THE CRUSADE OF ST LOUIS (THE EIGHTH CRUSADE)
Some grey crusading knight austere
Who bore St Louie company
And came home hurt to death. . . .
MATTHEW ARNOLD: A Southern Night.
HUNDRED years earlier, the news of the
destruction of Jerusalem would have stricken
all Europe with horror and roused her to action.
It was not so now. That earlier fervour of religion
which had sent pilgrims rejoicing to an almost certain
death had died away, and had been replaced by a more
practical form of faith which found its outlet in a zeal for
converting the souls of men, and healing their bodies,
rather than in a thirst for the blood of infidels.
In the narrow dirty lanes of cities the inspired monk
or eager friar was still to be found; but the followers of
St Francis of Assisi or St Dominic were soldiers of the
Cross in a more Christ-like, if a less military, spirit than
Peter the Hermit or Bernard of Clairvaux, and stirred
up the people rather to cleaner and healthier lives than
to take arms for the Holy War.
Amongst the sovereigns of Europe at this time, of whom
Frederick II. was a fair example, there yet remained one
of the old type, one who was filled with the purest zeal
 for religion mingled with the desire to win glory as became
a true knight.
This was Louis IX. of France—the St Louis of the
Eighth Crusade—who, if he accomplished nothing towards
establishing Christian rule in the Holy Land, yet
remains to us in history as an example of the very few who
took up the Cross and carried on the war, inspired only
by holy and unselfish motives.
"Louis and his fair queen appear, indeed, as brilliant
stars, shining through the blackness of a sky overcast
with clouds; but they could not dispel the darkness, or
lend more than a transitory gleam of brightness to
illumine the gloomy prospects."
King Louis found a devoted hero-worshipper and
chronicler in the Sire de Joinville, a great French noble,
who accompanied him upon the Eighth Crusade, and
whose story will often be told here in his own words.
Louis IX. came to the French throne at no easy time,
for he was but a boy of ten, and the powerful French
barons were eager to win their independence of the royal
power. But they found their match in the Queen
Regent, Blanche of Castile, who, for the first time, put her
dependence upon the people of her land, and trusted to
them to defend their young king against the rebellion
of the nobles. She also, as we have seen, won over to her
side Count Theobald of Champagne, by whose help the
rebels were soon forced to yield, and who, for love of her,
afterwards became one of the leaders in the Seventh
The young Louis was brought up by her more as a
monk than a king, and, as he grew older, his own tastes
turned entirely in the same direction. "You are not a
 king of France," cried a woman who was trying to win his
favour in an unjust cause, "you are a king only of
priests and monks. It is a pity that you are king of
France. You ought to be turned out."
"You speak truly," was the gentle answer, "it has
pleased God to make me king; it had been well had He
chosen some one better able to govern this kingdom
Yet he was one of France's wisest rulers, taking a
personal interest in the troubles of her people that was rare,
indeed, in those days.
"Ofttimes it happened that he would go, after his
mass, and seat himself in the wood of Vincennes, and
lean against an oak, and make us sit round him. And
all those who had any cause in hand came and spoke
to him, without hindrance of usher or any other
person. Then would he ask, out of his own mouth, 'Is
there anyone who has a cause in hand?' And those
who had a cause stood up. Then would he say, 'Keep
silence all and you shall be heard in turn, one after the
other.' And when he saw that there was anything to
amend in the words of those who spoke on their own
behalf, or on behalf of any other person, he would himself,
out of his own mouth, amend what he had said."
His love of justice is seen in his answer to the Pope,
when Gregory, after a second violent quarrel with the
Emperor Frederick, had deposed him and offered the
crown to Louis' brother. Gentle as was the King's usual
speech, he replies now, "Whence is this pride and
daring of the Pope, who thus disinherits a king who has
no superior nor even an equal among Christians—a king
not convicted of the crimes laid to his charge? To us
he has not only appeared innocent, but a good
neigh-  bour; we see no cause for suspicion either of his worldly
loyalty or of his Catholic faith. This we know, that he
has fought valiantly for our Lord Christ both by sea and
land. So much religion we have not found in the Pope,
who endeavoured to confound and wickedly supplant
him in his absence, while he was engaged in the cause of
There can be no doubt that it was in his character as a
Crusader that Frederick mainly attracted Louis, for he
had little else in common with him. For a long time the
French King nursed in secret his desire to follow his
hero's example, since his mother would not hear of his
deserting his own kingdom. But at length the clear call
"It happened, as God so willed, that a very grievous
sickness came upon the king in Paris, and brought him
to such extremity that one of the ladies who was tending
him wished to draw the cloth over his face, saying he was
dead; but another lady, who was on the other side of the
bed, would not suffer it, saying that the soul was still in
his body. And as he listened to the debate between these
two ladies, Our Lord wrought within him and soon sent
him health, for before that he had been dumb and could
"And as soon as he could speak, he asked that they
should give him the Cross, and they did so.
