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Louis IX (Saint Louis)

Louis IX (Saint Louis)

King Of France


Perfect Ruler. Louis IX or Saint Louis of the Capetian dynasty ruled France from 1226 to 1270 and embodied the medieval view of a perfect ruler. The grandson of Philip II Augustus and son of Louis VIII, he inherited a stable kingdom. Louis IX was endowed with a piety and moral character that surpassed that of other kings and even popes. His domestic reforms helped instill a strong sense of national feeling throughout his realm.

Foreign Policy. Part of Louis IX’s success as king was his ability to steer a neutral course through the delicate waters of medieval international relations. For example, in the Treaty of Paris (1259) Louis IX allowed the English monarch, Henry III, to keep substantial territorial possessions on the Continent, although the French king clearly had the upper hand. He received many papal favors by remaining out of the prolonged struggle between the German Hohenstaufens and Rome.

Domestic Policy. Domestic reform represented Louis IX’s greatest achievement as king. He dispatched enqueteurs (royal commissioners) to monitor local governmental administration and provided for the judicial right of appeal from local to higher courts. Moreover, he devised a tax system, which by medieval standards was quite equitable.

Canonization. Louis IX patronized the arts and literature. During his reign some of the greatest intellectuals in Europe, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure, flocked to Paris. Something of a religious fanatic, he sponsored the French Inquisition and personally led two crusades against the Muslims. The first military expedition (1248–1254) resulted in his capture in Egypt and eventual ransom for one million marks. In 1270 he embarked on a second equally disastrous mission. He landed in present-day Tunisia, where he quickly succumbed to the plague. His body was brought back to France via Italy, and crowds gathered to witness the procession. In 1297 Pope Boniface VIII canonized Louis IX, the only French king ever to receive a sainthood.


H. E. J. Cowdrey, Popes, Monks, and Crusades (London: Hambledon, 1984).

William C. Jordan, Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulershif (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979).

Jean Richard, Saint Louis (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

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