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Monarchy Rules: Louis VIII – The French Prince who invaded England

The future Louis VIII of France was born on 5 September 1187 as the son of Philip II of France and Isabella of Hainault. Isabella died in 1190 after giving birth to short lived twin boys and Louis inherited the Country of Artois through her. On 23 May 1200 Louis was married to Blanche of Castile, a daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England (sister to King Richard I and King John). They went on to have thirteen children, though not all would live to adulthood.

In 1214 as Dauphin of France he was given the command of the front against the English possessions in France, while his father had the command of the northern front against Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV. Meanwhile, King John was in the midst of final campaign to remain the duchy of Normandy from Louis’ father. Initially King John was successful and by the end of June he had taken back Anjou. However, Louis’ father won the Battle of Bouvines in the north against King John’s allies and it ended all hope for John’s retaking of Normandy.

King John (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

King John (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

By 1215 King John was unpopular and in a twist of fate the English barons rebelled against him. They offered the throne to Louis, who had landed without opposition on the Isle of Thanet in Kent on 21 May 1216. Louis entered London with very little resistance and was proclaimed King of England at St. Paul’s Cathedral amid great pomp and celebration. He was not crowned on this occasion, but many nobles gathered to give homage.  By the middle of June Louis had captured Winchester and controlled over half of the Kingdom. He was very close to having the whole of England under his command when King John died suddenly in October 1216. Many barons who had rebelled in his name deserted him in favour of King John’s heir, the nine-year-old Henry III.

Louis’ army was beaten by the English on 20 May 1217 at the Battle of Lincoln, with the naval forces following in defeat on 24 August 1217. Louis’ was forced to make peace and the Treaty of Lambert provided for an amnesty for the rebels, a promise from Louis not to attack England again and 10,000 marks for Louis. In return, Louis stated that he had never been the legitimate King of England.

Louis succeeded his father as King of France on 14 July 1223 and was crowned at Reims Cathedral on 6 August that same year, together with his wife Blanche. He managed to seize Poitou and Saintonge from the English in revenge. His reign as King of France was to be a short one. While returning to the capital city he fell ill with dysentery and he died on 8 November 1226, after a reign of just three years. He was succeeded by his 12-year-old son, now Louis IX (later known as Saint Louis), under the regency of his mother Blanche. Several barons refused to recognise the young King, as his father had died without having been able to completely subdue his southern nobles. The young King and his mother were nearly taken captive, but were saved by the people of Paris who lined the streets to protect the King.

In 1230 King Henry III of England returned the favour by invading France. Brittany rebelled against the King, but this rebellion was eventually squashed when Henry’s invasion failed. By 1234 he was in full support of King Louis IX, though it would not be the last time England and France were at odds.



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