"When the queen, his mother, heard that speech had
come back to him, she made as great joy thereof as ever
she could. But when she knew that he had taken the
Cross—as also he himself told her—she made as great
mourning as if she had seen him dead."
Not even his mother's grief could hinder this ardent
soldier of the Cross, whose chief wish now was to
per-  suade his nobles to follow him. At the Christmas of
that year he presented each of his barons with a new
robe. When these were put on, they were found to have
the red cross embroidered between the shoulders. The
wearers had "taken the cross," and must accompany
Two years were spent in preparing supplies, and at the
end of the year 1248, King Louis, with the Queen, his
wife, embarked and sailed to Cyprus, where he remained
until the spring of 1249. On landing in Egypt at the
Point of Limesol, he met with a strange occurrence.
THE LANDING OF ST. LOUIS IN EGYPT
"The king," says Joinville, "landed on the day of
Pentecost. After we had heard mass, a fierce and
powerful wind, coming from the Egyptian side, arose in
such sort, that out of two thousand eight hundred
knights, whom the king was taking into Egypt, there
remained no more than seven hundred whom the wind
had not separated from the king's company, and carried
away to Acre and other strange lands, nor did they
afterwards return to the king of a long while."
This sounds like a story from the "Arabian Nights,"
and one can understand the King's haste to escape, with
the remnant left him, from the region of this mysterious
wind of the desert. So he sailed to Damietta, "and we
found there, arrayed on the seashore, all the power of
the Sultan—a host fair to look upon, for the Sultan's
arms are of gold, and when the sun struck upon them
they were resplendent. The noise they made with their
cymbals and horns was fearful to listen to."
Waiting only until he saw his ensign of St Denis safe
on shore, "the king went across his ship with large steps,
and would not leave from following the ensign, but leapt
into the sea, which was up to his arm-pits. So he went,
 with his shield hung to his neck, and his helmet on his
head, and his lance in his hand, till he came to his people
who were on the shore."
Seized with panic at the sight of the many brave
ships and the landing of the Crusaders, the garrison of
Damietta fled without striking a blow. Says Joinville,
"The Saracens sent thrice to the Sultan, by carrier-
pigeons, to say that the king had landed, but never
received any message in return, because the Sultan's
sickness was upon him. Wherefore they thought that
the Sultan was dead, and abandoned Damietta.
"Then the king sent for all the prelates of the host,
and all chanted with a loud voice, Te Deuin laudamus.
"Afterwards the king mounted his horse, and we all
likewise, and we went and encamped before Damietta."
There they remained until they were joined by the
King's brother, the Count of Poitiers; and after that a
march was made upon Babylon, "because, if you wanted
to kill the serpent, you must first crush its head."
Now when they tried to cross the delta of the Nile,
which at that part of Egypt lies between four "branches"
of the river, they encamped between the stream that
flows to Damietta, and that which flows to Tanis, and
found the whole host of the Sultan lying upon the farther
side of the latter, and ready to defend the passages.
The King at once gave orders to build a causeway
across the river; but as fast as this was made the
Saracens dug holes and let in the water which had been
dammed up, thus washing away the work. They
constantly harassed the camp also, and tried to cut off the
French army in the rear; and when they began to use
Greek fire also, the hearts of the Crusaders began
somewhat to quail.
 "The fashion of the Greek fire was such that it came
frontwise as large as a bottle of verjuice, and the tail of
fire that issued from it, was as large as a large lance.
The noise it made in coming was like Heaven's own
thunder. It had the seeming of a dragon flying through
the air. It gave so great a light because of the great
abundance of fire making the light, that one saw as
clearly through the camp as if it had been day. . . .
"When my Lord Walter, the good knight who was
with me, saw this, he spoke thus: 'Lord, we are in the
greatest peril that we have ever been in, for if they
set fire to our towers and we remain here, we are but
lost and burnt up; while if we leave these defences
which we have been sent to guard, we are dishonoured.
Wherefore none can defend us in this peril save God
alone. So my advice and counsel is, that every time they
hurl the fire at us, we throw ourselves on our elbows and
knees, and pray to our Saviour to keep us in this peril. . . .'
"Every time that our saintly king heard them hurling
the Greek fire, he would raise himself in his bed, and lift
up his hands to Our Saviour, and say, weeping, 'Fair
Lord God, guard me my people.'
"And verily I believe that his prayers did us good
service in our need. At night, every time the fire had
fallen, he sent one of his chamberlains to ask how we
fared, and whether the fire had done us any hurt."
At length, when things were getting very serious for
the Crusading army, there came a Bedouin, or Arab of the
desert, to the camp, and offered to show them a ford over
the river if they would pay him five hundred besants.
Risky as was the undertaking—for the offer might
have been a mere piece of treachery, with the object of
placing the host in an entirely unprotected position, and
 of drowning most of their number—the King decided in
its favour, and determined to lead the way, with his
three brothers, across the ford.
