Philip II Augustus

Philip, the seventh Capetian, born in 1165, reigned from 1179 to 1223 and was nicknamed Augustus (why?). On a personal note, he had a strange wedding ceremony with the young princess Ingeborg of Denmark (some say it was witchcraft). But politically, he expanded his royal domain to the detriment of the English Plantagenets.

Philip and his son Louis VIII were kings when Henry II, Richard I, John, and Henry III were kings of England. Fireworks!

Let’s begin with genealogical tables. Here is a genealogical table from the encyclopedia Medieval France:

This is from Turner biography:

See below for the basics of his marriage and children.

The points are numbered for clarity and conciseness.

Personal Characteristics and Early Reign

  1. His birth was in August and so he was nicknamed Augustus, but as he grew and ruled, later historians saw the other meaning: August or the Great.
  2. When he was born, the whole city of Paris rang the bells, lit the torches, and created a general racket. The whole city seemed ablaze. Was the city on fire? People were celebrating, said Gerald of Wales, a student in 1165, who was awakened by the abnormal disturbance..
  3. He was tall and well built, a good rider and fighter in combat. He lost his hair later in life, from a disease he caught on the third Crusade. He had a smiling countenance, a ruddy or reddish complexion. He liked to eat and drink. He was earnest and pious (extra-devout).
  4. He introduced a fine for swearing in court of twenty sous or a being thrown in the Seine River.
  5. He agreed with the church and opposed tournaments held by knights to see who could unhorse the other and take the fallen captive for a ransom—real money.
  6. He did not have much enthusiasm for the arts, music or literature.
  7. One day a beggar recognized him and asked for money in the name of his royal forebears. Philip asked him on which side. The beggar replied, “Adam.” The king gave him a small coin. “Is that all your forebears are worth?” The king retorted, “If I gave you a coin for every ancestor from that line, I would not have much left.” (Qtd. in Bradbury, slightly edited)
  8. His father decided to associate his son, scheduled for 15 Aug 1179. But Philip went hunting for a boar near Compienge, got separated from the others, and got lost. He spent two days in the forest until a charcoal burner found him and led him back. Philip was shaken by the incident and was weak and collapsed. His father took a pilgrimage to Canterbury in England to pray for his son, who recovered.
  9. The coronation took place on Oct 15 1179, supposedly the sword of Charlemagne taken out and shown off, but Louis fell ill and did not attend and his mother Adela stayed by his father’s bedside. Both missed the crowning.
  10. Becoming co-king at fourteen to fifteen meant that he came under a regency and was controlled by powerful relatives, by the wealthy family of Champagne, his mother Adele’s family. Henry II of England was a mentor from a distance and didn’t take advantage of the young king. His mother’s side competed for control, for their lands surrounded the royal domain.
  11. Philip of Flanders arranged a marriage with Isabelle (Isabel or Isabella) of Hainault at Bapaume on 28 Apr 1180. (Her father became Baldwin VIII, Count of Flanders from 1191-94.) Isabelle was only ten at the time and was of Carolingian descent (from Charlemagne), a discreet and holy woman. The ceremony was held in May 1180 at St. Denis, but usually without consummating the union until the girl got older.
  12. Philip’s father died four months later on 19 Sep 1180 and was buried at St. Denis.
  13. Philip soon quarreled with his mother over royal control, and he suspected her of impending treachery, so he seized her lands, while she took refuge with her brother Theobald of Blois (a county in France).
  14. He threatened to annul his marriage to Isabelle, perhaps for political reasons, pressuring her father to give up his alliance with the county of Flanders. Meanwhile she came out of the palace in a shift and barefoot, carrying a candle. She toured the churches, kneeling at the altars, weeping and praying. She appealed to the people, an unprecedented move for a queen back then.
  15. On 3 Sep Isabelle bore Philip a son, the only legitimate son to survive, Louis (VIII), his heir.
  16. During this part of his reign, he added to his demesne. He increased his administrative control: the number of provosts went from 35 to 52 by 1190. His royal revenues increased by 22% by the same date.
  17. His father supported Jews, but Philip issued edicts leading to their arrests, confiscation of property and demands for ransoms. In 1182 he turned the Jews out of towns and castle. This gain was short-term, but was a loss in the long term. He later recalled them.
  18. For Paris, he completed Notre Dame Cathedral. He set up the first college in Paris, the Eighteen (Dix-Huit). In 1183 the marketplace Les Halle was set up. In 1186 he ordered the streets to be paved in stone, because of the mud and open sewers, taking ten years to complete. He enlarged the wall around Paris in 1190. The market of Les Champeaux was enclosed and a new castle was built, the Louvre.

