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

How a Queen of France Became Queen of England
Louis VI (the Young) [1137-1180]

The Crusade took a long time to prepare. But at length the armies set off, the German first, the French second. After many adventures the French reached Constantinople and passed over into Asia Minor, where they expected to join the Germans. But there they were met with the terrible news that the German army had been attacked and destroyed by the Turks. Utterly crushed and spiritless, the Emperor came to greet Louis with his few remaining followers. With tears in his eyes Louis received him.

"My lord King," said the Emperor sadly, "I will separate from you no more. We will encamp wherever seems best to you. I only ask that my followers and yours may keep together."

This was a terrible beginning, but even now the misfortunes of the Crusaders were by no means over. Disaster after disaster befell them. They were beaten by the Turks, their ranks were thinned by sickness and disease. Many died of hunger and weariness. Many more were taken captive. It was with but a miserable remnant of his once great army that Louis reached Jerusalem. But such as they were the Christians greeted them with joy. As he came near, King Baldwin III, followed by many Christians, came out to meet him, singing, as they re-entered the city, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

After visiting all the holy places, the Crusaders turned their thoughts to war once more. For so far they had done nothing to free the Holy Land from the Turks. They decided now to besiege Damascus.

But even in this the Crusaders did not succeed. Finding the difficulties greater than they thought, they gave up the siege and returned to Jerusalem. Angry and ashamed, the Emperor now went home, and one by one the great nobles followed. But Louis could not bring himself to leave the Holy Land, having done nothing to deliver it. He could not bring himself to own that the Crusade had been an utter failure. So month by month he lingered almost alone.

As one by one the few who had lived through all the terrible sufferings reached France they told their sorry tale. Then long and bitter was the cry of woe that arose. For there was hardly a family high or low which had not lost some loved one. They had been promised victory, and, behold! there was only death and bitterness. So the land was filled with the sound of weeping as the women mourned for the fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons they would see no more. In their pain they cursed the great Abbot who had sent them forth, and the King who had led them. But St. Bernard felt no repentance for what he had done; he believed it to be right, and he meekly bowed his head to the storm. "Curse me," he said; "it is well that men should curse me rather than God."

But Suger, who had never wished Louis to go, sent messenger after messenger begging him to come home. But Louis ever refused. At length Suger wrote to him very urgently.

"Dear King and lord," he said, "I must cause you to hear the voice of your whole kingdom. Why do you stay far from us? The barons and lords of the kingdom have returned, yet you remain among heathen folk. The disturbers of the peace have returned, and you who should defend your subjects remain in a strange land. Of what do you think, my lord, when you leave thus the sheep at the mercy of the wolves?"

Then at last Louis returned. He had been away more than two years, and he found that during that time Suger had well and truly ruled his kingdom. Unlike many kings, Louis at least was grateful. He called Suger "The father of his country," and, bearing that proud title, Suger very gladly laid down the heavy burden of state and went back to his Abbey of St. Denis. Here in little more than a year he died.

Then Louis, having lost his wise counsellor, knew not how to rule. He made mistake after mistake. One of the first mistakes he made was to divorce his wife. At first Louis had loved his wife very dearly. But out in the Holy Land they had quarreled. Eleanor grew to despise her husband and say she had married a monk with a sword in mistake for a King. Suger tried hard to make the angry husband and wife forgive each other, but in vain. He died, and the next year the King and Queen were divorced.

Eleanor, you remember, was very wealthy. She brought fair and broad lands to the kingdom of France. But the Queen of France had now again become only the Duchess of Aquitaine, and all these broad, fair lands were lost to the crown.

Eleanor was beautiful as well as wealthy, and many great lords and princes were eager to marry her. Like a princess in a fairy tale, she fled from one and another who had vowed to marry her whether she would or no. But there was one among them she could not escape. This was Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy and of Anjou. Young, handsome, splendid, he married beautiful Eleanor, who was thirteen years older than himself.

Stephen was still upon the throne of England, but Henry claimed it. Too late Louis saw the danger to France if the King of England should also be lord of half of France. As over-lord he forbade Henry to marry Eleanor. But Henry laughed at the King of France and went his own way. A few years later Stephen died, and Henry became King of England. Henry was also Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou, Duke of Aquitaine, and indeed over-lord of half of France. At twenty-two he was the most powerful ruler in Europe, far more powerful than Louis, his over-lord and enemy.

To the end of his days Louis fought with his clever, wily enemy, Henry. When Henry quarreled with Thomas a Becket, Louis took the Archbishop's part, received him with every skillful, and fought the King of England. When Henry's sons rebelled against their father, Louis encouraged them and helped them. In every way he showed himself a bitter enemy to the King of England.