"Then, as the dawn of day was appearing, we
collected from all points and came to the Bedouin's
ford; and when we were ready we went to the stream
and our horses began to swim. When we got to the
middle of the stream, we touched ground and our horses
found footing; and on the other bank of the stream
were full three hundred Saracens, all mounted on their
"Then said I (the Sire de Joinville) to my people,
'Sirs, look only to the left hand, and let each draw
thither; the banks are wet and soft, and the horses are
falling upon their riders and drowning them.' Thereupon
we moved in such sort that we turned up the stream and
found a dry way, and so passed over, thank God! that
not one of us fell; and as soon as we had passed over,
the Turks fled."
But disaster was at hand. The Templars had been
given the post of honour in the vanguard, and close after
them came the Count of Artois, brother to the King, with
"Now it so happened that as soon as the Count of
Artois had passed over the stream, he and all his people
fell upon the Turks, who had fled before them. The
Templars notified to him that he was doing them great
despite in that, while his place was to come after them,
he was going before them, and they besought him to suffer
them to go before, as had been arranged by the king.
Now it chanced that the Count of Artois did not venture
to answer them because of my Lord Foucaud of Merle,
who held the bridle of his horse; and this Foucaud of
 Merle was a very good knight, but heard naught of what
the Templars were saying to the Count, seeing that he
was deaf, and was all the while crying, 'Out on them l
Out on them!'
"Now when the Templars saw this, they thought
they would be shamed if they suffered the Count to
outride them, so they struck spurs into their horses,
helter-skelter, and chased the Turks, and the Turks fled
before them, right through the town of Mansourah and
into the fields beyond towards Babylon.
"But when the Crusaders thought to return, the Turks
threw beams and blocks of wood upon them in the streets,
which were narrow. There were killed the Count of
Artois, the Lord of Couci, who was called Raoul, and so
many other knights that the number was reckoned at
three hundred. The Temple, as the Master has since
told me, lost there fourteen score men-at-arms, and all
The whole blame of this disastrous affair must be laid
at the door of the Count of Artois, in spite of Joinville's
attempt to put it on the shoulders of Lord Foucaud.
When the Grand Master of the Templars had warned
the Count of the risk of pursuing men who had but given
way to a moment's panic, the latter openly accused him
"Do you suppose," cried the Master, "that we have
left our homes and our substance and taken the habit
of a religious in a strange land, only to betray the Cause
of God and to forfeit our salvation?"
And with that he prepared to go to almost certain
death. Then William Longsword, son of the Earl of
Salisbury, did his best to turn the Count from such a
course of destruction, and was met with insult. "See
 how timid are these tailed English! It would be well
if the army were purged of such folk!" "At least,"
returned Longsword, "we English to-day will be where
you will not dare to touch our horses' tails."
Longsword fell that day with his face to the foe, Artois,
in trying to escape, and the whole force must have been
destroyed had not the King's division come to the rescue,
while Joinville, who tells the tale, managed to hold the
bridge across to the town. Says the latter, "We were
all covered with the darts that failed to hit the
sergeants. Now it chanced that I found a Saracen's
quilted tunic lined with tow: I turned the open side
towards me and made a shield of it, which did me good
service, for I was only wounded by their darts in five
places, and my horse in fifteen. And it chanced again
that one of my burgesses of Joinville brought me a
pennon with my arms and a lance head thereto, and every
time that we saw that the Turks pressed too hardly upon
the sergeants, we charged them and they went flying.
THE LAST FIGHT OF WILLIAM LONGSWORD
"The good Count of Soissons, in that point of danger,
jested with me, and said, 'Seneschal, let these curs
howl! We shall talk of this day yet, you and I, in
At sunset, when the King's crossbow men came up, the
Saracens fled, and Joinville, hastening to Louis,
conducted him with loving care to his tent. "And as we
were going, I made him take off his helmet, and lent him
my steel cap, so that he might have air.
"When he had passed over the river, there came to
him Brother Henry, Provost of the Hospitallers, and
kissed his mailed hand. The king asked if he had any
tidings of the Count of Artois, his brother, and the
Provost said that he had news of him indeed, for he
 knew of a certainty that his brother, the Count of Artois,
was in Paradise.
"'Ah, sire,' said the Provost, 'be of good comfort
therein, for never did King of France gain such honour
as you have gained this day. For, in order to fight your
enemies, you have passed swimmingly over a river, and
you have discomfited them, and driven them from the
field, and taken their war-engines and also their tents,
wherein you will sleep this night.'
