Louis VIII of France

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Louis VIII the Lion
Louis-VIII.png
Louis VIII's seal
King of France (more…)
Reign 14 July 1223 – 8 November 1226
Coronation 6 August 1223 in Rheims Cathedral
Predecessor Philip II
Successor Louis IX
Spouse Blanche of Castile
Issue Louis IX of France
Robert I, Count of Artois
Alphonse, Count of Toulouse and Poitiers
Saint Isabelle of France
Charles I of Sicily
House House of Capet
Father Philip II of France
Mother Isabelle of Hainaut
Born (1187-09-05)5 September 1187
Paris, France
Died 8 November 1226(1226-11-08) (aged 39)
Château de Montpensier, France
Burial Saint Denis Basilica
Religion Roman Catholicism

Louis VIII the Lion (5 September 1187 – 8 November 1226) was a Capetian King of France who reigned from 1223 to 1226, he was also disputed King of England from 1216 to 1217. Louis VIII was born in Paris, the son of Philip II and Isabelle of Hainaut from who he inherited the County of Artois.

While Louis VIII only briefly ruled as king for three years, he was an active leader in his years as crown prince. During his father's wars against the Angevins under John of England, his military prowess earned him the epithet the Lion. After his victory at the battle of Roche-au-Moine (1214), he invaded southern England and was proclaimed "King of England" in London on the 2 June 1216, before being repelled. In 1217, Louis VIII started the conquest of Guyenne, leaving only a small region around Bordeaux to Henry III of England.

His short reign is marked by his intervention with royal forces into the Albigensian Crusade in southern France which decisively moved the conflict towards a conclusion. He died in 1226 and was succeeded by his son Louis IX.

Prince Louis[edit]

Marriage[edit]

In summer 1195, a marriage between Louis and Eleanor of Brittany niece of Richard I of England was suggested for an alliance between Philip II and Richard, but it failed. It is said that the Emperor Henry VI opposed the marriage; and the failure was also a sign that Richard would replace Arthur, younger brother of Eleanor, as heir to England with his only living brother, John. This soon led to a sudden deterioration in relations between Richard and Philip.[1]

On 23 May 1200, at the age of 12, Louis was married to Blanche of Castile, following prolonged negotiations between Philip Augustus and Blanche's uncle John of England (as represented in William Shakespeare's historical play King John).

Campaign of 1214[edit]

In 1214 King John of England began his final campaign to reclaim Normandy from Philip II Augustus. John was optimistic, as he had successfully built up alliances with the Emperor Otto IV, Count Renaud of Boulogne and Count Ferdinand of Flanders.[2] John's plan was to split Philip's forces by pushing north-east from Poitou towards Paris, whilst Otto, Renaud and Ferdinand, supported by William Longespée, marched south-west from Flanders.[3] Whereas Philip II Augustus took personal command of the northern front against the emperor and his allies, he gave his son Louis the command of the front against the Plantagenet possessions in middle France. The first part of the campaign went well for the English, with John outmanoeuvring the forces under the command of Prince Louis and retaking the county of Anjou by the end of June.[4][5] John besieged the castle of Roche-au-Moine, a key stronghold, forcing Louis to give battle against John's larger army.[6] The local Angevin nobles refused to advance with the king; left at something of a disadvantage, John retreated back to La Rochelle.[7] Shortly afterwards, Philip II Augustus won the hard-fought battle of Bouvines in the north against Otto and John's other allies, bringing an end to John's hopes of retaking Normandy.[8]

Pretender to the English throne[edit]

Louis VIII

In 1215, the English barons rebelled in the First Barons' War against the unpopular King John of England (1199–1216). The barons offered the throne to Prince Louis, who landed unopposed on the Isle of Thanet in eastern Kent, England at the head of an army on 21 May 1216. There was little resistance when the prince entered London and Louis was proclaimed King at St Paul's Cathedral with great pomp and celebration in the presence of all of London. Even though he was not crowned, many nobles, as well as King Alexander II of Scotland (1214–49) for his English possessions, gathered to give homage.

On 14 June 1216, Louis captured Winchester and soon controlled over half of the English kingdom.[9] But just when it seemed that England was his, King John's death in October 1216 caused many of the rebellious barons to desert Louis in favour of John's nine-year-old son, Henry III.

With William Marshal acting as regent, a call for the English "to defend our land" against the French led to a reversal of fortunes on the battlefield. After his army was beaten at Lincoln on 20 May 1217, and his naval forces (led by Eustace the Monk) were defeated off the coast of Sandwich on 24 August 1217, he was forced to make peace on English terms. In 1216 and 1217 Prince Louis also tried to conquer Dover Castle but without success.

The principal provisions of the Treaty of Lambeth were an amnesty for English rebels, Louis to undertake not to attack England again, and 10,000 marks to be given to Louis. The effect of the treaty was that Louis agreed he had never been the legitimate King of England.

As King Louis VIII[edit]

Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile at Reims in 1223, miniature from the Grandes Chroniques de France, painted in the 1450s (Bibliothèque nationale)

Louis VIII succeeded his father on 14 July 1223; his coronation took place on 6 August of the same year in the cathedral at Reims. As King, he continued to seek revenge on the Angevins, seizing Poitou and Saintonge from them.

