Page 1436


July of 1254, and began an administration

which was marked by much pomp and ceremony. He became a reformer of abuses in the

kingdom, abrogating oppressive taxes, regulating the French municipalities, and framing

new codes of laws. Until a late date the

shade-tree was still standing in the Bois de

Vincennes under which Saint Louis was wont

to sit, hearing complaints of the poor, and redressing grievances of those who suffered wrong.

As it respected integrity of character

and sincerity of purpose, Louis IX. enjoyed

the best reputation of all the monarchs of

his age. So great was his fame for justice and

probity, that neighboring princes, when involved in difficulties among themselves, were


to refer the

matters in

dispute to

the calm

temper and


judgment of


To this

epoch belongs the

establishment of a

French dynasty in Sicily and Naples. The

crown of this


had fallen

into the hands of the imperial family of Germany by the marriage of the daughter of the

last Norman king of the Two Sicilies to the

father of Frederick II., and when this Emperor

died the kingdom was seized by his illegitimate

son Manfred. Pope Urban IV., regarding the

accession of this pseudo prince as a scandal to

Christendom, and offended at the additional

power thus gained by the Ghibellines, set up

Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX., as

king of the Two Sicilies, and in 1265 the

claims of the latter were successfully asserted

by the defeat of Manfred in battle. Charles,

however, was a man very different in character from his brother, the king of France. His

life and reign were marked by personal ambition, selfishness, and cruelty. His name and

that of his country became forever afterwards

odious in the kingdom which he ruled. Two

years after his accession to the throne the German princes, under the lead of Conradin, son

of Conrad IV., and last representative of the

House of Hohenstaufen, made an attempt to

expel the French from Italy, but they were decisively defeated. Conradin was taken prisoner, carried to Naples, and put to death by

order of King Charles. When about to be

executed he threw down his glove from the

scaffold, appealing to the crowd to convey it

to any of his kinsmen in token that whoever

received it was invested with his rights,

and charged with the duty of avenging his


In the year 1258 Philip, eldest son of

Saint Louis, received in marriage the Princess Isabella, daughter of the king of Aragon.

When this union was effected, it was agreed

by the kings of France and Spain that the

latter should surrender to the former the

towns which he held in the south of France,

and that Louis should give in exchange to

the king of Aragon those districts of Spain

which had been wrested by Charlemagne

from the Mohammedans. About the same

time the French monarch secured a large

portion of the province of Champagne by

purchase from Count Thibault, who in virtue

of his mother's right had acceded to the

throne of Navarre.

Having completed the disposition of affairs

in his kingdom, Louis IX. at last found himself in readiness to renew the war with the

Turks and Mamelukes. .How the expedition

with which he left France in the year 1270

was diverted into a campaign against Tunis,

how the plague broke out in the French army

encamped on that sun-scorched shore, how

many thousands perished in anguish and despair, and how the aged king himself sickened

and died, have already been recounted in a

preceding chapter.

Saint Louis left as his successor his son

Philip by Margaret of Provence. This prince

was with his father in the siege of Tunis, and

like him was attacked with the plague.


1 One of Saint Louis's maxims may well be repeated: "It is good policy to be just; inasmuch as a

reputation for probity and disinterestedness gives a

prince more real authority and power than any accession of territories."

1 See ante, p. 1411.