Rigord’s Deeds of Philip Augustus (Gesta Philippi Augusti) is the most important narrative source for the first twenty-five years of the reign of King Philip II of France (r. 1180–1223), and provides a vivid window onto many aspects of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The reign of Philip II “Augustus” is generally regarded as the pivotal period during which the power of the Capetian kings made its definitive leap forward.1 Rigord, in turn, is often the best, and sometimes the only, French source for events in the first two-thirds of that period, including Philip’s decisive triumph over his English rival, King John (r. 1199–1216), between 1202 and 1204. And if Philip II’s reign transformed French royal power, it was Rigord who transformed contemporary writing about the nature of that power.
Philip II’s reign occurred within the context of a rapidly expanding European society. The twelfth century witnessed remarkable growth in trade, urbanization, population, and the economy,2 alongside an intellectual and cultural flowering sometimes referred to as the twelfth-century Renaissance.3 The success of the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 gave western Europe’s knightly class an aggressive swagger, the papacy’s great reforming campaign (the “Gregorian Reforms”) produced an ever more ambitious church hierarchy, and secular governments gained in power and sophistication.4 Growing literacy, new opportunities in secular and ecclesiastical government, and pure intellectual curiosity drove the growth of cathedral schools and resulted, by century’s end, in the emergence of the first universities at Paris and Bologna.5 In 1100 the German emperors were still the most powerful political figures on the European landscape, but by 1200 the long battles of Emperor Frederick I “Barbarossa” (r. 1152–89) with Pope Alexander III (r. 1159–81) and his successors had diminished real imperial authority, just as the French and English monarchies were coming into their own. Ever since William, duke of Normandy, conquered the kingdom of England in 1066, the political fortunes of England and France had been intertwined.6 The French kings of the Capetian dynasty were relatively weak in the early twelfth century, only gradually asserting real control over a small area (the Île-de-France) around Paris and Orléans during the reign of Louis VI (r. 1108–37).7 England suffered a period of civil war (“Stephen’s Anarchy”) following the death of King Henry I in 1135, but through most of the middle decades of the century Henry II, king of England (r. 1154–89) as well as duke of Normandy, count of Anjou and Maine, duke of Aquitaine, and lord of Ireland, was far more powerful than the French king Louis VII (r. 1137–80).8 When Rigord’s account begins at the end of Louis’s reign, the French monarchy was certainly the weaker of the two powers. By the end of Rigord’s narrative, Philip II had emerged as one of the most important figures in Europe.
The introduction that follows here summarizes the main events of Philip II’s reign, details what we know of Rigord’s career, offers context for the writing of royal history at Saint-Denis, assesses the main themes and interest of the Deeds, and concludes with a note on manuscripts, previous editions and translations, and our own translation policies.
The Life and Reign of Philip II
A famous manuscript illumination made at Saint-Denis in the 1270s illustrates Philip II’s first nickname: “Given by God” (Deodonatus).9 In this image (see figure 2) the Lord hands the already-crowned and scepter-wielding Philip down to King Louis VII and his third wife, Adele of Champagne (d. 1206), while the lords, ladies, and clergy of France look on approvingly, their hands held in prayer in such a manner that one might almost think them to be applauding.
French subjects must have been relieved when Louis VII had finally fathered a son. Since the beginnings of the Capetian dynasty with the coronation of Hugh Capet in 987, long-lived kings had crowned their sons during their lifetimes and passed on the throne without contest. In 1137, just before the death of his own father (Louis VI), Louis VII married Eleanor, heir to the duchy of Aquitaine. Prospects for the new royal couple looked bright: Louis VI’s thirty-year reign had brought most of the rebellious castellans in the Île-de-France to heel, and now with Aquitaine in his grasp, Louis VII appeared poised to expand royal power and eclipse English preeminence. Moreover, Louis’s leadership on the Second Crusade (1147–49) seemed to bode well for Capetian prestige.10 But the crusade was an embarrassing failure, and—worse yet—the king’s marriage to Eleanor produced only daughters: Marie in 1145 (who would marry Henry I of Champagne) and Alix in 1150 (who would marry Henry’s brother Thibaut V of Blois). When in 1252 Louis and Eleanor wanted to separate, pliant French churchmen annulled the marriage on the grounds of consanguinity (being too closely related). Much to Louis’s chagrin, Eleanor promptly married Henry of Anjou, who in 1154 became King Henry II of England. Louis in turn married Constance of Castile, but in the six years before her death, again only daughters were born: Marguerite in 1158 (who would marry Henry “the Young King,” the son of Eleanor and Henry II; and then Bela III of Hungary), and another Alix in 1160 (long engaged to the future Richard I of England, she eventually married William IV of Ponthieu). When Philip was finally born in 1165, five years into King Louis’s third marriage to Adele of Champagne, it really must have seemed as though God had at last seen fit to grant the king’s prayers (it may also have seemed as though divine illumination was necessary to keep straight the relationships between all of Philip’s half- and step-siblings; readers may consult the Cast of Characters and Genealogy).
During the fourteen years between Philip’s birth (1165) and coronation (1179), his father generally seemed overmatched by his great rival Henry II, king of England as well as overlord of Ireland and much of western France, including Aquitaine by his marriage. Henry theoretically owed homage (i.e., pledged service and loyalty) to Louis VII for his “French” lands. Yet, in reality Henry was more powerful than his putative overlord, the French king. Louis did, however, play his cards adeptly, for instance by granting refuge to Henry’s rebellious archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket in 1164, and nurturing the resentments of Henry “the Young King,” crowned as co-king of England by Henry II in 1170 but increasingly resentful about his lack of real authority.11
Philip II was likewise crowned before the death of his father, on 1 November 1179, at Reims, by Archbishop William “of the White Hands,” the brother of Queen Adele and thus Philip’s uncle. Henry the Young King of England and his brothers Richard (count of Poitou) and Geoffrey (count of Brittany) attended the coronation, as did Count Philip of Flanders and Count Baldwin of Hainaut. This northern block (Flanders-Hainaut) would be largely ascendant as powerful counselors to the young Philip II, following his marriage to Isabelle of Hainaut (28 April 1180) and the death of Louis VII (18 September 1180). Their main rivals for influence at court were the siblings of Champagne: the queen mother Adele, Archbishop William, Count Henry I of Champagne (married to Marie of France), Count Thibaut V of Blois (married to Alix of France), and Count Stephen of Sancerre.12
The first decade of Philip’s reign was characterized by his assault on the Jews and his struggles with Henry II. French Jews had participated in the twelfth century’s rising prosperity, establishing or expanding communities in northern France while thriving particularly in Paris.13 But in Philip II’s generation a Christian backlash was epitomized by the “blood libel,” the utterly spurious claim that Jews ritually murdered Christian babies. Following its emergence in England after 1144, by the 1170s the ritual murder accusation was deployed in France by Philip’s brother-in-law Count Thibaut V of Blois, and then by Philip himself.14 The Jews of the Capetian royal domain (essentially the Île-de-France) were arrested in (probably) 1181 and expelled in 1182, and their properties and a portion of their outstanding loans were absorbed into the royal treasury.15
If many French churchmen, like Rigord, must have regarded this “defense” of the realm by the most Christian king as a “success,” Philip’s military fortunes during this phase of his reign were far more mixed. After the death of Henry the Young King, in 1183, Philip continued to support the rebellions of Henry II’s sons Richard and Geoffrey (the latter died in 1186). Philip gained the upper hand only in the last days of Henry II’s life, in July 1189, when not only Richard but even his youngest brother, John, challenged the ailing old king. Yet any satisfaction Philip might have felt was short-lived, since Richard I “the Lionheart” proved every bit as skillful as his father in fending off French aggression.16
Richard took the cross as early as 1187, and Philip II pledged to go on crusade in 1188. The situation in the Holy Land was urgent. The Islamic sultan An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, known in the West as Saladin, had annihilated the Frankish army at the Battle of Hattin and retaken the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. Neither Richard nor Philip would leave their lands unguarded to crusade in the East as long as the other remained behind, so the two kings negotiated a joint plan of departure. They sailed (separately) in the summer of 1190, with Philip entrusting the kingdom to his mother, Adele, and her brother Archbishop William as regents. His wife, Isabelle, had given him a son, the future Louis VIII, in 1187. But with Isabelle’s death in March 1190, the royal succession was less than secure.
