The life of St. King Louis IX of France was not remotely an easy one, but of his story it can be said that behind every great man is a great woman. In this case, there are two. Many parts of France were in turmoil when he took the crown at the age of 11. While his mother, the Queen Regent, and her good stewards were able to defeat various military uprisings and incursions from England, their victory in the Albigensian War over the Cathars, secured the southern part of France and the respect of Pope Gregory IX. Further, she is credited with inspiring him to a great sense of the Catholic Faith.
Shortly after taking the reigns of the French government, he was forced into war with a rebellious count who was supported by Henry III of England, a man who would be a constant nuisance. Luckily though, Henry was married to the sister of Louis’s wife and eventually, Louis would be able to negotiate peace treaties through these goodly women in order to avoid further bloodshed. This would become a great theme of his reign. While he was nothing akin to a pacifist, Louis was known for seeking out diplomatic solutions wherever possible, even taking great strides with the Khan’s of Asia to allow for missionaries to travel there. But what was particularly interesting was his employ of his wife, his mother, and other powerful women in the raising of troops, the negotiation of treaties, and so on. Upon his capture in his first crusade, his wife is known as the only woman to have ever led a crusade, while his mother as Queen Regent led France in his absence.
Among other religious devotions he was known for great charity to the poor, for establishing hospitals, fasting, prayer, and penance, and for supporting church teaching on a number of matters, not the least of which was forbidding simony, stopping abuses against clergy, and defending the Papacy. He was known for his humility and even criticized for dressing plainly for a king. He championed Catholic education, particularly theological formation, establishing the theological faculty at the Sorbonne. Yet his greatest passion it seemed was to champion the crusades. While on his second crusade he would lay down his life, likely due to exposure to plague.
He is known to have lived his life after his mother’s exhortation, “I would rather see you dead at my feet than guilty of mortal sin.”