King Saint Louis IX is the paragon of chivalry and among the worthiest of Christians to take up the Crusade. The Saintly Crusader King’s letter to his son tells us much about the man.
- To his dear first-born son, Philip, greeting, and his father’s love.
- Dear son, since I desire with all my heart that you be well “instructed in all things, it is
in my thought to give you some advice this writing. For I have heard you say, several
times, that you remember my words better than those of any one else.
- Therefore, dear son, the first thing I advise is that you fix your whole heart upon God,
and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved or be of any
4- You should, with all your strength, shun everything which you believe to be
displeasing to Him. And you ought especially to be resolved not to commit mortal sin, no
matter what may happen and should permit all your limbs to be hewn off, and suffer
every manner of torment , rather than fall knowingly into mortal sin.
- If our Lord send you any adversity, whether illness or other receive it in good patience and be thankful for it, for you ought to believe that He will cause everything to turn out for your good; and likewise
you should think that you have well merited it, and more also, should He will it, because
you have loved Him but little, and served Him but little, and have done many things
contrary to His will.
- If our Lord send you any prosperity, either health of body or other thing you ought to
thank Him humbly for it, and you ought to be careful that you are not the worse for it,
either through pride or anything else, for it is a very great sin to fight against our Lord
with His gifts.
- Dear son, I advise you that you accustom yourself to frequent confession, and that you
choose always, as your confessors, men who are upright and sufficiently learned, and
who can teach you what you should do and what you should avoid. You should so carry
yourself that your confessors and other friends may dare confidently to reprove you and
show you your faults.
- Dear son, I advise you that you listen willingly and devoutly the services of Holy
Church, and, when you are in church, avoid to frivolity and trifling, and do not look here
and there; but pray to God with lips and heart alike, while entertaining sweet thoughts
about Him, and especially at the mass, when the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
are consecrated, and for a little time before.
- Dear son, have a tender pitiful heart for the poor, and for all those whom you believe to
be in misery of heart or body, and, according to your ability, comfort and aid them with
- Maintain the good customs of your realm, and put down the bad ones. Do not oppress
your people and do not burden them with tolls or tailles, except under very great
- If you have any unrest of heart, of such a nature that it may be told, tell it to your
confessor, or to some upright man who can keep your secret; you will be able to carry
more easily the thought of your heart.
- See to it that those of your household are upright and loyal, and remember the
Scripture, which says: “Elige viros timentes Deum in quibus sit justicia et qui oderint
avariciam”; that is to say, “Love those who serve God and who render strict justice and
hate covetousness”; and you will profit, and will govern your kingdom well.
- Dear son, see to it that all your associates are upright, whether clerics or laymen, and
have frequent good converse with them; and flee the society of the bad. And listen
willingly to the word of God, both in open and in secret; and purchase freely prayers and
- Love all good, and hate all evil, in whomsoever it may be.
- Let no one be so bold as to say, in your presence, words which attract and lead to sin,
and do not permit words of detraction to be spoken of another behind his back.
!6. Suffer it not that any ill be spoken of God or His saints in your presence, without
taking prompt vengeance. But if the offender be a clerk or so great a person that you
ought not to try him, report the matter to him who is entitled to judge it.
- Dear son, give thanks to God often for all the good things He has done for you, so
that you may be worthy to receive more, in such a manner that if it please the Lord that
you come to the burden and honor of governing the kingdom, you may be worthy to
receive the sacred unction wherewith the kings of France are consecrated.
- Dear son, if you come to the throne, strive to have that which befits a king, that is to
say, that in justice and rectitude you hold yourself steadfast and loyal toward your
subjects and your vassals, without turning either to the right or to the left, but always
straight, whatever may happen. And if a poor man have a quarrel with a rich man, sustain
the poor rather than the rich, until the truth is made clear, and when you know the truth,
do justice to them.
- If any one have entered into a suit against you (for any injury or wrong which he may
believe that you have done to him), be always for him and against yourself in the
presence of your council, without showing that you think much of your case (until the
truth be made known concerning it); for those of your council might be backward in
speaking against you, and this you should not wish; and command your judges that you
be not in any way upheld more than any others, for thus will your councillors judge more
boldly according to right and truth.
