Louis VI (1 December 1081 – 1 August 1137), called the Fat (French:
le Gros) or the Fighter (French: le Batailleur), was King of the
Franks from 1108 until his death (1137). Chronicles called him "roi de
Louis was the first member of the
House of Capet
House of Capet to make a lasting
contribution to the centralizing institutions of royal power. He
spent almost all of his twenty-nine-year reign fighting either the
"robber barons" who plagued Paris or the Norman kings of England
for their continental possession of Normandy. Nonetheless, Louis VI
managed to reinforce his power considerably and became one of the
first strong kings of
France since the division of the Carolingian
Empire in 843.
Louis was a warrior king but by his forties his weight had become so
great that it was increasingly difficult for him to lead in the field.
A biography - The Deeds of Louis the Fat, prepared by his loyal
Abbot Suger of Saint
Denis - offers a fully developed portrait
of his character, in contrast to what little historians know about
most of his predecessors.
1 Early life
2 Challenges to royal authority
3 Struggles with the robber barons
4 War with Henry I over Gisors
5 Intervention in Flanders
6 Invasion of Henry V
7 Alliance of the
Anglo-Normans and Anjou
8 Final years
9 Marriages and children
Louis was born on 1 December 1081 in Paris, the son of Philip I and
Bertha of Holland.
Suger tells us: "In his youth, growing courage matured his spirit with
youthful vigour, making him bored with hunting and the boyish games
with which others of his age used to enjoy themselves and forget the
pursuit of arms." And..."How valiant he was in youth, and with what
energy he repelled the king of the English, William Rufus, when he
attacked Louis' inherited kingdom."
Louis married Lucienne de Rochefort, a French crown princess, in 1104,
but repudiated her three years later. They had no children.
On 3 August 1115 Louis married Adelaide of Maurienne, daughter of
Humbert II of Savoy
Humbert II of Savoy and of Gisela of Burgundy, and niece of Pope
Callixtus II. They had eight children. Adelaide was one of the most
politically active of all France's medieval queens. Her name appears
on 45 royal charters from the reign of Louis VI. During her time as
queen (1115-1137), royal charters were dated with both her regnal year
and that of the king.
Suger became Louis's adviser even before he succeeded his father as
king at the age of 26 on 29 July 1108. Louis's half-brother prevented
him from reaching Rheims, and so Daimbert, Archbishop of Sens, crowned
him in the cathedral of
Orléans on 3 August. Ralph the Green,
Archbishop of Rheims, sent envoys to challenge the validity of the
coronation and anointing, but to no avail.
The crowning of Louis VI in Orléans.
Challenges to royal authority
When Louis ascended the throne the
Kingdom of France
Kingdom of France was a collection
of feudal principalities. Beyond the Isle de
France the French Kings
had little authority over the great
Counts of the realm but
slowly Louis began to change this and assert
Capetian rights. This
process would take two centuries to complete but began in the reign of
The second great challenge facing Louis was to counter the rising
power of the
Anglo-Normans under their capable new King, Henry I of
Struggles with the robber barons
From early in his reign (and during his father's reign) Louis faced
the problem of the robber barons who resisted the King's authority and
engaged in brigandry, making the area around
From their castles, such as Le Puiset, Chateaufort, and Montlhery,
these barons would charge tolls, waylay merchants and pilgrims,
terrorize the peasantry and loot churches and abbeys, the latter deeds
drawing the ire of the writers of the day, who were mostly clerics.
In 1108, soon after he ascended the throne, Louis engaged in war with
Hugh of Crecy, who was plaguing the countryside and had captured
Eudes, Count of Corbeil, and imprisoned him at La Ferte-Alais. Louis
besieged that fortress to free Eudes.
In early 1109, Louis besieged his half-brother, Philip, the son of
Bertrade de Montfort, who was involved in brigandry and conspiracies
against the King, at Mantes-la-Jolie. Philip's plots included the
lords of Montfort-l'Amaury.
Amaury III of Montfort held many castles
which, when linked together, formed a continuous barrier between Louis
and vast swathes of his domains, threatening all communication south
In 1108-1109 a seigneur named Aymon Vaire-Vache seized the lordship of
Bourbon from his nephew, Archambaud, a minor. Louis demanded the boy
be restored to his rights but Aymon refused the summons. Louis raised
his army and besieged Aymon at his castle at Germigny-sur-l'Aubois,
forcing its surrender and enforcing the rights of Archambaud.
