XIII Century                   
Dawn over France
By the end of the twelfth century, the French kings' power was no longer felt outside their inherited domain. The noblemen were wayward, and the English kings controlled nearly half of the country by right of inheritance. Southern countries, partial vassals to Aragon, obeyed only nominally. This state of affairs would have continued, but Philip II ascended the throne in 1180. Even though he suffered some temporary failures at first, he knew that his hour would come. And the thirteenth century arrived, and it was time for Philip to take control of his country. The time of the King had come.
Philip Augustus: Origin of Glory
Philip began with Normandy, France's northern gate, in 1201. The castle of Chateau-Gaillard was the key to the land. Built by Richard the Lionheart, it was not only a key strategic post, but also a symbol of the power of English kings in Normandy. Philip besieged it in late 1203. According to a legend, Philip once said, "My warriors will take the castle, even if its walls are of iron." Richard is said to have replied, "My warriors will secure the castle, even if its walls are of butter." The dispute was resolved in spring 2004, and the key to Normandy found its way into the hands of the French king.
During the early thirteenth century, southern counties moved away even further from the French crown, as Albigensian heresy flourished there. A crusade was launched against heretics in 1209, inspired by Simon de Montfort, representative of this family's French branch. Nothing could stop him, and even when many crusaders returned home, he and his detachment continued to seize one castle after another. In September 1213, de Montfort had to face a real test, when the king of Aragon declared his support for the heretics. In the battle by Muret, the French faced superior forces led by a famous conqueror of Moors.
Languedoc, for which de Montfort was fighting, was finally added to the French crown in 1271. The conquest of this part of Southern France was a testimony to the courage and decisiveness of the French in the Battle of Muret.
Great King
Meanwhile, King John of England, hoping to regain lost lands, set up a coalition bringing together the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the Count of Flanders. The allies planned to strike at France simultaneously from Aquitaine and Flanders in midsummer 1214.
The English strike from Aquitaine was prevented by Louis, heir to the French crown. Philip and the main army left for Flanders, and they met the coalition army not far from Bouvines. Both parties knew that July 27, 1214, would be the day of a great battle that would decide much more than just the fate of the French crown. And it was indeed decided. A historian noted that after Bouvines, no one would dare to wage a war against King Philip. Indeed, all lands remained in peace for many years.
Louis IX
In 1236, Louis IX (later named Saint), the grandson of Philip II, became the full-fledged ruler of France. He was kind to his subjects, and a father to the entire country. In 1242, making use of the French barons' mutiny, King Henry III of England invaded France. Louis' forces descended on Henry's troops by Taillebourg in July. The adversaries were divided by a river, and the English were holding onto a narrow coastal lane. But to Louis, that stretch of land was a part of France. How could he give it up?
French Lilies on Sicilian Crown
France's authority was strong during the reign of Louis IX, which is why the Pope offered the crown of the Sicilian Kingdom to Charles, Count of Anjou, Louis' younger brother. The kingdom was ruled by Manfred Hohenstaufen, the son of Emperor Frederick II. The Vatican City wanted to get rid of the Hohenstaufens, its permanent rivals in Italy. And the count of Anjou needed a crown, as he was an ambitious and accomplished knight, but only a younger brother of the king. Charles arrived in Rome in May 1265, and was crowned as the king of Sicily in June. But the kingdom was still in Manfred's hands. Rather than wait for winter, Charles and his army left Rome for the south in January 1266, seeking to engage the adversary's army in a decisive battle. They met not far from the town of Benevento in late February. Long before that, Charles responded to Manfred's truce offer with the following: "I will send him to hell, or he will send me to heaven." After the Battle of Benevento, a vagabond found Manfred's body under a pile of dead knights, put him on a donkey, and walked the field, shouting, "Is anybody willing to buy Manfred? Is anybody willing to buy Manfred?"
Two years later the Hohenstaufens made a revenge attempt. And so the last member of this dynasty died.
Twilight of a Great Epoc
The thirteenth century was drawing to a close. France had made progress, in terms of strengthening the authority of kings and expanding controlled lands. But there were losses as well: during his courageous but unsuccessful Aragon campaign, King Philip III died in 1285.
Nevertheless, King Philip IV, who ruled at the turn of the century, was sure that the great and victorious Capetian dynasty would remain strong in the years to come, and would never end.
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© 2023 Unicorn Games. All rights reserved.
Unicorn Games