- If you have anything belonging to another, either of yourself or through your
predecessors, if the matter is certain, give it up without delay, however great it may be,
either in land or money or otherwise. If the matter is doubtful, have it inquired into by
wise men, promptly and diligently. And if the affair is so obscure that you cannot know
the truth, make such a settlement, by the counsel of s of upright men, that your soul, and
the soul your predecessors, may be wholly freed from the affair. And even if you hear
some one say that your predecessors made restitution, make diligent inquiry to learn if
anything remains to be restored; and if you find that such is the case, cause it to be
delivered over at once, for the liberation of your soul and the souls of your predecessors.
- You should seek earnestly how your vassals and your subjects may live in peace and
rectitude beneath your sway; likewise, the good towns and the good cities of your
kingdom. And preserve them in the estate and the liberty in which your predecessors kept
them, redress it, and if there be anything to amend, amend and preserve their favor and
their love. For it is by the strength and the riches of your good cities and your good towns
that the native and the foreigner, especially your peers and your barons, are deterred from
doing ill to you. I will remember that Paris and the good towns of my kingdom aided me
against the barons, when I was newly crowned.
- Honor and love all the people of Holy Church, and be careful that no violence be
done to them, and that their gifts and alms, which your predecessors have bestowed upon
them, be not taken away or diminished. And I wish here to tell you what is related
concerning King Philip, my ancestor, as one of his council, who said he heard it, told it to
me. The king, one day, was with his privy council, and he was there who told me these
words. And one of the king’s councillors said to him how much wrong and loss he
suffered from those of Holy Church, in that they took away his rights and lessened the
jurisdiction of his court; and they marveled greatly how he endured it. And the good king
answered: “I am quite certain that they do me much wrong, but when I consider the
goodnesses and kindnesses which God has done me, I had rather that my rights should
go, than have a contention or awaken a quarrel with Holy Church.” And this I tell to you
that you may not lightly believe anything against the people of Holy Church; so love
them and honor them and watch over them that they may in peace do the service of our
- Moreover, I advise you to love dearly the clergy, and, so far as you are able, do good
to them in their necessities, and likewise love those by whom God is most honored and
served, and by whom the Faith is preached and exalted.
- Dear son, I advise that you love and reverence your father and your mother, willingly
remember and keep their commandments, and be inclined to believe their good counsels.
- Love your brothers, and always wish their well-being and their good advancement,
and also be to them in the place of a father, to instruct them in all good. But be watchful
lest, for the love which you bear to one, you turn aside from right doing, and do to the
others that which is not meet.
- Dear son, I advise you to bestow the benefices of Holy Church which you have to
give, upon good persons, of good and clean life, and that you bestow them with the high
counsel of upright men. And I am of the opinion that it is preferable to give them to those
who hold nothing of Holy Church, rather than to others. For, if you inquire diligently,
you will find enough of those who have nothing who will use wisely that entrusted to
- Dear son, I advise you that you try with all your strength to avoid warring against any
Christian man, unless he have done you too much ill. And if wrong be done you, try
several ways to see if you can find how you can secure your rights, before you make war;
and act thus in order to avoid the sins which are committed in warfare.
- And if it fall out that it is needful that you should make war (either because some one
of your vassals has failed to plead his case in your court, or because he has done wrong to
some church or to some poor person, or to any other person whatsoever, and is unwilling
to make amends out of regard for you, or for any other reasonable cause), whatever the
reason for which it is necessary for you to make war, give diligent command that the poor
folk who have done no wrong or crime be protected from damage to their vines, either
through fire or otherwise, for it were more fitting that you should constrain the
wrongdoer by taking his own property (either towns or castles, by force of siege), than
that you should devastate the property of poor people. And be careful not to start the war
before you have good counsel that the cause is most reasonable, and before you have
summoned the offender to make amends, and have waited as long as you should. And if
he ask mercy, you ought to pardon him, and accept his amends, so that God may be
pleased with you.