In 1121, Louis established the marchands de l'eau, to regulate trade
along the Seine.
In 1122, Aimeri, Bishop of Clermont, appealed to Louis after William
VI, Count of Auvergne, had driven him from his episcopal town. When
William refused Louis' summons, Louis raised an army at Bourges, and
marched into Auvergne, supported by some of his leading vassals, such
Counts of Anjou, Brittany, and Nevers. Louis seized the
Pont-du-Chateau on the Allier, then attacked Clermont,
which William was forced to abandon. Aimeri was restored. Four years
later William rebelled again and Louis, though his increasing weight
made campaigning difficult, marched again. He burned Montferrand and
seized Clermont a second time, captured William, and brought him
before the court at
Orleans to answer for his crimes.
Some of the outlaws became notorious for their cruelty, the most
notable being Thomas, Lord of Coucy, who was reputed to indulge in
torture of his victims, including hanging men by their testicles,
cutting out eyes, and chopping off feet.
Guibert of Nogent noted of
him, "No one can imagine the number of those who perished in his
dungeons, from starvation, from torture, from filth."
Another notable brigand was Hugh, Lord of Le Puiset, who was ravaging
the lands around Chartres. In March 1111, Louis heard charges
against Hugh at his court at
Melun from Theobald II, Count of
Champagne, the Archbishop of Sens, and also from bishops and abbots.
Louis commanded Hugh to appear before him to answer these charges, but
Hugh evaded the summons. Louis stripped him of his lands and titles
and laid siege to Le Puiset. After a fierce struggle, Louis took the
castle and burned it to the ground, taking Hugh prisoner.
Theobald II of Champagne
Rashly, Louis released Hugh, and while Louis was engaged in war with
Henry I of England
Henry I of England and Theobald, Hugh raised another band of brigands
and began ravaging the country again. When Louis returned his
attention to Hugh, he found
Le Puiset rebuilt and Hugh receiving aid
from Theobald. Hugh held out against the King until Theobald abandoned
him. Once again Louis razed
Le Puiset and Hugh, who had sworn never to
return to his brigandage, rebuilt the castle and resumed terrorizing
his neighbours. At the third attempt, Louis finally defeated Hugh and
stripped him of his possessions for the last time. Hugh later died on
an expiatory pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
These were just some of the recalcitrant nobles Louis was forced to
contend with. There were many more, and Louis was in constant motion
against them, leading his army from castle to castle, bringing law and
order to his domains. The result was increased recognition of the
King's authority and the Crown's ability to impose its will, so that
all sectors of French society began to see the King as their
War with Henry I over Gisors
Motte and castle at Gisors.
After seizing the English Crown,
Henry I of England
Henry I of England deprived his
brother, Robert Curthose, of the
Normandy and quickly took
possession of the castle at Gisors, a fortress of strategic importance
on the right bank of the Epte, commanding the road between
Paris. This violated an earlier agreement between Henry and the French
Gisors should remain in the hands of a neutral castellan, or
else be demolished.
This move threatened the
Capetian domain and Louis was outraged,
demanding Henry, as his vassal, appear before him to account for his
actions. The two kings met, in force, in March 1109 at the borders
of their respective territories at the bridge of Neauphle on the
Epte. Henry refused to relinquish Gisors. Louis challenged the
English King to single combat to settle the issue. When Henry refused,
war was inevitable, a war which would last, on and off, for twenty
The first years of the war went well for Louis until the influential
Theobald II, Count of Champagne, switched to Henry's side. By early
1112 Theobald had succeeded in bringing together a coalition of
barons with grievances against Louis: Lancelin of Bulles, Ralph of
Beaugency, Milo of Bray-sur-Seine, Hugh of Crecy, Guy of
Rochfort, Hugh of Le Puiset and Hugh, Count of Troyes.
Louis defeated Theobald's coalition but the additional effort meant he
could not defeat the English monarch as well or force him to abandon
Gisors, and in March 1113 Louis was forced to sign a treaty
recognizing Henry I as suzerain of
Brittany and Maine. Peace of sorts
lasted three years until April 1116 when hostilities renewed in
the French and Norman Vexins, with each king making gains from his
By 1119, buoyed by several successes and the capture (through
treachery) of Les Andelys, Louis felt ready for a final encounter to
end the war. In the fierce Battle of Bremule, in August 1119,
Louis's troops broke and routed, abandoning the royal banner and
sweeping the King along with them in retreat to Les Andelys. A
counter-attack through Evreaux to seize Breteuil failed and Louis,
health failing, looked for peace.
