Louis VII of France

Last updated

Louis VII
Louis VII SCeau 17058.jpg
Effigy of Louis VII on his seal
King of the Franks
Senior king1 August 1137 – 18 September 1180
Coronation 25 December 1137, Bourges
Junior king 25 October 1131 – 1 August 1137
Coronation 25 October 1131, Reims Cathedral
Predecessor Louis VI
Successor Philip II
Born1120
Died18 September 1180 (aged 59–60)
Paris
Burial
Spouse
(m. 1137;annulled 1152)

(m. 1154;died 1160)

(m. 1160)
Issue
Detail...
House Capet
Father Louis VI of France
Mother Adélaide of Maurienne

Louis VII (1120 – 18 September 1180), called the Younger or the Young (French: le Jeune), was King of the Franks from 1137 to 1180. He was the son and successor of King Louis VI (hence the epithet "the Young") and married Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe. The marriage temporarily extended the Capetian lands to the Pyrenees, but was annulled in 1152 after no male heir was produced.

Contents

Immediately after the annulment of her marriage, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, to whom she conveyed Aquitaine and produced five male heirs. When Henry became King of England in 1154 as Henry II, he ruled as king, duke or count over a large empire of kingdoms, duchies and counties that spanned from Scotland to the Pyrenees. Henry's efforts to preserve and expand on this patrimony for the Crown of England would mark the beginning of the long rivalry between France and England.

Louis VII's reign saw the founding of the University of Paris and the disastrous Second Crusade. Louis and his famous counselor Abbot Suger pushed for a greater centralization of the state and favoured the development of French Gothic architecture, notably the construction of Notre-Dame de Paris.

He died in 1180 and was succeeded by his son Philip II.

Early life and education

Louis was born in 1120, [1] the second son of Louis VI of France and Adelaide of Maurienne. [2] The early education of the young Louis anticipated an ecclesiastical career. As a result, he became well-learned and exceptionally devout, but his life course changed decisively after the accidental death of his older brother Philip in 1131, when he unexpectedly became the heir to the throne of France. [1] In October 1131, his father had him anointed and crowned by Pope Innocent II in Reims Cathedral. [3] [4] He spent much of his youth in Saint-Denis, where he built a friendship with the Abbot Suger, an advisor to his father who also served Louis well during his early years as king.

Early reign

Equestrian image of Louis VII on two-sided royal seal Louis7seal.jpg
Equestrian image of Louis VII on two-sided royal seal

Following the death of Duke William X of Aquitaine, Louis VI moved quickly to have his son married to Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had inherited William's territory, on 25 July 1137. [5] In this way, Louis VI sought to add the large, sprawling territory of the duchy of Aquitaine to his family's holdings in France. On 1 August 1137, shortly after the marriage, Louis VI died, and Louis VII became king. The pairing of the monkish Louis and the high-spirited Eleanor was doomed to failure; she reportedly once declared that she had thought to marry a king, only to find she had married a monk. There was a marked difference between the frosty, reserved culture of the northern court in the Íle de France, where Louis had been raised, and the rich, free-wheeling court life of the Aquitaine with which Eleanor was familiar. [5] Louis and Eleanor had two daughters, Marie and Alix. [5]

In the first part of his reign, Louis VII was vigorous and zealous in his prerogatives. His accession was marked by no disturbances other than uprisings by the burgesses of Orléans and Poitiers, who wished to organise communes. He soon came into violent conflict with Pope Innocent II, however, when the archbishopric of Bourges became vacant. The king supported the chancellor Cadurc as a candidate to fill the vacancy against the pope's nominee Pierre de la Chatre, swearing upon relics that so long as he lived, Pierre should never enter Bourges. The pope thus imposed an interdict upon the king.

Louis VII then became involved in a war with Theobald II of Champagne by permitting Raoul I of Vermandois, the seneschal of France, to repudiate his wife, Theobald II's sister, and to marry Petronilla of Aquitaine, sister of the queen of France. As a result, Champagne decided to side with the pope in the dispute over Bourges. The war lasted two years (1142–1144) and ended with the occupation of Champagne by the royal army. Louis VII was personally involved in the assault and burning of the town of Vitry-le-François. [6] At least 1500 people who had sought refuge in the church died in the flames. [6] Condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities, Louis removed his armies from Champagne and returned them to Theobald. He accepted Pierre de la Chatre as archbishop of Bourges and shunned Raoul and Petronilla. Desiring to atone for his sins, he declared his intention of mounting a crusade on Christmas Day 1145 at Bourges. Bernard of Clairvaux assured its popularity by his preaching at Vezelay on Easter 1146.