- Dear son, I advise you to appease wars and contentions, whether they be yours or
those of your subjects, just as quickly as may be, for it is a thing most pleasing to our
Lord. And Monsignor Martin gave us a very great example of this. For, one time, when
our Lord made it known to him that he was about to die, he set out to make peace
between certain clerks of his archbishopric, and he was of the opinion that in so doing he
was giving a good end to life.
- Seek diligently, most sweet son, to have good baillis and good prevots in your land,
and inquire frequently concerning their doings, and how they conduct themselves, and if
they administer justice well, and do no wrong to any one, nor anything which they ought
not do. Inquire more often concerning those of your household if they be too covetous or
too arrogant; for it is natural that the members should seek to imitate their chief; that is,
when the master is wise and well-behaved, all those of his household follow his example
and prefer it. For however much you ought to hate evil in others, you should have more
hatred for the evil which comes from those who derive their power from you, than you
bear to the evil of others; and the more ought you to be on your guard and prevent this
3!. Dear son, I advise you always to be devoted to the Church of Rome, and to the
sovereign pontiff, our father, and to bear him the reverence and honor which you owe to
your spiritual father.
- Dear son, freely give power to persons of good character, who know how to use it
well, and strive to have wickednesses expelled from your land, that is to say, nasty oaths,
and everything said or done against God or our Lady or the saints. In a wise and proper
manner put a stop, in your land, to bodily sins, dicing, taverns, and other sins. Put down
heresy so far as you can, and hold in especial abhorrence Jews, and all sorts of people
who are hostile to the Faith, so that your land may be well purged of them, in such
manner as, by the sage counsel of good people, may appear to you advisable.
- Further the right with all your strength. Moreover I admonish you that you strive most
earnestly to show your gratitude for the benefits which our Lord has bestowed upon you,
and that you may know how to give Him thanks therefore
- Dear son, take care that the expenses of your household are reasonable and moderate,
and that its moneys are justly obtained. And there is one opinion that I deeply wish you to
entertain, that is to say, that you keep yourself free from foolish expenses and evil
exactions, and that your money should be well expended and well acquired. And this
opinion, together with other opinions which are suitable and profitable, I pray that our
Lord may teach you.
- Finally, most sweet son, I conjure and require you that, if it please our Lord that I
should die before you, you have my soul succored with masses and orisons, and that you
send through the congregations of the kingdom of France, and demand their prayers for
my soul, and that you grant me a special and full part in all the good deeds which you
- In conclusion, dear son, I give you all the blessings which a good and tender father
can give to a son, and I pray our Lord Jesus Christ, by His mercy, by the prayers and
merits of His blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and of angels and archangels and of all
the saints, to guard and protect you from doing anything contrary to His will, and to give
you grace to do it always, so that He may be honored and served by you. And this may
He do to me as to you, by His great bounty, so that after this mortal life we may be able
to be together with Him in the eternal life, and see Him, love Him, and praise Him
without end. Amen. And glory, honor, and praise be to Him who is one God with the
Father and the Holy Spirit; without beginning and without end. Amen.
From Saint Louis’ Advice to His Son, in Medieval Civilization, trans. and eds. Dana
Munro and George Clarke Sellery (New York: The Century Company, 1910), pp. 366 –
Seeing as the Catholic blogosphere has been consumed with all things Liturgical of late, this comparison between the rites (old vs. new) for the Saintly King’s Feast Day might also be of interest to you:
Today is the feast of the greatest of Christian kings, St. Louis IX (1214-1270). In light of the attempt of some to declare the Novus Ordo the sole lex orandi of the Roman Rite, it seems worthwhile to do a simple comparison between the traditional Propers for this feastday and those of its modern replacement in 1969. Pay close attention, as usual, to the shifts in political theology, in the concept of merit, the primacy of the supernatural, the relation between nature and grace, and the recognition of the existence of enemies. Not to mention whether the Propers “fit” the saint or not…
Read the whole thing at RORATE CAELI.