The fourth Capetian king of France, he was born in 1052 or 1053 and began his reign as a minor in 1059 (or 1060) until his death in 1108. He came of age when the William the Conqueror was strong, so Philip’s reign was overshadowed.
Let’s get started.
Here is a genealogical table from the encyclopedia Medieval France:
And here is W. L. Warren’s genealogical table from his excellent biography Henry II:
Henry I is the same as Henri I. Robert the Pious is Robert II. It lays out the Capetians (left) and Normans (right), who transition to become the Angevins and then the Plantagenets. Henry of Anjou is the same as King Henry II of England, the first Plantagenet.
Yes, the Capetians descend from Charlemagne. For the evidence, click on Herbert I, Count of Vermandois, and scroll down to the Addendum.
Henry of Anjou (on right) is the same as King Henry II of England, the first Plantagenet.
See below for the basics of Philip’s children and marriages.
Born in 1053 before May 23 (so says Richardson) or in 1052 (so says Bradbury), Philip was just a boy of six to eight years when he became King of France. He was the son of Henry I (r. 1031-60) and Anne of Kiev.
Baudouin (Baldwin), Count of Flanders (r. 1035-67), Philip’s uncle by marriage, administered the royal government until Philip reached his majority in 1066 (the year William, duke of Normandy, conquered England and became the King of England). His name Philip is the first in the Capetian line, so he is called the First or I. He frequently referred to himself as King of the Franks and to his kingdom as the realm of the Franks.
Where does his name come from, since the Franks restricted family names? Historians recently have not reached a firm conclusion, but it probably comes from the apostle Philip who is said to have helped evangelize Russia. Philip’s mother Anne of Kiev probably suggested it. Further the Franks believed that they descended from the Trojans of Homer’s Iliad (see Philip’s obituary, below).
Philip was associated as king by his ailing father on 23 May 1059 and consecrated at Reims by Archbishop Gervase. As he grew older, he became obese, which one French historian attributed to a “malady” shared by several family members (more likely it came from eating like a king). Most modern historians have a low opinion of him, but Jim Bradbury sees some positives, such as his military expeditions to Flanders in 1071, Corbie in 1074, Poitou in 1076, Brittany in 1076, the Vexin against Normandy’s claim over many years, and many efforts against local lords and castellans (castle keepers).
He was the first not to alienate any of his demesne (realm). The Vexin was passed to Philip’s son Louis and Vermandois to his brother Hugh (also known as Hugh the great). He also acquired Valois. Each of these regions provided a buffer zone against Normandy and Flanders. He purchased the vicomté of Bourges in 1101.
We could go on about his realm, but here is a summary from Bradbury: “Most of the gains did not come by chance but through diplomacy and employment of royal force in support of legal claims. Philip left all his acquisitions to his heir along with the inherited demesne … It is a further sign of increasing royal power as well as a significant increase in direct royal wealth.”
Simony means the buying the church office. That is, a rich man would pay the king money to become bishop overseeing lands that brought in money.
Gregorian reforms intended that secular rulers should not be involved in appointing bishops and abbots. The church wanted good and reliable men, chosen on merits, not cash. This put Philip—and all rulers of their duchies or counties—in a difficult spot, for it meant that giving up rights, powers and income. He received monetary and moral support from various bishops, which explains why his royal realm could be sustained during 13 years under papal interdict. Philip was immovable in the investiture dispute (lay rulers stay out of appointing bishops), but he did allow some local ecclesiastical elections to stand. He also allowed these elections to stand because many of the candidates were royal men and he managed to get Pope Paschal II to agree with these terms: The king gave up the practice of appointing prelates and “receiving homage to them, but was to receive an oath of loyalty and keep control of temporal possessions” (Bradbury). He could dispose of church wealth during vacancies.
When Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in 1095, Philip did not go. He kept his affairs close to home, even though the First Crusade was largely a French and Spanish enterprise.
He did not participate in the Peace of God and the Truce of God Movements (see the posts about his grandfather Robert II and father Henry I).
These offices grew in Philip’s reign:
Arch-chancellor: An honorific title.
Prevost: Emerged under Robert II the Pious, but now became permanent. He represented the king in his demesne (royal realm). They were assigned to various jurisdictions and were attached there.
Chancellor: He produced charters and was head of the chancery; he sealed diplomas and held the royal seal. There were vice-chancellors as well.
Chamberlain: controlled the household and personnel.
Seneschal: He supervised the provosts and commanded the military.
Constable: Oversaw the stables.
Palace employees: Marshals, cooks, pantrymen, who traveled with the king and made up a large entourage.
Thus, the government was no longer in the hands of princes, lords, and prelates, but of lesser men—castellans and clerks.
