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The Middle Ages

5th - 15th century



France in the High and Late Middle Ages



Charles II (the Bald), Charlemagne's grandson, was awarded the western portions of the Frankish Empire—future France—in the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The election of Hugh Capet over the last Carolingians in 987 established the rule of the Capetian dynasty over France, various branches of which ruled into the 19th century. The Capetians gradually built up a centrally governed state despite the resistance of the great princes in their kingdom, particularly in the Hundred Years' War through 1453 against the English kings, who possessed vast estates in France.


The Rise of the Capetians

1 Once the threat from the Carolingians had been eliminated, the Capetians consolidated and expanded their rule in France.


Reims Cathedral where France's kings
were crowned, 13th century

The last 2 Carolingians became enmeshed in struggles with the German Saxons over the possession of Lorraine.

The Capetians, who as dukes of Paris had gained great prestige in repulsing the Normans, made use of this conflict; members of this family had already been elected in 888 and 922 over Carolingian candidates.

When the Carolingian Louis V died without issue in 987, 3 Hugh Capet took the throne with the help of the Saxons.


Louis V

Louis V, byname Louis le Fainéant (Louis the Do-Nothing) (born 967—died May 21/22, 987), king of France and the last Carolingian monarch.

Crowned on June 8, 979, while his father, Lothar, was still alive, he shortly afterward married Adelaide, widow of Étienne, count of Gévaudan of Aquitaine, and was established as king in Aquitaine. His failed effort to retake Aquitaine and his concomitant rejection of his wife, who finally ran away, brought him political difficulties. Sole king on his father’s death in 986, he disregarded the advice of his mother, Queen Emma, and Archbishop Adalbero of Reims, who wanted him to seek friendship with the German king Otto III. Just as he was about to have the Archbishop tried for treason, Louis died as the result of a hunting accident. His unpopular uncle Charles of Lower Lorraine, the only surviving member of the Carolingian dynasty, was passed over in favour of Hugh Capet as Louis’s successor, thus initiating the Capetian line of French monarchs.

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2 The Carolingian King Charles
lithe Bald, book illustration, ninth с

Hugh Capet

3 Coronation of Hugh Capet in Reims in 996,
wood engraving, 19th century

The kings at first possessed only a small realm in the Ile-de-France around Paris out of which they could finance their reign. Many de facto autonomous dukes and counts ruled the rest of France. Unlike the Holy Roman Empire, where the lack of adult heirs to the throne and consequent dying out of imperial dynasties advanced the development of an elective monarchy, the continuous succession of father to son into the 14th century firmly established a hereditary monarchy in France. The kings sought support for their monarchy particularly from the rising cities and high-ranking clergy.

Prominent among these was the 4 Abbot Suger of 5 Saint-Denis, who strengthened the kings' central authority, defended against insubordinate vassals, campaigned with 6 Bernard of Clairvaux for the Second Crusade, and served as Louis VII's regent while the king took part in the Crusade. He also counseled Louis in his divorce from Eleanor of Aquitaine.

4  Louis VII with Eleanor of Aquitaine and Abbot Suger of St. Denis, stained glass window, 19th с

5 Tombs of the French kings in the
Abbey of Saint Denis

6 Bernard of Clairvaux preaches in 1146 on
the Second Crusade


Capetian dynasty

Capetian dynasty, ruling house of France from 987 to 1328, during the feudal period of the Middle Ages. By extending and consolidating their power, the Capetian kings laid the foundation of the French nation-state.

The Capetians all descended from Robert the Strong (died 866), count of Anjou and of Blois, whose two sons, usually styled Robertian rather than Capetian, were both crowned king of the Franks: Eudes in 888, Robert I in 922. Though Robert I’s son Hugh the Great restored the Carolingian dynasty in 936, his son Hugh Capet was elected king in 987, thus removing the Carolingians forever.

The 13 kings from Hugh Capet to the infant John I, who succeeded one another from father to son, and John I’s two uncles, Philip V and Charles IV (d. 1328), are designated as the Capetians “of the direct line.” They were followed by the 13 Capetian kings of the house of Valois (see Valois dynasty). Of these, seven kings (from Philip VI to Charles VIII) succeeded from father to son. Thereafter came the Valois-Orléans branch (represented by Louis XII) and the Valois-Angoulême branch (five kings from Francis I to Henry III) until 1589. Then the Capetians of Bourbon succeeded.

Hugh Capet’s rule was limited to his own domain around Paris, while the rest of the French kingdom was in the hands of powerful local lords. His direct successors gradually increased the territory over which they had control through conquest and inheritance and also by skillfully exploiting their rights as suzerains in areas not under their direct authority. Under the Capetians, many of the basic administrative institutions of the French monarchy, including Parlements (royal law courts), the States General (representative assembly), and the baillis (royal local officials), began to develop.

Among the most notable of the Capetians was Philip II (reigned 1180–1223), who wrested from the Angevin rulers of England much of the empire that they had built up in western France. Another notable Capetian was Louis IX, or Saint Louis (reigned 1226–70), whose devotion to justice and saintly life greatly enhanced the prestige of the monarchy.

Many other sovereign princes of medieval Europe descended in the male line from the Capetian kings of France. There were two lines of Capetian dukes of Burgundy (1032–1361 and 1363–1477); the Capetian house of Dreux, a line of dukes of Brittany (1213–1488); three Capetian emperors of Constantinople (1216–61), of the house of Courtenay; various counts of Artois (from 1237), with controversial succession; the first Capetian house of Anjou, with kings and queens of Naples (1266–1435) and kings of Hungary (1310–82); the house of Évreux, with three kings of Navarre (1328–1425); the second Capetian house of Anjou, with five counts of Provence (1382–1481); and other lesser branches.

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Hugh Capet

Hugh Capet, French Hugues Capet (born c. 938—died Oct. 14, 996, Paris, France), king of France from 987 to 996, and the first of a direct line of 14 Capetian kings of that country. The Capetian dynasty derived its name from his nickname (Latin capa, “cape”).

Hugh was the eldest son of Hugh the Great, duke of the Franks. On his father’s death in 956, Hugh Capet inherited vast estates in the regions of Paris and Orléans, extending in some places south of the Loire River. He thus became one of the most powerful vassals in the kingdom and a serious danger to the Carolingian king, Lothar. Hugh married Adelaide, daughter of William III, duke of Aquitaine, in 970, but his efforts to extend his influence into that southwestern kingdom were unsuccessful. From 978 to 986 Hugh was allied with the German emperors Otto II and Otto III and with Adalbero, archbishop of Reims, in political intrigues against the Carolingian king. By 985 Hugh was actually the ruler in all but title; and, after the brief reign of Lothar’s son, Louis V (986–987), Hugh was elected king of France in May 987 by the assembly of Frankish magnates. Adalbero was able to convince the magnates that the crown was elective rather than hereditary and that Charles of Lorraine, the only legitimate Carolingian contender, was unfit to rule. Hugh was crowned at Noyon on July 5, 987. Scholars are generally agreed that Hugh’s election was not a revolutionary action. His grandfather Robert I, his great-uncle Eudes, and his uncle Rudolf (Raoul) had all earlier been non-Carolingian kings.

Hugh’s reign was marked by the unavailing efforts of Charles of Lorraine (imprisoned 991) to assert himself and by continual conflict between Eudes I, count of Blois, and Fulk Nerra of Anjou, whom Hugh later supported. In 993 Eudes was aided by the bishop of Laon in an unsuccessful conspiracy to deliver Hugh and his son Robert over to Otto III. That no one was punished for the incident indicated the weakness of the new Capetian dynasty. Hugh’s crown was probably preserved by the inability of his enemies to coordinate their activities against him.

The Capetian dynasty’s subsequent rule for more than 300 years has invested Hugh Capet’s reign with a greater significance than his actual achievements merit. Very soon after ascending the throne, Hugh Capet arranged the coronation (December 987) of his own son, Robert, who upon Hugh’s death succeeded to the throne without difficulty. This practice of crowning the heir during the father’s lifetime was continued by the Capetians until the time of Louis VII and undoubtedly contributed to the dynasty’s stability and longevity.

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Louis VII

Louis VII, byname Louis The Younger, French Louis Le Jeune (born c. 1120—died Sept. 18, 1180, Paris), Capetian king of France who pursued a long rivalry, marked by recurrent warfare and continuous intrigue, with Henry II of England.

In 1131 Louis was anointed as successor to his father, Louis VI, and in 1137 he became the sole ruler at his father’s death. Louis married Eleanor, daughter of William X, duke of Aquitaine, in 1137, a few days before his effective rule began, and he thus temporarily extended the Capetian lands to the Pyrenees. Louis continued his father’s pacification program by building the prestige of the kingship through an administrative government based on trustworthy men of humble origin and by consolidating his rule over his royal domains rather than by adding new acquisitions. From 1141 to 1143 he was involved in a fruitless conflict with Count Thibaut of Champagne and the papacy. But thereafter his relations with the popes were good; Alexander II, whom he supported against Frederick Barbarossa, took refuge in France. But the major threat to his reign came from Geoffrey, count of Anjou and, briefly, of Normandy, and Geoffrey’s son Henry, who later (1154) became King Henry II of England as well as ruler of both Anjou and Normandy. After Louis repudiated his wife Eleanor for misconduct on March 21, 1152, she married Henry, who then took over control of Aquitaine. Ironically, this act was probably to Capetian advantage because Aquitaine might have drained the resources of Louis’s kingdom while bringing him little revenue. After the death of Louis’s second wife, he married Alix of Champagne, whose Carolingian blood brought added prestige to the monarchy (1160); their son became Philip II Augustus.

Louis might have defeated Henry if he had made concerted attacks rather than weak assaults on Normandy in 1152. Anglo-Norman family disputes saved Louis’s kingdom from severe incursions during the many conflicts that Louis had with Henry between 1152 and 1174. Louis was helped by the quarrel (1164–70) between Henry and Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, and a revolt (1173–74) of Henry’s sons. Suger, abbot of Saint-Denis, who acted as regent in 1147–49 while Louis was away on the Second Crusade, is the primary historian for Louis’s reign.

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Eleanor of Aquitaine

The independent Eleanor of Aquitaine was a patron of artists, particularly troubadours. Her lifestyle did not suit her husband King Louis VII of France, who was under the strong influence of his counselor Abbot Suger.

She also had a falling out with her unfaithful second husband, Henry Plantagenet, King of England.

Eleanor was held under house arrest for years in England because she had supported a conspiracy of her son
Richard the Lion-Hearted against his father.

Depiction of Eleanor of Aquitaine on her tomb in Fontevraud Abbey,
sculpture, 13th century



Eleanor of Aquitaine

queen consort of France and England
also called Eleanor of Guyenne, French Éléonore or Aliénor, d’Aquitaine or de Guyenne

born c. 1122
died April 1, 1204, Fontevrault, Anjou, France

queen consort of both Louis VII of France (1137–52) and Henry II of England (1152–1204) and mother of Richard I (the Lion-Heart) and John of England. She was perhaps the most powerful woman in 12th-century Europe.

Eleanor was the daughter and heiress of William X, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers, who possessed one of the largest domains in France—larger, in fact, than those held by the French king. Upon William’s death in 1137 she inherited the duchy of Aquitaine and in July 1137 married the heir to the French throne, who succeeded his father, Louis VI, the following month. Eleanor became queen of France, a title she held for the next 15 years. Beautiful, capricious, and adored by Louis, Eleanor exerted considerable influence over him, often goading him into undertaking perilous ventures.

(left scene) 14th-century representation of the wedding
of Louis and Eleanor; (right scene) Depiction of Louis leaving on Crusade

From 1147 to 1149 Eleanor accompanied Louis on the Second Crusade to protect the fragile Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, founded after the First Crusade only 50 years before, from Turkish assault. Eleanor’s conduct during this expedition, especially at the court of her uncle Raymond of Poitiers at Antioch, aroused Louis’s jealousy and marked the beginning of their estrangement. After their return to France and a short-lived reconciliation, their marriage was annulled in March 1152. According to feudal customs, Eleanor then regained possession of Aquitaine, and two months later she married the grandson of Henry I of England, Henry Plantagenet, count of Anjou and duke of Normandy. In 1154 he became, as Henry II, king of England, with the result that England, Normandy, and the west of France were united under his rule. Eleanor had only two daughters by Louis VII; to her new husband she bore five sons and three daughters. The sons were William, who died at the age of three; Henry; Richard, the Lion-Heart; Geoffrey, duke of Brittany; and John, surnamed Lackland until, having outlived all his brothers, he inherited, in 1199, the crown of England. The daughters were Matilda, who married Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria; Eleanor, who married Alfonso VIII, king of Castile; and Joan, who married successively William II, king of Sicily, and Raymond VI, count of Toulouse. Eleanor would well have deserved to be named the “grandmother of Europe.”

During her childbearing years, she participated actively in the administration of the realm and even more actively in the management of her own domains. She was instrumental in turning the court of Poitiers, then frequented by the most famous troubadours of the time, into a centre of poetry and a model of courtly life and manners. She was the great patron of the two dominant poetic movements of the time: the courtly love tradition, conveyed in the romantic songs of the troubadours, and the historical matière de Bretagne, or “legends of Brittany,” which originated in Celtic traditions and in the Historia regum Britanniae, written by the chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth sometime between 1135 and 1138.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

The revolt of her sons against her husband in 1173 put her cultural activities to a brutal end. Since Eleanor, 11 years her husband’s senior, had long resented his infidelities, the revolt may have been instigated by her; in any case, she gave her sons considerable military support. The revolt failed, and Eleanor was captured while seeking refuge in the kingdom of her first husband, Louis VII. Her semi-imprisonment in England ended only with the death of Henry II in 1189. On her release, Eleanor played a greater political role than ever before. She actively prepared for Richard’s coronation as king, was administrator of the realm during his Crusade to the Holy Land, and, after his capture by the duke of Austria on Richard’s return from the east, collected his ransom and went in person to escort him to England. During Richard’s absence, she succeeded in keeping his kingdom intact and in thwarting the intrigues of his brother John Lackland and Philip II Augustus, king of France, against him.

Eleanor of Aquitaine enters
Constantinople, 1147 A.D.

In 1199 Richard died without leaving an heir to the throne, and John was crowned king. Eleanor, nearly 80 years old, fearing the disintegration of the Plantagenet domain, crossed the Pyrenees in 1200 in order to fetch her granddaughter Blanche from the court of Castile and marry her to the son of the French king. By this marriage she hoped to ensure peace between the Plantagenets of England and the Capetian kings of France. In the same year she helped to defend Anjou and Aquitaine against her grandson Arthur of Brittany, thus securing John’s French possessions. In 1202 John was again in her debt for holding Mirebeau against Arthur, until John, coming to her relief, was able to take him prisoner. John’s only victories on the Continent, therefore, were due to Eleanor.

She died in 1204 at the monastery at Fontevrault, Anjou, where she had retired after the campaign at Mirebeau. Her contribution to England extended beyond her own lifetime; after the loss of Normandy (1204), it was her own ancestral lands and not the old Norman territories that remained loyal to England. She has been misjudged by many French historians who have noted only her youthful frivolity, ignoring the tenacity, political wisdom, and energy that characterized the years of her maturity. “She was beautiful and just, imposing and modest, humble and elegant”; and, as the nuns of Fontevrault wrote in their necrology, a queen “who surpassed almost all the queens of the world.”

Regine Pernoud

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Eleanor of Aquitaine


Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Reims,
Champagne-Ardenne, France

Reims Cathedral

cathedral, Reims, France
also called the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims,
cathedral located in the city of Reims, France, on the Vesle River east-northeast of Paris. Reims was the site of 25 coronations of the kings of France, from Louis VIII in 1223 to Charles X in 1825, including the crowning of Charles VII in 1429 in the presence of Joan of Arc. The cathedral, which was begun in 1211 under the auspices of Archbishop Aubry de Humbert and designer Jean d’Orbais, was modeled on Chartres Cathedral (begun about 1194) and was intended to replace an earlier church destroyed by fire in 1210. The main construction was overseen by four different architects and lasted some 80 years; expansions and decorative work continued on the church for centuries.

Reims Cathedral incorporated several new architectural techniques, notably bar tracery. It has a total finished length of 489 feet (149.2 metres)—about 26 feet (8 metres) longer than Chartres—with an interior length of 455 feet (138.7 metres) and a nave reaching 377 feet (115 metres). The twin towers in the west facade have a height of 266 feet (81 metres). The chevet (eastern end), with its five relatively large chapels, is nearly the same width as the transept (201 feet [61.3 metres]), giving the cathedral an unusually compact, unified appearance. This unity is emphasized by the use of nearly identical window types in the aisle and clerestory stories, as well as the complementary rose windows in the west facade and central portal and those in the transepts’ facades. Reims is richly decorated with elegant masonry sculpture (particularly the exterior) and exceptional stained-glass windows, making it one of the artistic masterpieces of the French High Gothic period.

The cathedral’s historic site, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991, includes the former Abbey of Saint-Rémi (begun about 1170 and containing the remains of the 5th–6th century archbishop St. Remigius) and the archiepiscopal Tau Palace (reconstructed in the 17th century). Restoration was undertaken in the 20th century after the cathedral was seriously damaged by shelling during World War I.

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The Normans

A Viking tribe, the Normans not only plundered the coasts of Europe but also in the later half of the ninth century gradually settled the areas they terrorized—for example, Normandy, the region named after them in northern France, which later became the Duchy of Normandy.

It was from here that the Normans led by William the Conqueror occupied England in 1066. The English kings, William's descendents, also maintained their territorial interests in France.

Norman ships, Bayeux Tapestry, late
eleventh century



The Development of the Estates of the Crown


Philip II Augustus and his successors increased the possessions of the French crown.


The Capetians attempted to enlarge the territories they directly ruled through well-directed marriage diplomacy. In 1137 Louis VII married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the heiress of expansive estates in southwestern France. However, the marriage was not a success and was dissolved in 1152. Eleanor then married Henry II Planta-genet, who was earl of Anjou, duke of Normandv, and from 1154 king of England. Through this union, a dangerous enemy to the French king emerged in his own country. However, the struggle strengthened the French monarchy, which was supported by the popular will and by the Church, at a time when the English king was alleged to have encouraged the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett.

In order to weaken the English, Philip II, the son of Louis VII from a second marriage, stirred up conflict between Henry and his son Richard the Lion-Hearted, and then between Richard and his brother John Lackland. John, as vassal of the French king, later refused to follow summons to the royal court in Paris. A trial in 1204 declared the majority of John's French lands forfeit.

John then allied himself with his cousin, the Welf Otto IV, in a war against France, but 7 Philip was victorious over John and Otto in the Battle of Bouvines in 1214, which earned him the epithet "Augustus."

7 Battle of Philip II Augustus and John Lackland, book illustration, 14th century

At the same time, a war began against the 8 Albigenses in southern France, who were supported by nobility, including the powerful 9 counts of Toulouse and his 10 vassals. After Philip's death in 1223, his son, and then his grandson (Saint) Louis IX, continued the Albigensian wars. Though they were waged as holy crusades, they also had the goal of gaining the prosperous, culturally and linguistically diverse southern France for the crown.

8 A heretic is burnt at the stake while Philip II Augustus'
looks on, book illustration, 15th century

Seal belonging to Count
Raymond VII of Toulouse,
13th century

10 Carcassonne castle, seat of one
of the vassals of the counts of Toulouse,
built in the twelfth century



The Albigensian Wars

The community of Albigenses, or Cathari, the pure ones— whom the popes considered heretical—formed in the region around the town of Albi in southern France. The Cathars believed in a dualistic division of the world into good and evil, wherein the Roman Catholic Church belonged to the fatter.

Crusaders from northern France and the Inquisition, established solely for this purpose, eventually exterminated the Cathars over wyears of brutal persecution.

The fortress cathedral Saint-Cecile of Albi,
built 13th—15th с



Philip II

Philip II, byname Philip Augustus, French Philippe Auguste (born Aug. 21, 1165, Paris, Fr.—died July 14, 1223, Mantes), the first of the great Capetian kings of medieval France (reigned 1179–1223), who gradually reconquered the French territories held by the kings of England and also furthered the royal domains northward into Flanders and southward into Languedoc. He was a major figure in the Third Crusade to the Holy Land in 1191.

Early life and kingship
Philip was the son of Louis VII of France and Adela of Champagne. In order to be associated as king with his father, who had fallen mortally ill, he was crowned at Reims on Nov. 1, 1179. His uncles of the House of Champagne—Henry I, count of Champagne; Guillaume, archbishop of Reims; and Thibaut V, count of Blois and Chartres—hoped to use the youthful king to control France. To escape from their tutelage, Philip, on April 28, 1180, married Isabella, the daughter of Baldwin V of Hainaut and the niece (through her mother) of Philip of Alsace, the count of Flanders, who promised to give the King the territory of Artois as her dowry.

When Henry II of England arrived in Normandy, perhaps with the intention of responding to an appeal by the House of Champagne, Philip II entered into negotiations with him and, at Gisors on June 28, 1180, renewed an understanding that Louis VII had reached with him in 1177. As a result, the House of Champagne was politically isolated, and Philip II was making all decisions for himself and acting as he saw fit when his father died, on Sept. 18, 1180, leaving him sole king in name as well as in fact.

When the Count of Flanders allied himself with the Champagne faction, there followed a serious revolt against the King. In the Peace of Boves, in July 1185 (confirmed by the Treaty of Gisors in May 1186), the King and the Count of Flanders composed their differences (which had been chiefly over possession of Vermandois, in Picardy), so that the disputed territory was partitioned, Amiens and numerous other places passing to the King and the remainder, with the county of Vermandois proper, being left provisionally to Philip of Alsace. Thenceforward the King was free to run against Henry II of England.

Territorial expansion
Henry’s French possessions—the so-called Angevin Empire, consisting of Normandy, Maine, Anjou, and Touraine, with Aquitaine in the hands of his son, the future Richard I the Lion-Heart of England, and Brittany ruled by another son, Geoffrey (died 1186)—all were a constant menace to the French royal domain. Furthermore, there were long-standing disputes over the Vexin (between Normandy and the Île-de-France), Berry, and Auvergne.

Philip II launched an attack on Berry in the summer of 1187 but then in June made a truce with Henry, which left Issoudun in his hands and also granted him Fréteval, in Vendômois. Though the truce was for two years, Philip found grounds for resuming hostilities in the summer of 1188. He skillfully exploited the estrangement between Henry and Richard, and Richard did homage to him voluntarily at Bonmoulins in November 1188. Finally, by the Treaty of Azay-le-Rideau, or of Colombières (July 4, 1189), Henry was forced to renew his own homage, to confirm the cession of Issoudun, with Graçay also, to Philip, and to renounce his claim to suzerainty over Auvergne. Henry died two days later.