Geza II of Hungary and Louis VII of France. Image from the Hungarian Chronicon Pictum (1358). II Geza es VII Lajos KK.jpg
Géza II of Hungary and Louis VII of France. Image from the Hungarian Chronicon Pictum (1358).

In the meantime, Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, completed his conquest of Normandy in 1144. In exchange for being recognised as Duke of Normandy by Louis, Geoffrey surrendered half of the county of Vexin – a region vital to Norman security – to Louis. Considered a clever move by Louis at the time, it would later prove yet another step towards Angevin rule.

In June 1147, in fulfillment of his vow to mount the Second Crusade, Louis VII and his queen set out from the Basilica of St Denis, first stopping in Metz on the overland route to Syria. Soon they arrived in the Kingdom of Hungary, where they were welcomed by the king Géza II of Hungary, who was already waiting with King Conrad III of Germany. Due to his good relationships with Louis VII, Géza II asked the French king to be his son Stephen's baptism godfather. Relations between the kingdoms of France and Hungary remained cordial long after this time: decades later, Louis's daughter Margaret was taken as wife by Géza's son Béla III of Hungary. [7] After receiving provisions from Géza, the armies continued the march to the East. Just beyond Laodicea at Honaz, the French army was ambushed by Turks. [8] In the resulting battle of Mount Cadmus, the Turks first bombarded the French with arrows and heavy stones, then swarmed down from the mountains and massacred them. The historian Odo of Deuil gives this account:

During the fighting the King Louis lost his small and famous royal guard, but he remained in good heart and nimbly and courageously scaled the side of the mountain by gripping the tree roots [...] The enemy climbed after him, hoping to capture him, and the enemy in the distance continued to fire arrows at him. But God willed that his cuirass should protect him from the arrows, and to prevent himself from being captured he defended the crag with his bloody sword, cutting off many heads and hands.

Raymond of Poitiers welcoming Louis VII in Antioch (15th-century illustration). RaymondOfPoitiersWelcomingLouisVIIinAntioch.JPG
Raymond of Poitiers welcoming Louis VII in Antioch (15th-century illustration).

Louis VII and his army finally reached the Holy Land in 1148. His queen Eleanor supported her uncle, Raymond of Poitiers, and prevailed upon Louis to help Antioch against Aleppo. But Louis VII's interest lay in Jerusalem, and so he slipped out of Antioch in secret. He united with King Conrad III of Germany and King Baldwin III of Jerusalem to lay siege to Damascus; this ended in disaster and the project was abandoned. Louis VII decided to leave the Holy Land, despite the protests of Eleanor, who still wanted to help her doomed uncle Raymond. Louis VII and the French army returned home in 1149.

A shift in the status quo

The expedition to the Holy Land came at a great cost to the royal treasury and military. It also precipitated a conflict with Eleanor that led to the annulment of their marriage. [9] Perhaps the marriage to Eleanor might have continued if the royal couple had produced a male heir, but this had not occurred. [5] The Council of Beaugency found an exit clause, declaring that Louis VII and Eleanor were too closely related for their marriage to be legal, [5] thus the marriage was annulled on 21 March 1152. The pretext of kinship was the basis for annulment, but in fact, it owed more to the state of hostility between Louis and Eleanor, with a decreasing likelihood that their marriage would produce a male heir to the throne of France. On 18 May 1152, Eleanor married the Count of Anjou, the future King Henry II of England. She gave him the duchy of Aquitaine and bore him three daughters and five sons. Louis VII led an ineffective war against Henry for having married without the authorization of his suzerain. The result was a humiliation for the enemies of Henry and Eleanor, who saw their troops routed, their lands ravaged, and their property stolen. [5] Louis reacted by coming down with a fever and returned to the Ile-de France.

In 1154, Louis VII married Constance of Castile, daughter of King Alfonso VII of Castile. [10] She also failed to supply him with a son and heir, bearing only two daughters, Margaret [11] and Alys. [12] By 1157, Henry II of England began to believe that Louis might never produce a male heir, and that the succession of France would consequently be left in question. Determined to secure a claim for his family, he sent his chancellor, Thomas Becket, to press for a marriage between Margaret and Henry's heir, Henry the Young King. Louis agreed to this proposal, and by the Treaty of Gisors (1158) betrothed the young pair, giving as a dowry the Norman city of Gisors and the surrounding county of Vexin. [11]

Louis VII receiving clergymen, (from the Grandes Chroniques de France, c. 1375-1379). Louis VII ristiretki.PNG
Louis VII receiving clergymen, (from the Grandes Chroniques de France , c. 1375–1379).

