Deeds of the sixth year of the reign of king Phillip Augustus

40. In the year of the Lord's incarnation 1185, the 6th year of Phillip Augustus' reign, 21st of his age, in the middle of Lent, there was an earthquake in Gothis in the city called Uzès [March 20 1186]. And in the following month, April, on the ninth day, the vigils of Palm Sunday, there was a partial eclipse of the moon [April 5 1186]. And at the following Easter, Gerard, prévôt of "Pixiaco" added eleven thousand marks of silver from his own (patch) to the king's treasures and so left the court. Walter the chamberlain was put in his place.

On the abbot of St. Denis

41. At that time, William a "Vapincensis" by birth was ruling the church of St. Denis in a rather half-hearted manner. The most Christian king took this seriously and attempted to provide another ruler for the church. One day when the king was passing through the town of St. Denis on royal business, he descended on the abbey as one does on one's own chamber. When the abbot heard of the king's arrival, he was very scared (for the king was currently seeking a thousand marks of silver from him), so he assembled the brothers in the chapter house on a Saturday, the 6th Ides of May after noon, deposed himself and gave up the abbey. Most of the monks stayed there (in the chapter-house) with Hugh the venerable prior, but some deputed by the whole body went off to report to the king what had happened and seek from him a free election. The king with his usual generosity at once granted them a free license to make an election, asking and praying them in the most kindly manner to choose, in pursuance of God's lead and the king's own honor, without dissension or discord some honest person, tested in good morals, and appropriate to so famous a church, which is both the (corona) site for coronations for the kingdom of the Franks and the burial place of kings and emperors. The monks bore the king's orders back to the chapter house and at once, by God's provision, Hugh the venerable prior of the same house was unanimously chosen as abbot. The election was immediately confirmed by the most Christian king right there in the chapter house in the presence of clergy and people, on this condition added by royal prohibition, that he should not give or promise in the first flush of his promotion (in illa novitate seu promotione) any gift to anyone in the royal family, cleric or layman.

On the consecration of the abbot of St. Denis

42. Then the venerable Hugh abbot-elect of the church of St. Denis, judging his promotion to have been made by God alone and not by any human, and desiring to conserve the ancient dignity of the church of St. Denis in full, invited two venerable bishops, those of Meaux and Senlis, to celebrate his consecration (benedictionem) in the church. By the ancient regulations of the Roman Church, these two were bound each in turn to assist with the consecration of altars and the ordination of monks, especially the bishop of Meaux. That consecration was celebrated by the bishops in the church of St. Denis in the presence of 7 other abbots and a great crowd of clergy and people on the 15th kalends June, a Sunday.

On the messengers sent by the king of Hungary to the king

43. While these things were going on in France, Bela king of Hungary, Pannonia, Croatia, Avaria, Dalmatia, and "Rame" sent messngers to Phillip Augustus, the most Christian king of the Franks. The king of Hungary had heard that Henry (III) the young king of England, son of the king Henry (II) under whom Thomas bishop of Canterbury suffered glorious martyrdom at God's call, had been taken from our midst [ie died.]. He wanted most dearly to be joined in matrimony with the widow, Margaret by name, sister of Phillip king of France, on account both of the ancient dignity of the kings of the Franks and the queen's own wisdom and piety, of which he had learned from many reports. The king of Hungary's messengers now came to Paris and humbly presented his petition to king Phillip. He received the petition with kindness and summoned the archbishops, bishops and greater princes of the realm whose advice and wisdom he often and routinely used in doing his business. After due consultation with them, he granted his most beloved sister Margaret, former queen of England, to king Bela of Hungary as his legitimate wife, the bishops and abbots of the land handing her over honorably to the messengers. He lavished royal gifts quite adequately on these messengers and they returned rejoincing with the queen to Hungary. [English chroniclers tell a somewhat different story!]

On the death of Geoffrey, count of Britanny

44. At the same time as all this, it happened that the illustrious Geoffrey, count of Britanny, son of Henry (II) king of England, came to Paris and fell onto a bed of sickness. Phillip loved him very tenderly. When he heard of the illness, he summoned all the doctors dwelling in Paris at the time and ordered them to furnish all care and diligence they could to the count. Even so after a very few days of incessant labor by the doctors, on the 14th kalends September, he went the way of all flesh. [August 19 (or possibly 21) 1186. Geoffrey may have been preparing to defect to Phillip and do him homage for Britanny.] The citizens and knights of Paris guarded his body with honor and reverence in the church of St. Mary's [Notre Dame] until the king arrived, while the church's canons and clergy celebrated the funeral services most devotedly. The next day, the king came to Paris with Thibault, seneschal of France, and had his body preserved with aromatic herbs and buried in a lead sarcophagus before the great altar in the same church by the most reverend Maurice, bishop of Prais and an assembly of abbots, religious and clergy from all over the city.

