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Philippe II Auguste (August 21, 1165 – July 14, 1223), was King of France from 1180 to 1223. His predecessors had been known as King of the Franks, but from 1190 onward, Philippe II became the first French monarch to style himself “King of France”. The son of King Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne, he was originally nicknamed Dieudonné (God-given) because he was a first son and born late in his father’s life. Philippe II was given the epithet “Augustus” (French: Auguste) by the chronicler Rigord for having extended the crown lands of France so remarkably.

Philippe II Auguste, King of France

After a twelve-year struggle with the Plantagenet dynasty in the Anglo-French War of 1213–1214, Philippe II succeeded in breaking 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 assent to Magna Carta and deal with a rebellion against him aided by Philippe’s son Prince Louis, the First Barons’ War. The military actions surrounding the Albigensian Crusade helped prepare the expansion of France southward.

Philippe did not participate directly in these actions, but he allowed his vassals and knights to help carry them out.
Philippe transformed France from a small feudal state into the most prosperous and powerful country in Europe. He checked the power of the nobles and helped the towns free themselves from seigneurial authority, granting privileges and liberties to the emergent bourgeoisie. He built a great wall around Paris (“the Wall of Philippe II Augustus”), re-organized the French government and brought financial stability to his country.

King Philippe II was married on April 28, 1180 to Isabelle of Hainaut, the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut, and Margaret I, Countess of Flanders, who brought the County of Artois as her dowry.

Marital problems

After the early death of Isabella of Hainaut in childbirth in 1190, Philippe II decided to marry again. On August 15, 1193, he married Ingeborg, daughter of King Waldemar I of Denmark. She was renamed Isambour, and Stephen of Tournai described her as “very kind, young of age but old of wisdom.” Philippe, however, discovered on their wedding night that she had terribly bad breath, and he refused to allow her to be crowned queen.

Ingeborg protested at this treatment; his response was to confine her to a convent. He then asked Pope Celestine III for an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation. Philippe had not reckoned with Isambour, however; she insisted that the marriage had been consummated, and that she was his wife and the rightful queen of France. The Franco-Danish churchman Guillaume of Paris intervened on the side of Ingeborg, drawing up a genealogy of the Danish kings to disprove the alleged impediment of consanguinity.

In the meantime, Philippe II had sought a new bride. Initial agreement had been reached for him to marry Margaret of Geneva, daughter of William I, Count of Geneva, but the young bride’s journey to Paris was interrupted by Thomas, Count of Savoy, who kidnapped Philippe intended new queen and married her instead, claiming that Philip was already bound in marriage.

Philippe II finally achieved a third marriage in June 1196, when he was married to Agnes of Merania from Dalmatia. Their children were Marie and Philippe, Count of Clermont, and, by marriage, Count of Boulogne.

Pope Innocent III declared Philippe II Auguste marriage to Agnes of Merania null and void, as he was still married to Ingeborg. He ordered the king to part from Agnes, and when he did not, the pope placed France under an interdict in 1199. This continued until September 7, 1200. Due to pressure from the pope and from Ingeborg’s brother King Waldemar II of Denmark, Philippe II finally took Isambour back as his wife in 1201, but it would not be until 1213 that she would be recognized at court as queen.

Philippe II fell ill in September 1222 and had a will made, but carried on with his itinerary. Hot weather the next summer worsened his fever, but a brief remission prompted him to travel to Paris on July 13, 1223, against the advice of his physician. He died en route the next day, in Mantes-la-Jolie, at the age of 58. His body was carried to Paris on a bier. He was interred in the Basilica of St Denis in the presence of his son and successor by Isabella of Hainaut, Louis VIII, as well as his illegitimate son Philippe I, Count of Boulogne and John of Brienne, the King of Jerusalem.