The Acquisition of Bourges by Philip I of France


In his 48 year reign, Philip I, 1060-1108, managed to increase his demesne by shrewd political manoeuvring, outright conquest and by means of a purchase. It was with the latter method that the area of Bourges was brought into the royal possession.

Bourges is a small centre located at 248kilometres from Paris, travelling through his other important centre of Orléans. Philip held rights and certain privileges on two nearby areas, the first was Tours, which was a royal bishopric located in the lands of another magnate, the counts of Anjou, and Fleury-sur-Loire, a royal monastery, the latter, still over 90km distance. Regardless to write, Bourges was quite far from Philip’s traditional demesne.

The Reason for the Acquisition of Bourges:

It has been argued, that the purchase of Bourges was made possible in great part to the Crusading movement that was sweeping across France. Contemporary sources seem, mostly, in accordance with the above. Orderic Vitalis, for example, a trustworthy source, mentioned that, “Odo sold the town of Bourges, Bituricam, to Philip, king of the French, and, with Gozlin of Courtenay and Milo of Bray, went to Jerusalem.”

Orderic’s statement is justified by another source, The Chronicle of the Kingdom Of France, which further added that Philip, in order to augment his own possessions, purchased the county of Bourges from Odo who then went with Peter the Hermit to fight the Saracens.

Odo, like many of his contemporaries, infused either by the ideal of the Crusade, fighting for Christ, or the automatic pardoning of sins granted by the Church, wished to undertake such an adventure. In need of funds, as such a journey was both perilous and expensive, and from the probability of never returning to his home, decided to sell his lands to his immediate lord, King Philip.

The Purchase of Bourges:

Returning to the above sources, Philip paid sixty thousand “cents”. “Cents” is used loosely, as an adequate modern term is lacking. The sources below, for example, illustrate the problem. The Chronicle of Vezelay stated that Philip paid sex millium solidorum while Aimoin, in his Deeds of the Franks, claimed a price of sexaginta millium solidorum. Lastly, The Chronicle of the Kingdom of France related that Philip paid LX millium librarum. Regardless, the king paid 60.000 pieces of something.

Although the amount seems large, without knowing Philip’s revenues, or how much that sum would be worth, comparatively, to other properties or possessions, it is near to impossible to analyse the value of the purchase and whether or not it commanded a large part of Philip’s treasury.

The Date of the Purchase:

There is, unfortunately, no accurate date as to when Philip acquired Bourges as the chronicles, apart from Orderic, are either silent or wrong. For example, the above mentioned Chronicles of Vezelay placed the purchase in 1065 while that of Aimoin dated it to before the civil war between the brothers Fulk and Geoffrey of Anjou, which was in the 1060s!

The extreme dates, however, are 1097 and 1102. In 1097, a charter was subscribed by a certain Odo, viscount of Bourges, of a donation to Saint-Sulpice. Afterwards, there is a royal charter dated 16 October 1102 in which Philip confirmed the restitutions, concessions and donations made to the church of Saint-Ambroix. From the above charter, it is known that the king had already organised Bourges along royal lines as both a provost and an exactor were identified.

Without otherwise contradictory evidence, there seems no reason to doubt Orderic Vitallis and his date of 1101 for that of the purchase.

Results of the Acquisition:

The addition of Bourges to the royal demesne seems to be, at first, insignificant. The land, or lands, acquired by the king was isolated and surrounded by lords and castellans more or less independent from royal authority. The importance of Bourges, however, was immense. It brought royal authority to a region that had not felt it for many generations.

Secondly, and possibly of greater importance, it acted as an advanced outpost that later kings, such as Louis VI, Louis VII and Philip II would use to enforce their authority further south. It would, also, be used by those same kings to intervene in conflicts in different regions, such as Aquitaine. Bourges, in the end, was an important purchase for the Capetian monarchy.