"Then the king replied, 'Let God be worshipped for
all He has given me!' but the big tears fell from his
In spite of the Provost's cheering words, the King's
army was still in a position of great danger. That very
night an attack was made upon the camp, which was
but the first of a series of attacks which cut Louis off
entirely from Dam. ietta and forced him to retreat to the
"When I was laid in my bed," says Joinville, "when
indeed I had good need of rest because of the wounds
received the day before—no rest was vouchsafed to
me. For before it was well day, a cry went through the
camp, 'To arms! To arms!' I roused my
chamberlain, who lay at my feet, and told him to go and see what
was the matter. He came back in terror, and said,
'Up, lord, up: for here are the Saracens, who have come
on foot and mounted, and discomfited the king's sergeants
who kept guard over the engines, and have driven them
among the ropes of our tents.'
"I got up and threw a tunic over my back and a steel
cap on my head, and cried to our sergeants, 'By St
Nicholas, they shall not stay here!' My knights came
to me, all wounded as they were, and we drove the
 Saracens from among the engines, and back towards a
great body of mounted Turks."
A day or two later, the Saracens, encouraged by the
sight of the bloodstained coat of arms belonging to the
Count of Artois, which they were told was that of the
King, and that Louis was now dead, came together in a
great battle against the French host. In this fight so
many on both sides were killed that the river was full of
Then a worse thing fell upon them, for, says Joinville,
"because of the unhealthiness of the land—where it
never rains a drop of water—there came upon us the
sickness of the host, which sickness was such that the
flesh of our legs dried up and the skin became spotted,
black and earth colour, like an old boot; nor could
anyone escape from this sickness without death."
Famine followed, for the Turks had cut off all sources of
supplies from Damietta; and, in desperation, an attempt
to treat with the enemy was made. The conditions
proposed were that Louis should give up Damietta in return
for the kingdom of Jerusalem; and when the Saracens
asked what pledge they offered that they should regain
the port, the French offered them one of the King's
They promptly replied that they would be satisfied
with no one but the King himself, whereupon, "my Lord
Geoffrey of Sargines, the good knight, said he would
rather that the Saracens should have them all dead or
captive than bear the reproach of having left the king in
When Louis saw that there was no alternative but
death or retreat, since none of his officers would agree
that he should be given up, he once more gave the order
 to try to return to Damietta. The King could have
easily escaped thither by means of a little boat, but he
would not abandon his people, many of whom were very
sorely sick. But Louis himself was weak with illness,
so that he could scarcely sit upon his horse; yet he
persisted in trying to guard the river banks while
Joinville and others got the sick men on board. What
happened then was told by Louis himself to his faith
ful friend. " He told me that of all his knights and
sergeants there only remained behind with him my Lord
Geoffrey of Sargines, who brought him to a little village,
and there the king was taken. And, as the king related
to me, my Lord Geoffrey defended him from the Saracens
as a good servitor defends his lord's drinking-cup from
flies; for every time that the Saracens approached, he
took his spear, which he had placed between himself
and the bow of his saddle, and put it to his shoulder and
ran upon them, and drove them away from the king.
And then they brought the king to the little village; and
they lifted him into a house, and laid him, almost as one
dead, in the lap of a burgher-woman of Paris, and
thought he would not live till night."
Thus did Louis fall into the hands of the Saracens, and
was left in sorry plight indeed. He was sufficiently
conscious to beg Lord Philip de Montfort to try once
again to make terms of peace, but while this was being
done, " a very great mischance happened to our people.
A traitor sergeant, whose name was Marcel, began to
cry to our people, 'Yield, lord knights, for the king
commands you; and do not cause the king to be
"All thought that the king had so commanded, and
gave up their swords to the Saracens. The Emir (the
 officer of the Sultan), saw that the Saracens were
bringing in our people prisoners, so he said to my Lord Philip
that it was not fitting that he should grant a truce, for
he saw very well that we were already fallen into his
Meantime Joinville and his men had fared no better
by water than his comrades had by land. He himself,
indeed, had the narrowest possible escape from death,
and was only saved by the generosity of a Saracen, whose
former dealings with Frederick II. of Germany had made
him favour the Crusaders. Joinville was exceedingly
weak and ill, but as his boat was in mid-stream he hoped
to escape to Damietta with those of the sick whom he
had been able to rescue.
"My people," says he, "had put on me a jousting
hauberk, so that I might not be wounded by the darts
that fell into our boat. At this moment my people,
who were at the hinder point of the boat, cried out to
me, 'Lord, Lord, your mariners, because the Saracens
are threatening them, mean to take you to the bank!'
Then I had myself raised by the arms, all weak as I
was, and drew my sword on them, and told them I
should kill them if they took me to the bank. They
answered that I must choose which I would have;
whether to be taken to the bank, or anchored in
midstream till the wind fell. I told them I liked better
that they should anchor than that they should take me
to the shore where there was nothing before us save
death. So they anchored.
"Very shortly after we saw four of the Sultan's
galleys coming to us, and in them full a thousand men.
