ST. LOUIS IS TAKEN PRISONER
 IN the summer of 1248 Louis unfurled the Oriflamme,
gathered together his army, and
set sail for the east.
Queen Blanche was to rule the country in her son's
"Most sweet, fair son," she said as she bade him
farewell, "fair, tender son, I
shall never see thee more, full well my heart assures
me." Queen Margaret sailed
with Louis, for she had refused to be parted from her
When Richard the Lion-hearted left Jerusalem, the city,
you remember, was in the
hands of the Sultan of Egypt.
It was still in the hands of a Sultan of Egypt, though
the one with whom Richard
made a truce must long have passed away.
King Louis therefore determined to go, not to
Jerusalem, but to Egypt, to attack the
sultan where he was strongest. Then after crushing his
power in Egypt, he hoped to
go on to Palestine.
After spending nearly eight months at Cyprus, and
laying in a supply of provisions,
the French ships sailed to Damietta, a town at the
mouth of the Nile.
In June 1249 the crusaders at length caught sight of
the coast of Egypt. There
before them, too, was the town of Damietta. But between
them and the town, drawn up
on the beach, were the sultan's armies. He had heard
that the crusaders were
approaching, and he was ready to receive them.
The king was in the foremost ship, from whose prow
 the Oriflamme. As the
boat neared the shore Louis leaped into the sea, though
it reached to his shoulder,
and holding his shield high in one hand, his lance in
the other, he struggled to the
shore, followed by his whole army.
Only one ship lay out at sea. In it was Queen Margaret,
eagerly watching how the
battle would go, anxiously praying that her lord might
Followed by his army the king dashed upon the sultan's
troops, and drove them back
upon the town of Damietta. The Saracens were without a
leader, for the sultan was
ill A panic seized them and they fled, leaving Damietta
with its strong walls and
stores of provisions in the hands of the crusaders.
Queen Margaret then came with
her ladies and her guard to join the king, and to hold
her court in the conquered
And now Louis, instead of marching on, lingered at
Damietta, while the waters of the
Nile rose and overflowed its banks, as it does each
year. For five weary months it
was impossible for the army to leave the town.
While the crusaders were shut up in Damietta, the
sultan had recovered from his
illness, and was at a town called Mansourah,
strengthening the walls of the city
against the crusaders.
When the waters of the Nile had gone down, the
crusading army at length set out on
their march to Cairo, the capital of Egypt. To reach
Cairo they must pass the town
of Mansourah, where the sultan awaited them.
After a difficult march the army approached the city,
only to find that a stream of
water separated them from their enemies. Before they
could cross they must build a
causeway over which to pass and attack the Saracens.
But while the crusaders tried
to build the causeway, the Saracens were attacking them
from the walls and towers of
Mansourah, and also sallying out and destroying their
work. King Louis saw that it
would be impossible ever to finish the causeway. As he
gave the order for the
 to withdraw from their difficult task,
an Egyptian stole into the
camp and offered to show the crusaders a ford, if they
would give him money as a
The offer was accepted, Robert, Count of Artois, the
king's brother, begging to be
allowed to pass over first with his men. He promised to
guard the ford on the
farther side until the whole army had crossed.
But having crossed the ford, the count saw a band of
Saracens ready to flee at his
approach. At the sight he forgot his promise to guard
the ford, stuck spurs to his
horse, and, followed by his men, pursued the enemy into
the town of Mansourah.
Robert thought the town was his. But he was yet to pay
for his rash deed. It was
only a small part of the sultan's army that had fled
before the count and his
followers. The other now came up, surrounded the town,
and before Robert was aware,
he and his men were fighting for their lives in the
place they thought they had
taken as easily as they took Damietta.
The king's brother was slain, and three hundred of his
knights also perished within
the walls of Mansourah.
Meanwhile Louis with the main body of his army had
crossed the ford, to find the
other bank unguarded by his brother Robert. The enemy
fell upon them from every
side, while the French army, unable to keep its ranks,
fought in small bands.
Louis's orders were unheard in the clashing of arms and
dire confusion that had
overtaken the army. The king himself fought as only a
gallant knight could fight,
always at the point of danger.
Joinville, a famous chronicler of the times, says,
"Never have I seen a knight of so
great worth; he towered above all his battle by the
head and shoulders."
At one time it seemed that Louis would be taken
prisoner. Dashing upon the enemy
with only a small bodyguard, in his haste he
outstripped his men, and found himself
alone in the midst of six fierce Saracens. But Louis
 not know what fear
meant. He fought so bravely that the six fierce
Saracens found it impossible to take
him, and before long his bodyguard rode up and rescued
their king from his perilous
One charge more, one wild determined charge, and the
French had won the day, but at
terrible cost, for many men were slain, many wounded.
Three days later the Saracens returned in great force,
and attacked the king's camp.
Again the French were victorious, but there was
scarcely a knight that was not
wounded, while the numbers of the slain were not to be
Instead of now retreating to Damietta, the king
lingered on the battlefield until
the army had buried its dead. Meanwhile, fever broke
out in the camp, and while the
French let the weeks slip by, the enemy watched the
river, so that it was wellnigh
impossible for Louis to get provisions for his army.
