Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Chapter 13

Of the death of King Philip

While the son grew daily in strength, his father King Philip[1] daily grew feebler. For after he had abducted the Countess of Anjou[2], he could achieve nothing worthy of the royal dignity; consumed by desire for the lady he had seized, he gave himself up entirely to the satisfaction of his passion. So he lost interest in the affairs of state and, relaxing too much, took no care for his body, well-made and handsome though it was. The only thing that maintained the strength of the state was the fear and love felt for his son and successor[3]. When he was almost sixty[4], he ceased to be king, breathing his last at the castle of Melun-sur-Seine[5] in the presence of the Lord Louis.

Several venerable men were present at his funeral: Galon, bishop of Paris[6], the bishops of Senlis and Orleans[7], Adam of blessed memory, abbot of St-Denis, and many other religious persons. They carried his royal body to the church of Notre Dame[8] and spent the whole night in obsequies. The next morning, his son ordered the bier to be covered with a woven pall and suitable funeral ornaments and to be borne on the shoulders of his principal servants. Then with proper filial affection, in tears he accompanied the bier, sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback, with those barons whom he had with him. He showed great nobility in that, throughout his father’s life he took great care not to offend him, either on account of his own mother’s repudiation or of his marriage with the Countess of Anjou. Unlike other young men in similar circumstances, he chose not to upset his father’s control of the kingdom by being disloyal in any way.[9]

They carried the body in a great procession to the noble monastery of St-Benoit-sur-Loire[10], where King Philip wished to be buried[11]. There are those who say they heard from his own mouth that he deliberately chose not to be buried among his royal ancestors in the church of St. Denis (which was almost by natural law the royal mausoleum), because he had not treated that church as well as they had and because among so many noble kings his own tomb would not have counted for much. So he was laid to rest as fittingly as they could before the altar in that monastery and commending his soul to God with hymns and prayers, they covered the tomb with magnificent jewels.


[1] Suger’s portrayal of Philip I is negative in character and this makes the contrast with Louis more effective.

[2] Bertrade, daughter of Simon I de Montford and Agnes d’Evreux had become countess of Anjou in 1088 by her marriage to Fulk Rechin. Philip I abducted her on the night of 15th May 1092.

[3] Philip I has often been viewed unfavourably by historians, in large part because of Suger’s unfavourable portrait of him. However, Philip I did make significant territorial gains during his reign and he was the first Capetian to ensure that his lands were not bequeathed to all his children as in noble families but retained for the benefit of the eldest son. At the first marriage of his eldest daughter, Constance Philip ceded the village of Attigny as dowry to her husband, who retained it after the marriage was annulled. But her second and Cecile’s first marriages were to foreign princes and required no dowry in land. His eldest son by Bertrade was ceded Mantes in 1104, land already ceded to Louis in 1092 and their younger son Florus was bequeathed nothing that is known. Given that Philip inherited his father’s and grandfather’s acquisitions of Sens, Melun and Dreux to which he added his own of the G√Ętinais, the Vexin and Bourges, his provision for his younger children was slight.

[4] Philip I was almost certainly fifty-six years old. He died on 29th July 1108.

[5] Melun is upstream on the Seine about twenty-eight miles south-east of Paris.

[6] Galon was elected bishop of Paris about July 1104. He favoured church reform and was known to Pope Pascal II, who had sent him as legate to Poland in 1102.

[7] Hubert, bishop of Senlis from 1099 to 1115; Jean II, bishop of Orleans from 1096 to 1135

[8] The Church of Notre Dame, in the L’Ile quarter in Melun can be dated to the late tenth or eleventh century.

[9] It is important not to take this statement at face value for we know that King Philip did quarrel with his son. Philip only associated Louis with the throne around 1100 after considerable hesitation. It should not be forgotten that Suger wrote a panegyric for his royal friend.

[10] The abbey of St-Benoit-sur-Loire at Fleury is upstream on the river Loire about twenty miles east of Orleans. It had strong royal connections as it was there that Helgaud wrote his account of Robert ‘the Pious’ (996-1031). The abbey claimed to possess the relics of its patron.

[11] On 20th May 1108, Philip had been at the monastery for the translation of the saint’ relics and had offered to the monks a box of gold decorated with previous jewels: ibid, La Chronique de Saint-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens, pp. 150-153. Also after 3rd August 1108, Louis VI gave St-Benoit-sur-Loire a gift for the soul of his father: Prou, M. and Vidier, A., (eds.), Recueil des chartes de l’ abbaye de St-Benoit-sur-Loire, Paris, 1905, vol. 1, p. 248, no ciii.

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