Then I called together my knights and my people,
and asked them which they would rather do, yield to the
 Sultan's galleys or to those on land. We all agreed that
we would rather yield to the galleys, because so we should
be kept together, than to those on land, who would
separate us and sell us to the Bedouins.
"Then one of my cellarers said, 'Lord, I do not agree
in this decision.' I asked him to what he did agree,
and he said to me, 'I advise that we should all suffer
ourselves to be slain, for then we shall go to Paradise.'
But we heeded him not."
When Joinville saw that he must be taken either way,
he threw his casket of jewels into the river, and turned
to find one of his mariners urging, "Lord if you do not
suffer me to say you are the king's cousin they will kill
you all, and us also." So he told him he could say what
he pleased. The sailor at once cried out loud, "Alas,
that the king's cousin should be taken!" with the
result that the Saracens on the nearest galley at once
anchored near their boat.
But help of an unexpected kind was at hand. A
Saracen, who had lived on land in the East belonging
to the Emperor Frederick, swam aboard, and throwing
his arms round Joinville's waist, said, "Lord, if you do
not take good heed you are but lost; for it behoves you
to leap from your vessel on to the bank that rises from
the keel of that galley; and if you leap, these people will
not mind you, for they are thinking only of the booty
to be found in your vessel."
So he leapt, but so weak was he that he tottered
and would have fallen into the water had not the
Saracen sprung after him and held him up in his
A rough reception awaited him, however, for they
threw him on the ground and would have killed him had
 not the Saracen held him fast in his arms, crying "Cousin
to the King!"
He was certainly in sorry case, for he had no clothing
save for the steel hauberk, which the Saracen knights,
pitying his condition, exchanged for a fur-lined coverlet
and a white belt, in which he girt himself for lack of
proper clothes. Still under the protection of "his
Saracen," Joinville saw with sad eyes the slaughter of
the sick upon the bank and in the boats, and was himself
subjected to a sore trial of faith. For his protector, who
was evidently a man of some authority, tried to tempt
him to embrace the religion of Islam by causing all his
mariners to be brought before him, telling him that they
had all denied their faith.
"But I told him never to place confidence in them,
for lightly as they had left us, so lightly, if time and
opportunity occurred, would they leave their new
masters. And he answered that he agreed with me; for
that Saladin was wont to say that never did one see a
bad Christian become a good Saracen, or a bad Saracen
become a good Christian.
"After these things he caused me to be mounted on
a palfrey and to ride by his side. And we passed over a
bridge of boats and went to Mansourab, where the King
and his people were prisoners. And we came to the
entrance of a great pavilion, where the Sultan's scribes
were; and there they wrote down my name. Then my
Saracen said to me,' Lord, I shall not follow you further,
for I cannot; but I pray you, lord, always to keep hold
of the hand of the child you have with you, lest the
Saracens should take him from you.'"
Truly, in his case, for the sick and sorry Joinville, as
well as for the protection he provided for the little lad.
 the "child called Bartholomew," that unknown Saracen
showed himself worthier of the name of Christian than
many of those who fought under the banner of the Cross.
When the French lord entered the pavilion with his
little charge, he found it full of his brother barons, "who
made such joy that we could not hear one another speak,
for they thought they had lost me."
Joy was soon turned to grief, however, for many of
their number were taken by the Saracens into an
adjoining courtyard and asked, "Wilt thou abjure thy
"Those who would not abjure were set to one side, and
their heads were cut off, and those who abjured were set
on the other side."
Then the Sultan sent to ask what terms they were
willing to make. "Would you give, for your deliverance,
any of the castles belonging to the barons oversea?"
But they replied that they had no power over these
castles, which belonged to their sovereign King. Then
he asked if they would surrender any of the castles
belonging to the Knights Templars and Hospitallers. But
they answered that this could not be, for when the knights
of the Temple or the Hospital were appointed to these
castles, they were made to swear, on holy relics, that they
would not surrender any of them for man's deliverance.
"The council of the Sultan then replied that it seemed
to them that we had no mind to be delivered, and that
they would go and send us such as would make sport of
us with their swords, as they had done of the others
belonging to our host. And they went their way."
With Louis himself the counsellors of the Sultan had
gone still further, threatening him with torture if he did
not do as they willed. "To their threats the King
re-  plied that he was their prisoner, and that they could do
with him according to their will."
Finding that they could not terrorise the King they
came back to him once more and asked how much money
he was willing to pay for a ransom, besides giving up
To this Louis replied that if the Sultan would accept
a reasonable sum, he would see if the Queen would pay it
for their deliverance. This answer, to those who held
the Eastern idea of women, was astounding, and they
asked, "How is it that you will not tell us definitely that
these things shall be done?" To which Louis replied,
with spirit that he did not know if the Queen would
consent, seeing that she was his lady, and mistress of her
own actions. Then they took counsel with the Sultan,
and brought back word that if the Queen would pay five
hundred thousand livres (about £405,000) he would
release the King.
