Author of a life of Louis IX of France that is the main source for the king’s two crusades.
John was born in 1224 or 1225 at Joinville-sur-Marne, the second son of Simon of Joinville, seneschal of Champagne.
He succeeded his father as seneschal in 1233. He met Louis IX in Saumur in 1241 and joined him on his crusade to the East (1248-1254), but refused to participate in his crusade against Tunis (1270). In 1282 he testified before a papal commission dealing with the canonization of Louis IX. He died in 1317 in Joinville.
Joinville was the author of an explanation of the creed and probably of a Chanson d’Acre, but his most important work was his life of Louis IX, entitled Livre de saintes paroles et des bons faiz nostre saint roy Looÿs, or more commonly, Vie de saint Louis, completed in 1309. It was commissioned by Joan of Navarre, wife of Philip IV of France, and dedicated to their son, Louis X. The life consists of two parts of unequal length. The first shows how the Christian faith and the concern for the well-being of the kingdom were the driving forces behind Louis IX’s reign. The second, and longer, part presents episodes from the king’s life: his youth and an early revolt of the barons; the taking of the cross after a severe illness, the crusade to Egypt, and the king’s captivity; his accomplishments as an administrator in Outremer, return to the West, and subsequent government of France; and finally the ill-fated crusade against Tunis and the king’s death (1270) and canonization (1297).
For events after 1254, Joinville relied on the Grandes Chroniques de France. Despite the author’s admiration for the king, his life of Louis is not without criticism. It is a collection of Joinville’s memories regarding Louis IX, a blend of biography, autobiography, and history with an emphasis on chivalrous virtues. The original manuscript is lost. The principal copy (MS. Paris,Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr.13568, fourteenth century) was missing from 1487 until 1746. The first edition (1547) was based on a different copy of inferior quality. This and subsequent editions have been superseded by that of Monfrin (1995).