait to good purpose.
Nay, my lords, it is my purpose to attack the enemy without delay, for the Lord our God can save by few or by
The King being thus steadfastly resolved to have no more delay, his nobles and knights could not choose but
obey him. This being so, they strove among themselves who should be the first to come to blows with the enemy.
There were small boats with the larger of the ships, and these were filled with men and rowed to the shore.
This was not done wholly without loss, for some slipped as they descended from the ships, or missed their
feet, the boat moving from under them with the motion of the waves, so that some were drowned and others
Among the first to reach the shore was the Lord of Joinville. When the Turks saw him
 and his companions they spurred their horses and charged. But the Christians made a barricade, fixing their
shields in the sand, and by the shields their lances, with the points towards the enemy. The horsemen came so
far that they were well-nigh pierced with the spear-points. Then they turned and fled.
Meanwhile they took the great flag of Saint Denys, of which mention has been made above, from the ship in
which it was, and carried it to the shore. But when the King saw the flag on the shore he would tarry no
longer, but leapt into the sea, accoutred as he was, and the water came up to his armpits. So he made his way,
not without difficulty, to the place where the Lord of Joinville and his companions stood. When he saw the
Saracens, he said to the knight that followed him, "Who are these?" And the knight answered, "These, sir, are
the Saracens." When he heard this he put his lance in rest, and held his shield before him, and would have
charged them, but his counsellors would not suffer it.
When the enemy saw that the King and his men had landed, they sent a message to the Sultan by carrier-pigeons;
this they did three times. But it so chanced that the Sultan was
 in a fit of the fever which troubled him in the summer time, and he sent no answer. Then his men, thinking
that he was dead, for they knew already that he was sick, fled straightway from the town of Damietta. When the
King knew this for certain, the bishops that were in the army sang the Te Deum with great joy.
It was ill done of the Saracens to leave the town of Damietta in this fashion. Even the bridge of boats by
which they passed over the river they left unhurt. Had they broken it they had done much damage to the
Christians. One thing they did, but whether by chance or of set purpose cannot be said; they burned the market
where were gathered all the provision of food and the stores; and from this there came no small trouble.
It should be said that the army which King Louis brought with him numbered thirty thousand men.
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