Another war loomed on the horizon less than twenty years after Frederick II of Germany’s unconventional Sixth Crusade. Jerusalem once again fell into Muslim hands in 1244. European monarchs were urged to go back to the Holy Land for a reconquest. Propelled by religious fervor, King Louis IX of France launched the Seventh Crusade in 1248. The new Crusaders were well-prepared and well-supplied (unlike most of the previous ones) so that the mission went well at first. But just like the earlier ones, the Seventh Crusade ended in failure. It also dampened the Europeans’ enthusiasm to join the Crusades. The Seventh Crusade is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during 1270.
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Jerusalem Recaptured by the Ayyubids
Frederick II received the city of Jerusalem and some parts of the Holy Land after securing the Treaty of Jaffa with the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229. He declared himself the king of the city but left it when he heard that Pope Gregory IX attacked the island of Sicily (then a part of the Holy Roman Empire). He assigned two Frankish noblemen to rule the city while he was away from Jerusalem, but he never came back to the Holy Land as long as he lived.
The Ayyubid ruler, al-Kamil, died in 1238, so his son As-Salih Ayyub and his brother As-Salih Ismail now fought to become the new ruler of the Ayyubid lands. While the two men were at war with each other, the Treaty of Jaffa secured by Frederick II in 1229 also expired. As-Salih Ayyub used the end of the treaty and prepared to establish his rule on his father’s domain. He hired Khwarezmian mercenaries to bolster his Egyptian troops and attacked Jerusalem on the 11th of August, 1244.
Louis IX: The Crusader King
News of Jerusalem’s fall to the Ayyubid ruler reached Europe soon after. The pope once again called for a new Crusade, but unlike before, he did not need to work too hard for someone to answer the call. His enthusiastic volunteer was King Louis IX of France. The young king was known for his devotion to Christianity and he was later canonized as a saint. He fell into a coma in 1244, and people were afraid that he might die. The king miraculously recovered from his illness just as the people were beginning to lose hope.
After his recovery, he announced that he would go on a Crusade to the Holy Land. His mother and regent, Queen Blanche of Castille, was displeased with his decision. Louis refused to change his mind, so there was nothing that she could do. Thanks to her competent rule, Louis could afford to leave as he was the only European monarch whose hold on the throne was secure.
He prepared for the voyage and war for the next three years. He imposed a special Crusade tax on the church and used the money to buy warships from the Genoese. He also convinced many French noblemen to join him. As much as 1,500 knights and their entourage signed up so that around 25,000 men joined the Seventh Crusade. French soldiers made up the bulk of the Crusaders, but some Englishmen, Scots, Norwegians, and Germans also joined them. The king also sent enough food and other provisions ahead to Cyprus even before the whole army set sail.
Detour in Cyprus
The Crusaders led by King Louis IX left Europe in summer of 1248. His queen, Margaret of Provence, came with him, while his brothers Robert of Artois and Charles of Naples joined them. The Earl of Salisbury, the Count of Marche, and the French chronicler Jean de Joinville also joined them. They arrived in Cyprus in September of 1248 and stayed there for the rest of the year. They could not agree whether they should attack Syria or Egypt first. Others wanted to spend winter in Cyprus as the Mediterranean was dangerous during that time of the year. Those who wanted to stay temporarily in Cyprus won. They sailed to Egypt in spring of 1249.
The Crusade in Egypt
They sailed south into Egypt and arrived in the city of Damietta on the 5th of June 1249. The new Crusaders initially won several battles against the Egyptians. The Ayyubid soldiers lost their confidence when they heard of Sultan as-Salih’s death. Now that the Sultan was dead, the defenders of Damietta had no choice but to retreat into the city of Mansoura. In the city, they waited for the announcement as-Salih’s successor.
The Crusaders occupied Damietta, but they did not linger there for long. They pursued of the Egyptians further up the Nile in November and arrived in Mansoura in February 1250. Louis IX’s brother, Robert of Artois, led his soldiers in the siege of Mansoura, but he was killed along with his men. Robert’s death was a big blow to Louis’ Crusaders, and it was the start of the mission’s downfall.
Al-Muazzam Turanshah, as-Salih’s successor, later arrived in Mansoura from Hasankeyf (in Anatolia) to lead Egypt’s defence against the Crusaders. He ordered his men to block the Nile so that the Crusaders would not be able to retreat to Damietta. With nowhere else to go, Louis and the Crusaders had no choice but to surrender. He was imprisoned by Turanshah, and his wife (who stayed behind in Damietta) had to ransom him so he would be freed.
The remaining Crusaders, along with Louis and Margaret, sailed off to Acre after they were set free. Louis fortified the walls of Acre and other cities in the Holy Land while he was there. He left for France in 1254.
Picture By Gustave Doré – http://pages.usherbrooke.ca/croisades/big_images/_images.htm, Public Domain, Link
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
Perry, Frederick. Saint Louis (Louis IX. of France): The Most Christian King. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1901.
Shaw, Margaret R. B., Geoffroi De Villehardouin, and Jean Joinville. Chronicles of the Crusades. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1963.
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