It is important to realize that France as we know it today was not even close to being unified in the Medieval Age. It was broken up into a patchwork of duchies and counties, overseen by dukes and counts. They tirelessly competed with each other and the kings of “France.” The Capetians actually ruled over what is called Lesser France, the area around Paris and Orleans, including the Ile-de-France or Isle of France. The Ile or Isle of France was not a standard island as we think of it today, but a land area surrounding Paris. It was the base of the Capetians. (Incidentally, the label “Ile of France” is still used today to identify this area.)
His regent and guide Baldwin V Count of Flanders died on 1 Sep 1067. Who would take over Flanders? Robert the Frisian, younger brother of Baldwin or his son Arnulf, aged 15? Philip supported Baldwin’s son Arnulf. Arnulf’s mother, Richlidis asked Philip for help, and he took an army to Flanders. The battle between the son and uncle began on 22 Feb 1071, and the Flemish won, but Philip was not defeated decisively, though Arnulf was killed and his mother was captured. Philip continued the war, and Robert of Frisia was captured, but was released, because of an uprising. Both sides agreed to a peace, and it is now that Philip married Bertha of Holland, Robert’s stepdaughter, in about 1072. Robert pledged himself to Philip.
In Normandy, where William the Conqueror ruled, William was technically a vassal of the French crown, but would it last in real life? Would Philip stir up trouble between William’s sons? Robert Curthose (short-hose or stockings because he was short), William Rufus (ruddy or red), and Henry were William’s sons. Yes, Philip encouraged the squabbles to weaken Normandy and protect the French royal domain. Example: William the Conqueror attacked Brittany and the local count resisted the invasion. William surrounded the castle, but relief came from Philip, and William was chased out of Brittany, the first major military setback for the king of the English and Duke of Normandy. Robert Curthose, quarreling with his father and calling himself the Duke of Normandy, tried to take Normandy, but his father drove him out. Then some Norman rebels established a base at Gerberoy with a garrison that included Robert. He defeated his father in January 1079. William was unhorsed, wounded in the hand by his son and humiliated. He returned to Rouen, the capital of Normandy. Philip’s son Louis proved effective.
What about the Vexin, the region between the Rivers Seine (north of it) and between the Oise and Andelle Rivers? It had vital centers and divided the royal lands from Normandy. Philip won the French part that his father had given away to William’s father Duke Robert. Then in 1086, Philip invaded Normandy while William was in England. William replied in 1087, and during an encounter Philip sneered at his obesity—while Philip himself was obese. William crossed Epte River, killed two hermits, and fired the town of Mantes. However, William’s horse reared back, possibly scared of embers, and the pommel on the saddle ruptured him. Suffering from the heat and the pain, he was taken back to the priory of St. Gervase, just west of Rouen. He died on 9 Sep 1087. Meanwhile his son Robert was at the French court. Philip ensured that England went to Rufus, and Normandy to Robert. And Philip again stirred up strife between the brothers, Robert, William, and Henry, just to protect his royal domain from any one of them who might get too powerful.
Robert Curthose went on a crusade, and William II Rufus took Normandy. He then tried to take the Vexin, but Philip’s son Louis’s bowmen killed 700 horses, so the birds and dogs of France gorged themselves. So the French Vexin remained in royal control.
Rufus was killed in a hunting accident in the New Forest in 1100. Who would rule England and Normandy now? Robert of Henry, two sons of William the Conqueror? Henry hurried to get himself anointed king while Robert was returning from his crusade. Henry invaded Normandy, and Robert was captured at the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106, because, possibly and in part, Philip did not send aid. Robert was placed under comfortable “castle arrest” in Cardiff, where he lived out his life in contemplation, wrote poetry, and learned Welsh.
Philip had marriage troubles. Let’s use a timeline to clarify the issues.
1072: Philip married Bertha of Holland, sister of Robert the Frisian.
1081 (and after): Bertha birthed two children: Constance and Louis (future Louis VI).
1092 (before): Bertrade of Montfort was married to Fulk IV (1068-1109) of Anjou. But Fulk had been married multiple times and polygamy; depending on various accounts, Bertrade was Fulk’s third or fourth or sixth wife.
Before 1092: Fulk repudiated Bertrade, and she reached out to Philip for help (or she left before Fulk repudiated her).
1092: Philip repudiated Bertha and married Bertrade. She bore him three children, two males.
1092 (after): The papacy was scandalized, though some bishops supported the match and oversee and attend the marriage. At Reims, two archbishops and eight bishops confirmed the marriage.
1094: At the council of Autun the papal representative, Hugh of Dei, declared Philip excommunicated—the first king to be so. But the archbishop at the council reversed the decision and permitted the marriage.
1092-93: Yves of Chartres criticized the king and called Bertrade the king’s cousin. Philip imprisoned him, but released him in 1093.
1093: Bertha died, but clerics still criticized Philip’s marriage to Bertrade for being too closely related to each other, and the irregularity of her departure from Fulk.