The Third Crusade

  1. His predecessor Philip I heard the call to the First Crusade in 1095, but did not go, but many did from France. Louis VII answered the call to the Second Crusade. Philip II went on the third one. These crusades were primarily French affairs.
  2. Saladin built a new kingdom from Baghdad, and the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was in the balance. Philip took the scrip (wallet), staff, and Oriflamme (standard of St. Denis) on 24 June 1190 and launched his crusade from France. Richard, King of England, left a little later.
  3. Philip and Richard arrived on the island Sicily, Italy, and the local lords welcomed Philip, but Richard antagonized them, demanding levies, taking a town and an island off Messina; stealing a falcon, and when the owner tried to recover it, he was beaten to death. He lost a game fought with canes with one of Philip’s vassals and made the vassal leave.
  4. Philip left Sicily and arrived at Acre on 20 April, while Richard took his time and broke his promise to marry Philip’s sister Alice and instead married Berengaria. (Rumor said that Richard’s father Henry II, who was appointed to keep Alice, seduced her.)
  5. Philip eventually took Acre, a fortress town though careful military planning and using the latest technology. Richard arrived late and helped out a little. Leopold of Austria put his flag on the wall, and Richard had it taken down and stomped on in the dirt. He was later captured by the Holy roman emperor on his way back.
  6. Philip left Acre on 31 July 1191 and caught a disease, probably scurvy. He trembled with a fever, and his hair and teeth fell out. He reached Italy and Pope Celestine III welcomed him in Rome. He reached Paris on 27 Dec 1191.
  7. He organized the Fourth Crusade, but did not go.

Islam had been aggressive for many centuries:

The Truth about Islamic Jihad and Imperialism: A Timeline

Quick word about France and Geography

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.

Plantagenets and Expanding His Royal Domain

  1. The Plantagenet sons were Philip’s main competitors. His main strategy was to divide the Plantagenet brothers and if not conquer them, then to keep them off balance.
  2. They competed and fought. Some of them sometimes took refuge with Philip, and then left.
  3. One milestone: John, the weakening king of England, and Philip met and negotiated the Treaty of Goulet on 15 Jan 1200, issued in May. Philip was to get much of eastern Normandy, the Vexin (territory between the king’s domain and Normandy), and part of Berry. In return, Philip restored Angouleme and Limoges to John.
  4. Louis, Philip’s heir, was to marry Blanche of Castile, John’s niece. It was celebrated the next day by the archbishop of Bordeaux.
  5. Then John repudiated his wife Isabelle of Gloucester and married Isabelle of Angouleme, when she was 12 and he was 35, on 24 Aug 1200, although she had been betrothed to Hugh of Lusignan. His decision antagonized a powerful family–the Lusignans (watch this!).
  6. This gave Philip the pretext to invade Plantagenet territory. He invaded Normandy in 1202 and 1203 and the capital of the duchy, Rouen, surrendered on 24 June 1204.
  7. At the end of the conflict, the king of England, John, had some territories on the continent, but not the county of Anjou, and most of the entire Angevin empire, which his father Henry II had won.
  8. Bottom line: Philip II expanded royal territory far beyond what it was for generations.
  9. He also oversaw the decline of the feudal structure into money payments from the vassal to the lord, rather than personal obligations.
  10. Baillis and prévôt (provosts) were the administrators of the realm, and they enjoyed wide-ranging fiscal, judicial, and military responsibilities. He turned Paris into what we would today call the capital of France.
  11. Philip developed the first navy, to protect his new acquisitions: In 1213, 1500 vessels, at least three of them 30 tons. In 1217 more large ships. His commander was Eustace the Monk. In the same year, the English defeated it under the command of Prince Louis.
  12. At Philip’s death, the Capetian dynasty was established and France founded. The Plantagenets held only a few areas, notably Gascony.
  13. So it with reason that he is called Augustus. His son Louis helped him militarily, and one man at the time described him as Louis the Lion.

