Louis VIII (France)

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Coronation of Louis VIII and his wife Blanka

Louis VIII (born September 5, 1187 in Paris , † November 8, 1226 in Montpensier ), called the lion (le Lion), was a king of France from the Capetian dynasty from 1223 until his death .

Crown Prince

Origin and youth

Birth of Prince Louis VIII
(Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th or 15th century)

Ludwig was the eldest son of King Philip II from his first marriage to Isabella von Hennegau († 1190) and thus the designated successor of his father to the French throne from birth. The prince suffered from poor physical health throughout his life, which was almost fatal for him in 1191 during a dysentery . Together with the Plantagenet Prince Arthur of Brittany , Ludwig received extensive spiritual training at his father's court from Bishop Stephan von Tournai . According to the provisions of the Treaty of Le Goulet between Philip II and Johann Ohneland , Ludwig was married in 1200 to the Castilian princess Blanka , who was a niece of Johann.

Fight against Johann Ohneland

Ludwig took part in his father's campaigns against Johann Ohneland since 1204 , who had been declared forfeited by a parliamentary ruling on all of his territories in France. On May 17, 1209 Ludwig received the sword leadership in Compiègne . To do this, however, he had to swear to his father that he would never take part in a tournament, as his life should not be exposed to additional danger. To compensate for the renunciation of this fundamentally chivalric activity, Ludwig received the fiefs of Château-Landon , Lorris and Poissy as a gift. In 1212 he led a campaign on his own for the first time in the Artois , where he had to defend claims inherited from his mother against the Flemish Count Ferrand . As a representative of his father, Ludwig sealed the Franco-Staufer alliance with Friedrich von Hohenstaufen in Vaucouleurs in November 1212 , which was directed against Johann Ohneland and his nephew, Emperor Otto IV . On a court day of King Philip II of Soissons on April 8, 1213, the decision was made to place Prince Ludwig on the English royal throne to replace the banned Johann Ohneland. However, the project was not carried out after John submitted to the Holy See . Instead, Ludwig moved against Flanders again with the invading army under the leadership of his father .

In 1214 Johann Ohneland attacked Anjou , which he had lost in 1204, from Poitou , while at the same time Emperor Otto IV led an army from the north via Flanders against France. Prince Ludwig went against Johann with an army from Chinon and on July 2nd he triumphed at Roche-aux-Moines . On his hasty escape, Johann had to leave his entire heavy siege equipment behind, which deprived him of every opportunity to successfully continue his campaign. A few days later Ludwig's father won the battle of Bouvines over the emperor.

Invasion of England and Crusade

Louis VIII in London, 1216. Representation from La Toison d'or by Guillaume Fillastre , 15th or 16th century.

After this victory, the plan to invade England was revived. Its realization seemed favorable after John's rule was questioned by the rebellious English barons in 1215 despite the recognition of the Magna Carta . The barons sent a formal invitation to Prince Ludwig to ascend the English throne. This, now acting much more independently, tried the Pope Innocent III. who still helped Johann to win over by trying to convince the Pope of John's rule and emphasizing the claims of his wife as the granddaughter of Henry II of England . In December 1215, Ludwig's vanguard landed on the British Isles and moved into London ; on May 26, 1216, Ludwig followed in person, where he received the homage of the barons as well as King Alexander II of Scotland in St Paul's Cathedral without being present but to be crowned. In the further course of the year he succeeded in conquering the whole of eastern England until King John died on October 26, 1216. Its loyal follower William Marshal immediately left Johann's underage son Heinrich III. crowning the protection of Pope Honorius III. received. Ludwig had to return to France in early 1217 to recruit new troops after his father withdrew his support. In May 1217 his party at Lincoln suffered a defeat by William Marshal, the following August his fleet was sunk off Sandwich . After these defeats Ludwig had to enter into the peace of Lambeth on September 11, 1217 and withdraw his troops from the island.

