THE BATTLE OF BOUVINES
 ABOUT four years after Normandy had become part of
France, a great crusade was undertaken by the French.
This crusade was not, as you would expect, to go to the
east, or to fight against Saracens. It was to go to the
beautiful provinces in the south of France; it was to
war against French people. For in the fair provinces of
Languedoc, Provence, Aquitaine, the people were, so the
Pope declared, heretics; that is, they were enemies of
the Pope, and worshipped God in other ways than did
those who belonged to the Church of Rome. These
heretics were called Albigensians. They lived careless,
happy lives in the sunny south of France. But in 1208
they were roughly roused from their happiness.
The Pope, Innocent III., had ordered the nobles of
France to put on the Cross, collect an army, and go
slay the Albigensians, as though they were Turks and
So great was the army which assembled for this cruel
crusade, that an old chronicler tells us, "From near
and far they come; there be men from . . . Burgundy,
France and Limousin; there be men from all the world.
Never did God make scribe who, whatsoever his pains,
could set them all down in writing, in two months or in
Into the south this countless army poured, led by Simon
de Montfort, the father of the Simon de Montfort of
whom you have read in your English history in the time
of Henry III.
This Simon de Montfort was a fierce and cruel soldier,
and the men under his control were allowed to do wicked
 and cruel deeds. They had no care for women or
little children, but killed them as readily as they
killed strong men. They laid waste the beautiful
province of Languedoc, and burnt all her villages.
Raymond, Count of Toulouse, one of the nobles of the
south, did all he could to help the Albigensians. But
his army was small compared with that of the crusaders;
moreover, the Pope showed his displeasure by
excommunicating the Count. Raymond then submitted to
Innocent III., and before the war was over he was
forced to join the crusaders, and even to lead them
against his own people.
The town of Beziers was one of the strongholds of the
heretics. It was attacked by Simon de Montfort and
taken. Then the city was burnt, and every person in it
was slain. Yet the inhabitants were not all heretics.
There were many whom the Pope would have called true
believers. One of the knights of the crusading army,
anxious to spare whom he could, asked an abbot how he
might know the true believers from the heretics. "Kill
them all," was the brutal answer; "God will know His
This Albigensian crusade, begun, as I told you, in
1208, lasted for nearly twenty years. In 1218, however,
as Simon de Montfort was besieging the town of
Toulouse, a large stone, shot from the walls, hit the
cruel captain and crushed him to death. When the
Albigensians knew that their great enemy was dead, they
roused themselves to a tremendous effort, and drove the
crusaders out of their provinces. Thus tor a time the
war was at an end.
King Philip had not joined in the war against the
Albigensians, but he had looked on, well pleased to see
the power of the nobles in the south was being
As a boy, you remember, Philip had dreamed that he
would make France great, as it had been in the days of
Charlemagne, and that he would spoil the insolence and
power of the nobles. He had now added Normandy to the
French crown, and been welcomed by the barons as her
 king. He had also seen the powerful nobles in the south
of France beaten and stripped of their possessions by
the crusading army. But Philip was not yet content Why
should he not conquer England, where King John was
hated by his subjects? So he assembled a large army,
and was ready to sail when the Pope interfered. For
King John had begged for the Pope's protection, and had
promised to pay a yearly tribute to Rome if he would
save the country from the French.
As John had promised to pay tribute, the Pope looked on
him as his vassal, and on England as his own. Philip
was forbidden to invade the land. The French king was
indignant that his plans should be disturbed, but he
had no wish to incur the Pope's anger. Instead of
sailing to England, Philip therefore led his army into
Flanders in order to punish Ferrand, the count of that
province. For when Philip had summoned the count, as
his vassal, to help him invade England, Ferrand had
refused to have anything to do with the war.
On the approach of Philip, the German emperor, Otho
IV., a nephew of King John, and also a large number of
English knights and archers, joined the Flemish.
Before the battle Otho assembled his men and said, "It
is against Philip himself, and him alone, that we must
direct all our efforts; it is he who must be slain
first of all, for it is he alone who opposes us and
makes himself our foe in everything. When he is dead,
you will be able to divide the kingdom according to our
pleasure." And then the emperor promised the Count of
Flanders that when they had won the day he should have
Pans for his prize.
Philip on his side was supported by many brave men.
