Achievments Of Louis Ix Essay

2369 words - 9 pages

The historian Frederick William Maitland was fond of reminding the scholars of his generation to "think the thoughts of medieval men as they thought them" . To assess the achievements of Louis IX we must try to think his thoughts. We cannot make assessments based on what we perceive to be achievements in this age, as this will invariably lead us to false conclusions. From a detached perspective Louis was a golden king. His administration was second to none. His reputation internationally was unexcelled both in his role as arbiter for other countries, peacemaker in his own and, as William Chester Jordan remarked on his securing of the Languedoc "his rapid assimilation of this region must be accounted as one of the most extraordinary accomplishments in medieval history" . There can be no doubt that if Louis' aim was to be a just and pious ruler and create a harmonious and prosperous France, which would be an example to the rest of the world, his French contemporaries and their forthcoming generations, he seemed to achieve his aim. In the mindset of a medieval man however this was all mere discipline and preparation for the ultimate test of the quality of rulership-the purification of Holy War. To the mind of a medieval ruler, especially one so admired for his piety and called `most Christian', this was the penultimate test and one that Louis failed. One has only to read one of his multitude of worshippers to realise he was a ruler who was hugely respected but does the fact that he failed to achieve his one aim in life taint his other achievements as they were in preparation for something that was ultimately a failure? It seems excessive to dismiss what he worked for so ruthlessly but if we follow Maitland's principle we are only doing what Louis himself would have done. The Oxford dictionary tells us that to assess, we must estimate the magnitude or quality of something. While the magnitude in indisputable would Louis have called into question the quality of his achievements as they did not lead to the sought after apogee...a successful crusade?

Long after Louis' death the citizens of France dreamed of a return of `Monsigneur St Louis' (My Lord St Louis): they saw his reign as a golden age of universal happiness. Memory can be deceptive. There were well documented epidemics and food shortages throughout his reign which stunted the growth resulting from the flourishing economy of the previous century. The last of the French Cathedrals came at a price and impoverishment of the lower classes was that price. This needs to be acknowledged as the disparity between the accepted ideal of St. Louis and the often ignored reality of his rule is an extremely important factor when assessing his achievements. The French monarchy was lucky that Philip Augustus and Louis IX came in that order because Louis' role was essentially to carry on the work of his grandfather. At the time of Louis' reign however, (and this seems to be one of...

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