After the failed company in England, Ludwig returned to the service of his father. In 1218 he sent Ludwig at the head of an army of crusaders to Languedoc , which had been the scene of the Albigensian crusade for nine years . Ludwig had already participated briefly in the spring of 1215, now after the death of the leader of the crusade Simon de Montfort in 1218 he was supposed to save the positions of his incompetent son Amaury de Montfort and thus the influence of the French crown in this region. But remembering his bad relationship with Pope Honorius III, who pushed diplomatically for this campaign, Louis broke off the campaign after a massacre of the people of Marmande in June 1219 and a half-hearted and unsuccessful siege of Toulouse . As a result, the opponents of the crusade succeeded under the leadership of Count Raimund VI. from Toulouse to expel the Crusaders from the Languedoc by 1224.


Assumption of power and campaign in the Poitou

As early as March 1223, at a meeting in Ferentino , Pope Honorius III, Emperor Friedrich II and Johann von Brienne had agreed on a concrete plan for a large-scale crusade to the Holy Land . To this end, both the French and English courts received a request from the Pope to end their conflict and to levy a crusade tax. Johann von Brienne appeared in France to advertise the company, but to his disappointment there was little enthusiasm for the crusade among the knighthood of the country as well as at the royal court. Neither Philip II, who was already ill, nor Louis VIII, who succeeded him in July 1223, declared himself ready to participate personally in an armed pilgrimage to the Orient. All that was required from Ludwig was financial support.

After his father died in Mantes on July 14, 1223 , Ludwig was anointed and crowned the new King of France on August 6, 1223 by Archbishop Guillaume de Joinville in the Cathedral of Reims . For the first time in the history of the Capetian dynasty, only birthright prevailed, as this change of rule was not preceded by a consultative assembly. Louis VIII was also the first Capetian king who had not been ordained king during his father's lifetime. Ludwig's predecessors had to rely on this means of securing his successor; his successors could henceforth do without it. This now undisputed recognition of the dynasty was the result of the successful policies of Philip II August.

Immediately after the death of Philip II, Ludwig renewed the Franco-Staufer pact of 1212 with Emperor Friedrich II, which was aimed particularly at the further isolation of England. However, Ludwig did not succeed in persuading the emperor's son, King Heinrich (VII) , who ruled Germany, to join this alliance at a joint meeting in Toul in November 1224. Henry's offer of marriage to a French princess was also rejected. This rejection was very likely due to the influential Archbishop Engelbert I of Cologne , who linked economic interests with England in his area of ​​influence on the Lower Rhine.

After two Umritten in the royal domain areas newfound north of the Loire , where he was the stable authority of the crown assure took Louis the expiring Easter 1224 peace with England as an opportunity for another military action against the Plantagenets . The aim was to subjugate the last areas held by them in France south of the Loire. First he gained control of the Poitou, afterwards Hugo X. von Lusignan , who was married to the widow Johanns Ohnelands and who paid homage to Louis for La Marche and Angoulême , submitted to him . Then Ludwig advanced into the Saintonge , which he brought under his control on August 13, 1224 after the capture of La Rochelle . The Vice Count of Limoges submitted voluntarily to him. Then Louis turned to Gascony , where he sent Hugo von Lusignan with an army, but this did not succeed in taking Bordeaux . The English Prince Richard of Cornwall led a counter-attack from there in the spring of 1225, which brought Gascony back under English rule.

Crusade against the Albigensians

Death of Louis VIII
right next to it: the coronation of Louis IX.
in the background: the siege of Avignon
( Jean Fouquet )

As a reaction to Ludwig's reaching out, an alliance between the Pope and England formed against him, which Peter Mauclerc and the fickle Hugo von Lusignan also joined. Pope Honorius III continued to succeed. to integrate Count Raimund VII of Toulouse into this alliance. But before this could take action, Ludwig took the initiative and called a council in Bourges in November 1225 . There he succeeded, with the help of the papal legate Romano Bonaventura, who weighed in on him, to sabotage the pope's policy by excommunicating the Count of Toulouse and proclaiming another crusade to Languedoc. The council transferred the military leadership of the campaign to Ludwig and the spiritual leadership to the bishops of the crown domain; the financing was to be placed entirely on the church's assets. All conquered territories were also supposed to fall to the crown, the legal basis for this being the transfer of Amaurys de Montfort's rights to the king at Bourges.

