The Eighth Crusade was a crusade launched by Louis IX of France against the city of Tunis in 1270. The Eighth Crusade is sometimes counted as the Seventh, if the Fifth and Sixth Crusades of Frederick II are counted as a single crusade. The Ninth Crusade is sometimes also counted as part of the Eighth. The crusade is considered a failure after Louis died shortly after arriving on the shores of Tunisia, with his disease-ridden army dispersing back to Europe shortly afterwards.
It is said that King Louis always regretted the result of his fateful Seventh Crusade that led to his capture at the hands of the Mamluks. 20 years later, nearing the end of his reign at the age of 56, Louis concocted plans for a final attempt to restore Christian rule in the Holy Land.
Louis was additionally disturbed by events in Syria, where the Mamluk Sultan Baibars had been attacking the remnant of the Crusader states. Baibars had seized the opportunity after the War of Saint Sabas pitted the cities of Venice and Genoa against each other between 1256–1270, which had exhausted the resources and manpower of the Syrian ports that the two cities controlled. By 1265, Baibars had captured Nazareth, Haifa, Toron, and Arsuf. Hugh III of Cyprus, nominal king of Jerusalem, landed in Acre to defend that city, while Baibars marched as far north as Armenia, which was at that time under Mongol control. In 1268, the ancient city of Antioch fell to Baibars, with all its inhabitants slaughtered.
Siege of Tunis
These events led to Louis' call for a new crusade in 1267 and beyond, although there was little support this time; Jean de Joinville, the chronicler who accompanied Louis on the Seventh Crusade, refused to go. Initially, as with all Crusades, the Crusade would have targeted lands on the coastline of Outremer, with the ultimate aim of recapturing Jerusalem.
However, Louis was soon convinced by his brother Charles of Anjou to attack Tunis first, which would give them a strong base for attacking Egypt, the focus of Louis' previous crusade as well as the Fifth Crusade before him, both of which had been defeated there. Charles, as King of Sicily, also had his own interests in this area of the Mediterranean. The Khalif of Tunis, Muhammad I al-Mustansir, also had connections with Christian Spain and was considered a good candidate for conversion. It is suspected that Charles' interest was purely economical, rather than religious. In 1268, Charles managed to secure his inheritance of Sicily from the Hohenstaufens after defeating Conradin at the Battle of Tagliacozzo.
Louis left on a huge fleet from Southern France, landing on the African coast in July 1270, a very unfavourable season for landing. Much of the army became sick because of poor drinking water, with his Damietta-born son John Tristan dying of dysentery on 3 August. On 25 August, Louis himself died from a "flux in the stomach", one day after the arrival of Charles, on August 25, 1270. His dying word was "Jerusalem". Charles proclaimed Louis' son Philip III the new king, but because of his youth Charles became the actual leader of the crusade.
Because of further diseases the siege of Tunis was abandoned on 30 October by an agreement with the sultan. In this agreement the Christians gained free trade with Tunis, and residence for monks and priests in the city was guaranteed. After hearing of the death of Louis and the evacuation of the crusaders from Tunis, Sultan Baibars of Egypt cancelled his plan to send Egyptian troops to fight Louis in Tunis. Charles now allied himself with Henry III of England's son Edward, who had arrived in the meantime. When Charles called off the attack on Tunis, Edward continued on to Acre, the last crusader outpost in Syria. His time spent there is often called the Ninth Crusade.
Louis' propensity for crusading earned him saintly status, and he was canonised on 11 August 1297. He is widely considered as one of the most popular Capetian monarchs.
Bertran d'Alamanon, a diplomat in the service of Charles of Anjou, and Ricaut Bonomel, a Templar in the Holy Land, both composed songs around 1265. Bertran criticised the decline of Christianity in Outremer, while Bonomel criticised the Papal policy of pursuing wars in Italy with money that should have gone overseas.
The failure of the Eighth Crusade, like those of its predecessors, caused a response to be crafted in Occitan poetry by the troubadours. The death of Louis of France especially sparked their creative output, notable considering the hostility which the troubadours had previously shown towards the French monarchy during the Albigensian Crusade. Three planhs, songs of lament, were composed for the death of Louis IX.
Guilhem d'Autpol composed Fortz tristors es e salvaj'a retraire for Louis. Raimon Gaucelm de Bezers composed Qui vol aver complida amistansa to celebrate the preparations of the Crusade in 1268, but in 1270 he had to compose Ab grans trebalhs et ab grans marrimens in commemoration of the French king. Austorc de Segret composed No sai quim so, tan sui desconoissens, a more general Crusading song, that laments Louis but also that either God or Satan is misleading Christians. He also attacks Louis' brother Charles, whom he calls the caps e guitz (head and guide) of the infidels, because he convinced Louis to attack Tunis and not the Holy Land, and he immediately negotiated a peace with the Muslims after Louis' death.
After the Crusade, the aged troubadour Peire Cardenal wrote a song, Totz lo mons es vestitiz et abrazatz (more or less: the entire world is besieged and surrounded [by falsehood]), encouraging Louis' heir, Philip III, to go to the Holy Land to aid Edward Longshanks.
Satiric verses were composed in Tunis about Louis' new plan to invade Tunis: "O Louis, Tunis is the sister of Egypt! thus expect your ordeal! you will find your tomb here instead of the house of Ibn Lokman; and the eunuch Sobih will be here replaced by Munkir and Nakir.".
- "The Crusades of St. Louis". Britannica. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "The Crusades of St. Louis". Britannica. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "The Eighth Crusade".
- Al-Maqrizi, p. 69/vol.2
- Verses by a contemporary Tunesian named Ahmad Ismail Alzayat (Al-Maqrizi, p.462/vol.1) – House of Ibn Lokman was the house in Al-Mansurah where Louis was imprisoned in chains after he was captured in Fariskur during the 7th Crusade and where he was under the guard of a eunuch named Sobih. According to Muslim creed Munkir and Nakir are two angels who interrogate the dead.
- Al-Maqrizi, Al Selouk Leme'refatt Dewall al-Melouk, Dar al-kotob, Cairo 1997.
- Idem in English: Bohn, Henry G., The Road to Knowledge of the Return of Kings, Chronicles of the Crusades, AMS Press, 1969.
- Richard, Jean: The Crusades, C.1071-c.1291, Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-521-62566-1
- Throop, Palmer A., "Criticism of Papal Crusade Policy in Old French and Provençal." Speculum, Vol. 13, No. 4. (October, 1938), pp. 379–412.
- Lyric allusions to the crusades and the Holy Land
- Beebe, Bruce, "The English Baronage and the Crusade of 1270," in Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, vol. xlviii (118), November 1975, pp. 127–148.