Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Second War of the Cross
Louis VII (the Young) [1137-1180]

A month before Louis VI died, his son, Louis the Young, had set forth with great pomp on a journey to Aquitaine,. there to marry the beautiful Princess Eleanor. The marriage took place, and Louis was crowned Duke of Aquitaine, bringing thus to the crown of France lands over which his ancestors had never ruled. Then the young bride and bridegroom journeyed homeward. But on the way a messenger of sorrow met them. "The King is dead," he said. "Long live the King."

Thus in 1137, at the age of seventeen, Louis the Young came to the throne. Although he reigned for forty-three years he kept his name, the Young. For all his life he remained simple and lacking in wisdom. He was idle and pleasure loving, and held with but feeble hands the sword which his father had left him. But in the beginning of his reign Louis had wise counsellors; the chief of these was the Abbot Suger.

Suger was of the people. His father was a poor workman, yet, in this time when the common people were despised and down-trodden, he became great. He did not look like a great man. He was very small, thin, and sickly. But in spite of his ill health he was always at work. He knew men and how to deal with them, he loved peace, and he loved his country and King. He was indeed one of the finest of French statesmen, because he worked for the country that he loved, not to make himself powerful. Suger was Abbot of St. Denis, and toward the end of Louis VII's reign he rose to great power in the state.

Now that Louis VII reigned, his power was greater even than it had been. For the new King was weak and idle, and had little desire to rule.

But Louis was passionate as well as idle, and he soon had a quarrel with the Pope. The Popes had for a long time claimed the right of appointing what Bishops they chose in any Christian country. The Kings of France, on the other hand, had denied the right, and claimed that they alone should appoint Bishops in France.

Now the Pope appointed an Archbishop to the See of Bourges. At this the King was very angry and he appointed another. "Never," he cried, "so long as I live shall the Pope's Archbishop enter the city of Bourges."

"Tut, tut," said the Pope, "the King is a child. He needs teaching. We must stop him of these bad habits."

So he laid the land where Louis dwelt or through which he passed under an interdict. Wherever the King came the church bells ceased to ring. Night or morning no prayers were said, the dead were hurried silently to the grave without chant or prayer. There were no weddings, no baptisms. When the King passed on, the bells rang out once more and prayers and chants were heard.

For a time Louis bore this, but at length war broke out.

One of Louis's vassals, the Count of Champagne, sided with the Pope. This made Louis very angry.

"Are your own lands not large enough to give you work to do?" he asked in wrath. "Attend to what is yours and leave me to govern my kingdom as I will."

But the count still took the part of the Pope and gave shelter to his Archbishop. Then Louis marched through his land, fighting and slaying. Neither man, woman, nor child did he spare in his wrath. Villages and towns went up in flames. Among them was the town of Vitry. It was mostly built of wood and once the fire was begun it leaped from house to house until the whole town was wrapped in flames. The people fled for safety to the church. That too caught fire. Amid the roar of flames and the crackle of burning wood cries of agony rang out. They reached the ears of the King. At the thought of these helpless peasants, caught in such a trap, given over to such a fearful death, all the anger faded out of his childlike heart. He called upon his men to save the church, to save their fellows. But all their efforts were in vain. The roof fell in, the walls crashed together, and the cry of agony was stilled. Thirteen hundred men, women, and children had perished in the flames.

Louis could not blot out from his eyes the memory of that awful sight. He could not shut out from his ears Louis' the cry of despairing agony he had heard. His will was broken, the Pope had his way, and his Archbishop took possession of Bourges.

Not long after this, news came from Palestine that the Turks were once more in arms against the Christians. They had taken a town and killed all the Christians in it.

Louis's heart was stirred at the news. Here he thought was the way of peace. He would take the Cross, he would fight for the Sepulchre of his Lord, and so find rest for his troubled conscience, and take from his soul the burden of Vitry the burned.

But Suger the Wise tried to dissuade him. The King's place was in his own country, he said, ruling his own people. Another great man, however, the Abbot Bernard, encouraged Louis to go. So again there was much stir throughout the land. Meetings were held and the Cross was preached.

It was St. Bernard now who, like Peter the Hermit fifty years before, preached the Crusade. To a great gathering at the town of Vezelai the people came in such crowds that neither castle nor market-place could hold them. So out on the hillside beyond the town the King's throne was raised. There he sat dressed in his royal robes, with his crown upon his head. At his side sat his Queen, while St. Bernard stood to speak to the people. He spoke to them with such burning words that all hearts were touched. He bade them remember their fathers who had conquered Jerusalem, whose names were written in heaven.

"Then why stay ye, oh, noble knights? God the eternal and living hath charged me to say to you that He will punish those who do not fight His enemies. To arms then! Let all the Christian world resound with the words of the prophet, 'Woe to him who dyeth not his sword in blood.'"

Almost before St. Bernard had finished speaking his words were drowned in cries of, "The Cross! the Cross!"

Then the King, first of all the throng, knelt and received the Cross from St. Bernard. Next the Queen knelt. Upon her splendid, jeweled dress the sacred sign was fastened. Following the King and Queen, noble after noble pressed forward all eager for the Cross. And although a great number had been made ready there were not enough. But St. Bernard would not turn one willing helper away. Quickly slipping off the robes he wore, he tore them into shreds and of them made crosses to give to the eager people.

Then through all France went St. Bernard preaching the Crusade. People thronged to him from far and near, and the towns and villages were emptied of men. "I have opened my mouth and I have spoken," he wrote to the Pope, "and the number of the Crusaders may no more be counted. The towns and castles are deserted. You will hardly find one man to seven women. Everywhere one sees widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers are yet among the living."

Not content with preaching the Crusade in France, St. Bernard passed into Germany. There too his burning words roused the people. The Emperor himself took the Cross and thousands of his subjects followed him.

It was King Louis who first thought of the Crusade. It was St. Bernard who made it. Now the people clamored that he should be their leader. But he refused. He remembered too well the fate of Peter the Hermit. "Who am I," he said, "that I should form camps and march at the head of an army? Nothing is further from my office. Even if I lacked not the strength, I have not the knowledge." So the Crusaders chose another leader, for although Louis joined the Crusade he did not go as commander-in-chief.

But now it was asked who was to rule the kingdom in the absence of the King? "Here be two swords," said St. Bernard, pointing to Suger and a count; "they be enough."

But the count refused the difficult task. Suger too at first refused. The burden seemed to him too great. The Pope himself, however, added his entreaties to those of others. So Suger yielded, feeling that he could not refuse what the Pope asked.