In May 1226, Ludwig and his army moved south along the left bank of the Rhone , on imperial territory. The imperial Avignon blocked his way and only a lengthy siege was able to break the resistance of this city on September 9th of that year. The effect of this success was very great and all subsequent war targets such as Nîmes , Beaucaire , Narbonne , Carcassonne , Montpellier and Pamiers surrendered without a fight. A siege of the strong Toulouse was dispensed with because the army was weakened by disease. The subject area was subject to a strict northern French order, based on the statutes of Pamiers issued by Simon de Montfort in 1212, and entrusted to the administration of the Seneschal appointed by the king. The French kingdom thus gained permanent access to the Mediterranean and a starting point for the final subjugation of the south.


In October Ludwig moved back to the north via Albi , from where his wife traveled to meet him. But before they met, Louis VIII died on November 8th in Montpensier from the consequences of a dysentery that he had contracted near Avignon. On his deathbed, he had the greats of his kingdom swear by his still underage eldest son. However, in his will, which he had written before the start of the campaign, he had made no provision for a possible guardianship and regency for his son, which caused his widow considerable difficulties in her government in the years to come.

Ludwig was buried next to his father on November 15, 1226 in the Abbey of Saint-Denis .


Due to his reign, which was particularly short at only three years, Louis VIII was long in the shadow of his glorious father and the holiness of his son in historical memory. In general, his work is considered to be a continuation of the father's policy of expanding and consolidating the authority of kingship over the feudal nobility, especially the Plantagenets. Ludwig's crusade, initiated in 1225, provided the impetus for the subjugation of the south, which his widow completed in the Treaty of Meaux-Paris in 1229. His conquests against the Plantagenets in Poitou were also claimed by his son and sealed in the Treaty of Paris in 1259.

In his will, Ludwig made the provisions for furnishing his younger sons with fiefs, which his eldest son also implemented later. Ludwig is considered to be the founder of the custom of equipping younger princes of the royal family with appanages , for which he was criticized by later historians, who recognized this as a constant threat to the position of power of the kingship. In doing so, they cited the ambitious politics of the younger brothers of King Charles V as an example. However, other historians also recognized the allocation of apanages as an effective means of preventing intra-dynastic battles such as those that had ravaged the Plantagenet dynasty in the late 12th century.

Contemporary reception

His epithet is contemporary and was often used for his characterization, especially in the poetry of his time. “This Ludwig was brave, bold and combative; he had the heart of a lion. But the way he lived, he was not lacking in suffering and effort. ”This is how the anonymous minstrel from Reims described him . A vita judged him: "During his life, King Ludwig was wild as a lion towards the bad, but admirably peaceful towards the good ...". By the Norman poet Nicolas de Bray ( Faits et gestes de Louis VIII ) Louis VIII was sung two years after his death as "magnus Alexander" .

The Carolingian renewal

Louis VIII the lion plays a special role in the ideological glorification of the Capetian dynasty, which goes back to a legendary prophecy by St. Walaric . He is said to have once predicted the founder of the dynasty Hugo Capet that his house would rule for seven generations, after which the tribe of Charlemagne would return to the throne of the Franks ( Reditus regni Francorum ad stirpem Karoli Magni ). Philip II August was the seventh Capetian king and he had already claimed an ascendency to the Carolingians through his mother Adela of Champagne . This was reflected in the baptismal name of his illegitimate son Karlotus , but also in the institution of the twelve pairs he founded .

But it was only in the genealogy of Louis VIII that the prophecy was successfully proven by the abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Marchiennes . He saw this prediction confirmed in the fact that Ludwig was the son of Isabella von Hainaut, whose family allegedly descended in direct line from the great emperor. The abbot had highlighted the rule of Hugo Capet and his descendants as a usurpation, but declared it through divine intervention and viewed it as completely neutralized by the return of the legitimate dynasty by Louis VIII. The flaw inherent in the Capetians, that they only came to the throne of the Franks through a breach of the blood rights, was intended to provide a justification for their legitimacy that has never been doubted since the days of Louis VIII and his father. The new Carolingian identity of the dynasty was also reflected in the name code of Ludwig, when his youngest posthumously born son was given the name of Charlemagne, which was also used by later generations of the Capetians.