Philip wintered in Sicily and then arrived at Acre, in the Holy Land, on 20 April 1191, assuming leadership of the siege of the port city.17 Richard, having stopped to attack Cyprus, arrived in June and quickly outshone Philip in wealth and military prowess. Both kings fell ill, but even so by 12 July Acre was taken. Philip declared victory and set off for home, departing by the end of the month. Prince Louis had been dangerously ill back in France, and the deaths of Count Philip of Flanders as well as the three brothers Henry of Champagne, Thibaut of Blois, and Stephen of Sancerre opened up challenges and opportunities for the king; Philip had had his fill of crusading. After sailing to Italy and proceeding overland, the king entered Paris, to much rejoicing, in December 1191. Meanwhile, Richard stayed in the Holy Land through October 1192, securing a series of military victories and security gains for the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On his return home, however, he was captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria, who nursed a grudge against Richard. Leopold had assumed leadership of the German forces at Acre (following the death of Frederick of Swabia), but was denied a share of the spoils upon the taking of the city, and, to make matters worse, was insulted when his battle standard was thrown to the ground, supposedly at Richard’s command. Leopold now gained his revenge by turning Richard over to the German emperor Henry VI, who held him for ransom. Philip II, for his part, did everything possible to prolong Richard’s captivity.
With only a single, rather sickly male heir, Philip sought a second wife. He chose Ingeborg, the sister of King Cnut VI of Denmark,18 but set eyes on her only just before they married on 14 August 1193. The next day, Philip announced his intention of annulling the marriage. The true reasons for Philip’s change of heart remain a matter of debate. The great modern historian of Philip’s reign, John Baldwin, assessed simply that Philip’s “reasons must have been personal and sexual, however, because he steadfastly refused to see her for seven years.”19 Philip’s public claim was that he had suddenly realized he was too closely related to his new bride (the Church before 1215 insisted that a man and a woman who shared a common ancestor going back seven generations were forbidden to marry). A French church council, led by Archbishop William of the White Hands, obligingly supported this fiction. Ingeborg, in turn, fought the annulment for decades, eventually with the help of the dynamic new pope Innocent III (r. 1198–1215), who placed France under interdict (that is, a prohibition and cessation of all sacraments in the region) for much of the year 1200.20 Philip meanwhile took a new wife (or “concubine” in the eyes of the papacy), Agnes of Méran, who bore him two children before dying in 1201.
Across the 1190s Philip’s battles with King Richard seesawed, with fighting often centered on the Vexin, the borderlands between Normandy and the royal domain in the Île-de-France.21 Philip sought alliances with Richard’s younger brother John, but as long as Richard lived, the French king made no real headway against his rival. The sudden shift in French fortunes began with Richard’s chance death, when shot by a crossbowman while besieging Châlus-Chabrol in April 1199. Richard was succeeded by his brother, the infamous King John (“Lackland”), who was a far less capable leader. He briefly made peace with Philip, sealed by a marriage between his niece Blanche of Castile and Prince Louis (the future Louis VIII).22 John’s undoing was his own impetuous marriage to Isabelle of Angoulême in 1200.23 This young heiress was already betrothed to Hugh of Lusignan, count of La Marche. By swooping her up, John had denied Hugh the lands and inheritance his marriage would have entailed. John declined to make restitution, and Hugh sought justice from King Philip, who, as John’s overlord, had the right to summon his vassal to his court to account for himself. John refused the summons, claiming that as king of England he was not required to appear. Philip (and Hugh) replied that he was being summoned not as king, but as duke of Aquitaine, the title by which he was both the count of La Marche’s lord and the king of France’s vassal. On 28 April 1202 the royal court judged John to have forfeited all his French lands by virtue of his failure to appear before his overlord, Philip of France.
This judgment would have been meaningless, if the king of France had been unable to enforce it militarily. Philip first tried supporting the claims of John’s nephew, Arthur (the son of Geoffrey, late count of Brittany). But John captured Arthur, who was never seen again. Rumor at the time, very possibly correct, accused John of his nephew’s murder. One after another, important French barons withdrew their loyalty from John and came over to the French cause. Philip invaded Normandy, and in December 1203 John retreated to England. In March 1204 the crucial Château Gaillard, guarding the Seine at the Norman border, fell to Philip, and by June John’s remaining Norman strongholds, including Rouen, had surrendered. Philip’s conquest of Normandy, the ancestral heart of the Anglo-Norman territories, was complete. By 1206 John’s lands everywhere north of the Loire, including Maine and most of Anjou, had fallen. Henry II’s great “Angevin Empire” had crumbled almost overnight.
Between 1206 (when Rigord finished writing) and 1214, John plotted revenge, building up alliances while raising funds and troops. The plan was a joint military venture with Otto of Brunswick, claimant to the German imperial throne; Otto would advance toward Paris from the east, while John would land in Aquitaine and move in from the west. Philip briefly hoped to launch a preemptive attack on England, to be led by Prince Louis. But the French fleet was so severely damaged by a surprise attack at Damme (in Flanders) that the planned invasion was no longer feasible. Although Philip was on the defensive, he proved capable of fending off this two-pronged attack. John arrived in La Rochelle in February, and Prince Louis was sent south to meet him. After several skirmishes, John retreated (as he so often did). The decisive battle then took place in the north, at Bouvines, on Sunday, 27 July 1214.24 In one of the rare examples of a true winner-take-all confrontation between medieval monarchs, the forces of Philip Augustus decisively routed those of Otto of Brunswick. Otto fled. Philip had lived up to the nickname “Augustus” that Rigord had first bestowed upon him twenty-five years earlier. The Capetian fleur-de-lis had triumphed over the imperial eagle.