"And when they had taken the oath that this should
be so, the King promised that he would willingly pay
the five hundred thousand livres for the release of his
people, and surrender Damietta for the release of his own
person, seeing that it was not fitting that such as he
should barter himself for coin."
When the Sultan heard this, he said. "By my faith,
this Frank is large-hearted not to have bargained over
so great a sum! Now go and tell him that I give him
a hundred thousand livres towards the payment of the
The prospects of the unfortunate Crusaders seemed
therefore to be brightening, when, as they were being
conveyed down the river to the Sultan's camp as a
preliminary to being set free, all was suddenly darkened
 again by the murder of their generous captor at the hands
of some of his own traitorous Emirs.
One of these, indeed, came to King Louis, with the
heart of the Sultan, all reeking with blood, in his hand,
and said: "What wilt thou give me? For I have slain
thine enemy, who, had he lived, would have slain thee!"
"But the King answered him never a word."
Nothing now but death seemed the probable fate of
the despairing prisoners, who meantime, were thrown
into the hold of the galley and "so pressed together that
my feet came against the good Count Peter of Brittany,
and his came against my face."
But the Saracen Emirs seem to have thought that more
profit could be made out of them alive than dead, and
were ready to observe the terms already proposed, if the
King would renew his oath to this effect, "that if he did
not observe his covenant he should be as dishonoured as a
Christian who denies God and His law, and who spits
upon the Cross and tramples on it."
Though he fully meant to keep his word, the pious soul
of Saint Louis revolted against so blasphemous a
declaration, and he absolutely refused to take such an oath.
They threatened him with instant death, but he replied
tranquilly that he "liked better to die as a good Christian
rather than to live under the wrath of God."
By the exercise of further fiendish cruelty the Saracens
attained their object. They took the old white haired
Patriarch of Jerusalem, and tied him to the pole of the
pavilion with his hands behind his back, and so tightly
"that the said hands swelled to the size of his head, and
that the blood started from between the nails." Then
the Patriarch cried to the King, "Sire, for the love of God,
swear without fear; for seeing that you intend to hold to
 your oath, I take upon my own soul whatsoever there
may be of sin in the oath that you take."
It seems certain that by his firmness and courage Louis
had earned the respect and admiration of the Saracens.
Joinville says that they wanted to make him their Sultan,
and only desisted because they said he was the most
steadfast Christian that could be found. "They said
that if Mohammed had suffered them to be so maltreated
as the King had been, they would never have retained
their belief in him; and they said further that if their
people made the King to be Sultan, they would have to
become Christians, or else he would put them all to
In spite of this, however, their fate still hung in the
balance, for some recalled the precept of Mohammed,
"For the assurance of the faith, slay the enemy of the law."
But better counsels prevailed, and on the day after
Ascension Day, in the year 1250, all were released save
the Count of Poitiers, who remained as hostage till
the ransom should be paid.
Many of the Crusading barons no sooner regained their
ships than they set sail for France, but-the King remained
behind, to see that the ransom was paid. In connection
with this ransom Joinville tells us of an incident that
marks even more emphatically Louis' upright character.
"When the money had been counted, there were those
of the council who thought that the King should not hand
it over until he had received his brother back. But the
King replied that he would hand it over, seeing that he
had agreed with the Saracens to do so, and as for the
Saracens, if they wished to deal honestly, they would also
hold to the terms of their agreement. Then Lord Philip
 of Nemours told the King that they had miscounted,
by ten thousand livres, to the loss of the Saracens
(but without their knowledge).
"At this the King was very wroth, and said it was his
will that the ten thousand livres should be restored, seeing
he had agreed to pay two hundred thousand before he
left the river.
"Then I touched Lord Philip with my foot, and told
the King not to believe him, seeing that the Saracens were
the wiliest reckoners in the whole world. And Lord
Philip said I was saying sooth, for he had only spoken
in jest, and the King said such jests were unseemly
and untoward. 'And I command you,' said the King
to him 'by the fealty that you owe me as being my
liegeman—which you are—that if these ten thousand
livres have not been paid, you will cause them to be paid
Nor would Louis listen to those who advised him to
leave the river on account of its proximity to the
Saracens, and go to his ship, which waited for him out at sea.
But he had promised his foes not to go away until the
payment had been made, and no considerations of
personal safety would induce him to break his word.
"So soon, however, as the ransom was paid, the King,
without being urged thereto, said that henceforth he was
acquitted of his oaths, and that we should depart thence,
and go to the ship that was on the sea. Then our galley
was set in motion, and we went a full great league before
we spoke to one another, because of the distress in which
we were at leaving the Count of Poitiers in captivity.
