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THE ENQUÊTEURS OF LOUIS IX A N OLD liturgical office in honor of St. Louis says of him that X JL "he established the throne on justice.”1 As the monks of Saint-Denis sang those words amid the tapering shadows of their Gothic choir-stalls, they must have seen in them a statement be­ coming with every recurring August 25 more literally true. For history witnesses that St. Louis restored the French Monarchy to a position of strength such as it had not enjoyed since the days of Charlemagne; and the corner-stone of his policy was a passionate sense of justice. Whether we simply consider him sitting after Mass under that massive oak in the woods at Vincennes administering just awards personally, as Joinville in a delightful description has pic­ tured him,2 or whether with a more scholarly approach we search his actions and analyze his Ordonnances by the standards of Chris­ tian morality, we find that he was ever moved by that "constant and abiding desire to give to every one his right” which Aquinas, his commensal and equally illustrious contemporary, was propound­ ing to be the essence of justice. There is no finer testimony of his abiding and far-reaching sense of justice than the system of the Enquêteurs which he instituted. William of Saint-Pathus, the "Confessor of Queen Margaret” and the associate of Louis over a period of years, cites this as an out­ standing proof of his justice,3 and M. Léopold Delisle, in his preface to the extant records of their work calls this creation "la plus écla­ tante manifestation . .. de l’amour de Saint Louis pour la justice.”4 T h e F a il u r e o f J u s t ic e The numerous confiscations through which his grandfather, Philip Augustus, had increased the royal domain kept the tender 1. Quoted by Charles Petit-Dutaillis, Cambridge Medieval History, VI (New York: Macmillan, 1936), p. 361. 2. Sire de Joinville, Chronicle of the Crusade of Saint Louis, Book II (Everyman's Library edition, Memoirs of the Crusades [New York: E. P. Dutton, 1933]), p. 149. 3. Le Confesseur de la Reine Marguerite, Vie de Saint Louis, in Recueil des His­ toriens des Gaules et de la France, X X , p. 119. (This important Recueil [Paris: 1898 et seq.~\ of primary sources is referred to hereafter simply as H .F .) 4. H. P., XXIV, preface, p. 2. Pope John X X II recommended this system of St. Louis to Philip le Long, his grandson, as one of his most praiseworthy acts (cf. Paul Lehugeur, Philip le Long: Le Mecanisme du Gouvernement [Paris: 1931], p. 301). 34 ENQUETEURS OF LOUIS IX 35 conscience of the pious King constantly ill at ease.5 By moves which could not have stood too searching an investigation by the moralist (despite what tenuous justification the feudal code of the day af­ forded), Philip had changed his rights as suzerain over a number of territories into rights as immediate overlord. It is significant that Philip himself, in an ordonnance made in 1190 as he set out for his Crusade, decreed that, should he die, half of his wealth was to be used in repairing the churches he had destroyed in war and in recompensing those "qui per talias nostras aporiati sunt.”6 In his final will of September, 1222, he arranged for his executors to make restitution to those "from whom they know we have unjustly taken, wrested or kept anything.”7 These we may take to be the worried dispositions of a conscience genuinely disturbed. If Philip’s dealings were such as to trouble his own bluff self when he faced a Judge Whose standard consists of principles more solid than the accepted code of feudalism, we can appreciate that Louis, who from his in­ fancy had a genuine detestation of sin in any form,8 should con­ stantly feel uneasy about these inherited acquisitions which, at best, were of a questionable justice. This was particularly true of the royal holdings in the South. There the crown possessions had been tremendously increased by forfeitures imposed on suspected heretics during the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 34-62
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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