The Marriage of Philip Augustus and Ingeborg
The Marriage of Philip Augustus and Ingeborg
Consanguinity and Affinity. The case that stimulated the Church to revise its method of computing degrees of kinship and limit the number of prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity was that of Philip II (Augustus), King of France, who reigned from 1180 until 1223. In 1180, when his father, Louis VII, was close to death, Philip Augustus, who was fifteen, was married to nine-year-old Isabella of Hainaut. Philip’s maternal uncles had considered breaking the betrothal because it interfered with their family strategies, but the marriage was performed and consummated when Isabella reached the legal marriage age of twelve. The couple had one son before Isabella died in 1190. In 1193 Philip, who had but one rather frail son to inherit his kingdom, married Ingeborg, the sister of King Canute VI of Denmark. The day after the wedding, however, before Ingeborg could be crowned queen, Philip dismissed his wife. The true reasons for his startling behavior are not known, but he made allegations seeming to suggest that she had cast evil spells and made him unable to consummate the union.
Resisting Divorce. Philip’s need for additional legitimate heirs had not lessened, however, and he was determined to contract another marriage. Consequently, he sought a legal divorce invoking the usual pretext of the impediment of relationship. Fifteen senior clergy and members of the aristocracy swore an oath that Ingeborg was related to Isabella of Hainaut in the fourth degree, thus rendering a union with Philip impossible on the grounds of affinity. What distinguishes this case from so many other contemporary divorces because of consanguinity or affinity is that Ingeborg objected to the divorce and would not cooperate. Moreover, her brother, Canute VI of Denmark, appealed directly to the papacy on her behalf. Declaring that the degrees of kinship were inaccurately computed and that the oaths affirming them were false, he produced alternate genealogies to prove his case. In the meantime, Philip had found another bride, Agnes, daughter of the duke of Meran, whom he married and made his queen in 1196. Canute increased his pressure on the papacy, demanding that Philip be excommunicated for bigamy.
Papal Interdict. The papacy did not react until Innocent III became Pope in 1198 and ordered Philip to abjure his third wife, Agnes, and return to Ingeborg. He argued that Philip’s marriage to Agnes was going to be dissolved in any case because Agnes’s sister had already been married to the king’s nephew, placing Philip and Agnes within the prohibited degrees of affinity. He did not excommunicate them, but in 1200 he placed France under interdict because of the king’s marital irregularities. The interdict proved ineffective, however, because the French bishops were firmly controlled by the Crown. They required only that Philip promise not to separate from Ingeborg until the matter was settled. In other words, they would have been content if the king had simply agreed to recognize ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the matter.
Reconciliation. In 1202 a hearing was convened at Soissons to assess the situation. After two weeks of arguments, Philip suddenly departed, taking Ingeborg with him. Agnes died shortly thereafter, and the Pope continued to refuse to allow Philip to divorce Ingeborg. The king kept pressing for freedom from Ingeborg, explaining that since he was denied the right to marry legitimately, he was being forced into illegitimate unions. He reminded the Pope that King John of England and Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) of the Holy Roman Empire had both been permitted to separate from their wives, but the common knowledge that the genealogies in Philip’s case were false inhibited a resolution of the stalemate. Gradually, however, a new cause for annulment was developed: nonconsummation of the union. Although she alleged the contrary, Philip had, from the beginning, steadfastly denied he had had sexual relations with Ingeborg. In 1213, however, Philip announced he would reconcile with Ingeborg, just as suddenly as he had rejected her in 1193. In the intervening years, Philip’s son, Louis, had matured and had fathered a son of his own, making the line of succession reasonably secure and lessening Philip’s need to produce more legitimate heirs.
Redefining Limits. Partly in response to the struggle involving Philip, Ingeborg, and the papacy, the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) reduced the prohibited degrees of consanguinity from seven to a more-manageable four and recognized only two degrees of affinity—a spouse’s siblings and cousins—as impediments to marriage. With this decision the possibilities of incestuous unions were significantly reduced, and the abuse of impediments through the compilation of false genealogies was abolished, strengthening the Church’s ability to control marriage and make it monogamous and indissoluble.
Jim Bradbury, Philip Augustus: King of France, 1180–1223 (London & New York: Longman, 1998).
Marie-Bernadette Bruguière, “Le mariage de Philippe Auguste et d’lsam-bour de Danemark: aspects canoniques et politiques,” in Melanges offerts à Jean Dauvillier (Toulouse: Centre d’Histoire Juridique Mérid-ionale, 1979), pp. 135–156.
Georges Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France, translated by Barbara Bray (New York: Pantheon, 1983).