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Saint Louis:
The Model Roi Très Crétien

Almost from the moment of his death, Louis IX became a model for royal behavior against whom subsequent kings were measured and often found wanting. Royal descent from Louis cut in two directions; while the canonization of a French king gave the Capetians proof that they were part of a line of rois très crétiens , Louis's life was a reproach to subsequent kings who, not gifted with sanctity, had difficulty living up to his example.[33] Nonetheless, devotion to the royal saint was strong, particularly among members of the royal house. Such patrons as Louis's daughter, Blanche; his wife, Marguerite; his grandson, Philip IV; Jeanne de Navarre; and Jeanne d'Evreux commissioned portraits of Saint Louis and cycles of his life in panel paintings, frescoes, stained glass, and manuscripts.[34] These cycles celebrated Louis IX's sanctity and the special status of the Capetians who were related to the saint.

Saint Louis played an important role in polemical discussion from the moment Philip of Valois succeeded the last direct Capetian. Philip viewed himself as the head of the Capetian house and often used references to Saint Louis, particularly during the first troubled years of his reign, to add the prestige of his royal ancestor to his own acts.[35] He ordered coinage early in his reign "of the weight and law of Saint Louis" and refrained from doctoring its composition until 1337 because of the value of its symbolic connection.[36] Between 1329 and 1331 a series of documents issued by Philip's chancery adopted the form employed by the Capetians, opening with an invocation and closing with the royal monogram and signatures of court officials. Cazelles notes that this literary form was abandoned as soon as Edward III confirmed the legitimacy of the Valois succession by acknowledging in 1331 that his homage of 1328 to the French should have been liege.[37]

While Edward continued to claim the throne of France, however, he celebrated his own descent from Saint Louis. In the 1340 letter posted in northern French churches, he stressed that he did not want to infringe on the rights of the French people, but rather he wanted to return France to the "good laws and customs which existed in the time of our ancestor [and] progenitor Saint Louis, king of France."[38] He also emphasized the need for peace in Christian countries so that a crusade could be mounted to free the Holy Land.[39] The notion of a unified crusade of the Western nations was a recurring theme that became intertwined toward the end of the Hundred Years' War with prophecies of the last world emperor.[40] When Edward's letter was written and John's book painted, however, the references to a crusade probably related more closely to claims of direct descent from Saint Louis, the last crusading king of France, rather than to claims to world empire. They refer as well to the legitimate French king's status as "most Christian king."

The crusading reference in Edward's letter was probably a jibe at Philip and John. As early as 1334 Philip, who had vowed to go on crusade, sent the


Figure 41
Assault on a castle by the Tartars.  Grandes
Chroniques de France
. British Library, Royal 16 G
VI, fol. 400. By permission of the British Library.

Connétable d'Eu to England to persuade Edward III to participate in the crusade that Philip had negotiated with Pope John XXII.[41] With the approval of the pope, Philip collected special ecclesiastical taxes but did not go to the Holy Land because of France's uncertain relations with England; instead, from 1335 to 1337 Philip used the funds to finance his English war.[42] In March of 1340, a little over a month after Edward's letter was written, Philip asked Pope Benedict XII for a pardon for his fiscal indiscretion. Only in 1344 was the pardon awarded by Pope Clement VI to Philip and to John, who apparently shared responsibility for this fiscal abuse.

It is tempting to see the emphasis on crusades in John the Good's Grandes Chroniques (1335–40), particularly crusades in which Saint Louis participated, as reflecting the French side in the polemical war with England. Louis's crusades receive special attention in the dense cycle that illustrates John's manuscript: only six pictures in the entire manuscript subdivide chapters, and three of these occur in the crusading sections of Saint Louis's life.[43] These miniatures establish each of Louis's crusades as a holy war, provoked by pagans. The first two illustrate Louis's first crusade: one represents the dastardly behavior of the infidels (Fig. 41, assault on a castle by the Tartars); the second represents the response of the Christians (Fig. 42, the pope sends Bishop Odo to Paris; nobles listen to Bishop Odo


Figure 42
Pope sends Bishop Odo to Paris; Nobles take the cross.  Grandes Chroniques de
. British Library, Royal 16 G VI, fol. 403. By permission of the British Library.


Figure 43
Louis receives a letter about the Holy Land.
Grandes Chroniques de France . British Library,
Royal 16 G VI, fol. 426v.
By permission of the British Library.

Figure 44
Attack of the Tartars in the Holy Land.  Grandes Chroniques de France . British Library, Royal 16 G
VI, fol. 427. By permission of the British Library.


and take the cross). In the third subdivision in Louis's life a pair of miniatures explains why the French became involved in Louis's second crusade, in which he died. They illustrate the arrival of a letter from the pope and then represent its contents describing attacks by the infidels (Fig. 43, Charles of Anjou in council receives a letter from the pope; Fig. 44, attack of the Tartars in the Holy Land).

Aside from miniatures whose subjects can be classed as administrative (receptions of envoys and meetings with various heads of state; fols. 403v, 405, 406, 407, 407v, 408v), all other pictures of Louis's crusades bring out two themes: his victories in the Holy Land and his sanctity. Miniatures of Louis's triumphs in his first crusade show the battle and capture of Damietta (409v, 410v), but his religious devotion attracts more emphasis in such scenes as the pilgrimage to Nazareth (fol. 415v) or the burial of the dead after the massacre at Sidon (fol. 416v). The miniatures illustrating Louis's second crusade celebrate his sainthood more emphatically. Louis is nimbed throughout this final sequence of 10 pictures, which culminates with his instructions to his son (fol. 443v) and his death (Fig. 45).

In keeping with French policy of the 1330s and 1340s, this emphasis on Louis IX's life is less a call to a crusade than a celebration of the saintly king from whom John was descended and of the holy kingship to which John was

Figure 45
Death of Saint Louis.  Grandes Chroniques de France . British Library, Royal 16 G VI, fol. 444v.
By permission of the British Library.


heir. The possibility that this celebration of descent from Louis IX may have had an anti-English component is strengthened by John's choice in 1350 to be crowned with the "crown of Saint Louis" rather than that of Charlemagne. This act was simultaneously a sign of his devotion to the saint and an affirmation of his legitimacy as successor to Saint Louis and to Philip of Valois.[44]

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