Birthday: September 5, 1187
Died At Age: 39
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Louis the Lion or the Lion-Heart
Born Country: France
Born in: Paris, France
Famous as: King of France
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Blanche of Castile (m. 1200)
father: Philip II of France
mother: Isabelle of Hainaut
children: Alphonse; Count of Poitiers, Charles I of Anjou, Isabelle of France, John Tristan; Count of Anjou and Maine, Louis IX, Philip Dagobert, Philippe de France, Robert I; Count of Artois
Died on: November 8, 1226
place of death: Château de Montpensier, Montpensier
Cause of Death: Dysentery
Who was Louis VIII of France?
Louis VIII, also known as Louis the Lion or the Lion-Heart, was the king of France between 1223 and 1226. He was the son of Isabelle of Hainaut who formerly ruled the County of Artois as a countess. Hainaut passed her inheritance to her son Louis VIII who later became the count of Artois. His father was King Philip II of France. Louis VIII earned the title of Louis Le Lion or Louis Coeur-de-lion for his heroics and military prowess even before his accession. He gained prominence after the Siege of Roche-au-Moine after which he invaded the southern part of England. He was proclaimed as the king of England by the barons but was never crowned. His military expertise against King John of England in the First Barons' War made him popular as a leader. Louis VIII is credited for his intervention in the Albigensian Crusade which had been going on for almost 20 years. He successfully captured the major fortress of Avignon which later proved to be decisive for the long-going conflict. Louis VIII was the first king in the Capetian dynasty to allot estates and offices to his younger sons.
Childhood & Early Life
Louis VIII was born on September 5, 1187, in Paris, France, to King Philip II of France and his wife, Isabelle of Hainaut. He was the only living son of the couple as their two other sons, Robert and Philip (twins), died within days of their birth.
King Philip II and Richard I of England struck a tentative alliance to get Louis VIII married to Eleanor of Brittany. Eleanor was King Richard’s niece and a marriage with her would have strengthened Louis’ future. However, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI didn’t agree to the proposal and thus it was abandoned.
After the failure of the proposed marriage, a new negotiation started between King Philip II and King John. This time, a marriage proposal between the 12-year-old Louis and Blanche of Castile was struck. Blanche was the daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England, but most importantly, she was the niece of John, the king of England.
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Early Campaigns as a Military Expert
Louis VIII engaged in a battle for the first time in 1214 when his father King Philip II waged a war against King John of England. The two houses locked horns for the Duchy of Normandy which King John wanted to reclaim from the French king.
The king of England had a bigger and more powerful army due to the alliance with Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV and the counts from Boulogne and Flanders. Louis VIII was up against an army which was too powerful for the young prince.
Louis VIII couldn’t prevent King John from reclaiming the county of Anjou, which was followed by his besiege of the castle Roche-au-Moine.
Louis VIII had no option but to fight against King John and his superior army. However, King John faced an unexpected hurdle as the Angevin nobles refused to participate any further in his quest for Normandy. This weakened the king’s army and he had to fall back, leaving Louis VIII with a stronghold of the war.
The quest for Normandy came to an end for King John after King Philip II won the battle against the allied forces on the other front.
The Saga of the English Throne
Just a year after losing the war against the French king and the young Prince Louis VIII, King John faced new troubles back at home. The English barons rebelled against the English king who was already facing a lot of problems in his reign.
This rebellion gave birth to the First Barons' War and Louis VIII found unexpected support from the barons who wanted him to be the king. When Louis VIII arrived in May 1216 at the Isle of Thanet, there was no noticeable resistance.
Louis VIII was proclaimed as the king amid celebrations in London. His influence could be ascertained by the presence of the nobles and King Alexander II of Scotland who attended the coronation despite not being crowned as the king himself.
He was enjoying his rising power when he successfully captured Winchester within a month. However, the sudden death of King John unsettled the barons. The rebels, who opposed John as the king and brought Louis VIII to his new power, now favored King John’s son, Henry III. Henry III was just nine years old when he was crowned as the king while Earl of Pembroke acted as the regent.
Louis VIII fought for the crown but his forces lost the battles of Lincoln and Dover (also known as the Battle of Sandwich). He had to surrender and agree to a peace treaty. The Treaty of Lambeth restricted him from attacking England in the future and in return he was paid 10,000 marks by England.
King of France
Louis VIII became the king of France after King Philip II died. He was crowned on July 14, 1223.
As the king, he reversed his father’s policy of ‘Usury’ and prohibited lending to the Jews. The prohibition was implemented in an attempt to stop the secular rulers from exploiting the law for their personal benefit. Expectedly, Theobald IV, the Count of Champagne, didn’t comply with the law and continued to oppose Louis VIII.
In 1225, Louis VIII engaged in the long-running Albigensian Crusade by rejecting the embassy of Roger Bernard the Great, the Count of Foix. This led to a feud between the count and King Louis VIII and resulted in a battle.
Louis VIII successfully captured Avignon, a commune in south-eastern France. This later proved to be a major factor in the conclusion of the conflict which had been going on for over twenty years.
Family & Personal Life
During the siege of Avignon, Louis VIII fell sick and had to return home. He suffered from dysentery and died on November 8, 1226, at the castle of Château de Montpensier. His mortal body was rested inside a tomb at the church Saint Denis Basilica.
Louis VIII had thirteen children with his wife Blanche of Castile. Louis IX, also known as Saint Louis, was their eldest living son at the time of the king’s death, and thus he succeeded Louis VIII as the king of France.