Thursday, 30 October 2014

Edward II: The Unconventional King Blog Tour

Wonderful news for all those who would like to learn more about Henry the Young King's great-great-nephew Edward II from a long-awaited biography by Ms Kathryn Warner that has been oficially released on 28 October 2014: Ms Warner is going on a blog tour this week to promote her book. You can meet her at the following blogs:

28 October: A general introduction to Edward II, his reign and his ancestry at Christy K. Robinson's Rooting for Ancestors blog.

29 October: A post about Edward II and his children at

30 October: Edward and the Despensers at Susan Higginbotham's blog.

31 October: An interview with Gareth Russell on his blog.

1 November: Edward II and Piers Gaveston at Anerje's Piers blog.
2 November: Edward II and his household at Annette's Impressions in Ink.

3 November: Edward II and his rustic pursuits at Becky's The Medieval World.

4 November: An interview and book giveaway with Olga at Nerdalicious.

5 November: Edward II and his 12th century ancestry at Henry the Young King

Ms Warner has kindly agreed to pay a visit to Henry the Young king blog, too. Hooray! We will have the rare honour to entertain her on 5 November. You are warmly welcome.


Kathryn Warner’s new book, ‘Edward II: The Unconventional King’, is available to buy now at the Amberley website:, precisely here.
Visit Kathryn’s blog here:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Henry the Young King's Expansion

I am happy to announce that recently Henry the Young King has found one more safe haven. He is going to share it with his namesakes, other Henrys, coming from different parts of Europe. Bearing in mind his proverbial charm he should make friends easily (of course if not tourneying, he is going to spend most of his time here - as he always does). You are going to find him here, on Henryków Blog. "Henryków" means "belonging to Henrys". As it happens, it is also the name of a small town, where one of the oldest Cistercian houses in western Poland had been founded by Duke Henryk Pobożny [Henry the Pious] in 1222, with the first abbot also named Henryk. It was in Henryków where the invaluable collection of documents was kept with the very first sentence in Polish recorded (as we know the books were written in Latin then). The collection is known as Księga Henrykowska [the Book of Henryków] and can be seen in the Archidiocesan Museum of Wrocław today.

Duke of Wrocław, Henryk IV Probus [the Righteous] as the winner of the tournament, image from Codex Manesse (source: Wikipedia)

Henryków Blog is going to house the apartments of Polish, English, French and German kings, dukes and counts named Henry. Feel free to drop by and pay a visit to them. To do this you will have to use the Google translator, though, so the contents may seem a little bit "clumsy" to you (as always with such devices).

PS Personal request: Please do read this post again and help Henry free himself from Mr Warren's groundless accusations (at least some of them).

Friday, 17 October 2014

17 October 1173: Battle of Fornham

Today marks the 841st anniversary of the Battle of Fornham, as some historians say, the most decesive battle in Henry II's reign and as I say, the most humiliating defeat in Herny the Young King's Great Revolt. It was fought in England, near Bury St Edmunds, on 17 October 1173, the same year the well known Jocelin of Brakelond entered the monastery. Take a look at my last year's post about the battle and the events surrounding it here. Note that most unusually there was a woman actively involved, fully armed, fighting alongside the men (the latter must have been genuinely shocked at her brazen behaviour ;-)). You can read about this D&D (daring and determined) lady here.

Both Ms Sharon Kay Penman and Ms Elizabeth Chadwick have given a vivid description of the battle in their novels, Devil's Brood and The Time of Singing respectively.

Additionally, we have a cause for celebration. Today's post is our 100th Henry the Young King post. Hurrah! Grasping the opportunity I would like to thank all those who actively support our Henry the Young King blog. Many thanks to Ms Marsha Lambert, Ms Joan Battistuzzi, Ms Maria Grace of Random Bits of Fascination, Ms Anerje, the champion of Piers Gaveston, Ms Gabriele Campbell from the Lost Fort, Ms Gocho from Portal Strategie and Ms Ellen of Historical Ragbag, who has kindly mentioned our Lesser Land in her brilliant post on royal deaths. As always we are grateful to Ms Sharon Kay Penman, Ms Elizabeth Chadwick and Ms Kathryn Warner for their encouragement and kind support. Special "Thank you!" to Mr Malcolm Craig for being my Friend in 11th and 12th Century History.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A Little Lower Than the Angels: Images of Henry the Young King

Before I focus on the depictions of Henry the Young King that have survived to our days, I would like to express my gratitude to Ms Elizabeth Chadwick for inspiring me to write this post. As it happens, a few days ago I came across her blog post, in which she recommended a new Eleanor of Aquitaine book, Inventing Eleanor by Michael R. Evans. Read Ms Chadwick's post here. To my utter delight, in his work Mr Evans mentions my favourite authors of historical fiction, both Ms Elizabeth Chadwick and Ms Sharon Kay Penman! I am so very happy to see their names in a book on Henry's mother, whom both ladies brought vividly to life. Fully deserved. We all can learn history from their brilliant novels.

