A member of the Capetian Dynasty, Louis VII was born in 1120, the second son of Louis the Fat and Adélaide of Maurienne (c.1100-1154). Construction began on Notre-Dame de Paris in Paris during his reign.
In the same year he was crowned king of France, Louis VII was married on July 22, 1137 to Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122- March 31, 1204), heiress of William II, Duke of Aquitaine. They divorced in 1152 but had two daughters:
- 1) Marie (1138 - March 11, 1198)
- 2) Eléonore (1149 - 1184)
- Alix, Countess de Vexin
- 1) Philippe II (August 21, 1165 - July 14, 1223)
- 2) Agnès (c. 1171 - April 1240)
In the first part of Louis VII’s reign he was vigorous and jealous of his prerogatives, but after his crusade his religiosity developed to such an extent as to make him utterly inefficient. His accession was marked by no disturbances, save the risings of the burgesses of Orleans and of Poitiers, who wished to organize communes. But soon he came into violent conflict with Pope Innocent II. The archbishopric of Bourges became vacant, and the king supported as candidate the chancellor Cadurc, against the pope's nominee Pierre de la Chatre, swearing upon relics that so long as he lived Pierre should never enter Bourges. This brought the interdict upon the king's lands. At the same time he became involved in a war with Theobald II of Champagne, by permitting Rodolphe, Count of Vermandois and seneschal of France, to repudiate his wife, Theobald's niece, and to marry Petronille of Aquitaine, sister of the queen of France.
The war, which lasted two years (1142-44), was marked by the occupation of Champagne by the royal army and the capture of Vitry, where many persons perished in the burning of the church. Geoffrey the Handsome, count of Anjou, by his conquest of Normandy threatened the royal domains, and Louis VII by a clever manoeuvre threw his army on the Norman frontier and gained Gisors, one of the keys of Normandy.
At his court which met in Bourges Louis declared on Christmas Day 1145 his intention of going on a crusade. Bernard of Clairvaux assured its popularity by his preaching at Vezelay (Easter 1146), and in June 1147 Louis set out from Metz, Lorraine, on the overland route to Syria. The expedition was disastrous, and he returned to France in 1149, overcome by the humiliation of the crusade.
In the rest of his reign he showed much feebleness and poor judgment. He committed a grave political blunder in causing a council at Beaugency (March 1152) to annul his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine, under pretext of kinship, but really owing to violent quarrels during the crusade. Eleanor married Henry, Count of Anjou in the following May, and brought him the duchy of Aquitaine. Louis VII led a half-hearted war against Henry for having married without the authorization of his suzerain; but in August 1154 gave up his rights over Aquitaine, and contented himself with an indemnity.
In 1154 Louis married Constance, daughter of Alfonso VII, king of Castile, and their daughter Marguerite he pledged imprudently in the treaty of Gisors (1158) to Henry, eldest son of the king of England, promising as a dowry, Vexin and Gisors.
Five weeks after the death of Constance, on the 4th of October 1160, Louis VII married Adele of Champagne, and Henry II to counterbalance the aid this would give the king of France, had the marriage of their infant children celebrated at once. Louis VII gave little sign of understanding the danger of the growing Angevin power though in 1159 he made an expedition in the south to aid Raymond V, Count of Toulouse, who had been attacked by Henry II. At the same time the emperor Frederick I in the east was making good the imperial claims on Aries. When the schism broke out, Louis took the part of the pope, Alexander III, the enemy of Frederick, and after two comedy-like failures of Frederick to meet Louis VII at Saint Jean de Losne (on the 29th of August and the 22nd of September 1162), Louis definitely gave himself up to the cause of Alexander, who lived at Sens from 1163 to 1165. Alexander gave the king, in return for his loyal support, the golden rose.
Louis VII received Thomas Becket and tried to reconcile him with King Henry II. He supported Henry's rebellious sons, but acted slowly and feebly and so contributed largely to the break up of the coalition (1173-1174). Finally in 1177 the pope intervened to bring the two kings to terms at Vitry.
His reign from the point of view of royal territory and military Dower, was a period of retrogression. Yet the royal authority had made progress in the parts of France distant from the royal domains. More direct and more frequent connecion was made with distant vassals, a result largely due to the alliance of the clergy with the crown. Louis thus reaped the reward for services rendered the church during the least successful portion of his reign.
He was to be succeeded by his son by Adèle, Philip II Augustus and had him crowned at Reims in 1179. However, already stricken with paralysis, King Louis himself was not able to be present at the ceremony.
Louis VII died on November 18, 1180 at the Abbey at Saint-Pont, Allier and is interred in Saint Denis Basilica.
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