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their works, Henry II. Consequently, in both sources Geoffrey appears
as a strangely shallow personality, characterised by evil and apparently
motiveless treachery. The account of Geoffrey's career set out in
Chapter 4 demonstrates that this cannot be an accurate representation.
It remains to examine in detail Geoffrey's career in Angevin family
politics. Since the contemporary sources do not provide any analysis,
how can Geoffrey's political purposes be determined? Possibly by
reference to the nature of the `Angevin empire' and what Henry II
anticipated should happen to it after his death.14 If it was the intention
of Henry II to pass on lordship of his dominions undivided to his eldest
son, with the younger sons holding their lands of the eldest in some sort
of dependent status, then Geoffrey had no realistic prospect of
succeeding to this superior lordship. His brother Henry was bound to
produce heirs. In the unlikely event that this did not occur, Richard
was the next in line. Even if Henry II intended to divide his lands
between his sons, the intention was that Henry, as eldest, would
succeed to the patrimonial lands of England, Normandy and Anjou,
Richard to Aquitaine and Geoffrey to Brittany. Geoffrey's portion was
undeniably generous for a third son.
Thus arguments about the nature of the Angevin empire do not seem
relevant in Geoffrey's case. Until the death of the Young King Henry,
at least, Geoffrey's position is quite clear. He was destined from infancy
to be duke of Brittany. He was to hold Brittany of the Young King as
duke of Normandy, an arrangement which was clearly intended to
survive Henry II's death. Geoffrey rendered homage for Brittany to the

R. Bartlett, Gerald of Wales, 1146±1223, Oxford, 1982, pp. 69±76, 84.
12

Werner (ed.), `De principis instructione', p. 179.
13

See, for example, J. C. Holt, `The end of the Anglo-Norman realm', in Magna Carta and
14

medieval government, London, 1985, pp. 39±42; J. Le Patourel, `Angevin Successions and the
Angevin Empire', in M. Jones (ed.), Feudal empires, Norman and Plantagenet, London, 1984; and
J. Gillingham, The Angevin Empire, London, 1984, ch. 3, `Dynastic Structure'.

126
Duke Geoffrey, Henry II and the Angevin empire
Young King in 1169 and again in January 1183.15 This was no more
than the ful®lment of the tradition, nurtured by Henry II, of the
subordination of the duke of Brittany to the duke of Normandy. Henry
II cannot have intended that Brittany should be held independently of
Normandy, that is, directly of the king of France, otherwise Geoffrey
would have rendered homage to the king of France, instead of to the
Young King, in 1169 and 1183. Geoffrey and his heirs were, therefore,
destined to hold Brittany of Henry II's eldest surviving son and his
heirs. Geoffrey can have had no realistic ambitions beyond this.
Instead, I would argue that Geoffrey's politics can be explained simply
in terms of the endowment of lands which had been promised to him in
infancy: the county of Nantes, the duchy of Brittany and the honour of
Richmond. The explanation for Geoffrey's piecemeal accession lies in
the political divisions of Brittany, in the process by which Henry II
himself acquired lordship of Brittany, and in the arrangements made for
Geoffrey to succeed his father there. First, Henry II had acquired the
county of Nantes. Then, in 1166, Conan IV had granted him all of
Brittany as the maritagium of Constance. Conan's death in 1171 meant

that the remainder of Constance's inheritance, the barony of Treguier
and the honour of Richmond, fell into the king's hand.
The possession and enjoyment of the constituent parts of this
endowment was the consistent goal of Geoffrey's politics, at least until
the last months of his life. Geoffrey had been allocated a generous
endowment in theory, but Henry II proved reluctant to allow him to
enjoy it in practice. This reluctance was the cause of Geoffrey's
notorious rebellions against his father. They were not the motiveless
acts of malice portrayed by the chroniclers. Much of this struggle took
place outside Brittany itself because it was necessary for Geoffrey to
campaign, both by war and by diplomacy, in theatres outside the
borders of Brittany. His political ambitions were, however, no more
grandiose than the acquisition of that which he had been promised and
the consolidation of the duchy of Brittany in his own hands, for the
bene®t of his heirs.
Geoffrey's transition from being a landless younger son to one who
enjoyed all the historic rights of the dukes of Brittany comprised three
stages. First, in 1181, Henry II allowed Geoffrey to marry Constance
and to assume lordship of most of Brittany, but retained the county of
Nantes and the honour of Richmond in his own hand. Two years later,
he yielded the honour of Richmond.16 Finally, in 1185 or early 1186,

RT, ii, p. 10±12; RH, ii, p. 273; Gesta, p. 291; RD, ii, p. 18.
15

Pipe Roll 29 Henry II, p. 56; EYC, iv, pp. 111±2.
16


127
Brittany and the Angevins
Henry II allowed Geoffrey to assume lordship of the county of Nantes.
The process thus lasted for several years and was undoubtedly the cause
of con¯ict between father and son. Since this has not previously been
described in detail (although it was noted by Professor Le Patourel in his
unpublished `Plantagenet rule in Brittany to 1205'), it requires further
examination here.
In 1181, Geoffrey assumed the title `dux Britannie et comes Riche-
mundie'. For the ®rst time he was able to exercise lordship over some
land in his own right. In fact, though, Geoffrey acquired lordship only
of the counties of Rennes and Cornouaille, the Broerec and the barony
È

