Tuesday, 8 April 2014

April Recommendations and Blog Break

Henry the Young King Blog is taking a break till around 22nd April, but before we say “Goodbye!” to our readers we would like to recommend a few blogposts dealing with Henry the Young King's April anniversaries, but also a few brilliant texts by our friends and fellow bloggers.

Here they are:

Our last year's post about eventful 1st April and about Henry the Young King's whereabouts on 10 April 1155.

Wonderful post by our friend Richard Willis about Richard I's death (6 April 1199).

Smash hit by the author Elizabeth Chadwick here (about the new BBC production on William Marshal).

Fascinating and “exotic” post by Edward II's champion, Kathryn Warner, about the Saracens and a Gascon at Edward's court.

Brilliant post by our friend Anerje about creative, inventive and deliberately insulting Piers Gaveston :-)

Highly interesting post by our friend Gabriele about the place where Henry the Young King's brother-in-law, Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, had his famous Gospels created.

I would also like to recommend a new site about Robert Curthose by the author Austin Hernon. If you are eager to learn more about William the Conqueror's son it is well worth visiting.

We would like to say big “Thank you!” to Ms. Marsha Lambert, our friend and benefactor, for all the links and recommendations. Marsha wrote a brilliant review about Mr Hernon's novel, Robert the Wayward Prince, here. Enjoy!

And here's our goodbye Henry the Young King quote:

“… no sooner was the helmet on his head than he assumed a lofty air, and became impetuous, bold and fiercer than any wild beast” 

Gerald of Wales: On Henry II and his Sons, from the Topography of Ireland, chapters 49-50

Thursday, 27 March 2014

27 March 1168. Fateful Day?

27th March 1168 must have been one of the darkest days of William Marshal's life. According to Eyton*, on this day William's uncle, Earl Patrick of Salisbury, was killed in an ambush in Poitou, whereas William himself received a bad wound in his thigh and was taken captive, with no prospects of winning his freedom. In the long run, however, that day's events turned out to be the most fortunate for him. He could not have forseen that he had just taken the first step on the road to his brilliant career.

William's maternal uncle**, Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, was Henry II's staunch supporter and one of few king's men of Anglo-Norman origin to hold post in the lands of Queen Eleanor. The king named him commander of his military forces in Aquitaine by 1163. In this he was given priority over Theobald Chabot, lord of Vouvent and the Poitevin constable of Aquitaine.

On that fateful day, Patrick, together with his twenty-one-year-old nephew and a small force, was escorting Queen Eleanor from castle to castle when they were surprised by the Lusignan brothers. Shortly before Henry II had quelled the rebellion of which the latter had been chief instigators and took the Castle of Lusignan. He went to confer with Louis VII leaving his queen and the earl in charge of the province. Geoffrey and Guy***, two of the brothers, ambushed the party, and whereas the queen managed to reach the safety of a nearby castle, the unarmed earl Patrick was struck from behind and died on the spot under his nephew’s eyes, the most shocking event by the 12th century standards. Thanks to The History of William Marshal we get the glimpse of the pandemonium that followed:
"When the Marshal saw the blow delivered that killed his uncle, he almost went out of his mind in his grief, because he was unable to reach in good time the man who had killed him; he would have gladly avenged his death. He did not wait until he was fully armed.With only his hauberk on, but otherwise unarmed, he launched himself into a violent attack. With the lance he held in his hand he went to engage the first of them and knocked him off his horse. He was bent on exacting violent revenge; never was a starving lion so savage towards its prey. No man did he meet in his path who did not suffer a painful and ignominious fate. He would have taken full revenge for the Earl’s death, but the other side overwhelmed him with their lances and killed his horse under him. And even when he had hit the ground, he did not hold back for a minute. There was no way that he could find to escape them. I believe that more than sixty of them attacked him all at once; they all wanted to overwhelm him and all strove to take him.” (You can find the whole story here)

Enraged William fought bravely, but after receiving wound into his thigh he was captured and held for ransom****. To William, being a landless knight, the situation must have seemed hopeless. Fortunately the Queen, having learned of his predicament, came to his aid. She paid the ransom and ‘to recompense him for his sufferings, gave him money, horses, arms, and rich vestments’ (Painter, p.27). Moreover she endowed an anniversary mass to be said annually "for the soul of Earl Patrick who died in our service” at the church of Saint-Hilaire, Poitiers, where William's uncle was laid to rest.

