Late Capetians

History of France between 1180 - 1328

The late direct Capetian kings were considerably more powerful and influential than the earliest ones. While Philip I could hardly control his Parisian barons, Philip IV could dictate popes and emperors. The late Capetians, although they often ruled for a shorter time than their earlier peers, were often much more influential. This period also saw the rise of a complex system of international alliances and conflicts opposing, through dynasties, Kings of France and England and Holy Roman Emperor.

Philip II Augustus

The reign of Philip II Augustus (1179–1223) marked an important step in the history of French monarchy. His reign saw the French royal domain and influence greatly expanded. He set the context for the rise of power to much more powerful monarchs like Saint Louis and Philip the Fair.

Bataille de Bouvines gagnee par Philippe Auguste
Philip II victorious at Bouvines thus annexing Normandy and Anjou into his royal domains.

After a twelve-year struggle with the Plantagenet dynasty in the Anglo-French War of 1202–14, Philip broke up the large Angevin Empire presided over by the crown of England and defeated a coalition of his rivals (German, Flemish and English) at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. This victory would have a lasting impact on western European politics: the authority of the French king became unchallenged, while the English King John was forced by his barons to sign Magna Carta and deal with a rebellion against him aided by Philip, the First Barons' War. The military actions surrounding the Albigensian Crusade helped prepare the expansion of France southward. Philip did not participate directly in these actions, but he allowed his vassals and knights to help carry it out.

Saint Louis

France became a truly centralised kingdom under Louis IX (reigned 1226–70). Saint Louis has often been portrayed as a one-dimensional character, a flawless representant of the faith and an administrative reformer who cared for the governed ones. However, his reign was far from perfect for everyone: he made unsuccessful crusades, his expanding administrations raised opposition, and he burned Jewish books at the Pope's urging. It appears Louis had a strong sense of justice and always wanted to judge people himself before applying any sentence.

Louis IX was only twelve years old when he became King of France. His mother — Blanche of Castile — was the effective power as regent. Her authority was strongly opposed by the French barons yet she maintained her position until Louis was old enough to rule by himself.

The kingdom was vulnerable: war was still going on in the County of Toulouse, and the royal army was occupied fighting resistance in Languedoc. Count Raymond VII of Toulouse finally signed the Treaty of Paris in 1229, in which he retained much of his lands for life, but his daughter, married to Count Alfonso of Poitou, produced him no heir and so the County of Toulouse went to the King of France.

King Henry III of England had not yet recognized the Capetian overlordship over Aquitaine and still hoped to recover Normandy and Anjou and reform the Angevin Empire. He landed in 1230 at Saint-Malo with a massive force. Henry III's allies in Brittany and Normandy fell down because they did not dare fight their king, who led the counterstrike himself. This evolved into the Saintonge War (1242).

Ultimately, Henry III was defeated and had to recognise Louis IX's overlordship, although the King of France did not seize Aquitaine from Henry III. Louis IX was now the most important landowner of France, adding to his royal title. There were some opposition to his rule in Normandy, yet it proved remarkably easy to rule, especially compared to the County of Toulouse which had been brutally conquered. The Conseil du Roi, which would evolve into the Parlement, was founded in these times.

Saint Louis also supported new forms of art such as Gothic architecture; his Sainte-Chapelle became a very famous gothic building. The Kingdom was involved in two crusades under Saint Louis: the Seventh Crusade and the Eighth Crusade. Both proved to be complete failures for the French King.

Philip III and Philip IV

Philip III became king when Saint Louis died in 1270 during the Eighth Crusade. Philip III was called "the Bold" on the basis of his abilities in combat and on horseback, and not because of his character or ruling abilities. Philip III took part in another crusading disaster: the Aragonese Crusade, which cost him his life in 1285.

