Saturday, 9 May 2009

Chapter 14

Of his solemn elevation to the throne

Prince Louis, who had in youth earned the friendship of the church by his liberal defence of its rights, had aided the poor and the orphaned, and had subdued tyrants by his might[1], with God’s assistance was elevated to the kingdom by the vows of good men, though had it been possible, he would have been excluded by the machinations of evil and impious men.[2]

After reflection it was decided, principally on the advice of the venerable and very wise bishop of Chartres, Yvo, that there should be an immediate assembly at Orleans to foil the plot of those impious men, and to accelerate his elevation to the throne. So Daimbert, archbishop of Sens, who had been invited, came with his provincials, Galon bishop of Paris, Manasses of Meaux, John of Orleans, Yvo of Chartres, Hugh of Nevers and Humbaud of Auxerre[3]. On the feast of the invention of the holy protomartyr Stephen, the archbishop anointed Louis with the most holy oil of unction[4]. After a mass of thanksgiving, the archbishop took off his sword of secular chivalry and replaced it with the church’s sword for the punishment of evil-doers, crowned him most willingly with the royal diadem, and with great devotion bestowed on him the sceptre and rod as a sign that he must defend the church and the poor, and various other royal insignia, to the delight of the clergy and people. 

Louis had just taken off his festive ornaments after the ceremonies, when suddenly bearers of evil news arrived from the church at Reims, carrying letters of protest and had they but arrived in time would have prevented the royal unction from taking place by papal authority. For they declared that the first fruits of the royal coronations belonged totally by right to the church of Reims, and that St. Remigius had obtained this prerogative, entire and uncontested, from the first king of the Franks, Clovis, when he baptised him. Anyone who dared rashly to violate this would be struck by perpetual anathema[5]. Their archbishop, the venerable and elderly man Ralph the Green, had incurred the king’s acute and dangerous displeasure because he had been elected and enthroned without the royal assent[6]. Therefore they hoped either to make his peace with the king or to put off the coronation. Since they arrived too late, they held their peace at Orleans, though they had much to say when they returned home but what they said achieved nothing.[7]


[1] Suger pauses, at this important point in his narrative to reiterate what is by now a familiar theme, a variant of which occurs at the beginning of the next chapter. He is a firm believer in repetition.

[2] Ivo of Chartres drew up, following the practice of the pope and bishops, a written justification for the speed of the coronation away from Reims. He pointed out that there were precedents for coronations in cities other than Reims, that there was a need for haste because of the state of the kingdom and the peace of the church and suggested that a ‘disturbers of the kingdom’ sought to push aside Louis in favour of Philip de Mantes, son of Bertrade de Montfort. Although Suger’s account suggests that the succession was relatively straightforward, Louis did appear to have certain problems. Although he had been linked with his father in kingship, he had not been consecrated and this appears to have encouraged some unrest. Ibid, La Chronique de Saint-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens, pp. 148-149 said that the duke of Normandy, count of Poitiers, the duke of Burgundy and many other counts refused to do homage to the new king in an unverifiable account. Henry I of England refused to do homage for Normandy though this was less a denial of Louis’ right to the French throne than an attempt to remove himself and Normandy from a vassal relationship. The resolution of Louis’ problems appears to have come not from his consecration as king but his energetic military campaigns against those who opposed him.

[3] Daimbert, archbishop of Sens from 1098 to 1122; Galon, bishop of Paris from 1104 to 1116; Manasses, bishop of Meaux from 1103 to 1120; Jean II, bishop of Orleans 1096 to 1135; Yvo, bishop of Chartres from 1091 to 1116; Herveus (Hugh IV did not succeed him until 1110), bishop of Nevers from 1099 to 1110; Humbaud, bishop of Auxerre from 1095 to 1115.

[4] Louis was anointed crowned on Monday 3rd August 1108, in Orleans on the feast of the discovery of the relics of St Stephen less than a week after his father’s death on 29th July.

[5] Coronations of Capetian monarchs normally took place in Reims as in the case of Henry I in 1027, Philip I in 1059, Louis’ own sons Philip and Louis in 1129 and 1131 respectively and Philip II in 1179. Reims claimed not only the right to crown kings but the subordination of the abbot of St-Denis as well. It was believed, accurately that the baptism of Clovis occurred at Reims and when Louis’ father Philip had become king, the archbishop of Reims had claimed the right to ‘elect’ and consecrate him: see Lewis, Andrew W., Royal Succession in Capetian France, Cambridge, Mass., 1981, pp. 46, 52-54.

[6] There is a further possible reason for the coronation being held away from Reims. On the death of archbishop Manasses in 1106, Ralph the Green, treasurer or provost of the cathedral of Reims, had been elected by the majority of the cathedral chapter in 1106. However, the king and especially Louis, who had not been consulted, held this election was invalid and supported another candidate, Gervaise de Rethel, elected by some of the canons. However, Gervaise was rejected by the Council of Troyes on 23 May 1107 and ended up leaving the church to succeed his father as count de Rethel. In these circumstances, a coronation there would have been difficult for Louis. Ivo of Chartres and Lambert of Arras interceded for their episcopal colleague and at Christmas 1108 Ralph, contrary to the teachings of church reformers, swore fealty to Louis; he died in 1124.

[7] Reims comes out badly in Suger’s telling of the story though he clearly had his own agenda.

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