The Church

  1. Philip got along with the Church, as Capetians were prone to do. But also, like them, he had troubled marriages.
  2. The pope during his reign was Innocent III (r. 1198-1216), who was energetic, bright, legally trained.
  3. On the death of Philip’s first wife Isabelle, he arranged to be married to the princess of Denmark, Ingeborg, daughter of Waldemar I, who died in 1182. Her brothers Cnut VI and Waldemar II succeeded in turn.
  4. The bishop of Roeskilde brought Ingeborg to Philip at Amiens on 14 Aug 1193, where they were married.
  5. However, during the ceremony Philip turned white and trembled violently. She was instantly sent away.
  6. Why? Innocent suggested he was acting (faking?) on bad advice. The marriage did not bring any political advantage and alliance with Denmark was not all that beneficial, but why could not people see that before she was brought to Lesser France?
  7. Philip sought divorce on the grounds of consanguinity, the standard excuse, for they were fourth cousins, but that was not accepted.
  8. Ingeborg would not accept defeat, and she fought to remain queen. He claimed they had not consummated the marriage, but she said they did.
  9. And so she spent 20 years in imprisonment, in castles, lodges and convents. She wrote, “I am shut in a house and forbidden to go out.” She had to sell her clothes and jewelry to pay for her keep and denied access to priests and doctors.
  10. Philip found Agnes of Méran, which Innocent III refused to approve of—it was bigamous, adulterous and incestuous. Some said Agnes was a sorceress who caused Philip’s shaking. She was treated as the queen at court and gave Philip two children (see below).
  11. A church council was convened to question Ingeborg, but Philip seized her and ended the inquiry. Agnes died in 1201 and was buried with royal honors at Mantes. Her two children were declared legitimate, and Ingeborg’s plight was eased. She was eventually restored at court, but Philip had sex with a certain demoiselle of Arras and had Peter Charlot.
  12. The schools of Paris became a university under Philip II, in cooperation with the pope who wanted a concentration in theology.
  13. Heresy was a major problem, and the papacy asked Philip to intervene. Southern heretics were dualists (two spirits, one good, the other bad, in competition with each other) and called either Cathars or Albigenses, named after towns.
  14. In January 1208 two papal representatives against the heresy, but they were murdered.
  15. Raymond VI of Toulouse was thought to be protecting the murderers. Philip organized a army led by Simon de Montfort in 1209.
  16. Raymond submitted to the papacy and took an oath to expel the heretics. He made public penitence, naked to the waist, pulled by the neck and flogged with a birch. He was absolved and joined the crusade.
  17. Pedro II of Aragon got support from the southerners, for they perceived the military campaign to stamp out the heretics was also a land grab. Aragon allied with the southerners and fought the crusaders under Montfort and lost at the Battle of Muret in 1213. Pedro was killed.
  18. Simon was recognized as the Count of Toulouse and paid homage to Philip Augustus. He died in 1218 and was succeeded by his son Amaury.
  19. Bottom line: the heresy was not stamped out, but continued for decades underground, but royal authority was expanded in the south, never to be lost.

Battle of Bouvines

  1. This was the key event in Philip II’s reign. It pitted the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV and the French King. Alliances were formed, and King John favored the imperial forces.
  2. Meanwhile, John landed at La Rochelle in February 1214 and enjoyed some victories. However, Prince Louis, Philip’s son and heir, hindered the king of England. Philip ordered his son to protect the castle at La Roche-au-Moine. He advanced and John retreated, leaving his baggage and crossing the Loire, in which many men drowned.
  3. John left for England to face the music. He was blamed for the loss at Bouvines, even though he was not there. His coalition against Philip was destroyed, and his hopes to recover lost continental territory crashed and burned. Badly weakened, he had to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, which restricted royal authority.
  4. Bouvines, a village, occurred on the border of royal lands and Flanders in 1214. Otto IV assembled his army in March, but he reached Nivelles near Brussels in July.
  5. The battle was joined on 27 July 1214. Philip made a speech and embraced those around him, saying, “God is all our hope.”
  6. The battle lasted about three hours. Philip’s side won. Otto IV fled and escaped. His wagon with standards was broken up, and the imperial eagle was captured. Philip ordered a pursuit for only two hours. He spent the night on the battlefield.