Now back to our Henry. I have already discussed how he looked like in one of my previous posts. His contemporaries seemed unanimous when describing his physical appearance.

"He was tall in stature, and distinguished in appearance... Fair among children of men” from Otia Imperialia by Gervase of Tilbury, Henry's former chaplain, written in the early 13th century for Henry's nephew, Otto of Brunswick, Holy Roman Emperor (1175-1218).

"Of his beauty, of his largesse, of his goodness, of his prowess, you could say much” and "King Henry the young was acclaimed king who was so handsome and brave and a noble young man”. From The Becket Leaves, written by the anonymous author (one of the candidates is Matthew Paris) in the 13th century(

".. the attractive  tinder of villainy, a lovely place of sin…” From De nugis curialium by Walter Map, who also said that the Young King was handsome and eloquent, " a little lower than the Angels".

To make it brief: he must have looked every inch a king. He certainly was more regal than his father, Henry II, well known for a total disregard for contemporary fashion and displays of royal splendour (clothing included). The Young King must have been taller, too, for at least two chroniclers of the time did not omit to mention it, the above-cited Gervase of Tilbury and Gerald of Wales:

"They [Henry and Richard] were both tall in stature, rather above the middle size. And of commanding aspect”. From The Topography of Ireland (On Henry II and his sons), written by Gerald of Wales c.1188.

As one may suspect, only few images of the Young King survived to our era. And little wonder. We should consider ourselves lucky to have any at all. Let's not forget that Henry lived in the 12th century. There are no surviving images of the contemporary rulers from the less cultured parts of medieval Europe other than seals or coins, e.g. from my native Poland. We treat them as the most precious gifts from the dim and distant past.

Henry's Seal

Speaking of seals, we do know how Henry's seal looked like, but it should be taken as it is: just a sad reminder of his high, but unfullfilled ambitions, of his dreams of real power and responsiblity that had been thwarted from him by his father. His seal is much telling proof of his real status. The role of a seal was not to portray a ruler as an individual but 'to convey a sense of his or her authority'. Usually a king's seal was two-sided, depicting him enthroned on one side and on horseback with his sword drawn on the other* (Inventing Eleanor). As Matthew Strickland points out, Henry the Young King's limited authority 'was even proclaimed in the unusual design of his seal; not only is it merely single-sided, but it depicts the younger Henry without a sword, a key symbol of authority' (The Upbringing of Henry the Young King, p.194). 

The Poitiers Window

The stained-glass window in Sainte-Pierre Cathedral, Poitiers, could be called the earliest contemporary portrait of Henry the Young King, but just as with seals and tomb effigies, it cannot be truly taken as a realistic depiction of the figures represented in it. It was comissioned by Henry's parents who are shown as donors. The four figures of children are to represent the royal couple's then-surviving sons, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John, which places the creation of the window sometime between the birth of the youngest, John, in 1166 and the Great Revolt of Henry the Young King, in which he was supported by his mother and two brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, in 1173.

The detail of the large stained glass, Sainte-Pierre Cathedral, Poitiers (source: Web Gallery of Art)

The Radegonde Mural

If the historians are in the right there is one more depiction of Henry dating back to his earthly days, and it is the so called Radegonde Mural, discovered by Albert Heron in 1964. Thanks to this remarkable discovery we can admire it today at Chinon, on the wall of the underground chapel of Sainte-Radegonde. We all are familiar with the image of the middle figure commonly identified as Eleanor of Aquitaine, for many of Eleanor books, both biographies and novels, feature it on their covers. 




Historians, however, have probed deeper and the recent interpretations of the scene have cast a new light on the identities of the figures depicted in it. As I mentioned above, it has been long believed that the crowned figure in the middle was Henry's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In fact, it might be the Young King himself. As Ursula Nielgen points out, all five figures are males. On closer examination she has found the clothing and hairstyle typical of the male fashion of the day. That is why she identifies the figures as Henry II and his four sons, and the second crowned figure as Henry the Young King not his mother. The two figures wearing caps are Richard and Geoffrey (dukes of Poitou and Brittany), and the rider next to Henry the Young King is his youngest brother, John. For the date of the creation of the painting Nielgen suggests the aftermath of the 1173-74 Revolt when the father and sons were reconciled. This would exclude Eleanor, who was her husband's prisoner at the time and far from being reconciled with him. To sum up, if Ursula Niegel is right, the mural is the earliest surviving contemporary representation of Henry the Young King. You can view a few wonderful photos of the Radegonde treasure here.

