Joinville’s Portrait of St. Louis

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The duties of a perfect medieval king were based on his character in the feudal system. As overlord for his vassals, the king was bound by oath to defend them militarily, to seek their counsel on important matters of state, and to treat each one of them fairly. However, a king should not let the administration of his kingdom suffer for his military pursuits, nor should he permit any injustice to be done to any of his people. By the High Middle Ages, the tenets of Christianity were definitely entrenched in Europe, and an ideal ruler was also one who actually supported the Christian ideals of honor, justice, and genuine piety. Jean De Joinville describes the character of King Louis or St. Louis in great detail. Louis IX was an active king who used his own personal convictions and strengths to rule his kingdom. He took a real interest in the welfare of his people, ensuring that they had easy access to justice and that they were supporting fairly by all of his representatives. He also strove to be a Christian example and sacrifice for them, thus satisfying his role as a divinely anointed king. His Christian objectives were supreme and his military planning also reflected his religiosity as this paper will demonstrate.

Louis IX’s ability and flexibility set an example for European kings. Louis promoted peace between rulers, yet was also daring in battle. He took a personal role in reorganization and managing his administration, and his reputation for even-handed and thoughtful justice was known throughout Europe. Louis’ sincere piety led to his canonization only twenty-seven years after his death while on Crusade. Many other rulers had one or two of these qualities, sometimes in greater measure than Louis IX, but not since the introduction of the feudal system had Europe seen a ruler who was capable of efficiently fulfilling all the necessities of an ideal medieval king.

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