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Philip II (Augustus)

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King of France, born 22 or 25 August, 1165; died at Mantes, 14 July, 1223, son of Louis VII and Alix de Champagne.

He was saved from a serious illness after a pilgrimage made by his father to the tomb of Thomas à Becket; he succeeded to the throne 18 September, 1180. His marriage with Isabella of Hainault, niece of the Count of Flanders, the conflicts which he afterwards sustained against the latter, and the deaths of the Countess (1182) and Count of Flanders (1185), increased the royal power in the north of France. His strife with Henry II of England in concert with the sons of that monarch, Henry, Richard, and John, resulted in 1189 in the Treaty of Azay-sur-Cher, which enhanced the royal power in the centre of France. The struggle with the Plantagenets was the ruling idea of Philip II's whole policy. Richard Cæur de Lion having become King of England, 6 July, 1189, was at first on amicable terms with Philip. Together they undertook the Third Crusade, but quarreled in Palestine, and on his return Philip II accused Richard of having attempted to poison him. As Richard had supported in Sicily the claims of Tancred of Lecce against those of the Emperor Henry VI, the latter resolved to be avenged. Richard, having been taken captive on his return from the Crusade by the Duke of Austria, was delivered to Henry VI, who held him prisoner. Philip II sent William, Archbishop of Reims, to Henry VI to request that Richard should remain the captive of Germany or that he should be delivered to Philip as his prisoner. Without loss of time Philip reached an agreement with John Lackland, Richard's brother. Normandy was delivered up by a secret treaty and John acknowledged himself Philip's vassal. But, when in February, 1194, Richard was set free by Henry VI, John Lackland became reconciled with him and endless conflict followed between Richard and Philip. On 13 January, 1199, Innocent III imposed on them a truce of five years. Shortly after this Richard died. Subsequently Philip defended against John, Richard's successor, the claims of the young Arthur of Brittany, and then those of Hugh de Lusignan, Count of La Marche, whose betrothed had been abducted by John. The war between Philip and John, interrupted by the truces imposed by the papal legates, became a national war; and in 1206 John lost his possessions in central France. Philip was sometimes displeased with the pontifical intervention between France and the Plantagenets, but the prestige of Innocent III forced him to accept it. Protracted difficulties took place between him and the pope owing to the tenacity with which Innocent III compelled respect for the indissolubility of even royal marriages.

In 1190 Philip lost his wife, Isabella of Hainault, whom he had married in order to inherit Artois, and in 1193 he married Ingeburga, sister of Canute VI, King of Denmark. As he immediately desired to repudiate her, an assembly of complaisant barons and bishops pronounced the divorce, but Ingeburga appealed to Rome. Despite the remonstrances of Celestine III, Philip, having imprisoned Ingeburga, married Agnes de Méran, daughter of a Bavarian nobleman. Innocent III, recently elected, called upon him to repudiate Agnes and take back Ingeburga, and on the king's refusal the legate, Peter of Capua, placed the kingdom under an interdict (1198). Most of the bishops refused to publish the sentence. The Bishops of Paris and Senlis, who published it, were punished by having their goods confiscated. At the end of nine months Philip appeared to yield; he feigned reconciliation with Ingeburga, first before the legate, Octavian, and then before the Council of Soissons (May, 1201), but he did not dismiss Agnes de Méran. She died in August, 1201, and Innocent III consented to legitimize the two children she had borne the king, but Philip persisted that Rome should pronounce his divorce from Ingeburga, whom he held prisoner at Etampes. Rome refused and Philip dismissed the papal legate (1209). In 1210 he thought of marrying a princess of Thuringia, and in 1212 renewed his importunities for the divorce with the legate, Robert de Courçon. Then, in 1213, having need of the aid of the pope and the King of Denmark, he suddenly restored Ingeburga to her station as queen.

Another question which at first caused discord between Philip II and Innocent III, and regarding which they had later a common policy, was the question of Germany. Otto of Brunswick, who was Innocent III's candidate for the dignity of emperor, was the nephew of Richard and John Lackland. This was sufficient to cause Philip to interfere in favour of Philip of Suabia. They formed an alliance in June, 1198, and when Philip of Suabia was assassinated in 1208 Philip put forward the candidacy of Henry of Brabant. However, the whole of Germany rallied to Otto of Brunswick, who became emperor as Otto IV, and in 1209 Philip feared that the new emperor would invade France. But Otto IV quarrelled with Innocent III and was excommunicated and the pope by an unexpected move called upon Philip for subsidies and troops to aid him against Otto. They agreed to proclaim as emperor Frederick of Hohenstaufen, the future Frederick II, Philip giving Frederick 20,000 "marcs" to defray the cost of his election (November, 1212). Thus was inaugurated the policy by which France meddled in the affairs of Germany and for the first time the French king claimed, like the pope, to have a voice in the imperial election.