In these same years, between the Third Crusade and the Battle of Bouvines, French royal government made rapid progress in its organizational sophistication. Philip had inherited from his father and grandfather a fairly rudimentary system of royal officials, known as prévôts, who operated on the ground as local tax collectors and dispensers of justice. By the time of the royal ordinance of 1190, issued before he departed on crusade to define the governing of the kingdom in the king’s absence, a higher level of regional officials, called baillis, was implemented to oversee the prévôts. The baillis were to report and account directly to the regents (Queen Adele and Archbishop William of the White Hands of Reims) in Paris. This moment began the steady trend toward a more centralized system of accounting and accountability in the nascent royal administration. Another innovation occurred when Philip suffered a humiliating defeat against Richard at Fréteval in 1194 and lost the royal documents that were part of his baggage train. From this time on, a centralized royal archive, eventually known as the Trésor des Chartes, took shape in Paris, allowing royal officials to search among earlier charters and acts when they needed to establish royal rights and precedents. Beginning in 1204, following the seizure of Normandy, the royal court began to keep track of outgoing correspondence, charters, and other miscellaneous documents in a series of registers. All in all, between the first written protoconstitution of 1190, the emergence of a true bureaucracy (baillis and prévôts), and regular fiscal and legal record keeping at Paris, Philip’s reign inaugurated effective royal government in France. Indeed, the highly centralized French government of the twenty-first century has its roots in innovations instituted between 1190 and 1204.25
Philip II declined to participate in the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the capture of Constantinople in 1204.26 Nor did he join in the Albigensian Crusade, beginning in 1209, for which Innocent III empowered northern French knights to invade Toulouse and the Languedoc, supposedly hotbeds of heresy.27 Prince Louis, however, led several expeditions south as part of this crusade, and ultimately provided the royal might necessary to bring the conflict to a close. But this was after the death of his father. Philip II passed away on 14 July 1223, leaving a kingdom and capital far more powerful and prosperous (and, for the moment, peaceful) than the one he had inherited in 1180. The sour fruit of this new power was the persecution of perceived enemies—Jews and “heretics.”28 The reward was a nearly unbroken advance of royal authority under his direct descendants Louis VIII (r. 1223–26), Louis IX (r. 1226–70), Philip III (r. 1270–85), and Philip IV (r. 1285–1314).29
Rigord and His Works
Rigord is our best witness to many of these events. Although over the years a number of different historical or hagiographic works have been credited to Rigord,30 we can attribute only two securely: the Deeds of Philip Augustus and a short chronology of and guide to the kings of France. We actually know very little about Rigord, and what we do know comes mostly from his own writings.31 In his entry for the year 1205 in the Deeds (see ch. 153) Rigord says that he is “now entering old age,” suggesting that he was probably born around 1145 or 1150.32 In the prologue, he tells us that he was a doctor (professione physicus) and that he came from what we would today call the South of France, apparently from somewhere around Alés or Uzès in the Languedoc.33 Perhaps he studied at Montpellier, which had a renowned school of medicine.34 It seems clear that he was in Paris by 1180, since his descriptions of events in the first years of Philip’s reign (notably the arrest and expulsion of the Jews) appear to be based on personal observation. The reason for Rigord’s move from the Languedoc northward to the Île-de-France is entirely opaque to us now.35 Presumably he was earning his living as a doctor in Paris by the beginning of the 1180s—indeed one of Philip Augustus’s physicians, Giles of Corbeil, seems to mock him as a not very successful medical practitioner.36 In his prologue, Rigord further informs us that he began writing his Deeds amid the “press of business” and under difficult circumstances, lacking resources and even food. Since this does not sound like the life of a monk (in spite of their vows of poverty, Benedictine monks had ample food and the resources necessary for writing), it is generally assumed that he began his work before joining Saint-Denis, the eminent Benedictine abbey just north of Paris, which was both a center of historical writing and a burial place for kings. We do not know exactly why, how, or when he made this move. It was certainly before 1189 (when he tells us he was at Saint-Denis’s priory of Argenteuil) and probably by 1186, to judge by his detailed description of the abbatial election of that year. But once at Saint-Denis, Rigord self-consciously took up the role of “historian of the king of the Franks” (regis Francorum cronographus), as he proudly states.
The Deeds appears to have been written in two stages, though the details are open to debate. The first stage probably included chapters 1–76, up to Philip’s departure on crusade in 1190.37 At this point Rigord added the prologue, in which he explained his coining of the epithet “Augustus” for the king. He bemoans early challenges, and says that at one point he considered suppressing the work,38 which had taken him ten years to write. Urged on by his abbot Hugh, he nonetheless decided to offer it to King Philip, presumably upon the king’s return from crusade at the end of 1191. Working backward, this evidence suggests that Rigord began writing as early as 1180/81, perhaps corresponding with the start of Philip’s reign. Then, at some point between 1192 and 1196, he took up the project again.39 The remaining chapters (chs. 77–156), extending through 1206, were themselves written in several stages, with the dedicatory letter to the future Louis VIII probably written toward the end of that period, perhaps as the young prince was preparing for his entry into knighthood.40 There is no evidence that the king had paid his first version any heed at all; Rigord may now have been looking for an audience in the next generation. It is also notable that in this second section of the work Rigord is at times markedly cooler toward the king, particularly in his disapproval of Philip’s attempts to annul his second marriage to Ingeborg of Denmark.41 Rigord died on 17 November (according to the abbey’s necrology), perhaps in 1207 and certainly by 1209.42
The Deeds was a major accomplishment, and has received praise as both a balanced account and an invaluable source for Philip’s reign, from Rigord’s time to our own. Evidently Rigord had access to both a good library and, importantly, certain royal documents. In fact, we owe to Rigord our knowledge of the documents Philip Augustus issued in preparation for his departure on the Third Crusade, including the so-called Saladin tithe (chs. 64–66) and his testament-ordinance of 1190 (ch. 77), copies of which may well have been deposited in Saint-Denis’s archives (since official royal archives did not come into existence until after 1194).43 Although not widely diffused in his own time, Rigord’s text was evidently consulted by a number of thirteenth-century historians outside of Saint-Denis.44 His contemporary and co-historian, William le Breton, spoke of Rigord’s “elegant style.”45 In our own era, Gabrielle Spiegel regards Rigord as one of the most important chroniclers of Saint-Denis’s long tradition of royal historiography. Her assessment is worth repeating: “Careful in his collection of materials, exact in his reportage, unafraid to make judgments both critical and moral, he represents the developing historiographic tradition of Saint-Denis at its best. His clear-sighted, somewhat sober appraisal of the Capetian monarch does not prevent him from recognizing Philip’s great merits nor from exercising his historical talents in praise of the king.”46
In addition to the Deeds of Philip Augustus, Rigord also composed his short history of the reigns of the kings of France, a cronica, dedicated to his monastery’s prior John and his fellow monks, and designed as a short guide to the kings’ history and the placement of their tombs in the abbey.47 The single surviving copy of this text begins with the mythic Trojan origins of the French,48 and runs through the reign of Louis IV (d’Outremer, d. 954), although because the folios that followed are missing we cannot know how far Rigord’s chronology originally extended. In the prologue (where he identifies himself only as “R”) Rigord again calls himself natione gothus professione phisicus, regis Francorum cronographus beati dyonisii artiopagite clericorum minimus, (a Goth in origin, a doctor by calling, historian of the king of the Franks, the least of the clergy of the blessed Denis the Areopagite),49 echoing exactly the language he used in the Deeds.50 In this prefatory section, he further explains that the text, which will untangle and delineate the genealogy of the kings of France (regum Francorum genealogiam) and describe the most salient features of each reign, will also designate the placement of each king’s tomb held within the monastery, indicating the growing interest at Saint-Denis in royal history and its association with the abbey as the burial place for kings. In addition to these two works and in accordance with their major goals, Rigord has been identified as the person who updated a royal genealogy found in Bibliothèque Mazarine MS 2013, a manuscript representing an early interest at Saint-Denis in historical compilation, sometime before 1200.51 Finally, Rigord may have had a hand in pulling together another historical compilation in the years around 1200, which, as with Rigord’s authored works, ultimately made its way into the Latin tradition at Saint-Denis.52
The Historiographical Tradition at Saint-Denis
Rigord’s writings were an important brick in the edifice of an influential historiographical project carried out at the abbey of Saint-Denis, which has shaped our understanding of the Capetians and the history of medieval France in general. By the end of the thirteenth century, the monks of Saint-Denis had become the quasi-official historians of the kings of France, a role they would play consistently through to the fifteenth century and beyond. Rigord and his Deeds of Philip Augustus were integral to the early phase of this development, which had begun to take form about a half century before Rigord joined the abbey.53