Henry's Tomb Effigy

Had it survived, Henry's tomb effigy from Rouen Cathedral would have been the second oldest depiction of him after the mural. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 1736, alongside with those of his brother Richard and his uncle William*, for "some comparatively trivial purpose", namely the then chapter's great desire to "erect more magnificent altar, and to elevate it considerably above the level of the choir. To effect this it was necessary to take up the old pavement, to remove the monuments, and to disturb the soil underneath to the depth of 15 feet. It must be menioned, however, to their credit, that they had great respect to the mortal remains of these illustrious persons, which they replaced in their original positions; and when the new pavement was put down, squares of white marble were inserted over the graves of each, bearing simple and appropriate inscriptions...' (from French Cathedrals). Upon that of Henry one could read:


(Henry would have probably exclaimed: "By the legs of God, I AM Henry, king of the English in my own right. Not just Richard's brother!!! I led an independent life, you know!" ).

Still, we should consider ourselves lucky, for before the tombs were destroyed, Bernard de Montfaucon, a French monk, one of the founders of  modern archeology, had copied them and preserved as engravings. The below drawing comes from Livre du Millénaire de la Normandie (1911, probably after Montfaucon).

Let me note that Richard's tomb was later discovered almost intact (one can only marvel at his proverbial luck which seems to have run out only once, at Chalus). You can read about it here. The author of the letter has won my heart by showing deep concern about the lost tomb of Henry the Young King.

The tomb of Henry the Young King today, Rouen Cathedral (courtesy of Ms Rebecca Bugge)

Chartres and Angers Stained-Glass Windows

The windows at Chartres and Angers were created to narrate the life of Henry's one time tutor, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, Becket, upon his return from exile, wanted to pay respects to the young Henry, residing at Winchester at the time, but the latter refused to see him. It is the scene of Henry's refusal that has been depicted in both the Angers and the Chartres windows. The windows must have been created relatively close to each other: historians suggest c.1204 for the Angers window and 1210–20 for Chartres.

The young king Henry refuses to meet Thomas Becket. Angers, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, window 108, panel 4. (source: Vidimus)

The young king Henry refuses to meet Thomas Becket. Chartres, Cathédrale Notre-Dame, window 18, panel 18. (source: Vidimus)

The Becket Leaves

The Becket Leaves is a French-verse history of  the life of Henry's one time tutor, St Thomas Becket, written between c.1220 and c.1240, probably by Matthew Paris. Only a few pages of the illustrated poem have survived and quite miraculously the Young Henry's first coronation has been among the lucky "survivors". 

We can see Henry being crowned by Roger of Pont-l’EvequeArchbishop of York, on the left and served by his father , Henry II, at the coronation banquet on the right (source: Wikipedia).

Jean Fouqet's Henry

The 15th century manuscript illumination depicting the coronation of Henry's brother-in-law Philippe Auguste [Philip Augustus] on 1 November 1179. Henry, together with his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, represented the House of Anjou on the occasion. Not only did he hold the crown for young Philippe, but also bedazzled all the present with his retinue and most precious gifts for the new king. The image comes from Grandes Chroniques de France, created c.1455, so three centuries after Henry's death. Jean Fouquet, who painted the minature, did not know how Henry looked like, for how could he. Judging by the illumination, however, he must have read the chroniclers' descriptions of Henry, or perhaps, the Young King's good looks were still remebered at the timeHere is my post about Philippe's coronation and the part Henry played in it.

Post scriptum

And this is my intentional omission:

From Historia Anglorum (1250-1259) by Matthew Paris. The portrait of Henry being a part of the illumiantion depicting his father, Henry II, his brothers, Richard I and John, and his nephew Henry III (source: Wikipedia). Don't you think that the Young King looks like a dolt in it? Hence the omission :-) But I have felt obliged to share it with Henry's readers anyway.

* It was to convey two of a king's major roles- as provider of justice and authority and as a war-leader.

** Richard's tomb was near the altar on the left. The tombs of Henry and William were also near the altar, but on the other side. The remains of William (d.1164), the younger brother of Henry II, were not found.


