Jean de Joinville

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Jean de Joinville (c. May 1, 1225 – 24 December 1317) was one of the great chroniclers of medieval France.

Son of Simon de Joinville and Beatrice d'Auxonne, he belonged to a noble family from Champagne. He received an education befitting a young noble at the court of Theobald IV, count of Champagne: reading, writing, and the rudiments of Latin. On the death of his father, he became seneschal of Champagne (and was therefore personally connected to Theobald IV). He was a very pious man and was concerned with the proper administration of the region.

In 1241, he accompanied Theobald to the court of the king of France, Louis IX (the future Saint Louis). In 1244, when Louis organized the Seventh Crusade, Joinville decided to abandon his family to join with the Christian knights just as his father had done 35 years earlier against the Albigensians. At the time of the crusade, Joinville placed himself in the service of the king and became his counsellor and confidant. In 1250, when the king and his troops were captured by the Mameluks in al-Mansourah, Joinville, among the captives, participated in the negotiations and the collection of the ransom. Joinville probably brought himself even closer to the king in the difficult times that followed the failure of the crusade (including the death of his brother Robert, Count of Artois). It was Joinville who advised the king to stay in the Holy Land instead of returning immediately to France as the other lords had wanted; the king followed Joinville's advice. During the following four years spent in the Holy Land Joinville was the constant advisor to the king, who knew that he could count on Joinville's frankness and absolute devotion.

In 1270, Louis IX, although very weakened physically, undertook a new crusade with his three sons. Any enthusiasm Joinville had for the previous crusade had been knocked out of him, and he refused to follow Louis, recognizing the uselessness of the enterprise and convinced that the duty of the king was not to leave the kingdom that needed him. In fact, the expedition was a disaster and the king died outside Tunis on August 25, 1270.

From 1271, the papacy carried out a long inquest on the subject of Louis IX, which ended with his canonization, announced in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII. As Joinville had been a close friend of the king, his counselor and his confidant, his testimony was invaluable to the inquest, where he appeared as a witness in 1282.

At the request of Jeanne of Navarre, the queen, he began work on the Histoire de Saint Louis, which he completed in 1309. Joinville died on 24 December 1317, over 93 years old, nearly fifty years after the death of Louis.


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