The monastery of Saint-Denis was (and still is) located less than six miles north of the Île-de-la-Cité, the islet at the heart of Paris where the royal palace was located. The monastery was legendarily founded upon the relics of Saint Denis (Latin, Dionysius) and his two companions, probably atop some type of oratory established as early as the fourth century.54 Denis was the evangelizing first bishop of Paris, who suffered martyrdom under either the Roman emperor Domitian in the first century or Decius in the third (the sources differ).55 The story as it later coalesced held that Denis and his two companions—Rusticus and Eleutherius—were beheaded together on the top of Montmartre (lit., the mountain of the martyrs), and that upon its severing, the bishop-saint picked up his head and walked north down the mountain to the point where he finally collapsed, on which spot an oratory was later founded. In the ninth century, Abbot Hilduin of Saint-Denis (d. ca. 855) conflated this Denis, the patron saint of the monastery, with two other figures bearing the name—the apostolic Dionysius, called the Areopagite, who had been a convert of Saint Paul, and a later sixth-century author known as Pseudo-Dionysius—elevating the apostolic antiquity and prestige of the monastery’s patron saint.56
The monastery’s association with the Frankish kings began in the Merovingian period. Saint Denis, through this association and its careful management, slowly emerged as a favorite saint of the kings of France, and ultimately came to be considered the patron saint of the kings and the kingdom.57 It was probably the Merovingian king Dagobert (r. 629–39) who was most responsible for establishing what would become a unique relationship between king, saint, and abbey.58 Dagobert, who had made Paris his capital, granted the abbey the rights to run a fair as early as 635 or 636, gave new prominence to the relics of Denis, Rusticus, and Eleutherius, and funded an expansion of the early church.59 Dagobert’s father, Clothar II, had called Denis his “special patron.”60 Clothar II, Dagobert, and Dagobert’s son Clovis II were all buried in the basilica, establishing the precedent of royal burial that the abbey would later cultivate.61
From that point onward, Saint-Denis enjoyed the periodic favor of the Merovingian, Carolingian, and Capetian kings, intensifying and solidifying as kings increasingly settled in Paris. The abbey was the site of Pepin the Short’s coronation in 754, establishing the important link with the Carolingians.62 Charles the Bald (d. 877), who, in addition to being Charlemagne’s grandson and emperor, was also the abbot of Saint-Denis, and who called Saint Denis “our most worthy patron” (pretiosissimus patronus noster), chose to be buried there.63 Charles the Bald purportedly gave the monastery a cache of relics, including a portion of the Crown of Thorns, a nail from the crucifixion, a fragment of the True Cross, and the arm of Saint Simeon, which Charlemagne had brought to Aachen from Jerusalem.64 The monks in turn actively sought to cultivate royal favor, produced writings that indicated a special tie, and elevated their patron saint’s role as a protector of the French kings and ultimately the French kingdom. In the ninth century, Hincmar of Reims (d. 882), who was educated at Saint-Denis, wrote a life of King Dagobert, the Gesta Dagoberti, that recounted the king’s patronage and favor of the monastery and in turn its saint’s favor and protection of those who honor him.65 Hugh Capet, the first king of the Capetian dynasty, elected in 987, and his son Robert the Pious (r. 987–1031) both regularly showed favor to the monastery.66 Louis VI spoke of the saint as the dux et protector of France.67
By the time of Philip Augustus, Saint-Denis was considered a royal abbey and enjoyed an increasingly important, even unique, relationship to the Crown.68 The monks of Saint-Denis were the custodians of the regalia, which each new king would need for his coronation.69 The monastery also bore custody of the so-called Oriflamme, purportedly Charlemagne’s own battle standard, which the French kings were expected to claim from Denis, the saint, before leaving for battle—battles that Saint Denis would then aid in fighting. This singular relationship was especially evident during the abbacy of Suger (b. ca. 1090, abbot 1122–51), a childhood schoolmate of Louis VI, who later served as co-regent of the kingdom during Louis VII’s absence on the Second Crusade between 1147 and 1149.70 By the middle of the twelfth century, then, the abbey benefited from its special connection to the French kings, who were settling the center of royal government ever more in Paris. In turn, the kings of France benefited from the variety of ways in which the monks of Saint-Denis, and the particular patronage of the saint himself, could legitimize, augment, and memorialize their deeds and growing authority.71
The monks of Saint-Denis took up the work of writing history in the middle of the twelfth century.72 Certainly, like any self-respecting Benedictine monastery, they had long had a scriptorium and had produced authentic, original works before Rigord’s time.73 An important example is found in Hilduin’s composition, in the ninth century, of the hagiographic life of Saint Denis, the monastery’s patron, mentioned above.74 The monks had also maintained the practice of recording brief annals since about the same time.75 But at the start of the twelfth century, it was the monks at Saint-Benoit-de-Fleury, at Jumièges and Mont-Saint-Michel, at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and in Rome, rather than those of Saint-Denis, who were producing the most original, informed, and up-to-date works of history.76 Examples that would ultimately feed into the Dionysian historiographical tradition include the Historia Francorum (History of the Franks) of Aimon of Fleury (d. ca. 1010), written in the tenth century, and a continuation of that history written at Saint-Germain-des-Prés by a monk called Gislemar in the years around 1100.77 Sometime around 1120 a number of these works were gathered together in a manuscript (now Bibliothèque Mazarine MS 2013) made at Saint-Denis. 78 Many of the works so gathered related to French royal history going back to the Carolingians and before, demonstrating early interest in collecting the materials pertaining to the history of the French kings. As noted above, Rigord himself seems later to have consulted and annotated the manuscript when working on his own material.79
It was probably the work and vision of the irrepressible abbot Suger that transformed Saint-Denis into a center of historiographical production in the middle years of the twelfth century. Suger, a major figure in the history of the abbey, undertook transformative building projects on the abbey church and has traditionally been associated with the development of the early Gothic style. He may have had a hand in the abbey’s first attempt to compose a single, unified history of the Franks and its kings, the so-called Abbreviatio.80 He was, in any event, the first at Saint-Denis to write an account of the life and reign of a single king. The Life of Louis the Fat (Vita Ludovici Grossi) recounted the deeds of his friend Louis VI. Suger also produced numerous writings on his own administration of the abbey and the building of the new basilica.81 Finally, Suger started an account of Louis VI’s son, Louis VII, but died before he had made much progress, and the unfinished account was eventually completed by an anonymous monk at Saint-Germain-des-Prés.82 Shortly after Suger’s death, one of his confreres, Odo of Deuil, authored an account of Louis VII’s adventures on the Second Crusade, which he composed as a letter to Suger.83 And another monk, William, wrote an account of Suger’s own abbacy and regency shortly after the abbot’s death in 1151.84
Rigord joined the abbey at the point where the monks were becoming increasingly interested in history writing. It was in this climate that his abbot encouraged him to continue work on the Deeds, which, as we saw, he took up through 1206. At Rigord’s death around 1207, Philip Augustus was only forty-two years old, and still had sixteen years of his rule ahead of him. In fact, the most mature phase of his reign, and his most impressive accomplishment, the victory at Bouvines (1214), were still to come. It is for this reason that William le Breton (d. after 1226), a Breton cleric and scholar (doctorus) who had come to Paris and joined the royal court as tutor and sometimes envoy, undertook to complete the story of Philip’s reign. William had been part of the king’s inner circle (he was instructor to Philip’s illegitimate son Pierre Charlot) and had accompanied the king on the campaign that culminated at Bouvines, which stood for him as the central glory of Philip’s achievements and the centerpiece of his own account. William found a copy of Rigord’s Deeds in the Saint-Denis archives, suggesting Rigord’s text had not, in the end, found a permanent place in Philip’s library.85 William then composed in several stages his own Gesta Philippi Augusti, building on Rigord’s account, and going so far as to include at the beginning of his own history a summary of Rigord’s material. Although William was not associated with Saint-Denis, he apparently turned to its library, and perhaps to some intermediary writings or records the monks had made in the meantime, to fill in the years between the end of Rigord’s account in 1206 and the start of his own in 1209.86 The complete version of William’s continuation was copied at Saint-Denis, integrated seamlessly with Rigord’s account in one manuscript (BnF MS latin 5925), and incorporated as a core piece in the growing trove of historiographical sources that was forming the source base for the Dionysian historiographical tradition.
Rigord’s and William le Breton’s works were thus part of the foundation for the thirteenth-century Dionysian integration of royal history and ultimately the composition of the vernacular Grandes chroniques de France that sought to provide a definitive, synthetic account of the kings of France and of French history more generally.87 Rigord’s and William’s texts, we saw, were copied, as if a single work, into a manuscript (BnF MS latin 5925) in the middle of the thirteenth century.88 This manuscript, which also included Aimon of Fleury’s Historia Francorum and Suger’s Life of Louis the Fat (among others), was in turn critical for the work of the abbey’s two most important historians in the second part of the thirteenth century: William of Nangis (d. 1300) and Primat (d. after 1277). William of Nangis, monk of Saint-Denis, archivist, and historian, authored accounts of the life and reigns of Philip Augustus’s grandson Louis IX (Vita Ludovici, largely a compilation from earlier material) and great-grandson, Philip III (the Gesta Philippi III, largely a new work), along with two royal chronicles (the Chronicon and the Chronique abrégée) that extended the Latin histories of the kings of France to the end of the thirteenth century.89 William’s regnal histories followed in the footsteps of Rigord’s and Suger’s before him, solidifying the practice begun by them in the twelfth century and turning it into an enduring tradition at the abbey.
William of Nangis and his predecessors had all written in Latin, but about the same time, a tradition of vernacular historiography began to take root at Saint-Denis. Sometime after 1254, King Louis IX (r. 1226–70) invited Primat, a monk at Saint-Denis, to compose a synthetic vernacular history of the kings of France. Other than Rigord’s brief Cronica, Primat’s Roman des roys was the first attempt to knit together and reconcile earlier sources in order to present a single unified narrative of the history of the French. In doing so, Primat consulted the manuscript (BnF MS latin 5925) containing the only complete account of Rigord’s Deeds of Philip Augustus. When the Roman des roys was ready, Primat presented the earliest version to Louis’s heir and successor, Philip III, in 1274. Beginning with the Trojan origins, and covering the Merovingians, Carolingians, and Capetians, the first version of Primat’s history went up through 1214. Rigord’s Deeds of Philip Augustus was Primat’s principal source for the years between 1180 and 1206, having been translated into the vernacular for this purpose.90 In due course, Primat’s continuators added material bringing the history up to date and ultimately following royal history through the end of the fifteenth century. In its extended form, Primat’s Roman des roys came to be called the Grandes chroniques de France.91
The abbey’s commitment to writing history, and in particular royal history, continued, with some interruptions, through the fifteenth century. Richard Lescot drafted materials that covered the years 1328 to 1344.92 In the fifteenth century Saint-Denis’s principal historians were Michel Pintoin (often called simply “le Religieux de Saint-Denis,” d. ca. 1421) and Jean Chartier (d. 1450), contributing to the Latin chronicles and the French Grandes chroniques respectively.93 It would be a mistake to call these histories “official,” in that the histories, with the exception of Primat’s, were rarely commissioned or authorized by the Crown. For the most part, it was the monks who took it upon themselves to become the custodians of the quasi-official history of the French crown. But these histories, and especially the Grandes chroniques with the increasingly broad readership enabled by its vernacular form, became in time the essential and definitive account of French history. At each stage, these historians knew and drew on the work of their predecessors, including Rigord. In this way Rigord’s Deeds, as adopted in both Latin and French, and integrated into subsequent histories—both medieval and modern—constitutes our most important narrative evidence for the early part of Philip’s consequential reign.
The Importance and Major Themes of the Text
Rigord is a keen, if not unbiased, observer, who often gives us unique insights into twelfth-century events and mentalities, including the rapid development of Paris, the importance of popular religious practice and the power of sanctity, the persecution of the Jews, the myth of Trojan origins, the circulation of prophetic hopes and fears, the importance of the Crusades, and the public and private lives of the French and English kings.
The Development of Paris
The Deeds of Philip Augustus spans the years in which Paris emerged as the true capital of the kingdom of France. Although never defined by a royal act or official declaration, Philip’s bureaucratic and archival innovations, along with developments in court procedures and practices, meant that Paris increasingly became the center of government, even in the king’s absence. Rigord’s account, particularly his details of Philip’s initiatives and capital improvements to the city, offers anecdotal color to this process. The narrative itself assumes the king’s home base was Paris, and at one point Rigord even calls Paris “the head of the kingdom of the Franks” (ch. 10). Thus a royal delegation from Jerusalem was sent to find Philip in Paris (chs. 30–31), the king greeted Geoffrey Plantagenet and later King John there (chs. 48, 142), and it was at Paris that the king convened a number of general councils (chs. 2, 31, 63, 99). Tellingly, the testament-ordinance he drew up before departing for the Holy Land (ch. 77) assumes Paris as the administrative center.
Several famous stories of Paris’s urban development come from Rigord, as when Philip promoted the open markets of Champeaux on the Right Bank, building covered structures (Les Halles) and safeguarding the vendors’ security through guards and walls (ch. 19). Because the Champeaux neighborhood was taking off as the city’s commercial center, the story reveals a king who sought to promote and secure Paris’s economic vitality. Philip also built walls around the nearby cemetery of the Holy Innocents (ch. 51) and walled in the forest of Vincennes, a favorite royal hunting ground (ch. 20). And he ordered all the streets and squares of Paris to be paved with stone, famously because the stench of the dirt roads on which horse-drawn carts were conducted was unbearable to him as it wafted through the windows of his palace on the Île-de-la-Cité (ch. 38). Most important, before leaving on crusade Philip ordered “that the city of Paris, which the king greatly loved, be enclosed with the very best wall, with towers and gates properly and carefully arranged” (ch. 78). We know from other sources that Philip began with a wall on the Right Bank (as protection from a Plantagenet threat from the north), and followed up later with a wall on the Left Bank (to the south), effectively encircling the palace and the cathedral and enclosing the heart of Paris. But it is from Rigord that we get a picture of Philip’s personal concern and motivations regarding urban development in the capital.94
Christian Practice, the Power of Relics, and Saint Denis
Rigord offers a series of anecdotes that testify to something of the religious culture of the period. For instance, several episodes illustrate the flowering of devotion to the Virgin Mary in the twelfth century,95 including the story of a poor man named Durand, to whom the Lord appeared holding a scroll on which the Virgin sat enthroned holding the Christ child (ch. 25). Durand preached a message of peace among dueling political factions around Le Puy in the south, enticing men in the region to vow nonviolence. Ultimately the image of the Virgin was impressed upon pieces of tin and worn upon their bodies as a sign of their promise to one another and to God. Another story recounted the miracles that followed when a blasphemous mercenary threw a stone at a statue of the Virgin holding the Christ child (ch. 58). Elsewhere (ch. 16), Rigord says that after expelling the Jews, the king had their synagogues reconsecrated as churches in honor of Christ and the Virgin Mary. We also observe with Rigord a number of common religious practices of the period: the performance of penitential processions in times of crisis or need (chs. 84, 119, 146), the veneration of relics (chs. 76, 84, 87, 153), and the belief in holy men (chs. 11, 92) and miracles (chs. 5, 11, 29, 55, 58, 68, 132).
Among holy figures, Saint Denis is preeminent as saintly protector and intercessor. Denis is, in one sense, the shadowy second protagonist of the Deeds of Philip Augustus. Rigord introduces him early on, at chapter 3. Philip, aged fourteen and not yet crowned, gets lost in the woods when on a boar hunt, and, frightened, commends himself to God, the Virgin, and “the most Blessed Denis, patron and defender of the kings of the Franks,” after which he is rescued by a local woodsman. The episode singles out Denis among all possible saints, and identifies him specifically as the king’s particular patron and defender. In turn, Rigord recounts Philip’s particular devotion to Saint Denis, often rendered by ritual supplication at the abbey of Saint-Denis, or before the altar containing the relics of Denis and his companions. In 1189 Philip prostrated himself before the martyrs before he left for crusade (ch. 76), and the first thing he did upon his return from Outremer was go to Saint-Denis to offer thanks for his safe journey and return (ch. 90). Philip also rendered prayers and thanks to “his patron and protector” in 1195 after Richard offered him homage (ch. 117), emphasizing the notion of hierarchical faith and loyalty. And again, after a series of victories over the Plantagenets in 1199, following which Eleanor of Aquitaine did homage to Philip, Philip returned to Saint-Denis to pledge his devotion, give thanks for his victories, and make offerings (ch. 136).