“On the Instruction of a Prince: the Upbringing of Henry, the Young King” by Matthew Strickland in Henry II: New Interpretations. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007

Gerald of Wales: On Henry II and his Sons, from the Topography of Ireland, chapters 49-50” fromThe Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis. Translated by Thomas Forester; revised by Thomas Wright. Etext file created for a class by Scott Mcletchie. Reproduced in Paul Hassal, ed.the Internet Medieval Source Book. Fordham University

Inventing Eleanor: The Medieval and Post-Medieval Image of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Micheal R. Evans, Google Books

The Demon's Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty by Desmond Seward, Google Books

The Plantagenet Empire 1154-1224 by Martin Aurell, translated from the French by David Crouch, Google Books

French Cathedrals. From Drawings by R. Garland with an Historical and Descriptive Account by B.Winkles, Google Books

Account of a Tour in Normandy by Dawson Turner, Google Books

Observations on the Monumental Effigy of Richard I of England by Albert Way, Google Books

"Proper Behaviour for Knights and Kings: The Hagiography of Matthew Paris, Monk of St Albans" by Cynthia Hahn in The Haskins Society Journal ed. by Robert B. Patterson, Google Books


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

30 September 1174: Conference at Mountlouis

Just a note to say that yesterday saw the anniversary of the Great Revolt of 1173-74 definitely brought to an end. On 30 September 1174, Henry the Young King, accompanied by his father-in-law Louis VII of France and his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, was meeting his father the victorious Henry II at Mountlouis, between Tours and Amboise. The meeting probably began on the 29th - in the medieval calendar Michaelmas was one of the traditional days for peacemaking. Henry the Young King and his younger brothers had no other choice but to accept their father’s terms. The young Henry received two castles in Normandy and £ 15,000 in Angevin currency per annum, but he was to allow his youngest brother John to have Nottingham, Marlborough, and estates in Normandy and Anjou to the value of £ 2,000 annually, plus five castles. Richard received two castles and half the revenues of Poitou, and Geoffrey received half the inheritance of his future wife, Constance, the heiress to Brittany. A general amnesty was granted, with the conspicuous exceptions of William I of Scotland, the earls of Chester and Leicester, and a Breton lord Ralph de Fourages. The King of Scotland, one of Henry the Young King's chief allies in the rebellion, had to wait till 8 December 1174 to obtain his freedom. To gain his release he had no other choice but to accept the humiliating terms: he promised to do homage for Scotland to Henry II, give his brother David as a hostage and surrender the five main castles of ScotlandEdinburgh, Jedburgh, Roxburgh, Stirling and Berwick. “The Scottish Church was to be subject to the jurisdiction of that of England” and William’s nobles and clergy were to make their personal submissions to Henry.
The meeting has been vividly described by Ms. Sharon Kay Penman in her novel, The Devil's Brood, Chapter Nineteen, p.268, UK edition (2009)

On a brighter note, I have come across a brilliant review of Ms Elizabeth Chadwick's latest novel, The Winter Crown (2014), which gives us an intriguing clue about what we, the readers, may expect of her Henry the Young King. He has already made an auspicious start, appearing in the first sentence of the novel, which is a spectacular success. I have found the author's words moving and promising at the same time: "The Young King Henry, his father’s eldest legitimate son and heir, is an extraordinary figure in his own right, a light burning too bright, touched by tragedy." Does this mean we can expect the revealing insights into Henry's life, described with more understanding and compassion than the mainstream historians tend to show him? I sincerely do hope so! You can find the review here. Highly recommendable!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

That Son of Perdition: Geoffrey Duke of Brittany

Today marks the 856th anniversary of the birth of Geoffrey, the younger brother of Henry the Young King, in England on 23 September 1158. Incidentally, at the time of his arrival, his father, King Henry II, was on the Continent, visiting Paris, where Princess Marguerite (b.1157/1158), the baby daughter of Louis VII of France and Constance of Castile, was confided to his care as the future bride for his eldest surviving son, Henry [our Henry]. But back to Geoffrey- as the fourth son (third surviving) he was to become the duke of Brittany upon his marriage to Constance, the only daughter and heiress of Duke Conan IV, in 1181. The ducal couple was to rule Brittany effectively till Geoffrey's untimely death in 1186. When he lived, Geoffrey supported his brother Henry in his revolts aginst their father, and later their brother Richard. After Henry's premature death in 1183, he allied himself with their youngest brother John [Lackland] against Richard, and later with Philippe Auguste, the king of France, against both his father and Richard. Little wonder the contemporary chroniclers found nothing but condemning words for him, calling him- among others- "that son of perdition" and "that son of iniquity". To find out what the real Geoffrey was, to understand his motives and to celebrate his birthday, I have invited Mr. Malcolm Craig, the expert in Geoffrey and his family, to tell us a few words about a remarkable discovery he made while working on his thesis in Brittany in the 1970s.

I am deeply honoured to welcome you to our humble abode, Mr. Craig. Thank you for accepting my invitation. Could you tell us why Geoffrey? Of all Eleanor and Henry's sons, why him? Why not Richard or John or Henry the Young King?

