How The King Took The Cross For His Last Pilgrimage

"Lord God, grant that we may so despise the ruggedness of this world that we may fear no adversity."

Jean de Joinville relates...

AFTER the events above narrated, it came to pass one Lent, that the King summoned all his barons to Paris. I excused myself, on account of a quartan* fever, from which I was suffering at the time, and begged him to allow me to stay away. But he sent me word that he was absolutely determined I should come, for he had good doctors there who well understood the cure of quartan fever. So to Paris I went. When I arrived, on the evening of the Vigil of Our Lady in March, I found neither the King, nor anyone who could tell me why the King had sent for me. Now it so happened by God's will that I fell asleep at Matins; and in my sleep methought I saw the King on his knees before an altar, and methought several prelates in their vestments were clothing him with a crimson chasuble of Rheims serge. After this vision, I called my priest, Lord William, who was a very clever man, and told him the vision; and this is what he said to me: " Sir, you will see that the King will take the Cross to-morrow." I asked him, why he thought so? and he told me that he thought so because of the dream that I had dreamed, for the chasuble of crimson serge betokened the Cross which was crimsoned with the blood that God had shed from his side and hands and feet; " As for the chasuble being of serge of Rheims, that signifies that the Crusade will be one of small note as you will see if God grants you life."

When I had heard mass at the Magdalen at Paris I went into the King's chapel, and found the King, who had gone up into the gallery of relics and was having the true Cross brought down. Whilst the King was on his way down, two knights of his Council began talking together; and one of them said, " Never trust me again, if the King does not take the Cross while he is here." And the other replied " If the King takes the Cross, it will be one of the saddest days in France that ever were. For if we do not take the Cross, we shall lose the King, and if we do take the Cross we shall lose God, for it will not be for His sake that we take it." Now it came to pass, that the King took the Cross on the morrow and his three sons besides; and afterwards it came to pass that the Crusade was of little note, just as my priest had foretold. I was much urged by the King of France and by the King of Navarre to take the Cross. To this I replied, that all the while that I had been serving God and the King over-seas, and also after my return, the serjeants of the King of France and the King of Navarre had destroyed and impoverished my people; so that I and they should be the worse for it for all time to come. And I told them this: that if I wished to work God's will, I should stay where I was to help and protect my people; for that if I risked my life on the chances of this pilgrimage, seeing as I did quite plainly that it would be to the harm and injury of my people, I should anger God, who gave His life to save His people.

To my mind they committed a deadly sin who encouraged his going; for France had reached a condition when all the kingdom was at peace within itself and with its neighbours; and never again has it been so since he left it; but the state of the kingdom has steadily gone from bad to worse. A very great sin it was in those who encouraged him to go, seeing how weak he was in health at the time; for he could endure neither to drive nor ride. His weakness was so great that he let me carry him in my arms from the Count of Auxerre's house, where I took leave of him, as far as the Greyfriars. And yet, weak as he was, if he had stayed in France, he might still have lived a good while and done a great deal of good.

I shall not say anything about his journey to Tunis, nor give any account of it, because I was not there thank God! And I do not wish to say or put anything in my book of which I am not quite sure. So we will speak only of our holy King, and say, that after he landed at Tunis, before the castle of Carthage, he fell sick of a catarrh of the stomach, by reason of which he took to his bed, and felt that the time was come for him to pass from this world to the next. Thereupon he called for my Lord Philip his son, and bade him to observe, as though it were his testament, all the instructions that he left him; which instructions are written below in the common tongue; and the King wrote them so they say with his own blessed hand.

When the good King had given his instructions to my Lord Philip, his infirmity began to increase greatly upon him, and he asked for the sacraments of Holy Church. And he received them with a sound mind and right understanding, as was plain; for, whilst they were anointing him and repeating the seven psalms, he repeated the verses in response. And I heard my lord theCount of Alençon, his son, relate, that when death drew near, he cried on the saints to aid and succour him; and likewise on my Lord St. James, repeating his prayer the while, which begins: "Esto Domine," which means " May the Lord sanctify and watch over our people." Next he called upon my Lord St. Denis to help him, saying his prayer, which means "Lord God, grant that we may so despise the ruggedness of this world that we may fear no adversity." And then I heard my Lord of Alençon say that his father called upon St. Geneviève.

After that, the holy King made them lay him on bed strewn with ashes, and laid his hands upon his breast, and looking up to heaven, yielded up his spirit to our Creator, in the very same hour when the Son of God died upon the Cross.


Notes: * Quartan Fever... medical term "Malariae malaria", (Malaria)
** the Death of St Louis King 1270 by Gustave Dore

No comments: