St. Louis IX

1214-1270. King of France. Grandson of Philip II (Augustus) of the house of Capet he inherited the throne as a child (1226) and was long dominated by his mother, Blanche of Castille. His lifestyle was characterized by a devotion to justice that led the French to consider him the ideal Christian king. He dressed modestly, avoiding luxury and ostentation, was deeply pious and ascetic, and delighted in building churches and hospitals. Louis's axiom was when in doubt to favor others above himself, and the poor over the rich. An astute politician and administrator, he systematically extended royal control over the barons, the cities, and the church. He put down several noble rebellions, forbade the construction of private castles, appointed royal manors for the cities and inquisitors to keep watch over the baillis.

Louis's commitment to fairness even led him to negotiate a treaty with England unfavorable to himself because he felt that the lands had been unjustly gained by his predecessors. Although he attempted to establish peace in Europe, Louis was no pacifist, for he wished to free the resources of Christendom to make war on the infidel. In 1264 he launched the Seventh Crusade against Damietta in Egypt. The campaign was unsuccessful and Louis was captured, but later freed by the payment of a ransom. Later (1270) he led the Eighth Crusade directed against Tunis in North Africa, when he died of fever. The prestige of the medieval French monarchy reached its zenith under Louis, who was canonized in 1297.