Richard, who succeeded Henry as king of England, had already undertaken to go on crusade (the Third Crusade) against Saladin in the Holy Land, and Philip now did likewise. Before his departure, he made the so-called Testament of 1190 to provide for the government of his kingdom in his absence. On his way to Palestine, he met Richard in Sicily, where they promptly found themselves at variance, though they made a treaty at Messina in March 1191. Arriving in Palestine, they cooperated against the Muslims at Acre, until Philip fell ill and made his illness a pretext for returning to France, quite determined to settle the succession to Flanders (Philip of Alsace had just died on the crusade) while Richard was still absent. Thus, by the end of 1191, Philip II was back in France.

In spite of promises he had made in the Holy Land, Philip at once prepared to attack the Plantagenet possessions in France. Informed of this, Richard also left the crusade but was taken prisoner while on his way back by the duke of Austria, Leopold V of Babenberg. Philip did everything he could to prolong his rival’s captivity, but Richard was at last set free (1194) and went to war against Philip. The French king suffered a number of defeats (from that at Fréteval in July 1194 to that at Courcelles in September 1198) in a series of campaigns that were occasionally punctuated by negotiations. It was fortuitous for Philip, however, when Richard was killed in April 1199.

Richard’s brother John was by no means as formidable a fighter. Moreover, his right to Richard’s succession could be contested by Arthur of Brittany, whose father had been senior to John. To secure the succession, therefore, John came to terms with Philip: by the Treaty of Le Goulet (May 22, 1200), in return for Philip’s recognition of him as Richard’s heir, he ceded Évreux and the Norman Vexin to Philip; agreed that Issoudun and Graçay should be the dowry of his niece Blanche of Castile, who was to marry the future Louis VIII (Philip’s son by Isabella of Hainaut); and renounced any claim to suzerainty over Berry and Auvergne.

Shortly afterward, however, John entered into conflict with the Lusignan family of Poitou (in Aquitaine), who appealed to Philip as overlord. When he was summoned to appear before the royal court as a vassal of the French crown, John did not present himself, and Philip, in April 1202, pronounced John’s French fiefs forfeit and undertook to carry out the sentence himself. He invaded Normandy, overran the northeast, and laid siege to Arques, while Arthur of Brittany, the son of Geoffrey, who died some years before, campaigned against John’s supporters in Poitou; but John, marching south from Maine, captured Arthur at Mirebeau (August 1). In fury, Philip abandoned the siege of Arques and marched southwestward to Tours, ravaging John’s territory on his way before returning to Paris. Guillaume des Roches, the powerful seneschal of Anjou, who had taken John’s side, came to terms with Philip in March 1203.

Resuming operations against Normandy, Philip occupied the towns around the great fortress of Château-Gaillard, to which he laid siege in September 1203, having overruled Pope Innocent III’s attempts to mediate. John, who is reported to have murdered Arthur of Brittany in April, retired to England in December, and Château-Gaillard fell to Philip in March 1204. Rouen, the Norman capital, surrendered in June, after 40 days’ resistance.

After his conquest of Normandy, Philip subdued Maine, Touraine, Anjou, and most of Poitou with less difficulty (1204–05), though the castles of Loches and Chinon held out for a year. He sought to secure his conquests by lavishing privileges on the towns and on the religious houses but otherwise left the local barons in power. Unrest, however, was endemic in Poitou, and in June 1206 John landed at La Rochelle. After a campaign in the south, he turned north toward the Loire. At Thouars in October 1206, he and Philip made a two-year truce, leaving John in possession of the reconquered Poitevin lands. In the following year, however, Philip invaded Poitou again; and, after a further campaign in 1208, only the south and part of the west of Poitou remained loyal to John (with Saintonge, Guyenne, and Gascony).

Philip next hoped to exploit the dispute between John and Pope Innocent III. While Innocent was threatening to declare John unfit to reign (1212), plans were being made for a French landing in England and for the accession of Philip’s son Louis to the English throne. The plans had to be dropped when John made his submission to the Pope (1213). Throwing himself into schemes for revenge, John formed a coalition against France: the Holy Roman emperor Otto IV, the Count of Flanders (Ferrand, or Ferdinand, of Portugal), and the Count of Boulogne (Raynald, or Renaud, of Dammartin) were to invade the Capetian territory from the northeast while John attacked from the west, with the help of his Poitevin barons.