"Then came Lord Philip of Montfort in a galleon, and
cried to the King : 'Sire! Sire! Speak to your brother,
the Count of Poitiers, who is on this other ship!' Then
 cried the King 'Light up! Light up!' and they did
so. Then was there such rejoicing among us that greater
could not be. The King went to the Count's ship, and
we went too. A poor fisherman went and told the
Countess of Poitiers that he had seen the Count
released, and she caused twenty livres to be given to him."
Nor was Louis the only star to shine in the dark
firmament of the Eighth Crusade. All those anxious weeks
there lay at Damietta the poor young Queen, in terrible
anxiety for the fate of her husband, and for the future of
those who were with her in the city.
In the midst of her grief and trouble was born her little
son Tristan, the "child of sorrow," and he was but a day
old when she heard that all the men of the five cities of
Italy, who were with her in the city, were minded to flee
away. With heroic courage she sent for them to her
bedside and urged them not to leave Damietta to its fate,
for if so the King would be utterly lost.
To this they replied: "Lady what can we do? For
we are dying of hunger in this city?" But she told them
that for famine they need not depart, "for," said she
"I will cause all the food in this city to be bought, and
will keep you all from henceforth at the King's charges."
Thus did the brave Queen keep Damietta until it had
to be given up according to the terms of the treaty; upon
which she went to Acre, there to await the King.
The release of the prisoners was, for all practical
purposes, the end of the ill-fated Eighth Crusade, but Louis
could not bear to return to France without even a glimpse
of the Holy Land which lay so very near his heart.
His brother had deserted him, but the faithful Joinville
was still at his side, and with the latter was now to be
found the little child, Bartholomew, who had in so
 strange a manner been placed under his protection. There
were not wanting those who urged the King to return to
France, and look after the affairs of his kingdom, but
Louis was firm. The Queen Mother, Blanche, was well
able to fill his place, and he was determined not to leave
the kingdom of Jerusalem while any hope remained of
striking a blow on its behalf. Again and again he had
urged Henry III. of England to bring an army to its relief,
he had even promised to give up Normandy if he would
do this; and he could scarcely believe that he would
persist in his refusal. If he should fail there was yet a
faint hope that the Pope himself might lead an army in
the cause of God; while there was the slightest chance,
therefore, he would hold himself ready to act.
So Louis went first to Acre to rejoin his Queen, and
then set to work to rebuild the fortifications of the
seaports, Caesarea, Joppa, and Sidon, which had been
destroyed by the Saracens, though they were still ruled
by Christian chieftains. And then four more years
It was while Louis was engaged in fortifying Joppa that
he was told that the Sultan was willing that he should
go to Jerusalem under a "sure and safe conduct." It
was the King's dearest wish to visit the Holy Sepulchre,
but after grave consideration, acting on the advice of his
council, he determined not to do so. His reason was the
same as that of Richard of England in the Third Crusade.
"For if he, the greatest Christian King, went a pilgrimage
without delivering the city from God's enemies, then
would all other kings and pilgrims, coming thereafter,
rest content with going on pilgrimage after the same
manner as the King of France, and give no heed to the
deliverance of Jerusalem."
 A pilgrimage in sackcloth to Nazareth was all,
therefore, that the king would allow himself, and meantime
his hopes of aid from Europe grew fainter and fainter.
Then came bad news from France. Queen Blanche,
who seems to have been more to the king than wife or
children, was dead, and Louis must return to his deserted
kingdom. On St Mark's day (April 24th) of the year
1254, the king and queen sailed from Acre, but they were
not destined to reach France without further adventures.
"On the Saturday we came in sight of the Isle of
Cyprus, and of a mountain in Cyprus which is called the
Mountain of the Cross. That Saturday a mist rose from
the land, and descended from the land to the sea; and
by this our mariners thought we were further from the
Isle of Cyprus than we were, because they did not see
the mountain above the mist. Wherefore they sailed
forward freely and so it happened that our ship struck
a reef of sand below the water; and if we had not found
that little sandbank where we struck, we should have
struck against a great mass of sunken rocks, where our
ship would have been broken in pieces, and we all
shipwrecked and drowned.
"As soon as our ship struck, a great cry rose in the
ship, for each one cried 'Alas!' and the mariners and
the rest wrung their hands because each was in fear of
"When I heard this, I rose from my bed where I was
lying, and went to the ship's castle with the mariners.
As I came there, Brother Raymond, who was a Templar
and master of the mariners, said to one of his varlets
'Throw down the lead.' And he did so. And as soon
as he had thrown it, he cried out and said. 'Alas, we
are aground!' When Brother Raymond heard that, he
 rent his clothes to the belt, and took to tearing out his
beard, and to crying: 'Ay me! Ay me!'"
In marked contrast to this not very helpful master of
mariners stands one of Joinville's knights who "brought
me, without a word, a lined overcoat of mine, and threw
it on my back, for I had donned my tunic only. And I
cried out to him, and said, 'what do I want with your
overcoat that you bring me, when we are drowning?'