On the institution of four prebends

45. Once the solemn burial rites were over, the most Christian king Phillip with count Thibault and count Henry and his mother the countess of Champagne and the former queen of England Margaret the king's sister (who had not yet been taken off by the Hungarians) returned to the palace. The king suffered severely from the death of so great a prince. To console him, the princes just mentioned and many others followed him back. But in receiving consolation from his friends, he frequently recalled to memory the dead man's most recent acts and turned his mind to works of piety and mercy, according to the accustomed generosity of his father, and so installed in perpetuity in the church of St. Mary just mentioned as where the count was buried, four priests for himself and the soul of his pious father Louis and for the soul of his beloved count of Britanny. He assigned from his own revenues sufficient rents for two of the priests, with the countess of Champagne and the chapter of St. Mary's promising to assign rents for the third and fourth priests.


46. At the beginning of the year of the Lord's incarnation 1187, in the sixth year of Phillip's reign, on the 8th kalends April, after the eleventh hour at night, there was an almost complete eclipse of the moon which was then in the eleventh degree of Libra, with the sun being in the eleventh degree of Aries and the dragon's head in the eleventh degree of Aries. Part of the moon was covered over by some misshapen little thing red in color, and that eclipse lasted for two hours. [March 26 1187, 4 a.m.]

On the circuit of the wall around the churchyard at Champeaux

47. Of the many good works of the most Christian king Phillip Augustus, we have thought only a few worthy of being written down for memory here. One day when king Phillip was in Paris, word came to his ears about the need to repair the cemetery in Champeaux by the church of the Holy. Innocents. This had always been a wide thoroughfare a route for anyone to pass by and a place to display goods for sale. Yet the citizens of Paris were accustomed to bury their dead there. But the bodies of the deceased could not decently be buried there because of the streams of rainwater and the great abundance of stinking mud. The most Christian king Phillip, constantly on the look-out for good works to do, therefore ordered the whole churchyard to be enclosed by a stone wall, eqipped with sufficient gates that it could always be kept closed at night against ambushes of those passing through. His considered view after pious thought was that a cemetery in which so many thoiusands of men lay buried should be kept absolutely clean by a posterity that feared God.

On the king's clothes assigned to the poor

48. There often gathers in the courts of kings and other princes a mob of performers (histrionum) out to extort from them gold, silver, horses or robes, which princes are accustomed to change very frequently. They vie with each other to put out full joking words for the various flatterers, and to be even more pleasing they do not blush to belch forth with puffed out cheeks whatever they can put together about the princes, all the alluring and charming stuff and the witty remarks designed to draw a laugh. We have seen on occasion certain princes who had been long devising their outfits most artfully decorated with different flower embroideries and had spent perhaps twenty or thirty marks of silver on them, and then scarcely a week later gave them to the performers, those servants of the Devil, at their very first request. For shame, when they could have provided twnety or thirty poor people with the their food and necessities for a whole year for the price of those clothes. But the most Christian king Phillip Augustus saw that all this kind of thing was vanity and contrary to the salvation of souls. Recalling at the prompting of the Holy Spirit what he had learnt at various times from holy and religious men, that to give to performers is the same as sacrificing to demons, in a most prompt decision he promised the Lord God that he would as long as he lived confer all his own robes on the poor. The giving of alms liberates everyone who practices it from all sin and exhibits to God their great faith. "I was naked", said the Lord, "and thou covered me up" [Mt., xxv. 36]. For it is better to clothe a naked Christian than to incur sin by giving robes to flatterers. If princes thought about these things each day, there would be a lot less lechers [ie people committing the sin of "luxuria" in various ways] running around the world. Let the lesser princes watch the merciful and pious king, contemplate his works, and learn piety and mercy from him, so that they may know for certain that judgement on him who practiced no mercy will be given without mercy.