More administrative reforms were made by Philip IV, also called Philip the Fair (reigned 1285–1314). This king was responsible for the end of the Knights Templar, signed the Auld Alliance, and established the Parlement of Paris. Philip IV was so powerful that he could name popes and emperors, unlike the early Capetians. The papacy was moved to Avignon and all the contemporary popes were French, such as Philip IV's puppet Bertrand de Goth, Pope Clement V.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1180 and 1328 in France

Lyon Cathedral

Lyon Cathedral was founded by Saint Pothinus and Saint Irenaeus, the first two bishops of Lyon. The cathedral is also known as a Primatiale because in 1079 the Pope granted to the archbishop of Lyon the title of Primate of All the Gauls with the legal supremacy over the principal archbishops of the kingdom. It is located in the heart of the old town, less than five minutes away from the banks of the Saône river, with a l ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Lyon, France

Bourges Cathedral

Bourges Cathedral of St. Etiénne, one of the finest Gothic cathedrals, was built mainly between 1195 and 1260. The unknown architect designed it without transepts, which, combined with the interior’s unusual height and width, makes it seem much lighter than most Gothic cathedrals. Structural problems with the South tower led to the building of the adjoining buttress tower in the mid-14th century. The North to ...
Founded: 1195-1260 | Location: Bourges, France

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, a bishopric established in the 6th century and abolished under the Concordat of 1801, when its territory was transferred to the Diocese of Quimper. It is dedicated to its 6th-century founder, the first bishop Saint Paul Aurelian. He was originally from Wales and he is considered to have been the first bishop of the L&eacut ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Pol-de-Léon, France

St. Nicolas Church

Saint Nicolas Church is located just outside the old city walls of Toulouse. The Tolosan style octagonal bell tower was rebuilt around 1300, copying those of Saint Sernin and Church of the Jacobins.
Founded: 1300 | Location: Toulouse, France

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle (The Holy Chapel) is a 13th-century Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. Sainte-Chapelle was founded by the ultra-devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics. The palace itself has otherwise utterly disappeared, leaving the Sainte-Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. Unlike many devout ari ...
Founded: 1241-1248 | Location: Paris, France

Château de Rouen

Château de Rouen was a castle built by Philip II of France from 1204 to 1210 following his capture of the duchy from John, duke of Normandy and king of England. Located outside the medieval town to its north, in a dominant position, it played a military role in the Hundred Years" War and the Wars of Religion. It was the main seat of power, administration and politics in the duchy of Normandy for nearly 400 year ...
Founded: 1204-1210 | Location: Rouen, France

Sées Cathedral

Sées Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Sées) dates from the 13th and 14th century and occupies the site of three earlier churches. The west front, which is disfigured by the buttresses projecting beyond it, has two stately spires of open work 230 ft. high. The nave was built towards the end of the 13th century. The choir, built soon afterwards, is remarkable for the lightness of its construction. In ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sées, France

Rodez Cathedral

Rodez Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rodez) is a national monument and is the seat of the Bishopric of Rodez. The closed west front once formed part of the city wall of Rodez.  Rodez was Christianized in the 4th-5th century AD, and the first mention of a cathedral dates from around 516. This structure was rebuilt c. 1000; almost nothing remains of it after the decision to rebuild it from scratch in 1276. The wo ...
Founded: 1276 | Location: Rodez, France

Saint-Vincent Abbey

The former Benedictine abbey of Saint-Vincent was founded in the 10th century. The abbey church, rebuilt in 1248 and consecrated in 1376, is a superb example of Gothic architecture. After the Revolution, which marked the end of the abbey, the church became a parish church and then a basilica in 1933.
Founded: 1248 | Location: Metz, France

Château d'Yvoire

Built from 1306 during the village fortification by the Comte de Savoie Amédée V, Yvoire castle had a military goal to watch the navigation and control the road which linked Geneva to the high valley of the Rhône and to Italy. For several centuries, the village of Yvoire was in the center of several strategic or religious wars between France, Bern, Geneva as well as the houses of Faucigny, Dauphiné and Savoie. In ...
Founded: 1306 | Location: Yvoire, France

Saint William's Church

Saint William"s Church is a gothic church is known for its sumptuous interior combining the Gothic and Baroque styles. Since the end of the 19th century, the excellent acoustics of the church has allowed it to serve as a venue for concerts of classical music, in particular for the Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach. Returning unharmed from the Crusades, the knight Henri de Müllenheim undertook the construction o ...
Founded: 1301 | Location: Strasbourg, France

Château de Villeneuve-Loubet

Château de Villeneuve-Loubet, property of the Panisse-Passis family, is a superb 13th-century defensive structure, with a pentagonal keep. It was built in the 13th century, at the instigation of the Counts of Provence and Romeo of Villeneuve. Ramparts and parapet walks are punctuated with five round towers and a mediaeval drawbridge. French King Francis I stayed there in 1538 to sign the Truce of Nice with the Emperor Ch ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Villeneuve-Loubet, France