He appealed to
Pope Calixtus II, who agreed to help and met with Henry
Gisors in November 1120. The terms of the peace included
Henry's heir, William Adelin, doing homage to Louis for Normandy, a
return of all territories captured by both kings with the painful
Gisors itself, which Louis was forced to concede to
Intervention in Flanders
Statue of Blessed
Charles the Good
Charles the Good in the Basilica of the Holy Blood,
On 2 March 1127, the Count of Flanders, Charles the Good, was
St. Donatian's Cathedral
St. Donatian's Cathedral at Bruges. It was a scandal
in itself but made worse because Charles had no heir.
Soon a variety of claimants were abroad, including William of Ypres,
son of Charles's uncle and popularly thought to be complicit in the
murder, Thierry of Alsace, the son of Gertrude of Flanders, Duchess of
Lorraine, Arnold of Denmark, nephew of Charles the Good, who seized
Saint-Omer. Baldwin, Count of Hainault, who seized Oudenarde, and
Godfrey I, Count of Louvain and Duke of Brabant.
Louis had his own candidate in mind and marched into Flanders with an
army and urged the barons to elect William Clito, son of Robert
Curthose, who had been disinherited of
Normandy by his uncle Henry I
of England, as their new Count. He had no better claim to Flanders
than being the King's candidate but on 23 March 1127 he was elected
Count by the Flemings.
Louis then moved decisively to secure Flanders, apprehending the
Charles the Good
Charles the Good and ousting the rival claimants. On 2
April he took Ghent, on 5 April Bruges, on 26 April he took Ypres,
William of Ypres
William of Ypres and imprisoning him at Lille. He then
quickly took Aire, Cassel and all the towns still loyal to William of
Louis's final act before leaving for
France was to witness the
execution of Charles the Good's murderers. They were hurled from the
roof of the church of Saint Donatian where they had committed their
It was a triumph for Louis and demonstrated how far the Crown had come
under his leadership, but it was a brief triumph. The new young Count
William Clito fared badly, relying on heavy handed feudal ways not
suited to the more socially advanced and mercantile Flemings.
William's knights ran amok and the
Flemings rebelled against Louis's
Ghent and Bruge appealed to
Thierry of Alsace
Thierry of Alsace and
Saint-Omer to Arnold of Denmark.
Louis attempted to intervene again but the moment was gone. The people
of Bruge rejected him and recognized
Thierry of Alsace
Thierry of Alsace as their Count,
and he quickly moved to enforce his claim. Louis called a great
assembly at Arras and had Thierry excommunicated but it was a gesture.
Louis abandoned William of Clito, who died during a siege at
27 July 1128, and after the whole country finally submitted to
Thierry, Louis was obliged to confirm his claim.
Invasion of Henry V
Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, with Ruthard, Archbishop of Mainz. Paint
on vellum. Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
On 25 November 1120, Louis' fortunes against
Henry I of England
Henry I of England were
raised when Henry's heir, William Ætheling, drunkenly perished aboard
White Ship en route from
Normandy to England, putting the future
of Henry's dynasty and his position in doubt.
By 1123 Louis was involved with a coalition of Norman and French
seigneurs opposed to Henry. The plan was to drive the English King
Normandy and replace him with William Clito. Henry, however,
easily defeated this coalition then instigated his son-in-law, Henry
V, Holy Roman Emperor, to invade France.
Henry V had married the Empress Matilda, the English King's daughter
and the future mother of Henry II of England, 9 years earlier, in
hopes of creating an Anglo-German empire, though the couple remained
childless. Like Louis, Henry V had designs on the
Low Countries and an
invasion of Northern
France would enable him to strengthen his
ambitions in Flanders, as well as support his father-in-law.
Thus in 1124, Henry V assembled an army to march on Rheims. It
never arrived. In testament to how far Louis had risen as national
protector, all of
France rose to his appeal against the threat. Henry
V was unwilling to see the French barons united behind their King, who
now identified himself as the vassal of St Denis, the patron saint of
Paris, whose banner he now carried, and the proposed invasion was
Henry V died a year after the aborted campaign.