We can safely assume that the origins of William’s close relationship with the House of Plantagenet ( that was to last until his death in 1219) and his rise to power and fame lay in the aforementioned events. Shortly afterward, in 1170 , he was appointed tutor-in-arms to the newly crowned Henry the Young King.

* Eyton gives 27th March as the day, whereas Ralph Turner in his biography of Eleanor says the incident occured in late March or early April.

** William's father, John the Marshal, took Patrick's sister, Sybil, for his second wife.

*** Geoffrey joined the Young King's household on the occasion of the war of 1183, whereas Guy, who according to Roger of Howeden "slew” Patrick, was banished from Poitou by the "enraged” king Henry. He took the Cross and went to Jerusalem, where he remained in the service of King Baldwin IV [the Leper] only to become king of Jerusalem himself in 1186.

**** The author of the History says that William would have stood his ground and not have been seized, had it not been for the “outrageous act”: he was surprised from behind by a knight who jumped over the hedge [apparently William was fighting with a hedge behind his back] and pierced his thigh.


Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/courthouseholdit00eyto

The Annals of Roger de Hoveden  trans. by Henry T. Riley. Internet Archive of Northeastern University Libraries.

The History of William Marshal. Online resources.

William Marshal. Court Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire 1147-1219 by David Crouch. Harlow, 1990.

William Marshal. Knight-Errant, Baron, and Regent of England by Sidney Painter. Toronto, Buffalo, London, 1982.

The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Literature and Society in Southern France between the Eleventh and Thirteenth Centuries ed. by Marcus Bull and Catherine Leglu. The Boydell Press, 2005.

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Ralph V. Turner. Ne Haven and London, 2011.

Friday, 21 March 2014

William Marshal Conquers BBC

Great news to all ardent admirers, but also to those who have never heard of Henry the Young King's friend and most celebrated champion,William Marshal. There is a BBC Two Programme about him coming on Wednesday, 26 March. Written and presented by Dr Thomas Asbridge (the author of the brilliant The First Crusade: A New History) and directed by Mr Jack MacInnes, it is going to bring pure joy to the watchers and make William Marshal proud again. At least I sincerely hope so :-) Many thanks to my friend Anerje for letting me know about it.

I am also reading, which I find even more exciting, that Dr Asbridge's latest book, A Knight's Tale, will be published in December 2014. It is going to be a "facinating and revealing” biography of William Marshal. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Happy Birthday to Mr. Richard Willis!

Happy Birthday to my dear friend and Henry the Young King's benefactor, Richard Willis, who took the risk of inviting me to write about the Young King for his blog the other day, which was my first Henry the Young King official post. We met thanks to Ms. Sharon Kay Penman and her wonderful Angevin trilogy. But it was Thomas Becket, who actually kindled a spark of mutual interest within us, so many thanks to Saint Thomas (whom we disagree about).

Grasping the opportunity, I would like to recommend a few of Richard's brilliant posts from his blog (hope he doesn't mind). Here they are:

Enjoy reading them as much as I did.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Devil's Brood Coming Tomorrow on BBC Two

Many thanks to my friend Anerje for sharing this great news on her blog: Professor Robert Bartlett begins a new series about the Plantagenets on BBC Two. The first part entitiled Devil's Brood is coming tomorrow, Monday 17th March. Check the link here. Because Henry the Young King's father, Henry II, was the first Plantagenet king, in the opening episode we're going to meet Henry the Young King's tempestuous family and- hopefully- Henry himself. Robert Bartlett is Wardlaw Professor of Medieval History at St Andrews University, Scotland and author of a must-have book, England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225. I wrote about the book and the Young King here. Hopefully, Henry's Polish scribe will be able to watch the episode where she lives :-) 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Illustrious Sister, Marie of Champagne

Wikipedia, not always reliable source, gives 11 March as the day when Marie, Countess of Champagne died in 1198, aged fifty-three. Marie did die in March 1198, but when it came to determine the day, I haven't been able to confirm the information. Still I grasped the opportunity to write about Henry the Young King's sister.