Toulouse Cathedral

The exact date of the original Toulouse Cathedral is unknown; the first mention of a church building on that site is found in a charter of 844. In 1073 the bishop of Toulouse commenced work on a more elaborate structure, followed by additional construction in the 13th century. The irregular west front exists because the cathedral consists of two incomplete churches, the first dating from the early 13th century, which inc ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Toulouse, France

Château de Dieppe

Château de Dieppe was founded in 1188 and destroyed in 1195. The site was restored in the 14th century. The castle was largely reconstructed by Charles des Marets in 1433. The castle is composed of a quadrangular enclosure with round flanking towers and a lower court adjacent. The large west tower dates perhaps from the 14th century, and served as the keep. Several architectural styles are represented, and flint and ...
Founded: 1188 | Location: Dieppe, France

Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer

The Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer was built in the 13th century by Philippe Hurepel (1180-1234), count of Boulogne and son of Philip II of France. Following the death of his half-brother, king Louis VIII after a short three-year reign, Hurepel was one of the leaders of a rebellion against the regent, Blanche de Castille, mother of the minor Louis IX. He constructed castles at Calais and Hardelot and refortified Boulog ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

Château de Diant

The Château de Diant was originally constructed in the 13th century for a companion of Philippe Auguste, with additions and modifications in the 15th century and the first half of the 19th. The castle has been protected since 1946. The gardens are also listed. The castle and gardens are privately owned are not open to the public.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Diant, France

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral is an imposing sample of Gothic architecture. The first cathedral was built in 396 by Bishop Victricius. This was destroyed by the invading Normans, who replaced it with a larger cathedral with a wooden vault. Consecrated in 1063 in the presence of William the Conqueror, all that remains of this building is the crypt beneath the choir. Rouen Cathedral was rebuilt in 1145 by Bishop Hugues d"Amiens base ...
Founded: 1202 | Location: Rouen, France

Beauvais Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Peter of Beauvais is, in some respects, the most daring achievement of Gothic architecture, and consists only of a transept (16th-century) and choir, with apse and seven polygonal apsidal chapels (13th-century), which are reached by an ambulatory. A small Romanesque church dating back to the 10th-century, known as the Basse Œuvre, still occupies the site destined for the nave of the Beauvais ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Beauvais, France

Château de Brie-Comte-Robert

Château de Brie-Comte-Robert was built at the end of the 12th century, when Robert I of Dreux, brother of the king Louis VII, was lord of Brie. Archaeological clues, elements of decoration and the choice of construction techniques, suggest the architecture of this turning point in history. The castle remained in the Dreux family until 1254, then passed to the family of Châtillon. Through successive dowries an ...
Founded: c. 1190 | Location: Brie-Comte-Robert, France

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral is one of the largest classic 13th century Gothic churches. It is notable for the coherence of its plan, the beauty of its three-tier interior elevation, and the particularly fine display of sculptures on the principal facade and in the south transept. Amiens Cathedral was originally built in 1152 in Romanesque style and destroyed by fire in 1218. Reconstruction was started around 1220 and the nave was c ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Amiens, France

Château de Saint-Saturnin

Château de Saint-Saturnin is composed of three round towers and a one square tower. The oldest record is related to Crown in the 13th century. The castle was expanded in the 17th century, but gradually abandoned after the French Revolution.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Saturnin, France

Château de Loches

The Château de Loches was constructed in the 9th century. Built some 500 metres above the Indre River, the huge castle, famous mostly for its massive square keep, dominates the town of Loches. Designed and occupied by Henry II of England and his son, Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century, the castle withstood the assaults by the French king Philip II in their wars for control of France until it was finally c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Loches, France

Conciergerie

The Conciergerie is a former prison and part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris. The west part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, and was ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Paris, France

Orléans Cathedral

Orléans Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d'Orléans) is a Gothic catholic cathedral in the city of Orléans, France. It is the seat of the Bishop of Orléans and it was built from 1278 to 1329 and 1601-1829 (after partial destruction in 1568). The cathedral is probably most famous for its association with Joan of Arc. The French heroine attended evening Mass in this cathedral on May 2, 1 ...
Founded: 1278-1329 | Location: Orléans, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.