The canon Aegidius of Paris (around 1160 to around 1214) had dedicated the ruling mirror to the young Crown Prince Louis VIII, Carolinus , in which he described the deeds of Charlemagne during his Spanish campaign. This representation was intended to serve the prince as a reminder of the former supremacy of the Franks in Europe and to encourage them to renew it based on the model of Charles.



Louis VI. the thick
Adelheid of Maurienne
Theobald II of Champagne
Mathilde of Carinthia
(† 1160/6))
Baldwin IV of Hainaut
Alix of Namur
Dietrich of Flanders
Sibyl of Anjou
Louis VII the Younger
Adela of Champagne
Baldwin V of Hainaut
Margaret I of Flanders
Philip II August
Isabelle of Hainaut
Louis VIII the Lion

Marriage and offspring

Louis married on May 23, 1200 in Port-Mort (today the Eure department ) the Castilian princess Blanka († November 27, 1252), a daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and the Aenor of England .

Both children were:

When Louis VIII died, six of his sons and one daughter were alive. The youngest son Karl may have been born posthumously, although it is assumed that he is identical to Stephan. In June 1225, before the beginning of his crusade, Louis VIII laid down a will in which he determined the inheritance dispositions for five of his surviving sons. The sixth son Stephan was probably born after the will was drawn up. Accordingly, the first son (Louis IX.) Should follow in the kingdom, the second (Robert) should for the county of Artois, the third (probably Johann) for the counties of Anjou and Maine, the fourth (Alfons) for the county of Poitiers and the fifth (Philipp-Dagobert) finally be determined for a spiritual career. Johann and Philipp-Dagobert both died in 1232 before the implementation of the will and Karl, presumably born posthumously, was included in Johann's inheritance.


  • Gesta Ludovici Octavi , ed. by Léopold Victor Delisle in: Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France (RHGF) 17 (1878), pp. 302-311; Edition of the royal vita of an anonymous author
  • Gesta Ludovici VIII , ed. by Léopold Delisle in: RHGF 17 (1878), pp. 311-345; Rhyming Chronicle of Nicolas de Bray in Latin
  • Les Gestes du roi Louis VIII , ed. by Léopold Delisle in: RHGF 17 (1878), pp. 417-422; Actual report from the Grandes Chroniques de France in French


  • Gérard Sivéry: Louis VIII, le Lion (Fayard, 1995)
  • Joachim Ehlers , Heribert Müller, Bernd Schneidmüller : The French Kings of the Middle Ages (Verlag CH Beck Munich, 1996)
  • Dirk Jäckel: The Ruler as a Lion: Origin and Use of a Political Symbol in the Early and High Middle Ages , Volume 60 of Supplements to the Archive for Cultural History (Böhlau Verlag Köln Weimar, 2006)
  • Wolfgang Stürmer: Friedrich II. (Primusverlag, Darmstadt, special edition 2009)


  1. The contract is dated November 19, 1212. See Catalog des actes de Philippe Auguste , ed. by Léopold Delisle (1856), no.1408, p. 320
  2. Les Gestes du roi Louis VIII , in RHGF 17 (1878), p. 422: "Li Roys Lois sa vie fiers comme un lions envers les mauvais, et paisibles merverilleusement envers les bons, ..."
  3. ^ Gesta Ludovici VIII , in: RHGF 17 (1878), p. 312
  4. ^ Gesta Francorum usque ad annum (1214)
  5. Andreas von Marchiennes: L'Historia succincta de gestis et successione regnum francorum (1196)
  6. Ægidii Parisiensis Carolinus, De Gestis Caroli Magni Carmen Hexametrum , in: RHGF 17 (1878), pp. 288-301
  7. On the birth of the twins, who probably died young, see Bernard Itier , Chronico , in: RHGF 18 (1878), p. 231
  8. On the will of Louis VIII, see Layettes du Trésor des Chartes Vol. 2, ed. by Alexandre Teulet (Paris, 1866), no.1710, p. 54.
  9. In a chronicle from Tournai, Prince Johann was listed as the fourth son to survive the king, which is why Prince Alfons would have been awarded the counties of Anjou and Maine in his will as the third. Since he had apparently taken over the county of Poitou as planned, Johann was probably the third son. Chronicon Turonense in: RHGF 18 (1878), p. 317

Web links

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Philip II August King of France 1223–1226
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Louis IX the Saint