Philip II Augustus

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© Bob Denton 2014

Phillip II Augustus, 1180 – 1223

Philip took the throne at just fifteen years old, his Capetian predecessors had all used the title ‘king of the Franks’, from 1190 onwards Philip was the first to style himself as ‘king of France’. His sobriquet was ‘the God Given’ based on the many years and three wives that it took for Louis to achieve an heir quite late in his reign.

In the early years of his reign he successfully expanded his realm. First in to Flanders in the north. He had married Isabella of Hainault, the niece of the Count of Flanders, but later squabbled with him when both the Count and the Countess died in the early 1180s the province came to Philip.

It was inevitable that he would clash with the Angevins, as had his father before him.  He was initially on good terms with Richard when he took the throne in 1189, but they were soon to fall out.

Richard would hold a whole raft of titles – Richard I of England, Richard V of Normandy, Count of Anjou, Duke of Aquitaine, Overlord of Brittany, Lord of Cyprus, Duke of Gascony, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes and Count of Poitiers He also had a great sobriquet Richard Cœur de Lion (Richard the Lionheart). The Angevin Empire as it became known, although it never appointed an emperor, held more land in modern France than Philip, the king of France, he would therefore seek to remedy this.

When Richard was crowned at Westminster Abbey he had refused access to all Jews, yet several still arrived with gifts for him. He had them stripped and flogged and this sparked off a massacre of Jews in London. He hastily issued a writ for his subjects to leave Jews alone, yet this was not heavily enforced and failed to halt another massacre the next year in York.

He decided to atone for his earlier sins by committing to the Third Crusade. He committed much of the royal treasury, sold off titles and lands and even released king William of Scotland for a ransom to raise the funds he needed to raise his crusader army.

It was when Richard and Philip Augustus both arrived in Sicily that they first clashed. The king of Sicily had imprisoned his predecessor’s widow, his aunt, and stole her inheritance. She was Richard’s sister, Joan, so he demanded her release and her inheritance; he managed the first of these, but not the inheritance.

The citizens of Messina became restive with all the foreigners on their island, demanding they should leave. Richard sized Messina and looted and burned the city, earning Philip Augustus’ ire. They did later reach an agreement that included the betrothal of Richard to Philip’s sister Alys; though this latter point would never be fulfilled.

They both moved on to success in the Holy Land, taking Acre. Philip returned home in 1191. Richard stayed on and had regular success against Saladin, later agreeing a treaty that left the Muslims in control of Jerusalem, but that they would allow unarmed Christians to visit.

The historian Thomas Madden said,
‘…the Third Crusade was by almost any measure a highly successful expedition…  …The Crusader kingdom was healed of its divisions, restored to its coastal cities, and secured in a peace with its greatest enemy. Although he had failed to reclaim Jerusalem, Richard had put the Christians of the Levant back on their feet again.’

Richard set off back to Europe late in 1192 but along his return journey he was arrested in the Holy Roman Empire towards the end of that year. In both senses of the words, a king’s ransom was demanded for his release. The price of his freedom was 150,000 marks (equivalent to 65,000 pounds of silver) it therefore took quite a while for his mother to raise it.

Philip Augustus had asked the Germans to either keep Richard as a prisoner or to hand him over to Philip’s control.  He signed a secret deal with Richard’s brother John which confirmed John as Philip’s vassal and handed Normandy over to the French king.

Richard finally made it home in 1194 to forgive his brother and to set about recapturing Normandy from Philip. He had his father-in-law King Sancho VI of Navarre attack Philip from the south, while he allied with Boulogne and Flanders advanced in the north.

In 1194 Philip was defeated at Freteval south of Paris and fled leaving all his financial documents for Richard to seize. When Richard again prevailed in 1198 outside Gisors, Philip’s troops fled across a bridge that collapsed under the weight and Philip had to be pulled from the water, the French managed to hold on to the town and a truce was signed.

During this battle Richard set the password for his men to distinguish between friend and foe as Dieu et mon droit (God and my right). This asserted he had no fealty to the king of France and answered only to God, the motto is still used by British monarchs.

The next year, 1199, Pope Innocent III imposed a truce between them. A few months later Richard was in the Limousin besieging an insignificant castle, Chalus-Chabrol. In the early evening he walked around the walls to survey his men’s progress when he was hit by a crossbow bolt fired by a young boy from the ramparts. It hit him on the shoulder near his neck and was not a mortal wound. But its botched removal led to gangrene, he died twelve days later.

Unpleasant to modern ears is the fact that his entrails were buried at Chalus where he died., his heart was transported and buried at Rouen. The rest was transported to Anjou to be interred at the feet of his father. But then he was called Cœur de Lion and his heart would therefore have been seen to have had some significance.

His youngest brother John succeeded him with the unfortunate sobriquet Johan sanz Terre (Landless John).  Initially John and Philip enjoyed peace. But when John sought to dump his first wife and marry Isabella of Angoulême it became clear that acquiring her land would be contentious. John defeated her other suitor, who appealed to Philip. John was summoned to the French court, but he insisted as Duke of Normandy he was not subject to the French court. Philip determined this was a breach of his feudal obligations and made all of John’s lands in France forfeit, seizing Normandy to himself and the other lands to Arthur, Duke of Brittany.

Thus from 1202 John and Philip were engaged in a twelve-year war, with John enjoying some early success. But lack of resources and John’s attitude to the Breton and Norman nobles led to his Angevin empire crumbling by 1204.