Because of Denis’s power and his role as protector of the king of France, his relics, along with those of Rusticus and Eleutherius, were in turn deployed when needed to beseech God for Philip and his efforts. While Philip was in the East, the two regents (Queen Adele and William of the White Hands) arranged for the relics to be placed upon the high altar in a special ceremony to ask God for the king’s success in the crusade (ch. 87). Elsewhere, Rigord records Denis’s particular power in rendering miracles (chs. 98, 101, 104). That said, the relics of Saint Denis were too precious ever to leave the monastery. And so, on several occasions some of the monastery’s other relics—most notably the holy nail, the piece of the Crown of Thorns, and the arm of Saint Simeon the Elder that were believed to have been given to Saint-Denis by Charles the Bald—were borne in procession to beseech divine aid. In July 1191, when Philip was still in the East, Prince Louis fell seriously ill and the relics were carried in a solemn intercessory procession into Paris, first to the church of Saint-Lazare and then on to Notre-Dame (ch. 84). In 1196 and in 1206, Saint Denis’s relics were again processed to beseech God’s help in combatting the devastation of massive flooding (chs. 119, 156). Rigord recalls that Philip himself participated in the 1196 procession “as though but one of the people” (ch. 119). In turn, Philip’s devotion to both Saint Denis and his monastery meant that when, in 1205, the king received new relics from Baldwin I, the new emperor of Constantinople installed as a result of the Fourth Crusade, the king gave those relics to the abbey (ch. 153).
Philip II’s actions from 1180 to 1182 constitute the first mass expulsion of a Jewish community from a medieval kingdom.96 As such they are a crucial turning point in the history of anti-Jewish persecutions, foreshadowing later, larger expulsions from England (1290), France (1306, 1394), and Spain (1492). Rigord’s record of Philip II’s persecution of the Jews is among the most important elements of the Deeds, and his own anti-Jewish attitudes are one of its defining traits. Rigord provides the only substantial account of these events (chs. 5, 11–18) from early in Philip’s reign, and so his record takes on particular significance for anyone seeking to understand this pivotal moment in Christian/Jewish relations. Moreover, Rigord frames the whole first part of the Deeds as a larger battle between the righteous king and those enemies, Christians and Jews alike, who would undermine the power and liberties of the Church. For Rigord, Philip’s attacks on the Jews are the first and best proof of his status as a warrior for God. Conversely, in Rigord’s eyes, Philip’s decision to readmit the Jews to his realm in 1198 (ch. 133) is the strongest evidence that the king had momentarily lost his way. Although Rigord’s anti-Judaism offends twenty-first-century readers, his overt expression of prejudice makes this text central to understanding how ritual murder accusations were weaponized in late twelfth-century France, how some churchmen portrayed Jewish “threats” to Christian society at this pivotal moment, and how intolerance toward Jews became linked to the status of the “most Christian kings” of France.97
The Myth of Trojan Origins
Rigord in fact concludes the most intensely anti-Jewish section of his text with a brief foray into the distant past, asserting that in the seventh century the Byzantine emperor Heraclius had urged the Merovingian king Dagobert to “drive all of the Jews from his kingdom” (ch. 18). According to Rigord, Dagobert complied because astrological signs had predicted that the Roman Empire “was to be destroyed by a circumcised people.” Only a few chapters later (chs. 38–43), Rigord returns to this strategy of legitimization through highly mythologized historical claims, interrupting his accounts of the years 1184/85 and 1185/86 with a potted history of the origins and lineages of French kingship, beginning with the mythic Pharamond, Marcomer, and Francion, and running through the Merovingian, Carolingian, and then Capetian dynasties to get the reader all the way to Philip II himself. In this sense, Rigord’s historical detour was in keeping with Saint-Denis’s developing tradition as guardian of royal history, and partner with the Crown in using that history for institutional and dynastic legitimation.98 Rigord explained that in modernizing the city, the king sought to do away with its former name, Lutetia (which Rigord said derived from lutum—or “mud”), and instead call the city Paris, “after Paris Alexander, the son of the king of Troy” (ch. 38).
This reference to the king of Troy derived from the long-established myth of the Trojan origins of the Franks.99 The French were not the only ones that claimed that their nation (natio, meaning “people of the same origin”) stemmed from an exiled offshoot of the Trojans, the noble people who left Troy in the wake of its fall to the Greeks in the Trojan War. Romans, Britons, and Germans all claimed Trojan origins. As told by Rigord, King Priam of Troy’s grandson Francion led a group and settled in Sicambria, on the Danube River. (Note that other authors elaborated that it was from this Francion that the Franks, and ultimately France, would derive its name.) One group from Sicambria, under the leadership of a certain Ibor, named themselves the Parisians, after Paris Alexander, the son of Priam; and these traveled to Gaul. Here, Rigord insists not only on the origins of the French people, but also on the foundation of Paris.100 Another group, Rigord explained, remained in Sicambria for over a millennium and a half before moving, under the leadership of Marcomer, into the Rhine valley. These were the Franks, who conquered all of Germany and Gaul, and when they arrived among the Parisians, they were greeted as fellows of Trojan descent. Marcomer’s son Pharamond was made king, and is considered “the first king of the Franks” (ch. 40). In turn, Pharamond’s grandson Merovic gave his name to the Merovingian dynasty. Merovic’s own grandson Clovis converted to Catholic (Nicaean) Christianity, becoming the first Christian king of the Franks. His great-grandson King Dagobert employed a man named Pepin as major of the palace. The mayors of the palace constituted their own dynasty, and ultimately one of his descendants would usurp the kingship from the Merovingians. Rigord simply lists the succession of mayors, neglecting to say that King Pepin, “who fathered Charlemagne the emperor” (ch. 41), was crowned as the first Carolingian king, replacing a Merovingian successor; rather he states merely that Pepin reigned after Louis. On the other hand, when recording the advent of Hugh Capet, the first Capetian, he notes that his immediate predecessor, Louis [V], was “the very last of this [Carolingian] royal bloodline” (ch. 41). From there, Rigord quickly gets the reader to Philip Augustus.
The idea of Trojan descent played several roles in the historical and ideological imagination of Capetian kingship at the time Rigord was writing. The point was both to offer Philip and the Capetians the prestige of antique origins, and to present a kind of legitimizing lineage that papered over dynastic breaks that might call Capetian claims into question. For one, the myth furnished a foundation story for France and the French that was independent from the Roman world and Roman inheritance. Moreover, the notion of lineage, and in particular patrilineal descent, was becoming increasingly important in the twelfth century both legally and culturally. The Capetian fortune in producing an unbroken succession of male heirs since 987 was a key to its stability and the growing strength and legitimacy of its claim to the crown. But the ideal of lineage was also coming in this period to define nobility itself as a legal and social category. Even Jesus Christ (whose Father had no father, of course) needed a lineage, one that was in this period provided for him in visual iconography. A generation before Rigord wrote, Suger had overseen a broad iconographical program on Saint-Denis’s west facade that showed Old Testament kings and queens, both as “royal ancestors of Christ” and as mythic ancestors of the French kings; and the popular Tree of Jesse image, found at Saint-Denis and elsewhere, also traced Christ’s lineage back to King David and his father, Jesse.101
Finally, Rigord’s evocation here of Trojan origins may have further been a pointed response to the so-called Valerian Prophecy.102 The prophecy, which claimed that seven generations following the coronation of Hugh Capet the French crown would revert to the Carolingians, was itself a provocation to Capetian legitimacy precisely on the grounds that the Capetians were not direct descendants of the Carolingians. In the specific instance, Philip’s court answered this challenge by trumpeting Isabelle of Hainaut’s descent from Charlemagne, and claimed that Louis VIII, Philip’s son and heir, duly returned the crown to the line of Charlemagne (without, notably, its Capetian surrender). But the myth of Trojan origins—which was in some ways more about the origins of the French people (gens) than its king—enveloped both people and kings in a mythic, unifying, and notionally lineal haze; it was a foundation story that preceded the Carolingians and even the Merovingians and insisted that legitimacy was rooted as much in the leadership of a shared people as in a singular lineage.
