Perhaps you are wondering what I am coming to with all this history talk. Well, it just amounts to this. I want to show that my hero, Saint, and King, Louis IX of France, is some connection of ours; that we could have him in a well-worked-out genealogy and that is a satisfaction to me. Louis was grand-nephew to the knight-errant Richard and the worthless John; in his childhood he may have heard his grandmother relate the exploits of Coeur de Lion on the Crusade, thus making him long to do and dare something for the love of the Holy Land.
Blanche was a good mother, She was left Regent of the kingdom by the early death of her husband, and she reigned worthily. Louis was but twelve when his royal father died; he well repaid his mother’s care, for he became a model ruler and a Saint.
When you can, read Joinville’s Memoirs of Louis IX. Joinville was the greatest man in the kingdom after the King, and he loved him with all his soul. He tells all about his doings and his sayings; he accompanied him on the first Crusade; he sat by him when he gave judgment under the spreading oak; he saw his kindness to the poor, his sternness to the wicked, his compassion for the unfortunate. One time he heard him order a wealthy man, who was a blasphemer, to be branded on the mouth, to teach him to use his lips aright. Some blamed the King for ordering so terrible a punishment. Louis was surprised.
“Why?” he said, “I would willingly be branded to prevent such an outrage.”
Another man he fined so heavily that he lost almost all he possessed, because he had hanged three children for hunting rabbits. The money was employed to found Masses for the children’s souls.
Joinville saw the King cool and composed when bad news was brought to him. Once two assassins were found ready to murder Louis. He sent them courteously back to the master who had paid them. Again, Joinville, sitting at the Council Board with the young King, listened to his wise sayings. Things of world wide importance were discussed, and Louis took part in all that was said.
“He has the wisest and best head in the Council,” was Joinville s opinion.
A monarch made Louis a great present once. He brought him the crown of thorns from the Holy Land. Louis loved Our Lord with all his heart, and he was beside himself with joy at this most holy relic. How could he honour it enough? was his thought. To this very day we know how the great King honoured the sacred crown.
He built for it the most beautiful chapel that exists, one that you can see when you go to Paris, for it remains still to show the people of France how their greatest King reverenced the Passion of Our Lord.
Louis IX was no carpet knight. He could fight and win, and when he heard of the horrors that were being wrought in the Holy Land, he went to the church of St. Denis, and took the Oriflamme, the blessed standard of France, and set out for Palestine. He sailed from Aigues Mortes with his three brothers, his wife, and 120 large vessels, and numberless smaller ones. On board there were over 1,200 knights, and more than three times as many picked soldiers.
Louis fought like a hero, and was admired by his very foe for his prowess and his splendid honour. But he was taken a prisoner, and in chains won his enemies admiration a thousand fold more. “Never did we see so proud a Christian,” they said. By “proud” they meant one who held to his own principles, who stood his ground, and commanded their respect. They sought to terrify the King by an exhibition of racks and torturing machines. But he looked at them without concern. Their threats to punish and bruise and crush him brought no pallor to his face. Simply because he knew his fate was in God’s hands, and without His consent they could do him no harm.
A second time Louis sailed for the dear East. He stayed at Damietta, and caught the fever that was striking down hundreds of his men. For twenty days he burned with the fever of his disease, and then his end came. He was in a tent outside Damietta, in the stifling heat; but never a murmur escaped his lips. On the day of his death, about twelve o’clock, he raised his eyes to Heaven, and said:
“I will enter into Thy holy house, I will adore towards Thy holy temple, Lord!” At three he spoke again:
“Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Then the soul of the great hero, King, and Saint went to its eternal Home.
Source: Saints and Festivals, Imprimatur 1913
A coloring picture can be found below.