Louis VII was devastated when Constance died in childbirth on 4 October 1160. As he was desperate for a son, he married Adela of Champagne just 5 weeks later. To counterbalance the advantage this would give the king of France, Henry II had the marriage of their children (Henry "the Young King" and Margaret) celebrated at once. Louis understood the danger of the growing Angevin power; however, through indecision and a lack of fiscal and military resources in comparison to Henry II, he failed to oppose Angevin hegemony effectively. One of his few successes was a trip to Toulouse in 1159 to aid Raymond V, Count of Toulouse, who had been attacked by Henry II: Louis entered into the city with a small escort, claiming to be visiting his sister, the Countess, Henry declared that he could not attack the city while his liege lord was inside, and went home. [13] In 1169, Louis was petitioned by the bishop of Puy to stop the Viscount of Polignac from attacking travelers through Auvergne. [14] The viscount was besieged by Louis at Nonette and the county was turned into a prévôt. [14]

Diplomacy

Louis' reign saw Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I press his claims to Arles, in southeastern France. When a papal schism broke out in 1159, Louis VII took the part of Pope Alexander III, the enemy of Frederick I, and after two comical failures of Frederick I to meet Louis VII at Saint Jean de Losne (on 29 August and 22 September 1162), Louis VII definitely gave himself up to the cause of Alexander III, who lived at Sens from 1163 to 1165. In return for his loyal support, the pope gave Louis the Golden Rose.

Thomas Becket leaves Louis VII and Henry II in January 1169, illustration from c. 1220-1240, possibly by Matthew Paris Becket and the kings part - Becket Leaves (c.1220-1240), f. 2v - BL Loan MS 88.jpg
Thomas Becket leaves Louis VII and Henry II in January 1169, illustration from c. 1220–1240, possibly by Matthew Paris

More important for English history would be Louis's support for Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, whom he tried to reconcile with Henry II. Louis sided with Becket as much to damage Henry as out of piety – yet even he grew irritated with the stubbornness of the archbishop, asking when Becket refused Henry's conciliations, "Do you wish to be more than a Saint?"

Louis also tried to weaken Henry by supporting his rebellious sons, and encouraged Plantagenet disunity by making Henry's sons, rather than Henry himself, the feudal overlords of the Angevin territories in France. But the rivalry among Henry's sons and Louis's own indecisiveness broke up the coalition (1173–1174) between them. Finally, in 1177, the pope intervened to bring the two kings to terms at Vitry-le-François.

In 1165, Louis's third wife bore him a son and heir, Philip. Louis had him crowned at Reims in 1179, [15] in the Capetian tradition (Philip would in fact be the last king so crowned). Already stricken with paralysis, Louis himself could not be present at the ceremony. [15] He died on 18 September 1180 in Paris and was buried the next day at Barbeau Abbey, [15] which he had founded. His remains were moved to the Basilica of Saint-Denis in 1817.

Marriages and children

Louis' children by his three marriages:

with Eleanor of Aquitaine: [16]

with Constance of Castile: [10]

with Adele of Champagne: [18]

Legacy

From the point of view of the preservation and expansion of the French royal domains, the reign of Louis VII was a difficult and unfortunate one. Yet royal authority was more strongly felt in the parts of France distant from these domains: more direct and more frequent connections were made with distant vassals, a result largely due to an alliance between the clergy with the crown. Louis VII thus reaped the reward for services rendered the church during the least successful portions of his reign. His greater accomplishments lie in the development of agriculture, population, commerce, the building of stone fortresses, as well as an intellectual renaissance. Considering the significant disparity of political leverage and financial resources between Louis VII and his Angevin rival Henry II, not to mention Henry's superior military skills, Louis VII should be credited with helping to preserve the Capetian dynasty.

Fictional portrayals

Louis is a character in Jean Anouilh's 1959 play Becket . In the 1964 film adaptation he was portrayed by John Gielgud, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was also portrayed by Charles Kay in the 1978 BBC TV drama series The Devil's Crown . He has a role in Sharon Kay Penman's novels When Christ and His Saints Slept and Devil's Brood. The early part of Norah Lofts' biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine deals considerably with Louis VII, seen through Eleanor's eyes and giving her side in their problematic relationship. Louis is one of the main characters in Elizabeth Chadwick's novel The Summer Queen.