Marie was Henry's half-sister, to be precise. To make it even more complicated, she was both Henry's and his wife, Marguerite's half-sister. The eldest child of both Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France (I use “both”, for both Eleanor and Louis later had more children from their second and, in case of Louis, third, marriages). Marie was born in 1145, eight years after her parents were married. The story of her arrival in this world is a well known one. Marie's mother, young Eleanor, her royal husband and his subjects must have been greatly disturbed by the fact that the years passed and much awaited male heir to the throne did not appear. Many became convinced that their queen was barren. Eleanor decided to seek advice of Bernard of Clairvaux [later saint]. The meeting was arranged on the occasion of the dedication of Abbe Suger's newly built cathedral at Saint-Denis, in June 1144. Eleanor met Bernard in private to discuss her sister Petronilla and her husband Raoul's case. She asked him to intervene on the latters' behalf promising to make concessions in the matter of Champagne (Louis and Count Thibaut were waging war) and perhaps recognize Peter de la Châtre as archbishop of Bourges. What she said and the “manly” way she presented her ideas must have horrified the holy man, for he rebuked her harshly, commanding her to stop meddling in affairs of state. Eleanor, a shrewd tactician, humbled herself by saying what troubled her most, namely her failure to produce a child. Upon hearing this Bernard offered her a bargain. She was to do everything she could to re-establish peace and he, in return, by his prayers would obtain from the Lord what she requested. Eleanor reported the abbot's words to Louis and kept her part of the bargain. Bernard, as the time showed, was less successful. The royal child indeed was born the following year, but it was not a much awaited son, but a daughter, whom Eleanor named Marie.

Marie was barely seven and her younger sister, Alix, one, when their parents obtained the annulment of their marriage in 1152. The princesses came under the protection of Louis. Both seem to have had remarkably little contact with their mother thereafter. Louis had them bethrothed to the brothers Henri of Champagne (1152-1181) and Thibaut of Blois*. Marie had long been promised to Henri, whom her father befriended on the Second Crusade and who at twenty-five succeeded his father as count of Troyes and Meaux. In 1155, the year when Marie's half-brother Henry [the future Young King] was born, ten-year-old Marie was staying at the prestigious old Benedictine convent of Avenay, near Epernay, where she had been sent to in 1153, the year she reached the canonical age of consent and was formally betrothed to Henri of Champagne. They were married in 1159, when Marie was fourteen. In the twenty-two years of their marriage they had four children: Henri, Marie, Scholastique and Thibaut.

Sometime in 1178, Marie's husband decided to revisit the Holy Land. In the count’s eighteen-month absence (May 1179- February 1181) Marie ruled the county in his stead. She had never done it before because her husband had his system of governance well established before she arrived in Troyes and because there was no such need. She did it alone, without regency council, and she showed great skill and decisiveness. She did not hesitate to join the opposition against her half-brother Philip, when the latter acted against his mother's family and married Isabelle of Hainaut, who was already bethrothed to Marie's oldest son, Henri. Marie's husband returned from the Holy Land in February 1181 only to die a month later, on 16 March 1181. After his death Marie exercised the comital office as regent, this time for her son Henri (II), for six years (March 1181- May 1187). We get the glimpse of Marie the politician thanks to Gislebert of Mons, who, in his Chronicle of Hainaut, described the conference at Sens, between Marie, her late husband's family, her brother Philip [Augustus] on one side and Baldwin, the count of Hainaut on the other. The latter was summoned by Philip to “keep the cotracts of matrimony confirmed for his children and the countess of Champagne's children, with faith given and oath offered.” (Chronicle of Hainaut, p.104)** Baldwin asked for delays, but he was, as Gislebert put it, “constrained” by the countess and her in-laws. Cornered, the Count came from Sens to Troyes, where the contracted marriage of his son Baldwin, and Marie of Champagne (the daughter) was sworn on both sides.