William des Barras, most famous of all brave knights,
was there; while bishops used to handle the sword were
on the battlefield among his followers. Many Commune
towns also sent their trained bands of citizen soldiers
 their king in his struggle against
Germany, Flanders, and England.
The two armies marched through Flanders, and on Sunday,
August 27, 1214, Philip reached Bouvines, not far from
At Bouvines there was a bridge across the river Marque,
and, while his army slowly passed over it, Philip threw
himself down to rest under an ash tree which grew close
to a little chapel.
As he lay there a messenger hastened to him, crying
that his rearguard had been attacked by Otho, and was
in dire need of help. Philip at once ordered a band of
soldiers to hasten back to the rearguard. With them he
sent the sacred Oriflamme, which had been taken across
the bridge before the van of the army. Then the king
himself went into the little chapel to pray. Coming out
in a few moments he shouted, "Haste we to the rescue
of our comrades!" and rode off to meet the enemy "with
a glad countenance," while his knights cried lustily, "To arms!
to arms!" and followed after their king.
The soldiers of the Communes were the first to attack
the knights of Flanders. The knights were indignant
that these ill-armed citizens, as they considered them,
should dare to oppose them, and they fought
desperately, until the French nobles were forced to
ride up to the support of the citizen soldiers.
Soon the battle became general, and after three hours'
conflict the Count of Flanders was taken prisoner. The
German soldiers, remembering their emperor's words,
forced their way to the French king, unhorsed him, and
all but killed him. Then a great cry arose, and William
des Barras, hearing it, let go the German emperor whom
he had seized, and sped to the help of his king. The
troops of the Communes at the same time rallied around
Philip, and he was saved.
Otho's horse meanwhile was wounded. The animal
reared with pain, then turned and fled from the
battlefield, carrying his master with him.
The French were now everywhere victorious, and before
night the battle of Bouvines had been won.
Many counts were taken prisoners, and these Philip gave
to his knights that they might ransom them for a heavy
sum of money.
Ferrand, Count of Flanders, however, who had defied the
king's summons, was taken by Philip as a prisoner to
After the battle of Bouvines the French king was, as he
had desired to be, the most powerful sovereign, not
only in France, but in Europe.
In 1215 King John of England signed the Great Charter,
as your English history tells. But he soon annulled it,
and then his subjects were so angry that they offered
the English crown to King Philip's eldest son Louis.
So Prince Louis went to England, and nearly all the
great barons were glad to see him, and flocked to his
side. But soon after this King John died, and then the
barons were sorry that they had asked a French prince
to reign. Now their only wish was to get rid of him,
and to make this easier they proclaimed King John's
young son Henry, King of England. They then defeated
Louis and his French troops at Lincoln, and shut him up
in London, where the citizens still supported his
Philip sent a French fleet to aid his son, but it was
utterly defeated; whereupon Louis made terms with the
English and went back to France, while Henry III. reigned in England.
Besides adding to his dominions Philip improved his
capital, and the streets of Paris were no longer
allowed to remain narrow or dirty. He also began to
build the palace of the Louvre, which was used as a
prison as well as a home for the kings of France.
After a long reign of forty-three years Philip Augustus
 died in 1223, having accomplished many of the
things he dreamed of doing as a boy.
Of Philip's son, Louis VIII., called the Lion, there is
little to tell. He reigned for three years, and during
that short time any effort he made for the good of his
people was due to the wisdom of his queen, Blanche of
One of Louis's first acts was to summon Henry III. of
England, as a vassal of France, to attend his
Henry III. was only a child, but the English barons
answered that Normandy should be restored to England
before their king would own himself a vassal of the
As Louis did not mean to give up Normandy, war was his
reply to the haughty English lords.
But after besieging and taking Rochelle, an important
town by which the English could easily enter France,
Louis made a truce with England, so that he might be
free to carry on war against the people in the south of
France; for the crusade against the Albigensians had
again broken out.
The king led a large army to the town of Avignon, and
demanded that he and his soldiers should be allowed to
pass, armed, through the city. The citizens refused,
and kept their gates shut. Then the king besieged the
town, but before it was reduced fever was raging in the
At length the citizens of Avignon surrendered,
whereupon Louis marched away northwards, meaning to
return and crush the Albigensians by taking Toulouse.
But the fever which had spread among his soldiers now
took hold of the king, and he grew ill and died in 1226.
He left behind him the beautiful and noble Queen
Blanche, and a little son of twelve, named Louis.