Joinville, Jean, sire de

Joinville, Jean, sire de
(ca. 1224–1317)
   Jean, sire de Joinville, is best known as the author of a lively and vivid biography of Louis IX (St. Louis), a narrative based on his personal memoirs of his friendship with the king and their exploits in the Seventh Crusade (1248–54). Joinville was a knight of Champagne who outlived Louis and three of his royal successors and who, in his 80s, composed his memoirs at the request of the royal family. Jean was the son of the seneschal of Champagne, Simon de Joinville, and his second wife, Béatrix de Bourgogne. After his elder brother Geoffroy’s early death in 1232 or 1233, Jean became the successor to the family estates, but his mother ruled in his stead from 1233 until 1245. In 1240 Jean married Alixe de Grandpré, to whom he had been engaged since 1230. She bore him two children. After his wife’s death in 1261, Jean married Alixe de Reynel, who bore him six children. In 1248, Jean joined the Seventh Crusade, during which he met the French king Louis IX. The crusaders attacked Damietta and al-Mansourah in Egypt, but on the route to Cairo the army was defeated and both Louis and Jean were taken prisoners. Only after a heavy ransom had been paid were both freed in 1250, whereupon they left Egypt and sailed to Acre in Palestine, where they fortified towns and established order among the Christian barons. Finally in 1254, the French army returned home, but the whole enterprise proved to be a failure and very costly for everyone involved, including Jean, who lost a good part of his estates to his creditors. When Louis decided to go on a second crusade in 1267, Jean refused to accompany him again, but he continued in the king’s service until the latter’s death near Tunis in 1270. Jean himself lived until 1317. Between 1305 and 1309, Jean wrote the Vie de saint Louis (Life of Saint Louis), a most important prose memoir that sheds significant light on the aristocratic world of 13th-century France. Although Jean enjoyed a close relationship with the king, in his Vie he did not refrain from expressing his criticism of some of Louis’s decisions dictated by his religious idealism, but often in disregard of the military and political necessities. Queen Joan of Navarre commissioned Jean to write these memoirs as a model for her son, Louis IX’s grandson, the future King Louis X. Although several copies were made, the Vie was soon forgotten and not rediscovered until the 18th century. Today it is regarded as a major chronicle text that informs us about the deeply religious king, the crusade, and 13th-century aristocratic life in general. Between 1250 and 1251, Jean also composed a short treatise, Li romans as ymages des poinz de nostre foi, in which he offered a type of written and visual credo (explanation of one’s belief) for the religious reader.We also have one letter from Jean that he wrote to King Louis X in 1315.
   ■ Corbett, Noel L., ed. La vie de Saint Louis: le témoignage de Jehan, seigneur de Joinville: texte du XIVe siecle. Sherbrooke, Québec: Naaman, 1977.
   ■ Friedman, Lionel J. Text and Iconography for Joinville’s Credo. Cambridge, Mass.: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1958.
   ■ Monfrin, J., ed.Vie de saint Louis. Paris: Dunod, 1995.
   ■ Shaw, Margaret R. B., ed. and trans. Chronicles of the Crusades. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1983.
   ■ Slattery, Maureen. Myth, Man, and Sovereign Saint: King Louis IX in Jean de Joinville’s Sources. New York: P. Lang, 1985.
   Albrecht Classen

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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