Margaret of Provence (1221 – 20 December 1295) was Queen of France as the wife of King Louis IX. Margaret accompanied Louis on his first crusade. Her sister Beatrice also joined. Though initially the crusade met with some success, like with the capture of Damietta in 1249, it became a disaster after the king's brother was killed and the king then captured.
Queen Margaret was responsible for negotiations and gathering enough silver for his ransom. She was thus for a brief time the only woman ever to lead a crusade. In 1250, while in Damietta, she gave birth to her son Jean Tristan.
The chronicler Joinville, who was not a priest, reports incidents demonstrating Margaret's bravery after Louis was made prisoner in Egypt: she decisively acted to assure a food supply for the Christians in Damietta, and went so far as to ask the knight who guarded her bedchamber to kill her and her newborn son if the city should fall to the Arabs. She also convinced some of those who had been about to leave to remain in Damietta and defend it. Joinville also recounts incidents that demonstrate Margaret's good humor, as on one occasion when Joinville sent her some fine cloth and, when the queen saw his messenger arrive carrying them, she mistakenly knelt down thinking that he was bringing her holy relics. When she realized her mistake, she burst into laughter and ordered the messenger, "Tell your master evil days await him, for he has made me kneel to his camelines!"
However, Joinville also remarked with noticeable disapproval that Louis rarely asked after his wife and children. In a moment of extreme danger during a terrible storm on the sea voyage back to France from the Crusade, Margaret begged Joinville to do something to help; he told her to pray for deliverance, and to vow that when they reached France she would go on a pilgrimage and offer a golden ship with images of the king, herself and her children in thanks for their escape from the storm. Margaret could only reply that she dared not make such a vow without the king's permission, because when he discovered that she had done so, he would never let her make the pilgrimage. In the end, Joinville promised her that if she made the vow he would make the pilgrimage for her, and when they reached France he did so.
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