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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

XIV: The Crusades of Louis IX,   pp. 486-518 PDF (12.7 MB)

Page 488

in regions which were jealous of the leadership of the French king and suspicious
of the policy of the pope. But the very magnitude of the undertaking brought
disillusion when it failed. If Louis, the richest and most powerful ruler
in western Europe, could not conquer the Moslems and recover the holy places,
who could? Thus the failure of Louis contributed to the loss of confidence,
the hesitations, and even the cynicism which weakened all later crusades.
 The high hopes with which this crusade began were due in large part to the
character and abilities of the leader. Louis's devotion to the crusading
ideal was evident even to the skeptical Frederick II. Neither the pressure
of public opinion nor the emotional exhorta tions of the clergy was responsible
for his taking the cross. Love of glory and hope of profit were equally foreign
to his nature. He made his decision unaided by his family and advisers, but
once he decided that the welfare of his soul and of Christendom required
a crusade, he never looked back. He was not a reluctant crusader like Philip
Augustus, nor an impatient one like Richard the Lionhearted. He was willing
to devote all the time, money, and energy to the crusade which the business
required. The loss of opportunities for expanding his kingdom, the boredom
of a long period of purely defensive operations, did not cause him to lose
interest. From 1245 to 1270 the crusade was the basis of his foreign policy;
he made every effort to keep peace in Europe, so that Christendom could unite
in an attack on the Saracens. His singleness of purpose and his freedom from
selfish motives gained him the devotion of many of his followers and the
respect of all. 
 To these qualities of character were added real abilities as a war minister.
Louis had both the experience and the patience needed for organizing an army,
and he had surrounded himself with men who knew how to carry out his plans.
He overcame almost com pletely the material difficulties which had plagued
earlier crusaders 
— finance, transportation, supply. He not only raised and equipped
a large army; he succeeded in bringing most of it to the point of attack
without the tremendous losses of men and supplies which had characterized
earlier overseas expeditions. His courage was an inspiration to his army,
but he never fell into the foolhardy rashness which destroyed other brave
leaders. His one great weakness was in generalship — he was better
at organizing an army than in commanding it in the field — but even
in this respect he was no worse than most crusading leaders. 
 It is also true that the situation in the Near East in the 1 240's 

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