Related Research Articles

Eleanor of Aquitaine 12th-century Duchess of Aquitaine and queen-consort of France and England

Eleanor of Aquitaine was Queen of France from 1137 to 1152 as the wife of King Louis VII, Queen of England from 1154 to 1189 as the wife of King Henry II, and Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right from 1137 until her death in 1204. As the heir of the House of Poitiers, rulers in southwestern France, she was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages. She was patron of literary figures such as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure, and Bernart de Ventadorn. She was also known to have led armies several times in her life and was a key leading figure of the unsuccessful Second Crusade.

Philip II of France King of France from 1180 to 1223

Philip II, byname Philip Augustus, was King of France from 1180 to 1223. His predecessors had been known as kings of the Franks, but from 1190 onward, Philip became the first French monarch to style himself "King of France". The son of King Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne, he was originally nicknamed Dieudonné (God-given) because he was a first son and born late in his father's life. Philip was given the epithet "Augustus" by the chronicler Rigord for having extended the crown lands of France so remarkably.

Louis VI of France King of the Franks

Louis VI, called the Fat or the Fighter, was King of the Franks from 1108 to 1137.

Philip I of France King of the Franks

Philip I, called the Amorous, was King of the Franks from 1060 to 1108. His reign, like that of most of the early Capetians, was extraordinarily long for the time. The monarchy began a modest recovery from the low it reached in the reign of his father and he added to the royal demesne the Vexin and Bourges.

Marie of France, Countess of Champagne Countess consort of Champagne

Marie of France was a French princess and Countess consort of Champagne. She was regent of the county of Champagne in 1179–1181, and in 1190–1197.

Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany 12th-century Duke of Brittany and son of King Henry II of England

Geoffrey II was Duke of Brittany and 3rd Earl of Richmond between 1181 and 1186, through his marriage with the heiress Constance. Geoffrey was the fourth of five sons of Henry II, King of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine.

Theobald II, Count of Champagne

Theobald the Great (1090–1152) was count of Blois and of Chartres as Theobald IV from 1102 and was count of Champagne and of Brie as Theobald II from 1125. Theobald held Auxerre, Maligny, Ervy, Troyes, and Châteauvillain as fiefs from Duke Odo II of Burgundy.

France in the Middle Ages History of France during the Middle Ages

The Kingdom of France in the Middle Ages was marked by the fragmentation of the Carolingian Empire and West Francia (843–987); the expansion of royal control by the House of Capet (987–1328), including their struggles with the virtually independent principalities that had developed following the Viking invasions and through the piecemeal dismantling of the Carolingian Empire and the creation and extension of administrative/state control in the 13th century; and the rise of the House of Valois (1328–1589), including the protracted dynastic crisis against the House of Plantagenet and their Angevin Empire, dominated by the Kingdom of England, cumulating in the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), compounded by the catastrophic Black Death epidemic (1348), which laid the seeds for a more centralized and expanded state in the early modern period and the creation of a sense of French identity.

William VIII, born Guy-Geoffrey (Gui-Geoffroi), was duke of Gascony (1052–1086), and then duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers between 1058 and 1086, succeeding his brother William VII (Pierre-Guillaume).

Adela of Champagne Queen consort of France

Adela of Champagne, also known as Adelaide, Alix and Adela of Blois, was Queen of France as the third wife of Louis VII. She was regent of France from 1190 to 1191 while her son Philip II participated in the Third Crusade.

Angevin Empire Medieval dynastic union of states in present-day England, France and Ireland

The Angevin Empire describes the possessions of the Angevin kings of England who held lands in England and France during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its rulers were Henry II, Richard I (r. 1189–1199), and John (r. 1199–1216). The Angevin Empire is an early example of a composite state.

House of Plantagenet English royal dynasty in medieval England

The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The family held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, when Richard III died in battle.

House of Capet Rulers of the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328

The House of Capet or the Direct Capetians, also called the House of France, or simply the Capets, ruled the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328. It was the most senior line of the Capetian dynasty – itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians. Historians in the 19th century came to apply the name "Capetian" to both the ruling house of France and to the wider-spread male-line descendants of Hugh Capet. Contemporaries did not use the name "Capetian". The Capets were sometimes called "the third race of kings". The name "Capet" derives from the nickname given to Hugh, the first Capetian king.

