Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Seventh Crusade

King Louis IX of France could not convince any of the rulers of Europe to accompany him on a Crusade to free Jerusalem, which had been recaptured in 1240. He organized and funded (by taxing the church) the Seventh Crusade himself. It could have gone better.

Battle of Mansura
After wintering in Cyprus, he took the town of Damietta in Egypt to use as a base, then had to sit there for six months while the Nile flooded, which gave his enemies time to assemble their forces. Marching toward Cairo, he was stopped by a canal near Mansura, on the other side of which was an Egyptian army larger than his.

Louis tried building a causeway across the canal, but the Egyptians simply dug away at their side of the canal, widening it and putting their bank every farther out of his reach. After two fruitless months, he sent his cavalry to cross at a shallow ford 4 miles upstream. Louis' brother Robert was to hold the cavalry until a signal, but he charged into Mansura, probably seeking his own glory, and succeeded in wiping out most of the cavalry. The Crusaders were too weak to take and hold Mansura, and so Louis retreated to Damietta.

On 6 April, 1250, at the Battle of Fariskur, the Egyptian Mamluks defeated the Crusaders and captured Louis. His ransom was 800,000 gold livre and the return of Damietta to the Egyptians. Louis sailed to Acre in Syria, where he tried to get help to continue the Crusade. He negotiated with the Mongol Möngke Khan through his emissary, William of Rubruck, which infuriated the Mamluks, whose territory to the east had been invaded by the ever-spreading Mongols.

By 1254, Louis had run out of money and, word coming that his mother, Blanche of Castile, who had been running France in his absence, had died, he had to return to France. Louis would try another Crusade, the Eighth, in 1270, where he would die on 25 August in Africa from "a flux in the stomach." He should have simply stayed home.

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