The Battle of Al Mansurah was fought from 8 February to 11 February 1250 between crusaders led by Louis IX, King of France, and Ayyubid forces led by Emir Fakhr-ad-Din Yussuf, Faris ad-Din Aktai and Baibars al-Bunduqdari.
At the end of the first half of the 13th century, the Crusaders became convinced that Egypt, which became Islam's citadel and arsenal was an obstacle to their ambition to capture Jerusalem which they had lost for the second time in 1244. In 1245, during the First Council of Lyon, Pope Innocent IV gave his full support to the Seventh Crusade that was being prepared by Louis IX, king of France.
The goals of the Seventh Crusade were to destroy the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria and capture Jerusalem. To achieve their goals, the crusaders tried to convince the Mongols to be their allies against the Muslims so that they would be able to encircle and attack the Islamic world from west and east at the same time. The answer of Güyük the great Khan of the Mongols to the pope's envoys was that the pope himself and the kings of Europe should submit to the Mongols.
The ships of the Seventh Crusade sailed from the French ports of Aigues-Mortes and Marseille to Cyprus during the autumn of 1248 then in 1249 sailed toward Egypt led by King Louis's brothers Charles d'Anjou and Robert d'Artois. The ships entered the Egyptian waters and the troops of the Seventh Crusade disembarked at Damietta in June 1249. Louis IX sent a letter to as-Salih Ayyub. Emir Fakhr ad-Din Yussuf the commander of the Ayybid garrison in Damietta retreated to the camp of the Sultan in Ashmum-Tanah causing a great panic among the inhabitants of Damietta who fled the town leaving the bridge that connected the west bank of the Nile with Damietta intact. The crusaders crossed the river over the bridge and occupied Damietta which was deserted. Upon hearing the news of the fall of Damietta, general emergency (which was called al-Nafir al-Am النفير العام) was declared and commons from Cairo and from all over Egypt began to move to the battle zone. For many weeks, a guerrilla war was launched against the camps of the crusaders and many of the crusaders were captured and sent to Cairo. As the crusader's army was strengthened by the arrival of Alphonse de Poitiers, the third brother of king Louis IX, at Damietta and encouraged by the news of the death of the Ayyobid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub they began their march towards Cairo. Shajar al-Durr, the widow of the dead Sultan concealed the news for sometime and sent Faris ad-Din Aktai to Hasankeyf to recall Turanshah, the son and heir of the dead sultan, to receive the throne and lead the Egyptian army.
By arriving to the canal of Ashmum (known today by the name Albahr Alsaghir) the Crusaders became separated from the Muslims camp by the water of the canal. With the help of a local who showed them canal shoals, the Crusaders, led by Robert d'Artois, crossed the canal along with the Knights Templars and an English contingent led by William of Salisbury and launched a surprise assault against the Egyptian camp in Gideila, two miles (three km) from Al Mansurah, and advanced toward the royal palace in Al Mansurah. The leadership of the Egyptian forces passed to the Mamluks Faris Ad-Din Aktai and Baibars al-Buduqdari who succeeded in containing the situation and reorganizing the Muslim forces. This was the first appearance of the Mamluks as supreme commanders inside Egypt. Shajar al-Durr, who had full control of Egypt, agreed with Baibars' plan to defend Al Mansurah. Baibars ordered the opening of a gate to let the knights of the crusaders enter the town. The crusaders rushed into the town that they thought was deserted to find themselves trapped inside. The crusaders were besieged from all directions by the Egyptian forces and the town population and heavy losses were inflicted upon them. Robert of Artois (brother of Louis IX) who took refuge in a house and William of Salisbury, were both killed along with most of the Knights Templar. Only five Knights Templers escaped alive. The crusaders were forced to retreat to their camp in disorder and surrounded it with a ditch and wall. Early in the morning of February 11, The Muslim forces launched a devastating offensive against the Frankish camp. On February 27, the new sultan Turanshah arrived at Al Mansurah to lead the Egyptian army and the death of as-Salih Ayyub was formally announced in Egypt. Ships were transported overland and dropped in the Nile behind the crusaders ships blocking the reinforcement line from Damietta. The Egyptians who used Greek fire destroyed and seized many supply vessels and soon the besieged crusaders were suffering from famine and disease. Some crusaders deserted to the Muslim side. Despite the ultimate defeat of his forces and the fact that he was totally besieged, King Louis IX tried to negotiate a deal with the Egyptians offering the surrender of the Egyptian port of Damietta in exchange for Jerusalem and some towns on the Syrian coast. The offer was rejected by the Egyptians and nothing was left for the crusaders except to flee back to Damietta under cover of darkness on April 5, followed by the Muslim forces until they were not able to flee further than Farskur, where they were annihilated and King Louis IX was captured on 6th of April. Meanwhile, the Crusaders were circulating false information in Europe claiming that king Louis IX defeated the Sultan of Egypt in a great battle and Cairo had been betrayed into his hands. Later, when the news of the French defeat and the capturing of Louis IX reached France, a rather hysterical movement known by the name Shepherds' Crusade occurred in France.
