King Philip Augustus of France
14th July is the National Day of France, chosen because of the outbreak of the French Revolution on that date in 1789. However, it was also the day on which one of France’s greatest medieval monarchs, King Philip Augustus (Philip II), died in 1223.
Philip Augustus was born on 21st August 1165, the only son of King Louis VII. He came to the throne in 1180, aged only 15, but was to have a reign lasting 43 years.
For much of that time he was engaged in wars against the English, led at first by King Henry II and then by King Richard I (the Lionheart). Philip’s relationship with Richard was harmonious at first, in that they joined forces on the Third Crusade, but Philip fell ill during the journey to the Holy Land and turned back to France. Once there, he set about conquering Richard’s territories (at that time the English crown ruled over much of what is now France).
Philip was greatly aided by the fact that Richard was captured in Austria on his return journey and spent a whole year in prison while his ransom was being raised in England.
However, after Richard’s release he was able to set about the task of repairing the damage, with the result that the years 1194 to 1198 were marked by an almost constant war between the two monarchs.
Richard died in 1199, the result of a wound received when besieging a castle, and Philip’s task became very much easier due the military incompetence of Richard successor as king, his brother John. Over the next 14 years Philip was able to deprive England of nearly all her possessions in France.
Philip also enjoyed military success against the German Emperor Otto IV, notably at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214.
Apart from his prowess on the battlefield, Philip Augustus had two other claims to fame – he paved the main streets of Paris and built a large palace that is known today as the Louvre.