John landed at La Rochelle in February 1214 and advanced into Anjou but was put to flight by Louis at La Roche-aux-Moines on July 2; his confederates were completely defeated by Philip in the decisive Battle of Bouvines on July 27. The Anglo-Angevin power in France and the coalition had both been broken in one month. Thus Philip, who, in 1213, had transferred Brittany to his cousin Peter of Dreux, was left without any significant opposition to his rule in France.

It was not only at the Plantagenets’ expense that Philip enlarged the royal domain. His claim to Artois through his first marriage and his gains by the settlement of 1185–86 have been mentioned above, and he subsequently proceeded, step by step, to acquire the rest of Vermandois and Valois. His insistence on his suzerainty over vacant fiefs and on his tutelage over minors and heiresses was particularly effective with regard to Flanders, where two successive Flemish counts, Philip of Alsace (died 1191) and Baldwin IX (died c. 1205) had left no male issue.

Though he did not personally take part in the crusade proclaimed by Pope Innocent III against a Cathari religious sect in Languedoc, Philip allowed his vassals and knights to carry it out. Simon de Montfort’s capture of Béziers and Carcassonne (1209) and his victory at Muret over Raymond VI of Toulouse and Peter II of Aragon (1213) prepared the way for the eventual annexation of eastern Languedoc to the royal domain six years after Philip’s death and for the union of northern and southern France under Capetian rule.

Internal affairs
Several years before he tried to take advantage of the papacy’s quarrel with John of England, Philip had himself been in dispute with Rome. After the death (1190) of Isabella of Hainaut, he had married Ingeborg, sister of the Danish king Canute IV, on Aug. 14, 1193, and on the next day, for a private reason, had resolved to separate from her. Having procured the annulment of his marriage by an assembly of bishops in November 1193, he took a Tirolese lady, Agnes, daughter of Bertold IV of Meran, as his wife in June 1196. Denmark, meanwhile, had complained to Rome about the repudiation of Ingeborg, and Pope Celestine III had countermanded it in 1195; but Celestine died (1198) before he could resort to coercion against Philip. The next pope, Innocent III, was sterner: in January 1200 he imposed an interdict on France. Philip, therefore, in September 1200, had to submit, pretending to be reconciled with Ingeborg. In fact, he refused to cohabit with her and kept her in semicaptivity until 1213, when he accepted her beside him—not as his wife but at least as his queen. Agnes had died in 1201, after bearing two children to Philip: Marie, countess of Namur (1211) and duchess of Brabant (1213), by successive marriages; and Philip, called Hurepel, count of Clermont.

Throughout his reign, Philip kept a close watch over the French nobility, which he brought effectively to heel. He maintained excellent relations with the French clergy, leaving the canons of the cathedral chapters free to elect their bishops and favouring the monastic orders. He knew, too, how to win the support of the towns, granting privileges and liberties to merchants and frequently aiding their struggles to free themselves from the seignorial authority of the nobles. In return, the communes helped financially and militarily. Most of all, Philip gave his attention to Paris, not only fortifying it with a great rampart but also having its streets and thoroughfares put in order. For the countryside, he multiplied the number of villes neuves (“new towns”), or enfranchised communities.

The Capetian monarchy’s hold on the huge royal domain as well as on the kingdom as a whole was considerably strengthened by Philip’s institution of a new class of administrative officers, the royal baillis and the seneschals for the provinces, who were appointed by the king to supervise the conduct of the local prévôts (“provosts”), to give justice in his name, to collect the revenues of the domain for him, and to call up the armed forces, in addition to other duties.

Philip II died on July 14, 1223. Knowing his own strength, he was the first of the Capetians not to have his eldest son crowned and associated with him during his lifetime; in fact, his conquests and strong government made him the richest and most powerful king in Europe and prepared the way for France’s greatness in the 13th century.

Marcel Pacaut

Encyclopaedia Britannica