The accord established between Innocent and Philip with regard to the affairs of Germany subsequently extended to those of England. Throughout his reign Philip dreamed of a landing in England. As early as 1209 he had negotiated with the English barons who were hostile to John Lackland, and in 1212 with the Irish and the Welsh. When John Lackland subjected to cruel persecution the English bishops who, in spite of him, recognized Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. Innocent III in 1212 placed England under interdict, and the legate, Pandulphus, declared that John Lackland had forfeited his throne. Then Philip, who received at his court all the exiles from England, consented to go to England in the name of Innocent III to take away the crown from John Lackland. It was to be given to his son, the future Louis VIII. On 22 May, 1213, the French expedition was to embark at Gravelines, when it was learned that John Lackland had become reconciled with Rome, and some months later he became a vassal of the pope. Thus failed, on the eve of its realization, the project of the French invasion of England. But the legate of Innocent III induced Philip to punish Ferrand, Count of Flanders, who was the ally of all the enemies of the king. At the battle of Bouvines (27 July, 1214) Ferrand, who supported Otto IV, was taken prisoner. This battle is regarded as the first French national victory. Philip II, asserting that he had on both sides two great and terrible lions, Otto and John, excused himself from taking part in the Crusade against the Albigenses. He permitted his son Louis to make two expeditions into Languedoc to support Simon de Montfort in 1215, and Amaury de Montfort in 1219, and again in 1222 he sent Amaury de Montfort two hundred knights and ten thousand foot soldiers under the Archbishop of Bourges and the Count of La Marche. He foresaw that the French monarchy would profit by the defeat of the Albigenses.

Philip's reign was characterized by a gigantic advance of the French monarchy. Before his time the King of France reigned only over the Ile de France and Berri, and had no communication with the sea. To this patrimony Philip II added Artois, Amienois, Valois, Vernandois, a large portion of Beauvaisis, Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, and a part of Poitou and Saintonge. His bailiffs and seneschals established the royal power firmly in those countries. Paris became a fortified city and attracted to its university students from different countries. Thanks to the possession of Dieppe, Rouen, and certain parts of Saintonge, the French monarchy became a maritime and commercial power, and Philip invited foreign merchants to France. Flanders, Ponthieu, and Auvergne became subject fiefs, supervised by agents of the king. He exercised a sort of protectorate over Champagne and Burgundy. Brittany was in the hands of Pierre de Dreux, a Capetian of the younger branch. "History", writes M. Luchaire, "does not present so many, such rapid, and such complete changes in the fortune of a State".

Philip Augustus did not interfere in episcopal elections. In Normandy, where the Plantagenets had assumed the custom of directly nominating the bishops, he did not follow their example. Guillaume Le Breton, in his poem the "Philippide", makes him say: "I leave to the men of God the things that pertain to the service of God." He favoured the emancipation of communes, desiring to be liked by the middle classes of the districts he annexed. He often exacted a tax in exchange for the communal charter. But he did not allow the communes to infringe on the property of clerics or the episcopal right of jurisdiction. At Noyen he intervened formally in behalf of the bishop, who was threatened by the commune. He undertook a campaign in defence of the bishops and abbots against certain feudal lords whom he himself desired to humiliate or weaken. In 1180, before he was king, he undertook an expedition into Berri to punish the Lord of Charenton, the enemy of the monks, and into Burgundy where the Count of Chalon and the Lord of Beaujeu were persecuting the Church. In 1186, on the complaint of the monks, he took possession of Chatillon-sur-Seine, in the Duchy of Burgundy, and forced the duke to repair the wrongs he had committed against the Church. In 1210 he sent troops to protect the Bishop of Clermont, who was threatened by the Count of Auvergne.

But on the other hand, in virtue of the preponderance which he wished royalty to have over feudalism, he exacted of the bishops and abbots the performance of all their feudal duties, including military service; although for certain territories he was the vassal of the bishops of Picardy, he refused to pay them homage. Moreover, he declared with regard to Manasses, bishop of Orléans, that the royal court was entitled to judge at the trials of bishops, and he made common cause with lay feudalism in the endless discussions regarding the province of ecclesiastical tribunals, which at the beginning of the thirteenth century were disposed to extend their jurisdiction. An ordinance issued about 1205 at the instance of the king, executed in Normandy and perhaps elsewhere, stipulated that in certain cases lay judges might arrest and try guilty clerics, that the right of asylum of religious buildings should be limited, that the Church might not excommunicate those who did business on Sunday or held intercourse with Jews, and that a citizen having several children should not give more than half of his estate to that one of his sons who was a cleric. Finally he imposed on the clergy heavy financial exactions. He was the first king who endeavoured to compel clerics to pay the king a tenth of their income. In 1188 the archdeacon Peter of Blois defeated this claim, but in 1215 and 1218 Philip renewed it, and by degrees the resistance of the clergy gave way. Philip, however, was pious in his own way, and in the advice which St. Louis gave to his son he said that Philip, because of "God's goodness and mercy would rather lose his throne than dispute with the servants of Holy Church". Thus the reputation left by Philip II was quite different from that of Philip IV, or Frederick II of Germany. He never carried out towards the Church a policy of trickery or petty vexations, on the contrary he regarded it as his collaborator in the foundation of French unity.


     LE BRETON, La Philippide, ed. DELABORDE (Paris, 1883-5); RIGORD AND LE BRETON, Chroniques; DELISLE, Catalogue des actes de Philippe-Auguste (Paris, 1856); LUCHAIRE, Philippe-Auguste in LAVISSE, Hist. de France, III (Paris, 1901); LUCHAIRE, L'Université de Paris sous Philippe-Auguste (Paris, 1899); GAUTIER, La France sous Philippe-Auguste (Tours, 1899); CARTELLIERI, Philipp II August, König von Frankreich (3 vols., Leipzig, 1899-1909); DAVIDSOHN, Philipp August von Frankreich und Ingeborg (1888); WALKER, On the increase of royal power in France under Philip Augustus (1888); HUTTON, Philip Augustus (London, 1896).

About this page

APA citation. Goyau, G. (1911). Philip II (Augustus). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Goyau, Georges. "Philip II (Augustus)." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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