Ralph I, Count of Vermandois

Ralph I of Vermandois was Count of Vermandois. He was a son of Hugh, Count of Vermandois and his wife, Adelaide, Countess of Vermandois. Ralph was a grandson of Henry I of France, while Ralph‘s mother had been the heiress to Herbert IV, Count of Vermandois.

Joan of England, Queen of Sicily 12th-century queen consort of Sicily

Joan of England was a queen consort of Sicily and countess consort of Toulouse. She was the seventh child of Henry II, King of England, and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine. From her birth, she was destined to make a political and royal marriage. She married William II of Sicily and later Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, two very important and powerful figures in the political landscape of Medieval Europe.

The Treaty of Le Goulet was signed by Kings John of England and Philip II of France in May 1200. It concerned bringing an end to the war over the Duchy of Normandy and finalising the new borders of what was left of the duchy. The treaty was a victory for Philip in asserting his legal claims to overlordship over John's French lands. A consequence of the treaty was the separation of the Channel Islands from Normandy.

Geoffrey VI was Count of Nantes from 1156 to 1158. He was also known as Geoffrey of Anjou and Geoffrey FitzEmpress. He was the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Empress Matilda. His brothers were Henry II of England and William FitzEmpress.

Henry II of England 12th-century King of England, Duke of Aquitaine, and ruler of other European lands

Henry II, also known as Henry Curtmantle, Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, was King of England from 1154 until his death in 1189. He was the first king of the House of Plantagenet. King Louis VII of France made him Duke of Normandy in 1150. Henry became Count of Anjou and Maine upon the death of his father, Count Geoffrey V, in 1151. His marriage in 1152 to Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Louis VII had recently been annulled, made him Duke of Aquitaine. He became Count of Nantes by treaty in 1185. Before he was 40 he controlled England, large parts of Wales, the eastern half of Ireland and the western half of France; an area that was later called the Angevin Empire. At various times, Henry also partially controlled Scotland and the Duchy of Brittany.

Angevin kings of England 12th–13th century English royal house of French origin

The Angevins were a royal house of French origin that ruled England in the 12th and early 13th centuries; its monarchs were Henry II, Richard I and John. In the 10 years from 1144, two successive counts of Anjou in France, Geoffrey and his son, the future Henry II, won control of a vast assemblage of lands in western Europe that would last for 80 years and would retrospectively be referred to as the Angevin Empire. As a political entity this was structurally different from the preceding Norman and subsequent Plantagenet realms. Geoffrey became Duke of Normandy in 1144 and died in 1151. In 1152 his heir, Henry, added Aquitaine by virtue of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry also inherited the claim of his mother, Empress Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I, to the English throne, to which he succeeded in 1154 following the death of King Stephen.

Capetian–Plantagenet rivalry Conflicts between the dynasties of the Capetians and Plantagenets

The Capetian–Plantagenet rivalry was a series of conflicts and disputes that covered a period of 100 years (1159–1259) during which the House of Capet, rulers of the Kingdom of France, fought the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, to suppress the growing power of the Plantagenet-controlled Angevin Empire. Some historians refer to that series of events as the "First Hundred Years War".

References

  1. 1 2 Bardot & Marvin 2018, p. 2.
  2. Dunbabin 1985, p. 383.
  3. Robinson 1996, p. 22.
  4. Brown 1992, p. 43.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jones 2012, pp. 31–33.
  6. 1 2 Kaeuper 2016, p. 202.
  7. Laszlovszky 2016, p. 84.
  8. Baldwin & Setton 1969, pp. 499, 624, 634.
  9. Petit-Dutaillis 1999, p. 107.
  10. 1 2 Bisson 2009, p. 294.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Baldwin 2005, p. 9.
  12. 1 2 Warren 1978, p. 26.
  13. Dunbabin 2007, pp. 53–54.
  14. 1 2 Wolfe 2009, p. 20.
  15. 1 2 3 Bradbury 2007, p. 168.
  16. Kelly 1991, pp. 7–8.
  17. 1 2 Kelly 1991, p. 126.
  18. Spiegel 1997, p. 121.
  19. Warren 1977, p. 222.
  20. Gislebertus of Mons 2005, p. 52.

Sources


Louis VII of France
Born: 1120 18 September
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of France
1131–1180
with Louis VI (1131–1137)
Philip II (1179–1180)
Succeeded by
Preceded byas sole ruler Duke of Aquitaine
1137–1152
with Eleanor
Succeeded byas sole ruler