, , , , , , ,

Louis VII (1120 – September 18, 1180), called the Younger or the Young was King of the Franks from 1137 to 1180. He was the son and successor of King Louis VI, hence his nickname, and married Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe. The marriage temporarily extended the Capetian lands to the Pyrenees, but was annulled in 1152 after no male heir was produced.

Louis was born in 1120 in Paris, the second son of Louis VI, King of the Franks and Adelaide of Maurienne. The early education of Prince Louis anticipated an ecclesiastical career. As a result, he became well-learned and exceptionally devout, but his life course changed decisively after the accidental death of his older brother Philippe in 1131, when he unexpectedly became the heir to the throne of France. In October 1131, his father had him anointed and crowned by Pope Innocent II in Reims Cathedral.

Louis VII, King of the Franks

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – April 1, 1204) was queen consort of France (1137–1152) and England (1154–1189) and Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right (1137–1204). As a member of the Ramnulfids (House of Poitiers) rulers in southwestern France, she was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages. Eleanor (or Aliénor) was the oldest of three children of Guillém X Duke of Aquitaine, whose glittering ducal court was renowned in early 12th-century Europe, and his wife, Aenor de Châtellerault, the daughter of Aimery I, Viscount of Châtellerault, and Dangereuse de l’Isle Bouchard, who was Guillém IX’s longtime mistress as well as Eleanor’s maternal grandmother. Her parents’ marriage had been arranged by Dangereuse with her paternal grandfather Guillém IX.

Following the death of Duke Guillém X of Aquitaine, Louis VI moved quickly to have his son married to Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had inherited William’s territory, on July 25, 1137. In this way, Louis VI sought to add the large, sprawling territory of the duchy of Aquitaine to his family’s holdings in France. On August 1, 1137, shortly after the marriage, Louis VI died, and Louis VII became king. The pairing of the monkish Louis and the high-spirited Eleanor was doomed to failure; she reportedly once declared that she had thought to marry a king, only to find she had married a monk. Louis VII and Eleanor had two daughters, Marie and Alix.

In June 1147, in fulfillment of his vow to mount the Second Crusade, Louis VII and his queen set out from the Basilica of St Denis, first stopping in Metz on the overland route to Syria. Soon they arrived in the Kingdom of Hungary, where they were welcomed by the king Géza II of Hungary, who was already waiting with King Conrad III of Germany.

Louis VII and his army finally reached the Holy Land in 1148. His queen Eleanor supported her uncle, Raymond of Antioch, and prevailed upon Louis to help Antioch against Aleppo. But Louis VII’s interest lay in Jerusalem, and so he slipped out of Antioch in secret. He united with King Conrad III of Germany and King Baldwin III of Jerusalem to lay siege to Damascus; this ended in disaster and the project was abandoned. Louis VII decided to leave the Holy Land, despite the protests of Eleanor, who still wanted to help her doomed uncle Raymond. Louis VII and the French army returned home in 1149.

Eleanor, Queen of the Franks, Queen of the English, Duchess of Aquitaine

The expedition to the Holy Land came at a great cost to the royal treasury and military. It also precipitated a conflict with Eleanor that led to the annulment of their marriage. Perhaps the marriage to Eleanor might have continued if the royal couple had produced a male heir, but this had not occurred. The Council of Beaugency found an exit clause, declaring that Louis VII and Eleanor were too closely related for their marriage to be legal, thus the marriage was annulled on March 21, 1152.

The pretext of kinship was the basis for annulment, but in fact, it owed more to the state of hostility between Louis and Eleanor, with a decreasing likelihood that their marriage would produce a male heir to the throne of France. On May 18, 1152, Eleanor married the Count of Anjou, the future King Henry II of England. She gave him the duchy of Aquitaine and bore him three daughters and five sons.

In 1154, Louis VII married Constance of Castile, daughter of Alfonso VII of León and Castile and Berengaria of Barcelona. She also failed to supply him with a son and heir, bearing only two daughters, Margaret and Alys. The official reason for her husband’s annulment from Eleanor of Aquitaine had been that he was too close a relative of Eleanor for the marriage to be legal by Church standards; however, he was even more closely related to Constance. Constance died giving birth to her second child.

Louis VII was devastated when Constance died in childbirth on October 4, 1160. As he was desperate for a son, he married Adela of Champagne just 5 weeks later. Adela of Champagne was the third child and first daughter of Theobald II, Count of Champagne and Matilda of Carinthia, and had nine brothers and sisters. Adela’s coronation was held the same day. She went on to give birth to Louis VII’s only male heir, Philippe II of France and Agnes, a Byzantine Empress by marriage to Alexios II Komnenos and Andronikos I Komnenos.