The Prophetic Future
Rigord’s interest in returning to the beginnings (however mythical) of Frankish history can be paired with his own treatment of the prophetic future. The Deeds of Philip Augustus places Philip II within the full sweep of secular and sacred history, as a king at the end of a long Frankish genealogy, perched on the edge of the end-time.103 Indeed, in retelling his highly dubious story of Heraclius, Dagobert, and the Jews, he notes that ultimately it was not the Jews who plundered the Roman (or Byzantine) Empire, but the Saracens (the term often deployed in referring to Muslims or Arabs). And this, he asserts, will happen again “in the end of times” (ch. 18), when the Ishmaelites, or Saracens, join Antichrist in inflicting “trials and tribulations” upon good Christians. Rigord explicitly cites his authority for this prediction, the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, a widely read text originally written in seventh-century Syriac but subsequently translated into Latin and well known in twelfth-century Europe.104 Rigord’s tendency to see events such as earthquakes and storms as divine portents is hardly unusual for authors of his era, yet he shows a particularly keen interest in prophecy. He carefully copies out not one but two letters predicting upheavals and the emergence of a false prophet in the East in the year 1186 (chs. 53–55); he similarly includes a “certain poet’s” prophetic verses about Philip II (ch. 72), which place the French king in the role of Last World Emperor.105 More subtly, in referring to the striking events of the Fourth Crusade (ch. 147), Rigord imagines a future in which he hopes for “greater and better things in the Holy Land, when one will pursue a thousand, and two will drive away ten thousand.” Suger and Odo of Deuil had shown some interest in prophecies in writing about Louis VI and Louis VII, and the monks of Saint-Denis had long been invested in tracing the deep history of the Franks. But Rigord was the first to place the deeds of his royal hero within this long trajectory from Troy to the end-time. In this sense it was his breadth of vision that came to characterize the Grandes chroniques de France.
The Crusades occupy a pivotal position within Rigord’s grand narrative. The years covered by his chronicle encompassed both the Third Crusade (1189–92) and the Fourth (1202–4). Rigord participated in neither, and so his accounts were based on the experiences and testimony of others. Nevertheless, beginning at chapter 62 and continuing intermittently through chapter 97, Rigord recounts Philip Augustus’s participation in the Third Crusade. He also devotes two long chapters (chs. 146–47) to the Fourth Crusade, even though Philip did not participate in it, because, as he says explicitly, these events seem noteworthy enough to require inclusion.
The Crusades had begun at the end of the eleventh century with Pope Urban II’s call for Christian soldiers to take up arms to aid their Christian brethren against Muslims in the East, and resulted in the capture of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 1099 from Muslim (Fatamid) control.106 By 1109, the crusaders had established four new states, ruled by Latin Christians, with the most important being the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Philip Augustus’s father, Louis VII, took part in the Second Crusade (1147–49), mounted after substantial losses were incurred by crusader forces in the northern principality of Edessa. The Second Crusade itself failed to make any gains. When, a generation later, in the summer and fall of 1187 under Saladin’s leadership, Muslim forces slaughtered the Christian army at the Battle of Hattin and then retook Jerusalem, the pope called another crusade. Both Philip Augustus and Henry II of England took the cross (ch. 62), although Henry died before being able to fulfill his vow. In the end, it was his son, the new king of England, Richard the Lionheart, who went East, joining Philip and the rest of the crusaders in the siege of Acre, the port city whose control would be necessary to take and hold the inland city of Jerusalem.107 Given the tensions between the kings of England and France over control of Angevin lands in France, fully narrated in Rigord’s account, neither Philip nor Richard would agree to go on crusade unless the other did. They patched up a temporary peace at home in order for both to go fight the infidel (ch. 74). But clashes were inevitable and disputes emerged quickly in the East.
Rigord’s account provides both a French perspective on the Third Crusade and something of a whitewashing of Philip’s contributions, which were nugatory and somewhat embarrassing in an age that prized the exploits of Christian knighthood and in which military leadership was a hallmark of good kingship.108 In 1189, Philip was only in his midtwenties and still comparatively inexperienced. All in all he paled in comparison to the military prowess of Richard the Lionheart, who, thirteen years older and a natural military leader, came to be hailed as the hero of the Third Crusade. Philip and Richard departed in July 1190, but relations between the two kings soured quickly at a stop in Messina (Sicily) when Richard repudiated a marriage promise to Philip’s sister Alix in favor of Berengaria of Navarre (ch. 80). Philip arrived in the Holy Land first, in April 1192, joining the siege of Acre, already underway. When Richard arrived in June, having accrued a series of military victories along the way, he effectively took command of the operation. Both Philip and Richard fell ill, Richard probably more seriously and with a longer recovery time. Ultimately, Acre was delivered to the crusaders on 12 June, not through conquest, but through negotiations with Saladin (ch. 88).
Immediately after Acre was in crusader hands, Philip returned to France, in part out of concern that the English might well invade in his absence. Philip was widely criticized for abandoning the crusade. Richard stayed on to solidify crusader gains in the East, won several important victories against Saladin, and, although he did not manage to retake Jerusalem itself, was able to get the Kingdom of Jerusalem (now in exile in Acre) back on its feet. He concluded a three-year truce with Saladin in September 1192 before himself leaving the Holy Land, only to be captured by the duke of Austria on his return home and imprisoned for a year and a half.
If the only account we possessed was Rigord’s we would be forgiven for concluding that Philip was primarily responsible for the success of the siege of Acre and its capture by the crusader forces, and that Richard arrived only when all the hard work was done (ch. 80).109 Rigord further suggests underhanded motives in Richard’s negotiations with Saladin (ch. 88) and neglects entirely to mention that Richard too was ill, while using Philip’s illness to explain his abrupt departure. (Anglo-Norman and Arabic sources reveal a fuller story far more favorable to Richard’s leadership on crusade.) Beyond the narrative imperative for a Gesta (Deeds) of the king, Philip’s participation in the Third Crusade was a vehicle to demonstrate that the king fulfilled the duties of Christian knighthood. It also permitted Rigord to highlight Saint Denis and his abbey’s role in fighting “the enemies of the cross of Christ,” since upon his departure Philip took up the ceremonial scrip and staff and the royal battle standard from the altar at Saint-Denis (ch. 76), the relics of Saint Denis and his companions were ritually deployed in offering prayers to the Lord “for the liberation of the Holy Land, and for the king of the Franks and all his host” (ch. 87), and Philip made a pilgrimage to Saint-Denis immediately upon his return to France (ch. 90).
Monarchies and Monarchs
Beyond the Crusades, Rigord also affords us a biased but powerful view of the wider European political landscape. Philip II’s battles with first Henry II and then his sons Richard and John are the connecting thread that runs through the Deeds. Rigord depicts Philip working to oppose each new English king through alliances with disgruntled members of the Plantagenet clan; first Richard and Geoffrey against Henry, then John against Richard, finally Arthur (Geoffrey’s son) against John. Although Rigord does let his admiration for Richard’s martial prowess peek through at times, generally his narrative makes the English always dastardly, the French forces almost always favored by God.110 If it is difficult to arrive at a balanced sense of Philip’s military fortunes in the 1180s and 1190s by reading Rigord, the turning point against John in the crucial years of 1200–1204 fits more comfortably into the Deeds, making Rigord an important source for French understanding of the king’s sudden victories. Similarly, Rigord is not shy about criticizing the German emperors, particularly Henry VI (r. 1191–97), whom Rigord portrays as a tyrant (ch. 128). By contrast Pope Innocent III receives approving, though hardly laudatory, language from Rigord’s pen.