According to medieval Muslim historians, between fifteen and thirty thousand of the French fell on the battlefield and thousands were taken prisoners. Louis IX of France was captured in the nearby village of Moniat Abdallah (now Meniat el Nasr), chained and confined in the house of Ibrahim Ibn Lokman, the royal chancellor, and under the guard of a eunuch named Sobih al-Moazami. The king's brothers, Charles d'Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers, were made prisoners at the same time, and carried to the same house with other French nobles. The sultan provided for their subsistence. A camp was set up outside the town to shelter the rest of the prisoners. Louis IX was ransomed for 400,000 dinars. After pledging not to return to Egypt, Louis surrendered Damietta and left for Acre with his brothers and 12,000 war prisoners whom the Egyptians agreed to release. His queen, Marguerite de Provence, who meanwhile gave birth to a child who was called Jean Tristan (John Sorrow), and who was suffering from nightmares, left for Acre a few days earlier.
The battle of Al Mansurah was a source of inspiration for writers and poets of that time. One of the satiric poems ended with the following verses: "If they ( the Franks ) decide to return to take revenge or to commit a wicked deed, tell them :The house of Ibn Lokman is intact, the chains still there as well as the eunuch Sobih". —from stanza by Jamal ad-Din ibn Matruh.
The name of Al Mansurah (Arabic: "the Victorious") that dates from an earlier period was consolidated after this battle. The National Day of Daqahlia Governorate (capital Al Mansurah) on February 8, marks the anniversary of the defeat of Louis IX in 1250. The house of Ibn Lokman, which is now the only museum in Al Mansurah, is open to the public and houses articles that used to belong to the French monarch, including his personal thirteenth century toilet.
The Seventh Crusade's defeat in Egypt in 1250 marked a turning point for all the existing regional parties. Egypt again proved to be the Islam's citadel and arsenal. Western kings, with exception of Louis IX, lost interest in launching new crusades. The Seventh Crusade was the last major crusade against Egypt and the crusaders never could recapture Jerusalem.
Shortly after the defeat of the Seventh Crusade, The Ayyubid Sultan Turanshah was assassinated at Fariskur and the Mamluks, those who defended Al Mansurah and prevented Louis IX from advancing to Cairo, grabbed power in Egypt ending the Ayyubid rule in that country. The map of power of the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin became divided among four main dominions. Mamluk Egypt, Ayyubid Syria, Franks of Acre with their Christian strongholds on the Syrian coast and the Levantiane Christian Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. While the Ayyubids of Syria clashed with the Mamluks of Egypt and turned to enemies, the Franks and the Cilician Armenians in addition to the Principality of Antioch formed a western Christian alliance. While the map of power was taking this new shape, the Mongols, who had erupted out of the East some years previously, were expanding their empire westwards.
In 1253, while in Acre, Louis IX sent to the Mongols his emissary, the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck who accompanied him in Egypt during his crusade, but the hoped-for Franco-Mongol alliance never took shape.
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