When Henri reached maturity and assumed the countship Marie decided to retire to Fontaines-les-Nannes, a Fontevrist priory near Meaux, taking with her her second son, eight-year-old Thibaut. Marie herself was forty-two at the time and probably could not have imagined she was ever to rule again. The fall of the Holy City, however, made her son, Henri, as many young men at the time, take “the Jerusalem road”. In 1190, before he set off at the head of a large contignent of barons and knights to accompany his uncle, Richard I , king of England [Lionheart], on the Third Crusade, he summoned his barons and knights to Sezanne to swear oaths of fidelity to his twelve-year-old brother Thibaut in the event that he himself did not return from the Holy Land. Upon his departure Marie resumed the office of a regent. She could not have known she would never see her son again, for “... although all the kings and princes returned from there to their own lands, he remained there as if alone, and received through a certain marriage the kingdom of that land, the wealth of which seemed greater than his own regions’(Chronicle of Hainaut, pp.139-40). ‘A certain marriage’ meant Henry’s marriage to Isabelle, daughter of King Amaury I of Jerusalem and widow of Conrad of Montferat, whom Henry took as his wife on 5 May 1192. Henry refused the title of king, styling himself ‘lord of the kingdom of Jerusalem’ and to the very end ‘count of Champagne'. He died tragically on 10 September 1197 in a most peculiar accident, falling from a window of his palace at Acre. Was it a window or balcony railing that gave way under his weight? The accounts differ when it comes to details. One thing is certain, though: at the time of his death Henry was thirty-one, too young and promising man to die. His untimely passing must have left Marie utterly distraught. Still she continued as regent for her younger son Thibaut (III) until her death in March 1198. A month later, Thibaut, aged nineteen, was knighted by his uncle Philip of France [Augustus] and did homage for his lands at Melun. He was to rule for three years, till May 1201, when he died suddenly in the midst of the preparations for the Fourth Crusade. Fortunately, Marie did not live long enough to see him passed away prematurely and in the flower of his youth. Thibaut's widow, Blanche of Navarre, being in the last weeks of her second pregnancy and absolutely unprepared for a role she was thrust into, did the only thing she could do. She immediately made her way to Sens, where she did homage to King Philip, who became her protector and guardian of the future Thibaut IV. The latter was born within days of Blanche's return to Champagne. Blanche was to be regent for her son for the next twenty-one years (according to the custom in Champagne, counts could succeed their deceased fathers at twenty-one).

Very little is known of Marie's personal life. There is evidence she was close to her half-brothers, Richard and Geoffrey. With the former she shared Adam of Perseigne as confessor, for the latter- after his untimely death in 1186- she dedicated an altar in Paris. She also entertained her half-sister, Marguerite, the Young King's widow, at the Christmas court of 1184. As for her relationship with Henry the Young King, we should tread carefully. The two certainly met on the occasion of coronation of young Philip Capet (All Saints' Day 1179), who was Marie's half-brother and Henry's brother-in-law, and on 11 April 1182 at La Grange St Arnoult, between Senlis and Crepy, at the conference held to discuss the Vermandois succession. I think we can assume that they must have met also on different occasions, such as tournaments, official meetings and royal banquets.

Marie remains best known as her mother's daughter and for her associacions with Chretien de Troyes, who claimed he wrote Lancelot at her request, and Andreas Capellanus according to whom the famous “judgements on love" were jointly pronounced by Eleanor and Marie, which, in the light of the recent research, is pure fiction.

* Louis VII himself married Henri and Thibaut's sister, Adele, meaning that the latter was both sister-in-law and stepmother of Marie's

** Young Baldwin of Hainaut was to marry young Marie, whereas young Henri of Champagne was to marry Baldwin's sister Yolende. Yolende never married Henri, but married Count Pierre II Courtenay of Nevers.


Chronicle of Hainaut by Gilbert of Mons. Translated into English by Laura Napran. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2005

The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300 by Theodore Evergates. Google Books

"Aristocratic Women in the County of Champagne" by Theodore Evergates in Aristocratic Women in Medieval France ed. by T. Evergates. Google Books

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade. London, 2001.

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Ralph V. Turner. New Haven and London, 2011.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

5 March 1173. Henry the Young King escapes from Chinon

I want to wish Happy Birthday to one of the greatest medieval rulers (and one of my favourite), King Henry II, who was born on 5 March 1133 at Le Mans to Geoffrey le Bel of Anjou and Empress Matilda. Also, rather sheepishly, I have to mention that exactly forty years later, Henry’s eldest (surviving) son and heir, Henry the Young King gave his sire the worst birthday present ever. He escaped from Chinon Castle, where he was staying in his father's company, and made his way to the French territory, triggering what was to become the Great Revolt of 1173-74. Coming to his defence I need to point out that this was in greater measure Henry II’s own fault. To see what I mean, take a look at my last year's post entitled By the Example of Undutiful Absalom.

                          Chinon Castle today (image via Wikipedia)