Alliance of the
Anglo-Normans and Anjou
In 1128 Henry I married his sole surviving legitimate child, the
dowager Empress Matilda, to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. This
was a very dangerous alliance for Louis and would prove so during the
reign of his successor, Louis VII of France.
As Louis VI approached his end, there seemed to be reasons for
Henry I of England
Henry I of England had died on 1 December 1135 and Stephen
of Blois had seized the English crown, reneging on the oath he had
sworn to Henry I to support Matilda. Stephen was thus in no position
to bring the combined Anglo-Norman might against the French crown.
Louis had also made great strides in exercising his royal authority
over his barons, and even Theobald II had finally rallied to the
Finally, on 9 April 1137, a dying William X, Duke of Aquitaine
appointed Louis VI guardian of his fifteen-year-old daughter and
heiress, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor was suddenly the most
eligible heiress in Europe, and Louis wasted no time in marrying her
to his own heir, the future Louis VII, at the Cathedral of
Bordeaux on 25 July 1137. At a stroke Louis had
added one of the most powerful duchies in
France to the Capetian
Louis died of dysentry 7 days later, on 1 August 1137. Despite his
achievements, it would be the growing power of the soon to be Angevin
Empire that would come to overshadow his successor, its seeds sown in
the marriage between the
Empress Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet and
realised through their son, Henry II of England.
Louis VI was interred in the Basilica of St
Denis in Paris.
Marriages and children
Epitaph of Louis VI, after 1137, Eglise Abbatiale de Saint Denis,
today at Cluny Museum.
He married in 1104: 1)
Lucienne de Rochefort — the marriage was
annulled on 23 May 1107 at the
Council of Troyes by
He married in 1115: 2)
Adélaide de Maurienne (1092–1154)
Philip (29 August 1116 – 13 October 1131), King of France
(1129–31), not to be confused with his brother of the same name; he
died as a result of a fall from a horse.
Louis VII (1120 – 18 September 1180), King of France.
Henry (1121 – 13 November 1175), Archbishop of Reims.
Hugues (ca 1122 – died young).
Robert (ca 1123 – 11 October 1188), count of Dreux.
Peter (September 1126 – 10 April 1183), married Elizabeth, Lady
Constance (ca 1128 – 16 August 1176), married first Eustace IV,
count of Boulogne, and then Raymond V of Toulouse.
Philip (c.1132 -1160),
Archdeacon of Paris
With Marie de Breuillet, daughter of Renaud de Breuillet de
Dourdan, Louis VI was the father of a daughter:
Isabelle (ca 1105 – before 1175), married (ca. 1119) Guillaume I of
Chaumont in 1117.
Ancestors of Louis VI of France
16. Hugh Capet
8. Robert II of France
17. Adelaide of Aquitaine
4. Henry I of France
18. William I of Provence
9. Constance of Arles
19. Adelaide of Anjou
2. Philip I of France
20. Vladimir I of Kiev
10. Yaroslav I of Kiev
21. Rogneda of Polotsk
5. Anne of Kiev
Olof Skötkonung of Sweden
11. Ingegerd Olofsdotter
23. Estrid of the Obotrites
1. Louis VI of France
24. Arnulf, Count of Holland
12. Dirk III, Count of Holland
25. Luitgard of Luxemburg
6. Floris I, Count of Holland
13. Othelendis of Saxony
3. Bertha of Holland
28. Bernard I, Duke of Saxony
14. Bernard II, Duke of Saxony
29. Hildegard of Stade
7. Gertrude of Saxony
30. Henry of Schweinfurt
15. Eilika of Schweinfurt
31. Gerberga of Henneburg
^ Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages 1993, p 410.
^ "Government, law and society", R. van Caenegem, The Cambridge
History of Medieval Political Thought C.350-c.1450, ed. J. H. Burns,
(Cambridge University Press, 1988), 188.
^ "The Kingdom of the Frank to 1108", Constance Brittain Bouchard, The
New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 4, Part II, ed. David Luscombe,
Jonathan Riley-Smith, (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 126.
