St. Louis, the king of France, who died of dysentery on his second Crusade, on August 25, 1270, is an enigmatic figure.
Like many people of his age he harbored deep prejudices against Jews and Muslims, as well as against heretics and homosexuals. He also went into battle several times, sometimes to extend his kingdom, twice to “rescue” the Holy Land.
He was austere in his private life and extremely fair in his judgments. He even decreed during his first Crusade that opposing soldiers should be captured instead of being killed.
But in his spiritual testament to his son, he writes of his great concern for the poor, a concern – somewhat paternalistic – that he showed in his life and that he share with many of the sainted royalty of the middle ages:
Be kindly disposed toward the poor, the wretched, and the afflicted; help them as much as you can and console them… Be just toward tour subjects; in matters of justice adhere to the line, departing neither to he right nor to the left. Incline to the poor person’s side rather than to the rich, until you are certain where the truth lies. Take care that all your subjects are safeguarded in justice and peace…
Would that all government leaders and candidates for public office followed his advice.