Failure of the Seventh Crusade Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Seventh Crusade ended in failure and contributed to the growing disillusionment and anti-Crusade sentiment characteristic of mid- to late thirteenth century Europe.

Summary of Event

A little more than 150 years after Pope Urban II called the First Crusade in 1095, King Louis IX Louis IX (king of France) of France embarked on what historians regard as the end of the crusading movement. Louis can be seen as leader of two crusades, or of one crusade in two phases. In either interpretation, it is the earlier effort that is usually called the Seventh Crusade. [kw]Failure of the Seventh Crusade (1248-1254) [kw]Seventh Crusade, Failure of the (1248-1254) [kw]Crusade, Failure of the Seventh (1248-1254) Crusades;Seventh[07] Egypt;1248-1254: Failure of the Seventh Crusade[2400] Israel/Palestine;1248-1254: Failure of the Seventh Crusade[2400] Europe (general);1248-1254: Failure of the Seventh Crusade[2400] Byzantine Empire;1248-1254: Failure of the Seventh Crusade[2400] Religion;1248-1254: Failure of the Seventh Crusade[2400] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1248-1254: Failure of the Seventh Crusade[2400] Louis IX Blanche of Castile William, earl of Salisbury Robert of Artois Charles of Anjou Alphonse of Poitiers Margaret of Provence Jean de Joinville

It is true that there were attempts to organize crusades for several centuries after the failure of the campaigns of Louis in 1248 and 1270, but none of them succeeded in winning the kind of support that made possible the strong offensives of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Indeed, Louis’s abortive crusade of 1270 marked the last full-scale crusade mounted by a European king.

On the diplomatic scene there were compelling reasons for a crusade in the 1240’. In the West, a succession of popes had engaged in a long vendetta with the brilliant Holy Roman Emperor and Crusader, Frederick II Frederick II (r. 1215-1250). In this struggle, crusading had been a factor in several ways. First, although Frederick had promised to lead a crusade in 1215 and 1220, he did not leave until 1227. Pope Gregory IX Gregory IX , angered by his stalling, finally excommunicated him, a ban not lifted until Frederick’s return from the Sixth Crusade.

During the Sixth Crusade, Frederick won Jerusalem in negotiations with al-Malik al-Kāmil Malik al-Kāmil, al- , the sultan of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria (r. 1218-1238). The Christian victory was not long-lived, however; Jerusalem was subsequently retaken in 1244 by the Turks, who were allies of the Egyptians.

Second, Frederick once again found himself the target of papal anger in 1245, when Pope Innocent IV Innocent IV excommunicated him and called for a crusade against Frederick himself at the Council of Lyons.

Although his loyalty to the church was unquestioned, Louis did not support the pope in this venture. Rather, during a serious illness, Louis made a vow that he would take up the cross for the more traditional and popular purpose of reconquering the Holy Land. Louis’s mother, Blanche of Castile Blanche of Castile , tried to dissuade him from his vow, saying that a vow taken in illness was not binding. Louis’s response was to retake his vow on his recovery.

Crusaders disembarking at Damietta, Egypt, from a woodcut in Grand Voyage de Hiérusalem (1522).

(Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.)

Conditions in the East also indicated that the time was ripe for a major thrust against the Muslims, because there was internal rivalry between the Syrian and Egyptian leaders. Another hopeful sign, though misinterpreted, was an apparent chance of allying with the Mongols against the Muslims. Several religious-diplomatic missions had been sent to the Mongol khan, Hülagü Hülagü , and though they had produced no positive results, the possibilities of converting the Mongols and thus procuring a strong ally in the East was a factor in the climate that supported Louis’s Crusade.

Louis prepared for the Seventh Crusade in a number of ways. First, he wanted to leave behind a stable France. He had quelled two uprisings by barons in 1241 and 1243; as he gathered his forces for the Seventh Crusade, he persuaded many of the dissident barons to accompany him. He also sent emissaries around the country to investigate any wrongdoings by his government or dissatisfaction of his subjects. As a result of this investigation, he overhauled his administration and left experienced, trustworthy officials in charge during his absence.

Second, Louis carefully planned for the material needs of his expedition. The Seventh Crusade, which was more carefully planned than any of the expeditions that had preceded it, included the construction of a port of embarkation at Aigues-Mortes, not far from Marseilles, as well as the shipping of a large number of supplies ahead to Cyprus. Further, Louis embarked on negotiations with the Genoese for transportation and the recruitment of an army of at least ten thousand men.

Apart from a small contingent from England under William William, earl of Salisbury , the earl of Salisbury and grandson of Henry II (r. 1154-1189), most of the force was French, and a large proportion was supported directly by the king. Among the leading barons were three of the French king’s brothers: Robert of Artois Robert of Artois , Charles of Anjou Charles of Anjou , and Alphonse of Poitiers Alphonse of Poitiers . Louis’s wife, Margaret of Provence Margaret of Provence , also accompanied the expedition, a reminder that Crusaders of knightly rank were accustomed to bringing an entire household. In this case, Margaret played a strategic role in the evacuation after Louis’s defeat.

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Louis received little help from the pope in organizing his Crusade. The pope’s crusade against Frederick II as well as his call for a crusade in Spain diluted the crusading effort across Europe. Most of Louis’s support came from within France, with the Catholic Church contributing funds that covered approximately two-thirds of his expenses. Louis also contributed a great deal of his own money to support the expedition.