By 1206 John had lost his territories in central France. His lack of people skills led to a row with Pope Innocent III who excommunicated him in 1209, though he managed to have this lifted in 1213.

The war was brought to a close by the Battle of Bouvins in 1214. The battle had John supported by Norman, English and Flemish soldiers and the support of Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor.

Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor – Otto had grown up in Henry II’s court when he became the foster son of his maternal uncle Richard I.

From 1198 he had made claim to the Holy Roman Empire and had Pope Innocent III’s support in this. But merely his connection to Richard and John was enough for Philip Augustus to pledge support his opponent Philip of Suabia; but when this opponent was assassinated in 2008, Otto had taken the throne.

Philip Augustus prevailed and now controlled Brittany and Normandy, the Angevin empire had evaporated as a result. This would lead to the Capetians growing in power through the 13th century.

John’s power would finally be further reduced in 1215 when he was forced to sign the Magna Carta or Great Charter with his English barons. It granted the barons rights, his subjects certain liberties and the protection of the law and limited the king’s powers. This was the first time an English king had been made to sign an agreement by his subjects and was an important step in the formation of the constitution of England and Britain.

Neither party to the Magna Carta showed it any respect. A civil war broke out with Philip assisting the barons against John, though neither side took ascendancy. The barons however invited Philip Augustus’ son, Prince Louis, to take the throne of England.

Prince Louis arrived in May 1216, landing with an army on the Isle of Thanet. He marched unopposed to London where he was proclaimed, not crowned, king in St Paul’s Cathedral. Many English nobles and King Alexander II of Scotland gathered to celebrate this proclamation.

By June he had captured Winchester and controlled half of England. In October 1216 King John died of dysentery while campaigning in eastern England, Suddenly all of Louis support just faded away and began to gather instead around John’s son the nine-year old Henry III.

Crowned at Gloucester Cathedral in 1216 Henry III ascended to find much of his kingdom controlled by Louis and the rebels, and of course Louis had been crowned in London. Henry’s family lands in France had all been lost. To protect himself he sought and received protection from Pope Honorious and ‘took’ the crusader’s cross to ensure he received further special protection from Rome.

Louis began to lose, a battle at Lincoln, a sea battle off the Kent coast and he failed to take Dover Castle after two attempts. He agreed at the treaty of Lambeth that he had never really been king in return for 10,000 marks, agreed not to attack England again. The English rebels were given a full amnesty and Henry III formally became king, backdated to 1216.

Albigensian Crusade – Louis left England to become involved in this. Pope Innocent III had become concerned about the growth of the Cathars through the preceding 12th century, their beliefs had been declared heretical. Several attempts, by his predecessors during the 12th century, to bring the Cathars back to the Catholic faith had failed.

Back in 1208 Innocent called on Raymond the Count of Toulouse to bring them to heel. Neither showed any particular interest in doing so and Raymond was excommunicated by a papal legate. The legate was later murdered and Raymond was suspected of course. Philip Augustus was asked to lead a crusade against the Cathars, but he refused and would not allow his son Louis to do so.

This developed into a north-south conflict of barons and counts. The north supporting the Pope and calling their cause the Albigensian Crusade. In 1209 the north defeated the citizens’ army from Béziers and pursued them back in to the city and massacred 7,000 people, perhaps half of its then population. Carcassonne fell a month later.

The conflict became contracted with the crusaders being despised as occupiers by the locals. Philip then entered the conflict and took the Languedoc and set the Inquisition to root out any remaining Cathars.

Despite many setbacks the general flow of Philip’s reign had rapidly expanded his realm from what he had inherited – the Île de France and Berri, without any outlet to a sea. Now he had the port of Dieppe and in one form or another he also controlled Anjou, Artois, Amienois, Auvergne, Beauvaisis, Britanny, Burgundy, Champagne, Flanders, Languedoc, Maine, Normandy, Ponthieu, Rouen, Touraine, Valois and Vernandois. Combined this was four times the size of the realm he had inherited.

Philip Augustus died in 1223 and was interred in the Basilica of Saint-Denis. He was succeeded by his son Louis VIII le Lion (The Lion). Louis VIII had earned his sobriquet for his valour while crown prince.

In the meantime Henry III had been facing real problems in seeking to restore the royal power in England. He pursued this for around a decade rather ignoring his French territories.

Many of the rebels still refused to recognise him, still others were not against him but still wanted to maintain their independence. He was also facing problems on the Welsh borders from Prince Llywelyn. The treaty of Worcester in 1218 resolved his Gallic concerns.

In 1220 the Pope agreed that Henry be crowned again. This was used to reaffirm his status, the barons confirming they would pay their back taxes and hand back the royal castles they had been occupying – or face excommunication by the Pope.

Henry’s forces started to take back castles, sometimes bloodily when for example Bedford castle fell to him in 1224 after eight weeks of siege, all inside were executed summarily.

In the meantime Louis VIII attacked and took Poitou, one of Henry’s neglected French possessions. They were poised to take Gascony too. In 1225 in preparation for raising an army to defend Gascony Henry was granted the taxes he needed but not before he reaffirmed the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, He announced that he did this spontaneously and without any coercion so that the new charters had more authority than the predecessor documents.

Forward to Saint Louis – Back to Louis VI and VII
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014