My favorite medieval century is the 12th, and my preferred area of study is France and England. These preferences fit the Norman-Angevin royal family well, and Henry II was the King of England I always found most interesting. For my senior thesis topic at Harvard College, Geoffrey was the obvious choice among Henry and Eleanor's adult sons, since his life and career had been by far the least studied. I knew very little about Brittany when I began work on the thesis. I have learned much about France's western peninsula through subsequent study, and I came to love Brittany while my wife Allys and I lived in Rennes for 8 months.

Mr. Malcolm Craig atop Notre-Dame de Paris on 8 February 1974, after he had seen Geoffrey's plaque in the cathedral. 

As Marion Meade said in her biography of Geoffrey's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine: "On September 23, 1158, without fuss or fanfare and almost seeming to be an afterthought, she gave birth to another son, Geoffrey." We know that of all Henry and Eleanor's sons Geoffrey is the least known, not to say utterly forgotten. Historians seem not to care about the duke among kings, as he could be called. But what about Geoffrey's parents? Do you truly believe they treated him as an afterthought? It is my impression that things might have looked quite different.

As I said in answer to your first question, I chose to study Geoffrey's career for the very reason that it had been so neglected by mainstream historians. The neglect by historians is partly explained by the fact that he never became a king. It is disappointing that many historians continue to repeat the old stereotypes in relation to Geoffrey, despite the recent work of Judith Everard (references below), who clearly demonstrated Geoffrey's competence and tact in his administration of Brittany. It is clear that Geoffrey is the one son who was never the favorite of either parent, though I believe "afterthought" is an exaggeration. Perhaps he was a practical and competent son who was less than lovable. In this regard, a quote from Richard Barber, Henry Plantagenet (1964), is apt:

Geoffrey, though skilled in military affairs, eloquent and astute, never won men's hearts or admiration as his elder brothers had done; he took after his Angevin grandfather, in whose dry and ambitious nature these three qualities predominated. (page 220)

Henry II did not neglect his third surviving son, affiancing him to a great heiress. Constance brought Brittany on the Continent and the Honor of Richmond in England to Geoffrey. Typically for Henry, however, he delayed his son's independent rule of these acquisitions. Geoffrey was active in Brittany as his father's agent during the late 1170s, but his accession as Duke was delayed until his marriage with Constance in 1181, when he was 23. He did not receive control of the Honor of Richmond until 1183, and the County of Nantes was withheld from him until 1185 or 1186. Despite his demonstrated abilities as both an administrator and a soldier, his father only granted him real authority slowly and grudgingly. Geoffrey's mother did mourn her loss. Eleanor wrote to the pope, while Richard remained in captivity after the Third Crusade: "My posterity has been snatched from me . . . . The young king and the Count of Brittany sleep in the dust. Their unhappy mother is forced to live on, tormented by their memory." (Quoted by Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (1950), p. 440.)

                                                     Geoffrey's plaque in the cathedral

What did you learn about Geoffrey while working on the thesis and later, during your stay in Brittany? Was he really, as Roger of Howden called him, a son of iniquity and perdition? Are there still traces of Geoffrey to be found? I mean his and Constance's foundations, residences, documents, etc.

My senior thesis was titled "The Career of Geoffrey Duke Brittany," since there was not sufficient material for a biography. While working on the thesis, I learned a great deal about that career, about Breton history in the 12th century, and about Geoffrey's relations with other members of his family. Geoffrey was called "filius perditionis" and "filius iniquitatis" by Roger of Howden, only in relation to the rebellion of 1183. Gerald of Wales, who was not favorably disposed toward the Angevins, had other negative things to say about Geoffrey. The chief surviving traces of Geoffrey and Constance are in their documents. For a modern edition of these documents, see Judith Everard and Michael Jones, The Charters of Duchess Constance of Brittany and Her Family, 1171-1221 (1999). Charter C20 is the one I used to prove the existence of their second daughter. The volume includes two plates showing copies of original charters. Dr. Everard's Brittany and the Angevins, Province and Empire, 1158-1203 (2000), demonstrates how effectively Geoffrey ruled Brittany, iure uxore with Constance, during the five years before his untimely death. The Chronicle of St.-Brieuc, compiled more than 200 years after his ducal rule in Brittany ended, stated that while Geoffrey lived he treated the Breton population well ("dulciter tractavit"). While this is not contemporary evidence, it may well reflect a long-standing tradition in Brittany. I did find the trace of Geoffrey in Paris. In February 1974, when Allys and I visited Notre-Dame, where Geoffrey was buried, we located the plaque in his honor. It includes an incorrect year of death, 1185 rather than 1186.

And this leads us to your remarkable discovery of the second daughter of Geoffrey and Constance.

