Page images

who had joined Philip against him.' It is significant that in the spring or summer of this year the seneschals of Normandy, Poitou and Anjou were either changed or re-established. In Normandy the aged Fitz Ralf was succeeded by Guérin of Glapion; Geoffrey de la Celle combined the governorships of Gascony and Poitou; William des Roches was granted hereditary powers in Maine, Touraine and Anjou. 2

The royal wanderings in Aquitaine ended in a dramatic change of policy, none the less important in the future history of the province because it was the result of passion. According to one of the clauses of the recent treaty with France, Ademar of Angoulême and his half brother, the viscount of Limoges, were included in the peace with restitution of their rights, and were to pay homage to John.3 A year before they had joined Philip on somewhat the same conditions. Now between the house of Angoulême and the great house of Lusignan in Poitou, which was connected with it by marriage, there was

1. Gervase of Canterbury, ii, 92. For John's expedition in Aquitaine in July and August, see Howden, iv, 119; Annales Sancti Edmundi (Liebermann, Ungedrückte Anglo-Normannische Geschichtsquellen, p. 139; Mem. of St. Edmund's Abbey, ii, 8); Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 161-2 and notes, and the Rotui Chartarum, passim. For a connected narrative based on these authorities, see Richard, Les Comtes de Poitou, ii, 374-82.

2. Guérin of Glapion succeeded William Fitz Ralph on the latter's death, in the first part of 1200 (cf. Rot. Norm., p. 25; Stapleton, II, ccxix); Geoffrey de la Celle was appointed seneschal of Poitou on February 22nd, 1200 (Rot. Chart., 59b). He had been sent ad pacificandam Wasconiam, on January 29th with his predecessor Ralph of Mauleon, who died in the interval (Ibid, 58a). William des Roches received his appointment on June 24th (Ibid, 72a, 97a).

3. “De comite Engolismi et vicecomite Lemovicensi sic erit, quod nos recipiemus eos in homines, ita quod eis jura eorum dimittemus” (Cart. Norm., p. 281). Cf. Philip's letter to Guy of Limoges (Actes, no. 616)


rivalry for the county of La Marche. 1 During the recent troubles, in which the county of Angoulême seems to have suffered severely, the county of La Marche had been tacitly allowed by Eleanor and John to belong to Hugh of Lusignan,3 the brother of Ralph of Exoudun, the count of Eu. At this time, however, the difference in political opinion had not produced an open breach between Ademar of Angoulême and his successful kinsman, the new count of La Marche; and it might have been expected that the conclusion of peace would have restored complete harmony. The result was, however, very different. John met the count of Angoulême and the viscount of Limoges at Lusignan itself on the 5th July, and the treaty of Le Goulet was executed by their reconciliation. It is probable that at Lusignan the king saw Isabella, a girl of fourteen years of age, who was the daughter of the count of Angoulême and was formally betrothed to Hugh of Lusignan's son, Hugh le Brun the younger. 6 The ceremony of betrothal was by the canon law of the late twelfth century almost as binding as consummated marriage, and Isabella was naturally under the protection of

1. Hugh of Lusignan married Matilda, the daughter of Vulgrin III of Angoulême, who died 1181. Vulgrin III was succeeded by his brother Ademar (Boissonade in Annales du Midi, 1895, vii, 180–3). The claim to La Marche came through the mother of Ademar and Vulgrin, Margaret of Turenne.

2. Innocent III's letters in Historiens de France, xix, 450.
3. Cf. Rot. Chart., 70; Rot. Norm., 22.
4. See the safe conducts, etc., in Rot. Chart., 97a.

5. Richard, op. cit., ii, 376. Richard follows Delisle in identifying the proposed husband of Isabella with the count of La Marche, as is stated by many contemporaries. Boissonade, however, in his thesis Quomodo comites Engolismenses erga reges Angliae et Franciae se gesserint, p. 11 note, asserts that the count's wife, Matilda, was alive till 1238. His son, whom Isabella married after John's death, was also called Hugh le Brun. He must have been very young in the year 1200.

[ocr errors]

her future father-in-law.John recently had been divorced from Hawisia, the daughter of the late earl of Gloucester, and was engaged in negotiations with the king of Portugal with a view to a marriage with one of his daughters. The sight of Isabella changed all his plans. He got the count and his brothers of Lusignan out of the way, and arranged for the presence of Isabella at her father's court. He arrived at Angoulême on August 23rd, and was betrothed to Isabella on the following day. The marriage followed on the 30th at the castle of Chinon. Soon after the king brought his bride to England; and on October 8th she was crowned at Westminster. 5

The excitement which was created by this hasty wedding is familiar to every student of English history. The general view, held at any rate in England, was that John had followed the crafty suggestion of the king of France. So suicidal a deed seemed to demand a stronger motive

1. Howden, iv, 119: "idem comes in suam per verba de praesenti receperat, et ipsa illum in suum receperat per verba de praesenti.” For the binding character of this contract, see Pollock and Maitland, Hist. Eng. Law, ii, 368 seqq.

