Warfare in Normandy, 1201-1204, according to Rigord’s Deeds of Phillip Augustus

Philip_II_crossing_the_LoireRigord, a physician and monk, first at Argenteuil then at the St. Denis near Paris, was an important historian of the reign of the French king Phillip Augustus.  He worked on his Deeds of Phillip Augustus until his death on 1209.  The portion given below gives his account of Phillip’s conquest of Normandy from King John of England from 1201 to 1204.  For earlier sections of Rigord’s work, please see this translation by Paul Hyams.

The king of the French summoned John, king of England, as his liegeman, holding from him the counties of Poitou and Anjou and the duchy of Aquitaine, to come two weeks after Easter to Paris to give a satisfactory answer to the charges which Philip made against him. But since the king of England, instead of coming in person on the day indicated, did not even send a satisfactory reply, the king of the French, with the advice of his princes and barons, assembled an army, entered Normandy, and took the little fort of Boutavant, which he destroyed. Orgueil, Mortemer, and all the land which Hugh of Gournay held soon fell into his power. At Gournay he made Arthur [John’s brother] a knight and delivered to him the county of Brittany, which had fallen to him by hereditary right. He even added the counties of Anjou and of Poitou, which he had acquired by right of arms. Lastly, he gave him the support of two hundred knights, with a considerable sum of money. Then the king received Arthur as his liegeman. The latter, with the king’s permission, left him in July.

A few days later Arthur rashly advanced with a small troop of men into the territory of the king of England, who suddenly came upon him with a vast multitude of armed men, defeated him, and carried him away prisoner with Hugh le Brun, Geoffrey of Lusignan, and several other knights. King Philip, having learned this news, immediately abandoned the siege of the castle of Arques and appeared with his army before Tours, took the town, and set fire to it. The king of England, on his side, arrived, at the head of his troops, after the departure of the king of France and destroyed the same city with its castle.

A few days after, the king of England took the viscount of Limoges and carried him off with him. Although Hugh le Brun, viscount of Thouars, Geoffrey of Lusignan, and the viscount of Limoges were all liegemen of the king of England, nevertheless they allied themselves with the king of the French, both by oath and through hostages. For King john had perfidiously carried off the wife of Hugh le Brun, daughter of the count of Angouleme, and this outrage, added to other grievances of the same lords of Poitou, alienated their fidelity to King John. The following winter the two kings discontinued their war after having guarded their fortresses, without, however, concluding either peace or a truce . . . .

In the year of our Lord 1202, in the fortnight following Easter, the king of the French had raised an army, entered Aquitaine, and, with the aid of the people of Poitou and of Brittany, had taken several fortresses. It was at this time that the count of Alencon formed an alliance with King Philip and put his whole land under the protection of this prince. The king then returned to Normandy with his army, and took possession of Conques and the island of Andelys and of Vaudreuil.

While these things were taking place in France, Pope Innocent III sent the abbot of Casemar to the king of the French and the king of England with the view of reestablishing peace. Conformably to the orders of the pope his lord, the abbot joined to himself the abbot of Trois-Fontaines, and with his aid made clear to the two princes the wishes of the pope. The pope ordered them to convoke the archbishops, bishops, and the other great people of the whole kingdom, in order, while guarding their respective rights, to make peace in the presence of the assembly and to reestablish in their former estate the monasteries and nunneries, as well as the churches, which had been destroyed in the course of their wars. Philip received this injunction at Mantes in the week of the Assumption of the most blessed Virgin Mary. He immediately appealed in the presence of the bishops, abbots, and barons of the kingdom, who submitted the whole case to the examination of the sovereign pontiff.


The last day of the same month the king of France assembled an army and besieged Rodepont. In about a fortnight, having raised about the place his movable wooden towers and set up his other machines of war, he took the town. He secured as prisoners twenty knights who had bravely defended themselves, a hundred squires, and thirty crossbowmen.

When he had recovered his strength and that of his army he laid siege to Castle Gaillard, in the month of September following. This was a strong fortress which King Richard had had constructed upon a high rock which dominated the Seine near the island of Andelys. The king of the French and his army were delayed by the siege of this place for five months, for they were unwilling to undertake an assault lest much blood should be spilled and they might damage the walls and the tower. They hoped to force the besieged to surrender through hunger and deprivation. [Later the king decided upon an attack and successfully took the fortress by assault ]. . . .

In the year of our Lord 11203, Philip, king of the French, having assembled his army, entered Normandy on the zd of May, took Falaise, a very strong castle, Domfront, and a very rich town which the people call Caen. He also brought under his control all the neighboring districts as far as Mont St. Michel. The Normans then came to ask for mercy and delivered up the towns which had been confided to their protection, – Coutances, Bayeux, Lisieux, and Avranches, with their castles and suburbs. As for Evraux and Seez, he already had them in his power. Of all Normandy there only remained Rouen, – a very -rich town, full of noble men, the capital of all Normandy, – and Verneuil and Arques, strong towns well situated and well defended. Returning from Caen, the king, having left garrisons in the various cities and castles, laid siege to Rouen.

The Normans, seeing that they could not defend themselves, nor could expect any aid from the king of England, began to think of surrender ; nevertheless they judiciously took precautions in order to remain faithful to the king of England. They humbly asked the king of the French to grant a truce of thirty days, which should close at the feast of St. John, for their own city [Rouen] and for Verneuil and Arques, which were in league with Rouen. In this interval they might be able to send to the king of England and ask for aid in so pressing a danger. If he should refuse, the Normans agreed to place their goods and persons, the city and the said castles, in the hands of the victorious Philip, king of the French, and to give as hostages sixty sons of the burghers of Rouen.

At the feast of St. John, the burghers, having received no aid from the king of England, fulfilled their promise and delivered to the king of the French their city of Rouen, a rich town, the capital of all Normandy, with the two castles of which we have spoken above. Three hundred and sixteen years had elapsed since this city and all Normandy had ceased to belong to the kings of France. The Northman Rollo, who had come with his pagan followers, had taken it by right of arms in the time of Charles the Simple.

This translation is from Readings in European History, by James Harvey Robinson (Boston, 1904).

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