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Jean, Sire de Joinville
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Seneschal of Champagne, historian, b. in 1225; d. at Joinville, 1317. His family held an important place in the feudal system of Champagne in the eleventh century. His father, Simon de Joinville, hereditary Seneschal of Champagne, defended Troyes in 1230 against the enemies of Count Thibaut IV. Simon having died in 1233, Jean was reared by his mother, Beatrix, daughter of the Count of Burgundy. He received the knightly education of the times, learned to read and write, and even a little Latin. In 1241, Jean de Joinville appeared for the first time at the French Court on the occasion of the festival given at Saumur for the knighthood of Alfonso of Poitou, brother of the king. He afterwards made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James at Compostela. In 1248, Joinville took the cross, following the example of St. Louis, but refused to be sworn by the king, as he was not his "man." He took at his own expense two bannerets and ten knights and allied himself with his cousin Jean d'Apremont, Count of Saarbruecken. His little troop went down the Saône and the Rhone by boat and embarked at Marseilles (August, 1348). In three weeks they arrived at Limassol, in Cyprus, where Louis IX was. He welcomed Joinville and took him into his pay.
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Joinville took part in the Crusade of Egypt, where he conducted himself valiantly; he was in grave danger at Mansourah (Feb., 1250), fell ill in his tent, and was taken prisoner with the king. Having been liberated in May, 1250, he followed Louis IX to Saint Jean d'Acre despite the advice of powerful barons who counselled him to remain in Palestine until all the prisoners should have been freed. A "Chanson d'Acre," of which he is probably the author, makes allusion to these facts ("Romania," 1893, 544). The king, who was charmed, made him henceforth his familiar friend, and gave him command over fifty knights. In 1253 he granted him in fief a rental of 200 pounds (4053 francs).
Having returned to France with the king and queen in 1254, Joinville thenceforth divided his time between the management of his estates and the court of his royal friend. However, in 1267, despite the solicitations of St. Louis, he refused to take the cross and disapproved of the Crusade of Tunis : "Je entendi que tuit cil firent péchié mortel qui li loierent l'alée" (ed. Natalis de Wailly, 262). After the death of St. Louis in 1282, he was one of the witnesses heard in the inquiry of canonization, and he erected an altar to the saint in his chapel of St. Laurent at Joinville. Under Philip the Fair, Joinville played an important part in Champagne and did not conceal his dislike for the new methods of government. In 1314 he entered the league of the nobility of Champagne. In 1315 he wrote a letter of reconciliation to Louis X. He died at Joinville, where he was buried.
Joinville is the author of a new explanation of the Creed, composed at Acre in 1250-51, which contains information concerning his captivity (ed. Natalis de Wailly, at the end of the history of St. Louis). But his chief work is "Le livre des saintes paroles et des bonnes actions de St Louis," composed at the request of Jeanne of Navarre, wife of Philip the Fair (d. 1305). The work is divided into two unequal parts; the first, which is very short, comprises anecdotes concerning St. Louis's manner of life and his familiar speech; the second, which is very much longer, is a real autobiography of Joinville during the Egyptian Crusade. Gaston Paris ("Romania," 1894, 508-524) supposes that this portion was written by Joinville as early as 1273, because there is no allusion to subsequent events.
Joinville appears to have written from personal recollections. Beginning with 1254, he is satisfied with making extracts from the "Chronique de France." The book concludes with an abridgment of the instructions given by St. Louis to his son, and with details concerning his canonization. The original manuscript, which was presented to the king and preserved in the librairie of Charles V, no longer exists. The two principal manuscripts are: that of Brussels (Paris, Bib. Nat. fr., 13568), written under Charles V ; and that of Lucca (Paris, Bib. Nat. fr., 10148), copied from the original at the Château of Joinville about 1550. The first edition (Antoine-Pierre de Rieux, Poitiers, 1547) was made from a poor copy and was reproduced many times until the discovery of the two above-mentioned manuscripts. The text has been studied and amended by Natalis de Wailly (editions of 1868, Société de l'Histoire de France of 1874, of 1881). The history of St. Louis is rightly regarded as one of the masterpieces of French literature in the Middle Ages ; it constitutes besides an inappreciable testimony concerning the personality of one of the best sovereigns who ever reigned. The figure of St. Louis is most vividly portrayed in Joinville's book. Moreover, few personal memoirs possess the same note of sincerity. In depicting himself, Joinville discloses to us the soul of a perfect knight of the thirteenth century; the book is thus an important witness concerning French society of the Middle Ages.
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