Collection of Letters: Detail
- Robert of Artois
To his most excellent and dearest mother, Blanche, by the grace of God illustrious queen of France, count Robert of Artois her devoted son, greetings and the desire ready with filial love to do her will.
Since we know that you rejoice much in the prosperity of us and ours and the successes that occur to the Christian people, when you receive certain knowledge of them, your excellence should know that the dearest lord our brother king and the queen, [our] sister and we enjoy full health of body by the grace of God. Which we hope with fervent desire [is true] of you. Our dearest brother, the count of Anjou still has malaria, but less severe than usual.
And let your love know that our dearest lord, our brother, and the barons and pilgrims who spent the winter on Cyprus, reached the harbor of Limassol in their ships on the evening of the Ascension, so that they might make their way against the enemies of the Christian faith. Leaving the port, after many hardships of the sea and contrarities of winds, with the Lord guiding them, they came at about noon on the Friday after the Trinity and anchored, gathering on that day in the ship of the lord king to consult about what they should do from then on, since they saw Damietta before them and the harbor fortified by a great multitude of Turks, horsemen and footsoldiers, and the mouth of the near river by a multitude of armed galleys.
In which council it was determined that on the next morning whoever could would come to land with the lord king. And your lordship should know that it was determined that on Saturday morning the Christian army, having left the great ships, would descend virilely armed into galleys and small ships. And trusting in the mercy of God and the help of the triumphal cross which the lord legate bore in the boat beside the lord king, happy and conforted by God, they removed towards the land against the enemy who were making many assaults with arrows and other things. But truly when those boats could not get to dry land for the excessive smoothness of the sea, the Christian army left them in the name of God and leaping into the sea reached dry land, the footsoldiers with their arms. And though a multitude of Turks defended the shore against the Christians, yet, with our Lord Jesus Christ favoring us, the Christian people won the shore with health and happiness and with great destruction of the Turks’ horses and of certain people who were said to be of great name.
And when the Sarracens returned to the city which was very strong because of the river as well as walls and strong towers around it, our almighty Lord “Who gives richly to all and not disproportionately” [cf. Ep.James 1:5], without the labor of men, on the next day, that is the octave of the Trinity, gave the city to the Christian people, with the infidel Sarracens fleeing and leaving it. And this was done only by the gift of God and the generosity of the almighty Lord God. And you should know that those Saracens left that city fortified with great abundance of food and meat and machines and other goods of which a great part of the provisioning of said city remained. And from that part the army was quite satisfied.
Our Lord king, indeed, delayed there with his army, having his things taken from his ships. And we believed that the army should not leave until the river went down, because then it was said, he should occupy the land, since the Christian people incurred harm otherwise in other places. The countess of Anjou gave birth to a very elegant and wellformed son in Cyprus, whom she gave over to be nursed there.
Dated at Jamas castle, in the year of the Lord 1249, in the month of June, on the eve of St. John the Baptist.
This is the wording of the letter sent to the queen of France, word for word.
Excellentissimae et carissimae matri suae B[lanchiae], Dei gratia Franciae reginae illustri, Robertus comes Attrabatensis devotus ejus filius, salutem, et cum filiali dilectione paratam ad beneplacitum voluntatem.
Quia de prosperitate nostra et nostrorum, ac de bonis successibus qui christiano populo evenerunt, scimus vos plurimum congaudere, cum eorum certitudinem optinetis, vestra noverit excellentia, carissimum dominum fratrem nostrum regem et reginam, et sororem ejus, et nos plena per Dei gratiam frui corporum sospitate. Quae de vobis ferventi desiderio affectamus. Carissimus autem frater noster comes Andegavensis sentit adhuc quartanam suam, sed solito leniorem. Et sciat dilectio vestra, quod carissimus dominus noster frater noster, et barones et peregrini, qui in Cipro hiemaverunt, die Ascensionis in sero ad portum Linocii in suis navibus sese receperunt, ut contra hostes fidei christianae dirigerent iter suum. A quo portu recedentes, post multos maris labores et ventorum contrarietates, ducente Domino, die Veneris post Trinitatem circa meridiem venerunt, et se anchoraverunt, congregantes se ipsa die in navi domini regis ad consilium, quid esset deinceps ad faciendum, cum ante se viderent Damiatan: et portum, ex magna Turcorum et equitum et peditum multitudine communitum, et os fluminis quod de prope imminebat, ex galearum multitudine armatarum. In quo sic consilio ordinatum fuit, ut in crastino mane quilibet pro posse suo cum domino rege ad terram veniret. Et sciat dominatio vestra, quod sicut fuit ordinatum in ipso Sabbato in mane, exercitus christianus, relictis magnis navibus, in galeis et minutis vexillis viriliter accincti descenderunt. Et confidentes de Dei misericordia, ac auxilio crucis triumphalis, quam dominus legatus in vexillo juxta dominum regem gestabat, laeti et confortati de Deo, versus terram contra hostes, insultus plurimos tam sagittarum missionibus quam aliis facientes, sese retraxerunt. Veruntamen cum ipsa vexilla propter nimiam maris planitiem usque ad siccam terram non possunt attingere, christianus exercitus in nomine Dei, relictis vexillis, in mare saliendo se immisit usque ad siccam terram, cum armis suis pedes veniendo. Et licet ipsa Turcorum multitudo contra christianos litus defenderet, tamen, favente Domino nostro Jesu Christo, litus optinuit populus christianus cum sospitate et laetitia, et cum equorum Turcorumque strage magna, et quorundam qui magni nominis esse dicebantur. Et cum ipsi Sarraceni se recepissent in civitate, quae tam fluminis interpositione quam murorum et turrium fortium in circuitu erat fortissima, Dominus noster omnipotens, "Qui dat omnibus afflouenter et non improperat" [Ep.James 1.5], absque labore hominum, in crastino scilicet in octabis Trinitatis circa tertiam, civitatem dedit populo christiano, fugientibus et ipsam dimittentibus infidelibus Sarracenis. Et hoc factum fuit solo Dei dono ac omnipotentis Domini Dei largitate. Et sciatis quod iidem Sarraceni illam civitatem reliquerunt munitam ex magna cibariorum et carnium fertilitate et machinis et aliis bonis, de quibus ad munitionem dictae civitatis magna pars remansit; et de illa parte fuit exercitus multum repletus. Dominus vero rex noster cum exercitu suo ibidem moram faciebat, res suas de suis navibus extrahi faciens. Credebamusque quod inde non deberet recedere execitus usque ad decrescentiam fluminis, quod tunc, ut dicebatur, terram debebat occupare; quia alias in partibus illis dampnum incurrebat populus christianus. Comitissa vero Andegavensis in Cypro peperit filium valde elegantem et bene formatum, quem ibidem tradidit nutriendum.
Datum in Castris Jamas, anno Domini MCCXLIX, mense junio, in vigilia beati Johannis Baptistae.
Hic est tenor literae missae reginae Franciae, verbo ad verbum.
This is a letter to the queen from her son, on crusade in Damietta. He gives news of his brother, Charles of Anjou who has malaria, and whose wife Beatrice of Provence has just given birth to a son, but his main news is about the arrival of Louis’s forces and the city of Damietta falling to them. The young queen, Marguerite of Provence, Beatrice’s sister, would also give birth the following year in Damietta. Robert would be killed early that year in the disastrous battle of Mansourah (Runciman, A History of the Crusade, 3.267).
Jean Sarrasin, Lettre a Nicolas Arrode, ed. Alfred L Foulet, Lettres Francçaises du XIIIe Siècle (Paris: Champion, 1924), Appendices, I, 16-18.