As explained in detail in a note called "Proving Matilda" that Sharon Kay Penman included in her blog in 2010, there was an unproven statement about Geoffrey's family that I had encountered during research for the senior thesis. I had kept this bit of information in the back of my mind for more than six years.

You must have been tremendously excited about discovering and confirming the existence of that unknown child. Did you realize then that from that time your life and Geoffrey's would become inextricable?

While doing research in Brittany on a much broader topic, I was examining acts of the rulers of Brittany published by the 19th century Breton historian Arthur de la Borderie. When I read the 1189 document containing the donation of Duchess Constance to the abbey of St.-Gildas de Rhuys, made for the salvation of the soul of the duchess and for the souls of her father Conan, her husband Geoffrey, and her daughter Matilda, I knew exactly what I had found. Ralph de Diceto had written that Geoffrey had left two daughters, and Dom Lobineau (1707) had called her "Mathilde." Any historical discovery is exciting, but there in our apartment in Rennes, in January 1974, I was not sure what I would do with the discovery of this evidence. As I explained in Proving Matilda, Allys and I saw Professor Martin Havran in London during the next month, and he steered me in an appropriate direction for publication of this new information.

How does it feel to make such a significant historical discovery? You have brought the little Matilda back to life, after all. I would even risk the statement that you have given her back to her parents. Thanks to you, she has emerged from obscurity and back onto the pages of history. In my view, there is no "bigger" feat to be accomplished by an historian.

From the time of my research at Harvard in 1966-67, my life had become entwined with the records of Geoffrey's too-brief life. Proving the existence of a little girl who lived for no more than two or three years in the 12th century was significant because of the importance of her family.

How was your life and work in Brittany? Was it difficult to follow in Geoffrey's footsteps? Did you receive any help and support from fellow historians?

Allys and I had already lived in Canada for a school year, when I earned my M.A. at the University of Toronto. Living in France, where we became familiar with a different culture and learned to speak a foreign language, was an even more enriching experience. Naturally, there was an immense amount of source material on medieval Breton history, both published and unpublished, available in Brittany. We were able to travel on occasion, visiting Paris three times, the south of France between Christmas and New Year, and London in February 1974. We also saw other parts of Brittany and nearby Normandy and toured the Loire Valley with my mother and aunt when they visited. The Breton medievalist, Hubert Guillotel, whom I met in the spring of 1974, was very helpful. When we were on our way out of the country in June, he got me into the Bibliothèque Nationale, where I spent two days on research for the Matilda article. As I have said, my research covered a much wider topic than Geoffrey and his career. From time to time, while living in Rennes, I would think about Geoffrey and Constance living there nearly 800 years before we did.

Since we are here, in the realm of Geoffrey's elder brother Henry, I feel obliged to ask: do you think Geoffrey and Henry were close? They were allies in their revolts, this we know, but as brothers?

As far as one can tell, the relations between Henry and Geoffrey remained cordial as long as both brothers lived. They may have been united by their mutual antipathy toward Richard, the brother born between them. Since Henry was the designated heir to their father's domains, Geoffrey showed political wisdom by supporting the eldest brother. In 1184, Geoffrey and Constance founded a chaplaincy at the cathedral of Rouen for the soul of his late brother. A copy of this document is found on page 14 of Dr. Everard's Charters.

What if Henry had not died in 1183? Did he and Geoffrey have realistic chances of defeating their father and Richard?

I think not. As the events in 1183 demonstrated, when Henry used his immense resources to support Richard, the other two brothers were no match for his combination with Richard, though intervention by the French king might have tilted the balance. At that time, John was still a teenager, and not yet involved in the intra-familial strife.

What course might history have taken had Geoffrey not died in 1186?

There is really no way to tell what course events would have taken between 1186 and 1189. It is difficult to envision Richard and Geoffrey being on the same side. So the combination of Richard and Philip against Henry alone would not have been likely. Whichever brother was allied with the Capetian king, the other brother would probably have remained loyal to their father. Once Henry II was gone, Geoffrey would have had to reconcile himself to Richard's position as ruler of England, Normandy, and Anjou. Whether Richard would have gone on the Third Crusade and left such a competent brother behind is another question. Had Geoffrey lived through the end of the 12th century, he would have followed Richard as King of England.

What books on Geoffrey would you recommend? Are there any?

I have mentioned the pioneering study of late 12th century Brittany by Judith Everard, citing the two books she published at the end of the 20th century. There, one will find the most comprehensive and carefully reasoned analysis of Geoffrey's rule in Brittany in print. In his second edition of The Angevin Empire (2001), John Gillingham takes Dr. Everard's scholarship fully into account. For a contemporary view on Geoffrey's government, I cite Richard Barber's translation of a poem by Bertran de Born, who compared him to his elder brothers:

If only Geoffrey, noble duke of Brittany
Had been the eldest of the English princes;
For he's a better ruler than you both!

