Fact of the day: 18th September

On this day in 1180 Philip Augustus became king of France.

Philip II, called Philip Augustus was a Capetian King of France who reigned from 1180 to 1223, and the first to be called by that title.

His predecessors had been known as kings of the Franks but from 1190 onward Philip styled himself king of France.

After a twelve years struggle with the Plantagenet dynasty, Philip broke up the great Angevin Empire and defeated a coalition of his rivals (German, Flemish and English) at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. download (2)

This victory would have a lasting impact on western European politics: the authority of the French king became unchallenged, while the English king was forced by his barons to sign the Magna Carta and faced a rebellion in which Philip intervened.

Philip did not directly participate in the Albigensian Crusade, but he allowed his vassals and knights to carry it out, preparing the subsequent expansion of France southward.

He checked the power of the nobles and helped the towns to free themselves from seigniorial authority, granting privileges and liberties to the emergent Bourgeoisie. He built a great wall around Paris, reorganized the government and brought financial stability to the country.

Philip Augustus transformed France from a small feudal state into the most prosperous and powerful country in Europe. He died in 1223 and was succeeded by his son, Louis VIII.

Knowing his own declining health would inevitably decrease his political strength, he was the first Capetian king not to have his eldest son anointed to act as co-ruler during his lifetime; instead his son acted as sole king.

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