And he said to me, 'By my soul, lord, I should like
better to see us all drowned than that you should take
some sickness from the cold, and so come to your
An effort was made to get the king off the threatened
ship by means of the galleys, but the latter held off; and
in this they acted wisely, seeing there were full eight
hundred persons on board the ship who would have
jumped into the galleys to save their lives, and thus have
caused the latter to sink.
Morning came and found the ship fast aground, and
seeing there was much damage done to her keel, the
servants of the king implored him to embark in another
vessel. By his decision Louis showed once again that
wonderful unselfishness which forms one of his best
claims to the title of Saint.
After hearing the opinion of the master mariners, and
his nobles, he called together the seamen and said to
"I ask you, on your fealty, whether, if the ship were
your own, and freighted with your own merchandise,
you would leave her?"
And they replied all together "No!" for they liked
better to put their bodies in peril of drowning than to buy
a new ship at great cost.
 "Why then," asked the king, "do you advise me to
leave the ship?"
"Because," said they, "the stakes are not equal. For
neither gold nor silver can be set against your person and
the persons of your wife and children who are here;
therefore we advise you not to put yourself or them in
Then the king said, "Lords, I have heard your opinion
and that of my people, and now I will tell you mine, which
is this: If I leave the ship there are in her five hundred
people and more who will land in this Isle of Cyprus, for
fear of peril to their body-since there is none that does
not love his life as much as I love mine-and these,
peradventure, will never return to their own land.
Therefore I like better to place my own person, and my wife,
and my children in God's hands than do this harm to the
many people who are here."
Their next adventure might have been more serious,
at least for some of the crew. Sailing away in
comparative safety in the damaged ship they came at length
to the island of the sea called Pentelema, which was
peopled by Saracens who were subjects of the King of
Sicily and the King of Tunis.
"The queen begged the king to send thither three
galleys to get fruit for the children; and the king
consented, and ordered the masters of the galleys to go
thither, and be ready to come back to him when his ship
passed before the island. The galleys entered into a
little port that was on the island; and it chanced that
when the king's ship passed before the port, we got no
tidings of the galleys.
Then did the mariners begin to murmur among themselves.
 "The king caused them to be summoned, and asked
them what they thought of the matter. The mariners
said it seemed to them that the Saracens had captured
his people and his galleys.
"'But we advise and counsel you, sire, not to wait
for them; for you are between the kingdom of Sicily
and the kingdom of Tunis, which love you not at all. If,
however, you suffer us to sail forward, we shall, during
the night, have delivered you from peril, for we shall
have passed through the strait.'
"'Truly,' said the king, 'I shall not listen to you, and
leave my people in the hands of the Saracens without
at least, doing all in my power to deliver them. I
command you to turn your sails and we will fall upon
"And when the queen heard this, she began to make
great lamentation and said. Alas! this is all my
"While they were turning the sails of the king's ship
and of the other ships, we saw the galleys coming from
the island. When they came to the king, the king
asked the mariners why they had tarried; and they
replied that they could not help themselves, but that the
fault lay with certain sons of burgesses of Paris, of whom
there were six, who stayed eating the fruit of the gardens,
wherefore they had been unable to get them off, nor could
they leave them behind.
"Then the king commanded that the six burghers' sons
should be put into the barge a-stern; at which they
began to cry and to howl, saying, 'Sire, for God's sake,
take for ransom all that we have, but do not put us there,
where murderers and thieves are put; for we shall be
shamed to all time.'
 "The queen and all of us did what we could to move
the king; but he would listen to none of us.
"So they were put into the barge, and remained there
till we came to land; and they were there in such danger
and distress that when the sea rose, the waves flew over
their heads, and they had to sit down, lest the wind
should carry them into the sea.
"And it served them right; for their gluttony caused
us such mischief that we were delayed for eight good
days, because the king had caused the ships to turn right
So at length Louis came to his own land of France; but
his heart was full of longing for the "holy fields" of
Palestine, and he was not content to live a life of luxury
at the court while Jerusalem was yet in the hands of the
"After the king returned from overseas, he lived in such
devotion that never did he wear fur of beaver or grey
squirrel, nor scarlet, nor gilded stirrups and spurs. His
clothing was of camlet and blue cloth, the fur on his
coverlets and clothing was deer's hide, or the skin from
the hare's legs, or lambskin. He was so sober in his
eating that he never ordered special meats outside what
his cook prepared; what was set before him that did he
eat. He put water to his wine in a glass goblet, and
according to the strength of the wine he added water
thereto by measure; and would hold the goblet in his
hand while they mixed water with his wine behind his
table. He always caused food to be given to his poor,
and after they had eaten, caused money to be given to
Thus, for the next fifteen years the king fulfilled the
duties of his royal position in France; and all the while
 the voice of the East was calling, calling with insistent
voice, as news of lost cities, quarrels between those who
should have united themselves against the Saracens,
and invasions of new and hostile races reached his
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