After three years of preparation, the expedition sailed for Damietta after wintering at Cyprus. Louis reached the Nile River near Damietta by June of 1249. The plan called for conquering Muslims of the Ayyūbid Dynasty in Egypt, thus forcing them to make concessions in the Holy Places. Louis was following the strategy of the Fifth Crusade, when Damietta was offered in exchange for Jerusalem. In a rapid, excellently organized landing and attack, the Crusaders routed an Egyptian force that had come to the coast to meet them. Pushing on to Damietta itself by June 6, the Crusaders found the place deserted and were able to take it over with little or no loss, thus providing themselves with an ideal base of operations.

The Crusaders did not begin their march into Egypt until November 20. They did not reach Al Manṣūrah, a fortified stronghold up the Nile, until February of 1250. Al Manṣūrah was an important military objective: Whoever held Al Manṣūrah could command Cairo, and thus bargain from a position of strength.

Louis IX, captured by the Muslim forces, was held for ransom and released after its partial payment. He chose to stay in Acre for four years as protector to those waiting to be ransomed.

(F. R. Niglutsch)

The attack on Al Manṣūrah Al Manṣūrah, Battle of (1250)[Al Mansurah, Battle of (1250)] was a complete disaster for Louis’s forces. Robert of Artois, who led the vanguard, flagrantly disobeyed orders and stormed the city with the Knights Templar before the supporting troops had time to assemble. The vanguard was trapped in the narrow streets of Al Manṣūrah, and Robert was killed. Louis, who crossed the Nile with the main body of Crusaders, fought all day and ended in possession of the battlefield outside the city when the Muslims retreated to Al Manṣūrah. Over the next days, however, the Crusaders were unable to take Al Manṣūrah and became increasingly isolated and without defense. By April, Louis and his remaining army recrossed the Nile and began their retreat to Damietta. The Muslims were able to capture the fleeing army easily. Captives worth a ransom, particularly the king, were spared.

When news of the tragedy reached Damietta, the Genoese responsible for transport planned to pull out and leave the remnant of the Crusaders to their own devices. At this juncture, Margaret bargained successfully with the Genoese and persuaded them to stay.

Louis was released on May 6, 1250, after partial payment of his ransom. He chose to remain in Acre about four years, however, as a protector of those who were waiting to be ransomed. After his mother, Blanche of Castile, who had acted as regent in his absence, died, Louis returned to France in 1254, believing that his failure had been a punishment for his sins.

Sixteen years later, Louis headed another expedition. This time, the response to the crusading call was disappointing and the army was considerably smaller than the earlier one. Some of Louis’s closest associates, including Jean de Joinville Joinville, Jean de , his biographer and loyal supporter on the earlier campaign, refused the second time. The army landed at Tunis, for reasons that continue to puzzle historians. It was the end for Louis, who died of a fever. It was reported that his last words were “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”

Significance

The failure of Louis’s crusades cannot be alleged as the sole cause for the mood of disillusionment concerning the Holy War that was so pronounced a feature after Louis’s time. Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly an important factor. Louis was revered even during his lifetime as an exemplar of Christian kingship; soon after his death, he became a legend.

It was hard for the people of an age that looked to heaven for visible signs of approval to believe that a crusade could possibly be an expression of God’s will, since the greatest of Christian kings that people knew had tried and failed. The old Crusaders’s cry, “God wills it,” could never again have a convincing ring. Whether it was Louis’s failure or the political uses to which the Crusades were put during the last half of the thirteenth century that led to the end of the era is unclear. Nevertheless, although crusades continued to be mounted on a small scale for the next three hundred years, no crusade ever again achieved the scope or size of the Seventh Crusade.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hallam, Elizabeth, ed. Chronicles of the Crusades: Eye-witness Accounts of the Wars Between Christianity and Islam. New York: Welcome Rain, 2000. A large, lavishly illustrated volume of translated primary source documents and linking essays. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hillenbrand, Carole. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2000. Chapters explore ethnic and religious stereotyping, daily life, the conduct of war, and more. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Irwin, Robert. “Muslim Responses to the Crusades.” History Today 47, no. 4 (April, 1997). Presents a rich overview of the Muslim perspective on the Crusades. Provides photographs and a short list of further readings.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jordan, William Chester. Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000. This study concentrates on the development of Louis’s character and his philosophy of rulership through his preparation for and involvement in his crusades. The text unites psychological analysis with detailed economic and political data. Includes maps, illustrations, appendices, and an extensive bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lev, Yaacov, ed. The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1453. Vol. 9 in War and Society in the Eastern Mediterranean, Seventh-Fifteenth Centuries. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1997. Explores the world of the Crusades and other military encounters in the Middle East and the greater Mediterranean area, including Muslim Egypt up to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Topics include armaments and supplies, regional administration, and the impact of the Crusaders on rural populations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lloyd, Simon. “The Crusades of St. Louis.” History Today 47, no. 5 (May, 1997): 37-43. The author presents a clearly written overview of Louis’s legacy and achievements, especially his devotion to the Crusades. Includes several photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Madden, Thomas F., ed. The Crusades: The Essential Readings. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2002. A collection of previously published articles about the Crusades, including medieval sources, lay enthusiasm, patronage, Byzantium, and the subjection of Muslims. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: A Short History. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987. A comprehensive history of the Crusades including the crusades to the East as well as the political crusades in Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Runciman, Steven. The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades. Vol. 3 in A History of the Crusades. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. The author devotes a chapter to Louis, and he also shows the Crusades from an Eastern perspective. Maps, bibliography, index.

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