Gaudete! Today is the feast day of St. Louis, often called the “crusader king.” During his age (and by many scholars today), he was considered by many to be the ideal Christian king—he was best known for his wisdom, piety, and kindness. The most-read source for information on his life is Jean de Joinville’s memoirs of the crusades, which you can read here on Google Books.
All medievalists should have at least cursory knowledge of Louis IX. Modern history, stereotypes, and the popularity of stories about bad rulers can make it difficult to figure out just what a good medieval king would have been like. Louis IX exemplifies this role. Thomas F. Madden, in his history of the crusades, says simply that much was written on St. Louis during his lifetime, and all of it is good. It is perhaps a tribute to his goodness that, just as Christian myth says that Saladin eventually became a Christian, Muslim myth says that Louis IX eventually became a Muslim.
I had hoped to write short biography of St. Louis today, but I’m too busy preparing for the coming semester (and frankly, many of you are probably too busy to read it even if I wrote it). My favorite medieval historian, Régine Pernoud, has written a biography of St. Louis. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been translated yet, and I haven’t learned French yet. If you speak French, read it! If not, start with her chapter on St. Louis in The Crusaders.