On the astrologers' false prophesies on winds

49. In that same year, astrologers from East and West, Jews and Saracens and even Christians, sent letters through the various parts of the world, predicting and asserting without hesitation that there would be in the following September a tempest of great winds and an earthquake and a mortality of men and seditions and discords, shifts in political regimes and many other menacing things of this kind. But later events proved quite clearly different from what they had divined they would. The text of their letters ran like this:-

Their letters

"God knows and the reason (ratio) of the number demonstrates that in the year of the Lord1186 (numbered 582 by the Arabs) the planets both superior and inferior will gather in Libra during the month of September. In that same year a partial fire-colored solar eclipse will precede that conjunction at the first hour on the twenty-first day of April. A total eclipse of the moon will precede this on the fifth day of April, at the first hour of the night which precedes Wednesday. Thus in the aforesaid year, when the planets coincide in Libra and there is an airy and windy sign with the Dragon's tail there, there will occur an amazing earthquake especially in the regions where this is normal but this one will destroy places accustomed to earth movements and liable to sudden disaster. For a mighty and strong wind will arise from Western parts which will blacken the air and pollute it with a poisonous stench. From it mortality and sickness will overtake many while crashes and voices are heard in the air to terriofy the hearts of the men who hear them. And the wind will elevate sand and dust from the face of the earth and will cover up cities on the plains especially in desert areas, in the fifth zone (climate) that is. Mecca, "Balsara", Baghdad and Cairo will be completely destroyed with nothing left uncovered and the regions of Egypt and Ethiopia will be so destroyed with sand and dust as to become uninhabitable. And this calamity will stretch out from the West into Eastern parts. In Western areas, indeed, discord will arise, and there will be risings among the people, and there will be one among them who assembles infinite armies, and he will make war against the banks of the waters (facietque bellum secus ripas aquarum), in which there will be so great a massacre that the flood of blood will reach the height of the rising (tidal) waves. And it is known with certainty that this coming conjunction will bring about great changes in all kingdoms, excellence for the Franks, doubt and ignorance among the Jews, destruction for the Saracen people, greater piety and the maximum of exaltation for the law of Christ, and it will signify a better life for those to be born later, if God wills it." [This letter is also found in other contemporary chronicles including the crusading narrative Itinerarium Ricardi. The letter that follows is, however, known only from Rigord.]

Other letters from them

"The wise men of Egypt predicted the signs which would be in the time of agreement between all the planets and with the Dragon's tail with them in the sign of Moarnaim, in the month of Ellul; on the 29th day of the same month in the year 4946 from the beginning of the world according to the Hebrews, on a Sunday. On the next night at about midnight the following signs will begin and they will last until noon the following Wednesday. For there will arise from the great sea a most mighty wind, shattering the hearts of men, and it will raise so much sand and dust up from the face of the earth that it will cover up trees and towers. All this because that conjunction of the planets will be in Libra, in an airy and windy sign. And in the judgement of the wise men that conjunction means that a very strong wind that will smash mountains and rocks. And thunder cracks and voices will be heard in the air, striking terror into the hearts of men, and cities in the fifth zone will be covered with sand and dust. For that wind will begin in the Eastern corner, occupying all the cities of Egypt and Ethiopia, Mecca, "Balsara" and "Haleb" and "Sennaar" and the lands of the Arabs and the whole land of Elam, Rome, "Carmen", Segesta [Sicily?], and "Calla" and "Norozasatan" and "Chebil" and "Tanbrasten" and "Barach", because all those cities and regions are contained beneath the sign of Libra, even the lands of the Romans. And after the first shock, five wonders (miracula) will follow.

This should suffice for the present concerning letters of this kind. Let us now return to the deeds of the sixth year of the reign of Phillip Augustus.

Of the war between Phillip king of France and Henry king of England

50. In the same year as above, a quarrel arose between the most Christian king Phillip and king Henry (II) of England. King Phillip sought from Henry's son Richard (I), count of Poitou, personal homage for the whole county, and Richard under instructions from his father kept putting off doing this from day to day. Secondly, the same king Phillip sought from the king of England a castle called Gisors, and another castle close by which his own father, king Louis (VII), had handed over as dowry for Margaret his (Phillip's) sister, at the time when he joined her in matrimony to the illustrious king Henry, the older Henry's son [The young king Henry now dead.]. That dowry was granted to king Henry to possess during his lifetime on condition that it should devolve after his death to any offspring that came from the union. But if he did not receive an heir from Margaret, the dowry would revert without any argument to the king of France on [the young king] Henry's death. The king of England had frequently been summoned (formally to his court) by king Phillip concerning these matters, but had always raised false delays and put off standing to judgement of the [French] king's court. When the most Christian king Phillip saw the cunning tricks and dodges of the English king and shrewdly realized how damaging delay would be to him and his people, he decided to enter the lands of the king of England with an armed multitude.


[Oeuvres de Rigord et de Guillaume le Breton, ed. H. Francoise Delaborde, I (Libr. Renouard: Paris, 1882).
Translation © Paul R. Hyams 1998]