Family Facts

Philip II Augustus was born near Paris on 21 Aug 1165, son and heir of Louis VII by his father’s third marriage to Adele (Adela).

On 28 Apr 1180, he married (1) Isabella or Isabel of Flanders, daughter of Baudouin (Baldwin) V, Count of Hainault and Flanders by Marguerite, daughter of Thierry, Count of Flanders. She was born 23 Apr 1170.

Isabel died in childbirth at Paris 15 Mar 1190; her twin sons lived only a few hours. She was buried in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.

On 14 Aug 1193 he married (2) Ingeborg of Denmark, daughter of Waldemar I Knutsen, King of Denmark. They had no issue, and he repudiated the marriage 5 Nov 1193.

On 1 June 1196 he married (3) Agnes of Merania, daughter of Bertoldo VI, Duke of Merania and so on.

They had one son: Philip Hurepel, Count of Boulogne, Clermont, and Mammartin; and one daughter Marie, wife of Philip, Count of Namur; and then Henry I, Duke of Lorraine and Brabant. Louis repudiated this marriage, which the pope didn’t recognize on 7 Sep 1200. Agnes died in childbirth at Chateau Poissy 18 or 19 July 1201 and was buried in the Abbey church of Saint Corentine near Mantes.

By an unknown mistress he had one illegitimate son Pierre (Peter), nicknamed Carolus (Charlot), bishop and Count of Noyon.

Philip II died 14 July 1223 and was buried in the Abbey church of Saint Denis. He was 58 and reigned 43 years. He left £600,000 in his will, a greater income than any other previous Capetian king because Philip greatly expanded royal territory at the expense mainly of the Plantagenets.

Ingeborg died in the Priory of Saint Jean (or John) en l’Ile near Corbeil 29 July 1236 and was buried in the church of the priory.

Louis VIII was the son of Philip II Augustus. He was also the Count of Artois, duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou, Count of Auvergne, Count of Vermandois and Valois, Count of Alençon by his first wife Isabella, by law Countess of Artois, daughter of Baudouin (Baldwin) V, Count of Flanders and Hainault.

He was born at Paris 3 Sep 1187.

He married in the church of Port-Mort (Eure) in Normandy 23 May 1200 Blanche (or Blanca) of Castile, daughter of Alphonse (Alfonso), King of Castile, Toledo, and Extremadura, lord of Gascony, by Eleanor, daughter of Henry II, King of France. Blanche was born at Palencia in Castile before 4 Mar 1188.

He was anointed King of France with his wife at Reims 6 Aug 1223.

They had ten sons: Philip; Alphonse and Jean or John (twins with Alphonse), Louis (future king the Ninth and Saint), Robert, Count of Artois (he married Mahaut or Matilda of Brabant); Jean (John) Count of Anjou and Maine; Alphonse, Count of Poitiers and Toulouse, Marquis de Provence (he born 11 Nov 1220. He married on 13 Mar 1234 or 1241 by contract dated June 1229, papal dispensation dated 27 May 1236, since they by 3rd degreed Jeanne or Joan of Toulouse but they had no issue); Philip a.k.a. Dagobert; Etienne (Stephen); Charles, King of Sicily and Jerusalem and Count of Anjou (he married Beatrice of Provence); and two daughters: including Isabelle, nun and Abbess of Longchamp (she died 23 Feb 1269).


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.

Charlemagne: Interesting Facts and Stories

Pippin, Son of Charlemagne

Bernard, King of Italy

Pippin, Great-Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)


Herbert I, Count of Vermandois

Herbert II, Count of Vermandois


Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).

—, Philip Augustus: King of France 1180-1223, The Medieval World (Longman, 1998).

Stephen Church, Henry III: A Simple and God-Fearing King, Penguin Books, (UK: Penguin Random House and Allen Lane, 2017).

René de la Croix (duc de Castries), Kings and Queens of France, trans. Anne Dobell (Knopf, 1979.

John Gillingham, Richard I (Yale UP: 1999, with updates in 2002 paperback edition).

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).

Ralph V. Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England (New Haven: Yale U P, 2009)

W. L. Warren, King John, 2nd ed. Yale English Monarchs (UK: Eyre Methuen, 1961 and 1978; Yale UP: 1997).

—, Henry II (Berkeley: University of California P, 1973).

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