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Louis VI

Louis VI

Louis VI (1081-1137) was king of France from 1108 to 1137. He was the first to curb the violent nobility in the royal domain and to establish the prestige of the Crown on a firm foundation.

The fifth Capetian king of France, Louis VI was a giant of a man, proud of his physical strength and courage in battle. In 1100 he was associated in active rule with his vice-ridden father, King Philip I. At the urging of friends and bishops he finally married, when 35 years old, a niece of Pope Callistus II, Adelaide of Maurienne, who gave him six sons and three daughters, thus assuring the succession in the Capetian family.

Like his father, Louis was determined to become master of the royal domain—limited at the time to the île-de-France, the Laonais, and the Orléanais—by fighting the rebellious nobility in it. Louis led his knights into the thick of battle unmindful of his responsibility as king. Circumstances favored the king: the greater nobles in the fiefs surrounding the royal domain were so preoccupied with organizing their own fiefs into strong independent feudal states that they did not interfere with the King's efforts. Yet when Henry V of Germany sought to invade France, knights of the great independent lay lords rallied to the king in such numbers as to oblige Henry V to withdraw. Louis was thus recognized as the defender of all of France.

The King lived on good terms with the clergy. He freed bishoprics and the abbeys from the grip of predatory lords, endowed them generously, encouraged Church reform, and made an alliance with the papacy; but also he knew how to defend the Crown from clerical encroachments and what he considered royal rights. The clergy cooperated because they saw in a strong monarchy the best hope for peace in a disorderly feudal world.

Avaricious when short of money, Louis did not hesitate to sell justice, town charters, and privileges to the highest bidder. At court Louis permitted himself to be surrounded by venal counselors and listened too readily to their self-interested advice. However, during the last 5 years of his reign his principal adviser was the wise Suger, Abbot of St-Denis, who wrote the first substantial biography of a Capetian king.

Louis became as heavy as his father from overeating and so obese by the time he was 46 that he could not mount his horse. He lamented his fate: "How miserable is my condition never to be able to enjoy both my experience and strength. If I had only known when young what I do now and could do now when old what I could do when young, I would have overcome many empires." He died of dysentery at 56, wearing the habit of a monk while lying in ashes on a carpet. His advice to his son Louis VII as he lay dying was, according to Suger: "Protect the clergy, the poor and the fatherless. Do justice to every man."

Further Reading

The best life of Louis is in French. There are accounts of his life and evaluations of his reign in Louis Halphen, "France: Louis VI and Louis VII (1108-1180), " in The Cambridge Medieval History (8 vols., 1911-1936); Charles E. Petit-Dutaillis, The Feudal Monarchy in France and England from the Tenth to the Thirteenth Century (trans. 1936); and Robert Fawtier, The Capetian Kings of France: Monarchy and Nation, 987-1328 (trans. 1960). □

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Louis VI (king of France)

Louis VI (Louis the Fat), 1081–1137, king of France (1108–37). He succeeded his father, Philip I, with whom he was associated in government from c.1100. He firmly established his authority within the royal domain, suppressing brigandage by robber barons and besieging their castles, and punishing wrongdoers. He continued his father's policy of opposing the English in Normandy and was almost continuously at war with King Henry I (1109–13, 1116–20, 1123–35); he often met with defeat, but his resistance checked a greater English advance. In 1124 he called up forces from far-flung regions of France; with strong support from the nobles he resisted the invasion of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, who had come to the aid of Henry I. As a part of his plan for strengthening royal authority, Louis favored the church, liberally endowing its enterprises and selecting churchmen—notably the Abbé Suger—as his ministers; he was vigorous, however, in enforcing his privilege of interference in ecclesiastical affairs. To gain support from the towns, he began to grant them royal charters. He obtained a foothold in Guienne (Aquitaine) by marrying his son Louis (his successor as Louis VII) to the heiress of the duchy, Eleanor of Aquitaine. His enforcement of order and justice made Louis popular with the middle classes, the peasantry, and the clergy. Suger's Vie de Louis VI Le Gros (tr. 1964) is the standard monography for the history of Louis's reign.

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Louis VI

Louis VI (1081–1137) King of France (1108–37). He was the effective ruler for several years before he succeeded his father, Philip I. Louis re-established control of the royal domain, increased the authority of the royal courts, and enjoyed the strong support of the Church. In 1137, he secured the marriage of his heir, Louis VII, to Eleanor of Aquitaine.

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"Louis VI." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/louis-vi