Finally, though she writes historical novels rather than straight history, it is my opinion that Sharon Kay Penman has captured Geoffrey's character extraordinarily well in both Time and Chance and Devil's Brood.

Thank you for paying a visit to Henry the Young King blog and for doing me the rare honour of welcoming you to our humble abode, Mr. Craig. I do believe that the above interview is the best birthday present Duke Geoffrey could get.

Mr. Malcolm Craig was born in Massachusetts, where his mother's family had lived for more than 300 years. When his father became a Professor of Meteorology at Florida State University, the family moved to Florida, where Malcolm attended high school. He returned home to attend Harvard College and earn a B.A. in Medieval History. Soon after graduation, he married Allys Palladino. They moved 13 times during the first 13 years of their marriage, living in Massachusetts, Canada, Virginia, France, and finally back in Florida again. There has been only one more move since 1980, when the first of their three sons was born, and that was for a distance of one block on the same street. Malcolm has an M.A. in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto, and he studied Medieval History for several years at the University of Virginia. His dissertation on medieval Brittany and England was not completed, due partly to the need to work full-time with a growing family and partly to the declining job market for university historians. He explains his 30-odd years of work as a bureaucrat by the origins of modern bureaucracy in medieval England. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Louis VII of France, the Father-in-Law of Henry the Young King

Yesterday marked the 834th anniversary of Louis VII of France's death on 18 September 1180. I am not going to discuss Louis's career as a king of France. This I leave to my friend, Mr. Richard Willis, who wrote a brilliant post about the monarch. It is Louis the father-in-law of Henry the Young King who interests me today. As a matter of fact, I find it necessary to mention that Louis was the first husband of Henry's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Unfortunately- or quite fortunately, as it turned out- the marriage proved to be as complete a failure as the Second Crusade, in which both Eleanor and Louis took part (he as one of the leaders). In 1152 the couple obtained the annulment, oficially on the grounds of consaguity, which, apparently had been overlooked for fifteen years of their marriage (hmm...). It was common knowledge, however, that Louis wanted to get rid of his wife because she had been unable to give him the much anticipated male heir. The annulment resulted in... founding the Plantagenet dynasty. "But how?", you may ask. Let me explain: precisely six weeks after the divorce was granted, Eleanor, that shameless woman, had a cheek to marry Henry Fitz Empress, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou and heir presumptive to the English throne. To make things even worse, scarcely a year passed when she gave birth to a healthy BOY. Two years later another boy was born (the one of interest to us). She was to give her second husband five boys in total. One may only wonder what Louis thought about it, especially that his second wife, Constance of Castile, just like Eleanor before her, gave him only two daughters. The elder of them, Marguerite was bethrothed to our Henry in 1158 and married off to him two years later, on 2 November 1160. Louis did not attend the wedding, for he had no idea it was taking place. Henry II outmanoeuvred him, and having the papal legates at hand, seized the opportunity to gain control of Marguerite's dowry, the Norman Vexin*, which he was to get after the children were wed sometime in distant future- that was at least how Louis must have envisaged it. 

Louis VII of France, with his third wife, Adele of Blois, shown holding his son (source: Wikipedia)

As I said, all the above occured in 1160, but when exactly our Henry met his father-in-law in person for the first time? It seems that their first meeting took place shortly before Henry and Marguerite's wedding, in October, when Henry's father and Louis renewed peaceful negotiations- they were practically at war since Henry's unsuccessful Toulouse campaign of 1159 during which Louis had chosen to come to his brother-in-law Raymond St Giles's aid. The meeting was arranged at the marches of Normandy. On the occasion five-year-old Henry did homage to his father-in-law for the Duchy of Normandy. Louis content- as it seemed- with the outcome of negotiations, went back to Paris where he busied himself with preparations for his hasty wedding to Adela of Blois, who was to be his third wife** Apparently the border meeting dulled his vigilance, for he never saw the blow coming. Only later did he learn that the afore-mentioned five-year-old prince became his son-in-law in the opening days of November. It took Louis and Henry II two years to be reconciled.

