He was crowned
king at 12, at his father's death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his minority. When
he was 19 and his bride 12, he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage,
though not without challenge. They had 11 children.
Louis "took the cross" for a Crusade
when he was 30. His army seized Damietta on the Nile but not long after, weakened by dysentery
and without support, they were surrounded and captured. Louis obtained the release of the army by
giving up the city of Damietta in addition to paying a ransom. He stayed in Syria four years.
He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. He drew up regulations for his officials which became the first of a series of reform laws. He replaced trial by battle with a form of examination of witnesses and encouraged the beginning of using written records in court. Louis was always respectful of the papacy, but defended royal interests against the popes and refused to acknowledge Innocent IV's sentence against Emperor Frederick II.
Louis was devoted
to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis, caring even
for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united
France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and
holiness. For many years the nation was at peace.
Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor
to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and
Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. He kept
lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion.
Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother's sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.
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