Policy on Jews[edit]

On 1 November 1223, he issued an ordinance that prohibited his officials from recording debts owed to Jews, thus reversing the policies set by his father Philip II Augustus. Usury (lending money with interest) was illegal for Christians to practice; according to Church law it was seen as a vice in which people profited from others' misfortune (like gambling) and was punishable by excommunication, a severe punishment. Since Jews were not Christian, they could not be excommunicated and thus fell into a legal grey area that secular rulers would sometimes exploit by allowing (or requesting) Jews to provide usury services, often for personal gain to the secular ruler and to the discontent of the Church. Louis VIII's prohibition was one attempt at resolving this legal problem, which was a constant source of friction in Church and State courts.

Twenty-six barons accepted, but Theobald IV (1201–53), the powerful Count of Champagne, did not, since he had an agreement with the Jews that guaranteed him extra income through taxation. Theobald IV would become a major opposition force to Capetian dominance, and his hostility was manifest during the reign of Louis VIII. For example, during the siege of Avignon, he performed only the minimum service of 40 days and left for home amid charges of treachery.

The Albigensian Crusade and Conquest of Languedoc[edit]

The Albigensian Crusade had begun in 1209, ostensibly against the Cathar heretics of southern France and Languedoc in particular, though it soon became a contest between lords of northern France and those of Occitania in the south. The first phase from 1209 to 1215 was quite successful for the northern forces, but this was followed by a series of local rebellions from 1215 to 1225 that undid many of these earlier gains. There followed the seizure of Avignon and Languedoc.

In 1225, the council of Bourges excommunicated the Count of Toulouse, Raymond VII, and declared a renewed crusade against the southern barons. Louis happily renewed the conflict in order to enforce his royal rights. Roger Bernard the Great, Count of Foix, tried to keep the peace, but the king rejected his embassy and the counts of Foix and Toulouse took up arms against him. The king was largely successful, taking Avignon after a three-month siege, but he did not complete the conquest before his death.

While returning to Paris, King Louis VIII became ill with dysentery and died on 8 November 1226 in the Château de Montpensier, Auvergne.

The Saint Denis Basilica houses the tomb of Louis VIII. His son, Louis IX (1226–70), succeeded him on the throne. Louis IX concluded the crusade in the south in 1229.

Ancestry[edit]

Marriage and issue[edit]

French Monarchy
Direct Capetians
Arms of the Kingdom of France (Ancien).svg
Louis VIII
   Louis IX
   Robert I, Count of Artois
   Alphonse, Count of Poitou and Toulouse
   Saint Isabelle
   Charles I of Naples and Sicily

On 23 May 1200, at the age of twelve, Louis married Blanche of Castile (4 March 1188 – 26 November 1252).

  1. Blanche (1205–1206).
  2. Agnes (b. and d. 1207).
  3. Philip (9 September 1209 – July 1218), married (or only betrothed) in 1217 to Agnes of Donzy.
  4. Alphonse (b. and d. Lorrez-le-Bocage, 23 January 1213).
  5. John (b. and d. Lorrez-le-Bocage, 23 January 1213), twin of Alphonse.
  6. Louis IX (Poissy, 25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270, Tunis), King of France as successor to his father.
  7. Robert (25 September 1216 – 9 February 1250, killed in Battle of Al Mansurah, Egypt)
  8. Philip (2 January 1218 – 1220).
  9. John Tristan (21 July 1219 – 1232), Count of Anjou and Maine.
  10. Alphonse (Poissy, 11 November 1220 – 21 August 1271, Corneto), Count of Poitou and Auvergne, and by marriage, of Toulouse.
  11. Philip Dagobert (20 February 1222 – 1232).
  12. Isabelle (14 April 1225 – 23 February 1269).
  13. Charles Etienne (21 March 1226 – 7 January 1285), Count of Anjou and Maine, by marriage Count of Provence and Forcalquier, and King of Sicily.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Costain, Thomas B. The magnificent century: The pageant of England. Garden City: Doubleday, 1951. p.4–7
  2. ^ Barlow, Frank. (1999) The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042–1216. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education. ISBN 0-582-38117-7, p.335.
  3. ^ Carpenter, David. (2004) Struggle for Mastery: The Penguin History of Britain 1066–1284. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-014824-4, p286.
  4. ^ Carpenter David. (2004) The Struggle for Mastery: The Penguin History of Britain 1066–1284 London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-014824-4, p.286.
  5. ^ Warren, W. Lewis. (1991) King John. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-45520-3, p.221.
  6. ^ Warren, W. Lewis. (1991) King John. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-45520-3, p.222.
  7. ^ Warren, W. Lewis. (1991) King John. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-45520-3, p222
  8. ^ Warren, W. Lewis. (1991) King John. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-45520-3, p.224.
  9. ^ Alan Harding (1993), England in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 10. According to L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal Louis became "master of the country".
Louis VIII of France
Born: 5 September 1187 Died: 8 November 1226
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Philip II
King of France
14 July 1223 – 8 November 1226
Succeeded by
Louis IX
Preceded by
Isabelle and Philip Augustus
Count of Artois
15 March 1190 – 8 November 1226