Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crusade of Louis IX

Unfortunately, Louis, during a severe illness, made a vow to go on a crusade. His first fulfilment of this vow was made early in his reign, in 1250, when his mother was still alive to undertake the regency. His attempt was to attack the heart of the Saracen power in Egypt, and he effected a landing and took the city of Damietta. There he left his queen, and advanced on Cairo; but near Mansourah he found himself entangled in the canals of the Nile, and with a great army of Mamelukes in front. A ford was found, and the English Earl of Salisbury, who had brought a troop to join the crusade, advised that the first to cross should wait and guard the passage of the next. But the king's brother, Robert, Count of Artois, called this cowardice. The earl was stung, and declared he would be as forward among the foe as any Frenchman. They both charged headlong, were enclosed byPg 20 the enemy, and slain; and though the king at last put the Mamelukes to flight, his loss was dreadful. The Nile rose and cut off his return. He lost great part of his troops from sickness, and was horribly harassed by the Mamelukes, who threw among his host a strange burning missile, called Greek fire; and he was finally forced to surrender himself as a prisoner at Mansourah, with all his army. He obtained his release by giving up Damietta, and paying a heavy ransom. After twenty years, in 1270, he attempted another crusade, which was still more unfortunate, for he landed at Tunis to wait for his brother to arrive from Sicily, apparently on some delusion of favourable dispositions on the part of the Bey. Sickness broke out in the camp, and the king, his daughter, and his third son all died of fever; and so fatal was the expedition, that his son Philip III. returned to France escorting five coffins, those of his father, his brother, his sister and her husband, and his own wife and child.

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