St. Louis IX: A King of France Cannot Be Ransomed With Money

April 14, 2014

Louis IX, as prisoner, refuses Emir Octaï’s offer. Painting by Guillaume Guillon-Lethière

When they saw that they could not prevail over the good king [St. Louis IX of France] by threats, they came back to him and asked how much money he would give to the soldan [of Egypt], besides surrendering Damietta. And the king replied that if the soldan would accept a reasonable sum, he would advertise the queen to pay it for their deliverance. And they asked: “How is it that you will not tell us definitely that these things shall be done?” And the king replied that he did not know if the queen would consent, seeing she was his lady and the mistress of her actions. Then the counselors returned and spoke to the soldan, and afterwards brought back word to the king that if the queen would pay a million besants of gold, which are worth five hundred thousand livres, the soldan would release the king.

King St. Louis IX, prisoner in Egypt, painted by Georges Rouget.

King St. Louis IX, prisoner in Egypt, painted by Georges Rouget.

And the king asked them, on their oath, whether the soldan would release them, provided the queen consented. So they went back once more and spoke to the soldan, and on their return, made oath that the soldan would release the king on these conditions. And now that they had taken the oath, the king said and promised to the emirs, that he would willingly pay the five hundred thousand livres for the release of his people, and surrender Damietta for the release of his own person, seeing it was not fitting that such as he should barter himself for coin. When the soldan heard this he said: “By my faith, this Frank is large-hearted not to have bargained over so great a sum! Now go and tell him,” said he, “that I give him a hundred thousand livres towards the payment of the ransom.”

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Geoffroy de Villehardouin and Jean de Joinville, Memoirs of the Crusades, trans. Sir Frank Marzials (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., n.d.), 220.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 376

 

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