But let us not get distracted from the main subject of this post. The meeting on the Norman marches opened the series of similar conferences that were to take place during Henry's entire life. Louis was Henry's father-in-law, but let's not forget that he was, first and foremost, his liege lord. The meeting well worth a mention occured at Montmirail, a town of Maine, near to the French frontier and to Chartres, in January 1169. On the feast of Epiphany Henry II, accompanied by his three eldest sons (John was but three years old at the time), agreed that he and his son Henry were to hold Normandy, doing fealty to Louis and his son Philippe. Additionaly Prince Henry was to hold Brittany, Maine and Anjou and the honorary title of Seneschal of France was to be bestowed upon him by Louis*** Henry and Richard did homage to Louis the following day (7 January). Soon after the meeting, on 2 February, Henry attended his father-in-law's court and performed the office of the Seneschal of France (previously held by Theobald of Blois). It was then perhaps that young Henry and Louis came to know each other better.

When the fifteen-year-old Henry was crowned king in 1170, Louis was enraged that his daughter, Marguerite, was not crowned with her husband. It is hard to believe, however, that he blamed his son-in-law. After all it was Henry II, who pulled the strings. Three years later Henry the Young King rebelled against his father and this time Louis was said to have dipped his oar in already troubled waters by inciting his son-in-law to stand against his sire.**** The Young King did pay a visit to his father-in-law's court four months prior to the outbreak of the revolt (in November 1172), true, but it could not be Louis's scheming itself that galvanized him into action. Let's not forget that the Young King was not a dolt and was uble to think and decide for himself. We can be pretty sure, however, that the French king's conduct as Henry's chief ally and commander in chief during the Great Revolt must have left his son-in-law disillusioned not only about Louis's military and political skills, but also about his piety and sincerity. Louis's blatant violation of the agreements at both the siege of Verneuil in 1173 and the siege of Rouen in 1174, must have been a profoundly disturbing experience for his young son-in-law especially that he was the eyewitness to it.***** When peace was restored and Henry and his brothers met their father to discuss the terms of agreement at Mt Louis, between Tours and Amboise, on 30 September 1174, they did it, as Roger of Howden reports, "by the advice and consent of the king and barons of France". In the light of Louis's shameful conduct- encouraging his son-in-law to oppose his father, violating the terms of truce at Verneuil and later Rouen plus excluding the then sevnteen-year-old Richard "from all benefit of the truce" and leaving him on his own to fight against his father in Poitou- how does his taking on the role of a "peace-maker" look like. Not that our Henry was an innocent, no. But judging from the chronicles of the time, his powerful allies, Louis among them, paid him little heed (in his account of the siege of Rouen Howden does not even mention him as one of the commanders). I wonder what Henry must have been thinking when three years later he witnessed a historic moment: on 21 September 1177, at Ivri, both his father and his father-in-law swore to take the cross. 

In 1179 Louis had his only son crowned king. He himself, “labouring under old age and a paralytic malady”, did not attend the coronation which took place at Reims on All Saints' Day. As I wrote in one of my previous posts, Henry the Young King together with his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, represented his father on the occasion, carrying Philippe's crown in the procesion and supporting his head during the ceremony itself. He stood close behind and bent forward to hold the crown upon the boy’s head, and thus relieve him of its weight. ‘This implied’, Ralph of Diceto observes, ‘that if ever the French needed help they could safely ask for it from one who had helped at their king’s coronation’. Kate Norgate interprets this act of kindness as the symbol and harbinger of the later political attitude of Henry’s father towards the boy-king of France. Louis must have known about it. Perhaps the Young King paid a visit to his ailing father-in-law and assured him of his and his father's readiness to support young Philippe. It must have been the last time Henry saw and talked to his father-in-law. Louis died a year later, on 18 September 1180. I have not been able to find any record that he and his son-in-law ever met again.

* To learn more about the Norman Vexin, that heated point of contention between England and France, read a brilliant post by Mr. Richard Willis here.

** Constance of Castile died a month earlier, in September, after giving birth to yet one more daughter, Alais, the younger sister of Marguerite.

*** Prince Richard was to hold Aquitaine and marry Louis's daughter, the younger Alais (Louis had two daughters of that name, the elder by Eleanor, the younger by Constance of Castile) and Prince Geoffrey Brittany under Prince Henry.

**** This is how Roger of Howden described Louis's part in the outbreak of the Great Revolt of 1173-74:

'Louis, king of France, who always held the king of England in hatred, counselled the new king of England, as soon as he should arrive in Normandy, to request the king, his father, to give him either the whole of England or the whole of Normandy, where he himself might reside with his daughter. He further advised him, if his father will be willing to grant him neither of those countries, to return, together with his queen to France to him...' (The Annals, p. 362)

***** Let's not forget that Henry was known for being the epitome of chivalry.


Ralph of Diceto. Images of History. In The Plantagenet Chronicles, ed. Dr.Elizabeth Hallam Greenwich Edition, 2002.

The Annals of Roger of Hoveden

Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive.

The Government of Philip Augustus by John W. Baldwin. Google Books.

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade. Pheonix Press Paperback, 2002.