Louis VII, King of France

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Reigned from 1137 to 1180; b. 1120. The second son of louis vi and Adelaide of Maurienne, Louis's education at the cathedral school in Paris prepared him for an ecclesiastical career; however, upon the death of his brother, Philip, in 1131, he became heir to the French throne to which he succeeded in 1137. Following their return from the Second Crusade (11471149), Louis procured an annulment for his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine on the grounds of consanguinity. He then married Constance of Castile and later Adela of Champagne, who produced a long-awaited male heir, philip ii augustus, in 1165. In May 1152, Eleanor subsequently married the future henry ii of England (r. 11541189), whose possessions in France and powerful ambition became a source of rivalry and conflict for Louis. His contemporaries, including Odo de Deuil, Stephen of Paris, John of Salisbury, and Walter Map praised Louis VII for his piety and his favorable disposition toward the church. He undertook pilgrimages to santiago de compostela (115455), the Grande Chartreuse (116263), and to canterbury (1179). Because of a disputed papal election, Alexander III sought refuge in France in 1162, where he received Louis's welcome. Louis's protection of Thomas becket, who had fled to France in 1164 to escape the wrath of Henry II, received widespread approval. Louis asserted his rights over the French church, especially regarding episcopal elections in his realm and control over royal churches. To provide continual support for his royal policies, elections to royal bishoprics often went to members of the king's own household or to families loyal to Capetian interests. As a benefactor to the templars, Louis gave them the land for their commandery at Savigny, along with sizable rents and privileges. He also made generous grants to smaller monastic houses

and created several small perpetual chapels. A patron of the cistercian order, Louis supported clairvaux through an annual gift, he founded La Bénisson-Dieu in the 1140s, and he established the major Cistercian abbey at Barbeaux, where he was interred in a magnificent tomb.

Bibliography: odo of deuil, De prefectione Ludovici VII in Orientem, ed. and tr. v. r. berry (New York 1948). r. fawtier, The Capetian Kings of France, tr. l. butler and r. j. adam (New York 1960). e. hallam, Capetian France (London 1980).

[p. d. watkins]