Jean de Joinville was born about ten years after King Louis IX, whom he was later to immortalize in his Vie de Saint Louis. He refers to himself as a “chevalier” in 1248 when he took the cross to accompany the king on the Seventh Crusade, the most important event of his life. He landed with King Louis at Damietta, in Egypt, where the French encountered fierce resistance from the Saracens. He and the king were captured, remained in captivity for about a year, and were released after payment of a large ransom. He then accompanied Louis to Syria (June 1250) and remained with him until the king's departure for France. In the spring of 1254 Joinville returned to his native Champagne. He brought back to France many indelible memories of the king, but he nonetheless refused to take up the cross again in 1267 when Louis IX was preparing his illfated Eighth Crusade, arguing that the previous crusade had greatly impoverished both him and his people of Champagne. King Louis died at Tunis in 1270. “Of his expedition to Tunis, ” Joinville wrote later, “I do not wish…to say anything since, thank God, I was not there” (Life, trans. René Hague, 145.738). A quarter century after his death, however, the king had become a legend, and the movement toward his canonization was gaining momentum. Joinville was asked by Queen Jeanne of Navarre, wife of Philippe le Bel, for “a book written of the holy sayings and good deeds of our King Saint Louis” (Life, trans. René Hague, 1.2), which he finished in 1309. He died in 1317 at the age of ninetythree.
Joinville's Vie de Saint Louis is a great historical war novel, with most of its chapters being dedicated to the Seventh Crusade. This crusade is a narrative of