"Probably in 1072, Philip married Bertha, daughter of the late count
of Holland, Florent I, and stepdaughter of Robert of Frisia, count of
Flanders. [...] For some years Philip and Bertha were troubled by
their failure to have a son. The birth of the future Louis VI in 1081
was striking enough for a miracle story to grow up around the event
^ Abbot Suger: Life of King Louis the Fat, Chapter 1.
^ a b "The Historia Iherosolimitana of Robert the Monk and the
Coronation of Louis VI", James Naus, Writing the Early Crusades: Text,
Transmission and Memory, ed. Marcus Bull, Damien Kempf, (Boydell
Press, 2014), 112.
^ a b c "France: Louis VI and Louis VII (1108-1180)", Louis Halphen,
The Cambridge Medieval History: Contest of Empire and Papacy, Volume
V, ed. J.R. Tanner, C.W. Previte-Orton, and Z.N. Brooke. The Macmillan
Company, 1926. p. 596.
^ a b The Cambridge Medieval History Volume V, p598
^ Bailey W. Diffie, Prelude to Empire: Portugal Overseas before Henry
the Navigator. The University of Nebraska Press, 1060. p 12
^ The Cambridge Medieval History, p594
^ The Cambridge Medieval History Volume V, p594
^ The Cambridge Medieval History Volume V, p595
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n The Cambridge Medieval History Volume V
^ a b c d e f The Cambridge Medieval History Volume V, p599
^ a b c The Cambridge Medieval History Volume V, p604
^ Encyclopædia Britannica
^ a b Robert Fawtier, The
Capetian Kings of France, transl. Lionel
Butler and R.J. Adam, (Macmillan, 1989), 21.
^ a b Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: kings of France, 987-1328, 132.
^ Gislebertus of Mons, Chronicle of Hainaut, transl. Laura Napran,
(The Boydell Press, 2005), 68 n288.
^ Fourteen Charters of
Robert I of Dreux
Robert I of Dreux (1152–1188), Andrew W.
Lewis, "Traditio", Vol. 41 (1985), 145.
^ Ann Marie Rasmussen, Mothers and Daughters in Medieval German
Literature, (Syracuse University Press, 1997), 9.
^ Isabella of Angouleme: John's Jezebel, Nicholas Vincent, King John:
New Interpretations, ed. S. D. Church, (The Boydell Press, 1999), 202.
^ The Career of Philip the Cleric, younger Brother of Louis VII:
Apropos of an Unpublished Charter, Andrew W. Lewis, "Traditio", Vol.
50, (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 111,113,116.
^ (FR) Jean Dufour, "Un Faux de Louis VI Relatif a Liancourt (Oise)",
Bibliotheque de L'Ecole des Chartes Revue D'Erudition, January–June
^ Robert Fawtier, The
Capetian Kings of France:Monarchy and Nation
987-1328, transl. Lionel Butler and R.J. Adam, (Macmillan Education
Ltd, 1989), 19.
Suger, Abbot of Saint Denis. The Deeds of Louis the Fat. Translated
with introduction and notes by Richard Cusimano and John Moorhead.
Washington, DC : Catholic University of America Press,1992.
Suger, Abbot of Saint Denis. The Deeds of Louis the Fat. Translated by
Jean Dunbabin (this version is free, but has no annotations)
Louis VI of France
House of Capet
Born: 1 December 1081 Died: 1 August 1137
King of the Franks
1108 – 1137
with Philip as junior king (1129 – 1131)
Louis VII as junior king (1131 – 1137)
Heads of state of France
Styled President of the Republic after 1871, except from 1940 to 1944
(Chief of State) and 1944 to 1947 (Chairman of the Provisional
Detailed monarch family tree Simplified monarch family tree
Pepin the Short
Charlemagne (Charles I)
Charles the Fat
House of Capet
House of Capet (987–1328)
House of Valois
House of Valois (1328–1589)
House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster (1422–1453)
Henry VI of England
House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon (1589–1792)
First Republic (1792–1804)
First Empire (1804–1815)
Bourbon Restoration (1815–1830)
July Monarchy (1830–1848)
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Second Republic (1848–1852)
Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure
Second Empire (1852–1870)
Government of National Defense (1870–1871)
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Jules Armand Dufaure*
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Provisional Government (1944–1947)
Charles de Gaulle
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Charles de Gaulle
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
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denoted by an asterisk*. Millerand held the presidency in an acting
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Kingdom of the Visigoths
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