2. For the conflicting evidence on this subject, see Miss Norgate, ii, 398. The marriage was dissolved apparently in Aquitaine (Howden, iv, 119; Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 161). John had had agents at the papal court earlier in the year (Rot. Chart., 58a-letters of credit to Peter Barill).

3. Envoys came from Portugal in January (Rot. Chart., 58b). For John's embassy, see Diceto, ii, 70.

4. Annals of St. Edmund (Liebermann, p. 139); Richard, op. cit., ii, 378 seqq. I follow Boissonade (Quomodo comites, p. 12) in regarding the ceremony at Angoulême as the sponsalia, and the marriage as taking place at Chinon, when John endowed his wife (Rot. Chart., 74b), but the evidence is not explicit.

5. Howden, iv, 139. A legendary account of the marriage between John and Isabella is found in sixteenth century writers ; cf. Richard, ii, 379; Lecointre Dupont in Soc. de Antiq. de l'Ouest, 1845, xii, 125–7.

than passion. In the light of John's character such an explanation is superfluous, nor were the consequences necessarily so serious as they have been represented. The politics of Aquitaine were essentially unstable; it is doubtful whether under the strongest ruler concord between its various elements would have been maintained for many months, and, although it is true that the defection of the house of Lusignan was the proximate cause of John's downfall on the continent, it should be noted on the other side that he secured a turbulent independent vassal as a strong ally. In right of his wife John was heir to Angoulême. The county, which lay in the heart of Aquitaine, across the roads between Poitou and Gascony, had been a source of weakness throughout the life of Richard. The count had claimed to hold directly of the king of France. If it were necessary to choose between the party of Lusignan and the party of Angoulême, later events proved that John acted wisely in preferring the latter. The loyalty of Angoulême during the end of his reign, and during the early years of Henry III, protected the more southern provinces, and enabled the king of England to establish himself in Bordeaux.2 Only if it was possible to guide at once the destinies of Lusignan and Angoulême—both disciplined in rebellion-can we be confident that John's sudden frenzy was altogether a misfortune.

At all events, an excitable and powerful woman was added to the little group, whose conflicting wills were henceforth to influence the course of affairs. The aged Eleanor, who at this time seemed to be ending her days at Fontevrault,3 but was still to have three or four active

1. Howden, iv, 119. Lecointre Dupont (p. 123) suggests that Isabella may have been present at the marriage of Blanche of Castile, when Philip and John were together. There is no evidence for this.

2. Above, p. 43. Boissonade passim.

3. Howden, iv, 114 (April, 1200). She was still very ill in February, 1201, when the viscount of Thouars came to see her (Rot. Chart., 102b ; Richard, ii, 386 note).

years of life, Constance of Brittany, Berengaria, Blanche of Castile, and the slighted Ingeborg move in the forefront of events. They had fit contemporaries in less famous women, such as the wife of William of Briouze and Nicolaa of La Haye. Of the two young queens who were to grow old together in trouble, Blanche of Castile had need of and revealed a greater power of endurance, and a surer statesmanship; but in the varied fortunes of Isabella of Angoulême lies the story of an experience more dramatic than the energy or sufferings of all her contemporaries.

The consequences of John's marriage did not bring the king back from England, where, unlike his predecessor, he spent a great part of his time, until the spring. A vendetta, in which the count of Eu took the lead, was commenced by the house of Lusignan, and, according to the information received by John, was to begin after Easter in 1201. Preparations to meet the danger were made in Normandy and Poitou. In the south John was able to rely upon his father-in-law, the count of Angoulême, who was anxious to add La Marche to his territory, and upon his mother, who was at Fontevrault. Eleanor was responsible for an important success in February and March 1201, when she reconciled the viscount of Thouars to her son. The viscount's brother, Guy of Thouars, was already recognised as count of Brittany, in spite of Constance's former marriage with the earl of Chester; indeed, it appears that negotiations had taken place between him and Philip Augustus in the previous year. But for the prompt

1. Hugh of Bailleul and Thomas of St. Valèry, on March 6th, 1201, were given a free hand to harm Ralph, count of Eu, “in werra incipienti ad clausum Pasche anno secundo regni nostri.” (Rot. Chart., 102a.)

2. According to an act dated Paris, November, 1200, Peter, son of Robert, count of Dreux, bound himself to hold to an agreement between Philip and Guy of Thouars, count of Brittany, “et alii barones et homines ipsius regis de Britannia” (Teulet, Layettes, i, 223, no. 601). On August 29th, 1202, Gui is styled quondam comitem Britannie (Rot. Pat., 17b).

« PreviousContinue »