During these sad days the king proved utterly
unselfish. No one ever heard him
complain, no one ever saw him provide for his own
comfort. Though ill himself, he
went in and out of the camp among his fever-stricken
soldiers, tending them with his
own hands, speaking so kindly to them that they were
content to die were he but by
One of his own-servants, as he lay dying, was heard to
murmur,"I am waiting for my
lord, our saintly king, to come. I will not depart this
life until I have seen him
and spoken to him, and then will I die."
After six week's had passed, the king gave the order to
retreat to Damietta. The
ships were prepared to receive the sick and wounded,
but Louis himself, though now
attacked by fever, refused to go on board. "Please God,
I will rather die than
desert my people," said Louis the Saint, and he placed
himself in the rearguard of
 The king was too ill to bear the weight of his
armour, or to ride his
battle-horse, so his servants helped him to mount a
little Arab steed covered with
silken trappings. The retreat began, but before they
had gone far the king grew
worse. He could no longer ride the little Arab steed.
His knights carried him to an
Egyptian house, and sought to guard him from the enemy.
But the Saracens burst into
the house, and the brave, unselfish king was captured,
while the whole army was
either slain or taken captive.
Louis was thrown into prison, and from the window he
could see his soldiers as they
were led out one by one, and asked if they would give
up their faith in Christ and
become followers of the prophet Mahomet. If they
refused they were slain before the
eyes of their king, and this to Louis was the hardest
part of his captivity.
But he was so fearless, so patient, never flinching
even when the sultan threatened
to torture him, answering only, "I am your prisoner,
you can do with me what you
will," that his captor was touched, and offered to give
him up on the payment of a
heavy ransom. Unselfish as ever, Louis refused to be
set free unless the soldiers
who still remained in prison were also allowed to
return to France.
At length terms were arranged. Damietta was given up as
a ransom for the king, an
enormous sum of money was paid to the sultan that the
French soldiers might also be
set free, and a truce was made for ten years.
Then Louis being free went back to Damietta, where
Queen Margaret awaited her lord.
Her courage alone had kept the soldiers, who held the
town, from forsaking their
posts when the king was taken prisoner. While the queen
had looked with tear-stained
eyes for Louis's return a little son was born, whom she
named John Tristan, in
memory of her sorrow. For Tristan comes from the French
word triste, which is the
same as our word "sad."
The king was now urged by his knights to go home to
France, but bidding those return
who wished, Louis
him-  self set out for Palestine.
Here he laboured for four
years, setting free the Christians who had been taken
captive by the Turks, and
strengthening the towns which were still Christian
Then, in 1258, Louis heard that his mother, Queen
Blanche, had died. and he knew
that it was his duty to go home. In September 1254, six
years from the time he had
set out, the king was once again in his own country.
The joy of his people knew no
bounds. They lighted bonfires, they danced, they sang
in the streets to show their
delight, until at length the good king, "who was pained
to see the expense, the
dances, and the vanities indulged in . . . put a stop to
For sixteen years King Louis stayed at home, ruling his
realm so wisely that his
people loved him more and more. The poor, the sick, the
sad, were his special care.
Every day, in whatever town the king might be, six
score, that is, one hundred and
twenty poor people, were fed at his table. And often
the good king was to be seen
cutting bread, pouring out wine, and himself giving
food and drink to the folk who
gathered around his palace doors.
"THE GOOD KING WAS TO BE SEEN GIVING FOOD AND DRINK TO THE FOLK."
But alas! neither Louis's love for his people, nor
theirs for him, could keep the
king at home. The Cross of the crusader was still
fastened to his cloak, nay more,
it was branded on his heart.
In the spring of 1270 the king determined to go on
Joinville tells us that when Louis set out he was so
weak that he was able neither
to ride nor walk. The chronicler himself sometimes
carried the king in his arms from
one place to another, while at other times he was
placed in a Utter. It was little
wonder that the people mourned when they heard of the
new crusade. They feared that
never more would they see their beloved king.
With his three sons and his army, Louis sailed this
time for Africa, landing at
Tunis, under the rays of a burning
 sun. Here he
halted for reinforcements,
which Charles of Aniou, his brother, had promised to
While the crusaders waited, fever and disease attacked
the army. The king himself,
already weak, was smitten with fever.
In his illness Louis did not forget his people. Calling
his eldest son Philip to his
side he said. "Fair son I pray thee win the love of the
people of thy kingdom. For
truly I would rather that a Scot should come out of
Scotland and rule the people
well and justly, than that thou shouldest govern them
Then, lying back in bed, he murmured, "Fair Sir God,
have mercy on this people that
bideth here, and bring them hack to their own land."
The day before he died he bade his knights lay him on a
bed of ashes, and thus "this
most loyal man" passed away.
St Louis's body was brought to a church in Pans which
he himself had built, and his
tomb is still to be seen in this church, which is
called Saint Chapelle.
Louis was the last of the heroes of the crusades. After
his death the Christians
were gradually driven out of Palestine, and the land
was then left in the hands of