1094: Yves of Chartres refused to send troops to aid the king.
1095: The excommunication sentence was repeated at the council of Clermont-Ferrand, when Pope Urban II also proclaimed the First Crusade.
1096: Excommunication at Tours.
1097: The country was placed under papal interdict.
1099: Excommunication at Poiteirs, when William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, broke up a church assembly. He entered the church with soldiers and declared to the cardinal that he would not leave with impunity. One of the duke’s men threw a rock at the cardinal, missed, but hit another man, who died.
1101: Excommunication at Poitiers.
1102: A new papal representative, Richard, bishop of Albano, was more conciliatory.
1105: At Paris, Philip presented himself as a penitent, going barefoot and taking an oath: “Never to have contact with this woman, except in the presence of a trustworthy person” (qtd. in Bradbury). He was cleared, but ignored his oath.
1106: Pope Paschal II sought refuge in France and met Philip at Nimes. Now the pope was more conciliatory.
Same: Fulk welcomed his ex-wife and Philip to his court at Anjou, which shows how casual Fulk was about the whole thing.
Same: Philip took oaths that he would repudiate Bertrade, but went on living with her. The pope did look the other way.
1108: Philip died.
This comes from the encyclopedia Medieval France.
He controlled and expanded his royal domain (region around Paris all the way to Orléans and southward) and expanded it. His administration was transformed from great territorial lords to officers of the crown and local castellans (castle lords). Taking advantage of conflict between William the Conqueror’s sons Philip acquired Gisor in 1090. In the church, reform was moving apace, and Philip came under pressure to forgo investiture (who gets to decide major ecclesiastical posts).
As noted, Philip married first Bertha of Holland, daughter of Florenz (or Florent), Count of Holland and Westfriesland, by Gertrude, daughter of Berthold II, Duke of Saxony. She was born about 1058. They had two sons, Louis (soon to be VI) and Henri; and one daughter Constance, who married (1) Hugues (Hugh) I, Count of Vermandois and Champagne or Troyes and (2) Bohemond I, Duke of Calabria, Prince of Antioch.
After 1092 he abandoned his wife, Queen Bertha of Holland. Bertha died 30 July 1093.
On 15 May 1092 he married a second time to Bertrade of Montfort, the divorced and fourth wife of Foulques (Fulk), Count of Anjou. This was bigamy, and the church repeatedly excommunicated and eventually absolved him between 1094 and 1104. They had two sons: Philip, Count of Mantes, seigneur of Mehun sur Yevres; and Florus (Floire), seigneur of Nangis;
Bertrade and Philip had one daughter: Cecile (Cicely), wife of Tancred, Prince of Tiberiad, afterwards Prince of Antioch, etc.
His son Louis VI took more and more responsibility for rulership and for defending the Vexin (region between the French king’s domain and Normandy) against William II Rufus (the Red), son of William the Conqueror. The crown acquired more territory with the purchase of the viscounty of Bourges in 1101.
Philip died 29 or 30 July 1108. One churchman wrote that the king suffered for his sins with “decaying teeth, scabies and many other infirmities and ignominies according to his deserts” (qtd. in Bradbury). He was buried in the Abbey of Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Fleury), not in St. Denis, much to the disapproval of Abbot Suger. Part of his obituary reads: “This king was of the family of great Priam.” (Priam was the old king of Troy in the ancient world and Homer Iliad).
His widow Bertrade died as a nun at Fontévrault (Maine-et-Loire) 14 Feb 1117 and was buried in the church of the Priory of Hautes Bruyéres (Maine-et-Loire).
Robert I (r. 922-23) (House of Robertines)
Hugh the Great (r. 938-956)
Hugh Capet (r. 987-996)
Robert II (r. 996-1031)
Henri I (r. 1031-60)
Philip I (r. 1059 or 1060-1108)
Louis VI (r. 1108-1037)
Louis VII (r. 1137-1180)
Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)
Louis VIII (r. 1223-1226)
Louis IX, the Saintly King (r. 1226-1270)
Philip III (r. 1270-1285)
Philip IV (r. 1285-1314)
Louis X (r. 1314-1316)
Philip V (r. 1316-1322)
Charles IV (r 1322-1328) (last Capetian king)
These two dynasties lived before the Capetians.
Pippin, Great-Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)
HOUSE OF VERMANDOIS
Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).
Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans (Blackwell, 2000).
David Crouch, The Normans: The History of the Dynasty (Hambledon and London, 2002).
René de la Croix (duc de Castries), Kings and Queens of France, trans. Anne Dobell (Knopf, 1979.
David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England (UC P, 1964).
Ivan Gobry, Robert II: Fils de Hugues Capet, Histoire des Rois de France (Pygmalion, 2005).
Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).
Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 volumes (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).
W. L. Warren, Henry II (Berkeley: University of California P, 1973).