Rigord also affords his readers glimpses of the rapidly developing machinery of royal government, in part because he was careful to copy several original documents into the Deeds. Rigord evidently had access to numerous royal acts, such as the so-called Saladin tithe (chs. 64–66) issued in 1188, and the Treaty of Le Goulet between Philip and King John in 1200 (referred to but not included in the text). Most important in this regard, however, is the testament-ordinance executed by King Philip just before departing on crusade in 1190.111 This act, the first ever to lay out a system of centralized justice and finance for the French kingdom, survives only because it was incorporated into Rigord’s text (ch. 77). It was certainly issued as a solemn act confirmed by the royal seal and monogram and witnessed by Philip’s seneschal, butler, chamberlain, and constable. The sealed original, however, does not survive, nor do any of the official copies that presumably must have been made (for the regents, for Philip to take with him to the Holy Land, perhaps for deposit at Saint-Denis). Such originals and official copies may have seemed superfluous once the king returned from crusade, and in any case the loss of the royal baggage train in 1194 might account for the destruction of any copies preserved by the court to that point. Rigord’s decision to copy the testament-ordinance makes the Deeds an indispensable text for the history of French government; all printed editions and translations of this crucial document depend directly on Rigord.112 We are lucky in this. Rigord’s decision to include the testament-ordinance seems to have been almost an afterthought; his narrative proceeds all the way up through the moment when Philip and Richard sailed from Genoa and Marseille, and only then backtracks in time to record that “before King Philip departed” he assembled his close associates in Paris to execute “his testament and set in order the whole kingdom” (ch. 76). If Rigord completed his first version of the text in 1190 and wrote his first dedicatory letter at that point, he probably added the testament-ordinance a few years later, when he decided to continue the work.
On a more intimate level, although Rigord does not detail the domestic affairs of the king, he does give his own perspective on Philip II’s controversial marital life.113 He mentions Isabelle of Hainaut, Philip’s first wife, only a few times, but includes a vivid description of the king and queen drenched with lamp oil, following a mishap involving an unruly crowd and an overzealous guard at the time of the queen’s coronation at Saint-Denis (ch. 9). Rigord takes a more critical stance on the king’s second marriage. When Philip rejected Ingeborg of Denmark in 1193 the day after their wedding, Rigord’s sympathies evidently lay with the queen. Rigord does not attempt to explain the source of the king’s sudden change of heart, except to remark that “it is said” that he was “snared … by the spells of sorceresses (maleficiis per sorciarias)” (ch. 99).114 But Rigord is openly scornful of the French churchmen who were unwilling or unable to enforce Pope Celestine III’s insistence on the marriage’s validity. Referring to Ingeborg as “the holy queen” (ch. 138), Rigord leaves little doubt that he sees her as a woman wronged, and Philip as turning his back on God’s will. Later, Rigord still seems as mystified as anyone when Philip, pressured by Pope Innocent III, unexpectedly takes Ingeborg back “as his wife,” after the death of Agnes of Méran, with whom he had produced several children. Innocent III eventually legitimized these children, which Rigord reports as having “dissatisfied very many people” (ch. 143). Thus if Rigord’s text does not provide the secret to Philip’s marital affairs, it does offer contemporary commentary and judgment on the rapidly changing social and legal expectations around royal marriage.115
Rigord’s account of Philip Augustus’s reign constitutes an enormously important historical source for the political, cultural, intellectual, and religious history of the years around 1200. It should also be understood in the context of the long history of Christian rulership and political biography, heir not only to Aimon of Fleury and Suger, but to Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, Eusebius’s Life of Constantine, and even Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Read in this context, Rigord’s portrait of Philip’s reign lies in a broader history of writing about kingship, monarchy, and state and royal power. Rigord built on this tradition while transforming the nature of political writing to suit the changing circumstances of his day. He balanced anecdote and specificity with the ideals of kingship within a French and Frankish context. Inheriting a local tradition of royal biography, Rigord placed his protagonist, Philip Augustus, between his subjects on the ground and his saint (Denis) in heaven. He also sought to locate the king’s reign within a broad sweep of history, looking backward to Troy and forward to the Last Judgment. Written at a crucially important moment in the transformation of political culture and royal power, Rigord’s Deeds of Philip Augustus stands as a singular witness to his time while marking an important point in the long trajectory of political authority and state formation in the West.
Note on Manuscripts, Editions, and Translations
Rigord’s Deeds of Philip Augustus survives in two medieval manuscripts and two later copies.116 The first medieval manuscript, BnF MS lat. 5925 (= P), has been mentioned several times above as one of the most important compilations of royal history created at Saint-Denis. It preserves the only full copy of Rigord’s Deeds.117 The first half of the manuscript, which includes Rigord’s text, was copied near the middle of the thirteenth century. It also contains Aimon of Fleury’s History of the Franks, Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, Pseudo-Turpin’s Deeds of Charlemagne in Spain, the Deeds of Emperor Louis the Pious, Suger’s Life of Louis [VI] the Fat, and then (fols. 248rb-286ra) Rigord’s Deeds of Philip Augustus, followed (fols. 286ra-301vb) by William le Breton’s continuation. Later in the thirteenth century, perhaps around 1285 (before Rigord’s text), scribes at Saint-Denis added (by inserting two new quires that are now fols. 232–247) Suger’s Deeds of King Louis [VII], Son of Louis the Fat, and then (following William le Breton’s continuation) the Deeds of Louis VIII, William of Nangis’s Deeds of King Louis [IX] of Holy Memory, and the same author’s Deeds of Philip [III].
The second medieval manuscript is BAV, Reg. lat. 88 (= V).118 It contains only the dedicatory letter to Prince Louis, the prologue, and the first seventy-six chapters of the Deeds of Philip Augustus. It was made in France, perhaps in Bourges. The section of the manuscript that contains the incomplete copy of Rigord (fols. 176–189) was copied in the last third of the thirteenth century.
The two more modern copies are BAV, Reg. lat. 1758 (made directly from P in 1587), and Reg. lat. 930 (which mixes pages of Pithou’s printed 1596 edition with passages copied from both P and V). Since these two copies depend directly on P and V (and on Pithou’s printed edition, which depends on P), they add nothing as independent witnesses to the text.119
Pierre Pithou used P to prepare the first printed edition of Rigord in 1596,120 which was the basis for that by François Duchesne (completing the work of his more famous father, André) in 1649.121 The edition by Michel-Jean-Joseph Brial in 1818 continued to take P as its base, compared against Duchesne,122 while in 1882 Henri-François Delaborde offered an advance by comparing readings from V to those in P.123 The same two manuscripts continue to serve as the basis for the most recent edition, published by Élisabeth Carpentier, Georges Pon, and Yves Chauvin in 2006.
The 2006 edition also has a convenient facing-page French translation, the first since François Guizot’s in 1825 (itself done from the 1818 RHGF edition).124 No previous full English translation has appeared, but several twentieth- and twenty-first-century scholars have translated Rigord’s sections on the Jews,125 and William North has also translated portions concerning King Philip’s preparations for the crusade and his relationship to Queen Ingeborg.126 In the 1990s Paul Hyams made available his “fast and free” translation of chapters 1–76, which may still be found online.127
These partial English translations were all prepared from Delaborde’s venerable nineteenth-century edition. We are now fortunate to be able to base this first full translation on the 2006 Latin edition by Carpentier, Pon, and Chauvin, and grateful to benefit from the meticulous scholarship that went into the introduction and notes to that publication. Although the high quality of the new edition renders a word-by-word verification of the manuscripts unnecessary, we have nevertheless checked reproductions of the two thirteenth-century sources in order to verify unexpected readings and correct a small number of typographical errors.
Our translation follows the new chapter numbering established by Carpentier, Pon, and Chauvin, but occasionally introduces additional paragraph breaks for clarity. Direct biblical quotations, which we print in italics, are based on the Douay-Reims translation of the Vulgate. Psalm numbering follows the Vulgate. Although we have been able to identify a few biblical quotations that were missed by Carpentier, Pon, and Chauvin, we have benefited greatly from their editorial efforts in this regard. We generally employ English forms of personal names.
Any translation has to balance fidelity to the original language with flow in the resulting prose, and any collaboration between a translator and editors necessarily involves a certain amount of negotiation around such issues. We hope to have managed this balancing act in such a manner as to provide a clear but not entirely inelegant translation of Rigord’s Latin prose to a wide anglophone readership. The translator’s own perspective can be found in the postscript to the volume.