of Leon. The second part of his title had no substance at all since the
king retained the honour of Richmond in his own hands. The honour
of Richmond, although it was the patrimony of Conan IV, was
excluded from the arrangements regarding the succession to Brittany
made in 1166. After 1171, Henry II, as king of England, could retain
Richmond in his own hand inde®nitely, subject only to any rights
pertaining to Constance as heiress.17 His grant to Geoffrey of the
revenues of the manor of Cheshunt in 1177 must, however, indicate
acknowledgement that Geoffrey had some claim to the honour.18 Yet
the Richmond lands remained in the king's hand until Michaelmas
1183, two years after Geoffrey's accession to the duchy of Brittany.
The county of Nantes was also treated differently from the rest of
Brittany, but for different reasons. Conan IV's claim to hereditary right
in respect of Nantes was dubious, and Henry II could match it with his
own claim to be the heir of his younger brother. Moreover, in 1158
Conan seems to have yielded unconditionally to Henry II those parts of
the county he had brie¯y occupied. Consequently, Henry II was
justi®ed in not treating the county as Constance's maritagium or
inheritance, and hence in not granting it to Geoffrey in 1181.
Geoffrey had two possible grounds for claiming the county of
Nantes. The ®rst is that it might have become part of Constance's
inheritance. The fate of Count Hoel after he left Nantes in 1156 is
È
unknown, but he is not known to have had any legitimate issue, and
was in the company of Duke Conan IV in England probably in 1164.19
If Hoel had died without legitimate issue, Constance, his great-niece,
È
would have been his heiress. In view of the irregular manner in which
the comital/ducal dynasty had been ousted from Nantes by the
Angevins, Hoel's heir had at least an arguable claim to be reinstated
È
See J.C. Holt, `Feudal society and the family in early medieval England: II, Notions of
17

patrimony', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 5th series, 33 (1983), 193±220, reprinted in
Colonial England, 1066±1215, London, 1997.
Pipe Roll 24 Henry II, p. 72. 19 BN ms fr. 22362, f. 7.
18


128
Duke Geoffrey, Henry II and the Angevin empire
there. Even if this were not so, if in fact Henry II had designated Nantes
as Geoffrey's portion from as early as 1158, prior to his betrothal to
Constance, Geoffrey may have felt he had a moral right to possession of
the county.
When Henry II acquired the county of Nantes in 1158 he almost
certainly intended it as provision for Geoffrey. The association of
Geoffrey with Henry II's regime in Nantes, manifested by Geoffrey's
appearance at the Christmas court held there in 1169, indicates that,
even after the settlement of 1166, Geoffrey was expected to become
count of Nantes. At some point, however, Henry II decided against
giving Geoffrey both the county of Nantes and the rest of Brittany. This
may have been in the aftermath of the 1173 revolt, since in one version
of the treaty of Falaise, `Media' is expressly excluded from Geoffrey's
portion.20
The king was under no obligation to give the county of Nantes to
Geoffrey and Constance on their marriage, and it seems to me that he
did not. This decision may have surprised contemporaries. A charter
concerning property of Fontevraud in the county of Nantes, dated
1181, prescribes that the seals of Robert bishop of Nantes, Geoffrey
`dux Britannie' and Peter ®tzGuy, seneschal of Nantes, should be
attached.21 It appears that when the document was drafted, no later than
August 1181, the nuns of Fontevraud thought that Geoffrey would be
exercising ducal authority in the county of Nantes, although they were
also aware that Henry II's seneschal still held of®ce there. In fact only
the seals of the bishop and the seneschal were ever attached.22 It appears
that Henry II retained the county of Nantes in his own hands until 1185
or even early 1186.
There are only two known charters of Geoffrey made at Nantes. One
is dated 1186, the other is undated, but there is no evidence which
requires it to have been made before 1186. Nor are there any acts of
Duke Geoffrey concerning monasteries or property situated in the
county of Nantes dated before 1186. No barons of the county of Nantes
appear as witnesses to ducal charters except in the two charters made at
Nantes just mentioned. If Geoffrey had acquired lordship of Nantes in
1181, it would be extraordinary if he did not visit the city, probably the
largest and wealthiest of his domains, for ®ve years, or that monasteries

Actes de Henri II, no. cccclxix.
20

I am extremely grateful to Professor Sir James Holt for bringing to my attention the original
21

manuscript, AD Maine-et-Loire, 158 H1, no. 3.
An eighteenth-century copy of this charter (BN ms latin 5840, p. 117) describes the two seals
22

which were attached to the original manuscript as those of the bishop and the seneschal. The
original charter (see note above) bears traces of the attachment of only two seals.

129
Brittany and the Angevins
there should not have sought his patronage. In fact, the abbey of Buzay
did seek Duke Geoffrey's patronage, but not until 1186.23 Meanwhile,
Peter ®tzGuy was seneschal of Nantes until at least 1183, and there was
still a royal seneschal of Nantes in 1185.
There is insuf®cient evidence to determine precisely when Henry II
transferred lordship of Nantes to Geoffrey. The earliest possible date is
1185 since Henry II's seneschal was still at Nantes during that year.
Geoffrey was high in his father's favour in the early months of 1185.
Henry II had made him `custodian' of Normandy at the end of 1184
and in April 1185 the king came to Geoffrey's defence against Richard.
Richard's aggression, probably directed against the county of Nantes,
may have precipitated the transfer. Once it was in his possession,
Geoffrey certainly wasted no time in fortifying the city of Nantes. One
of the charters made at Nantes records that Geoffrey has damaged the
vineyard of the priory of Saint-Cyr de Nantes by extending the
forti®cations of the city. This extension of the walls, from the north-
eastern corner of the Roman wall to the bank of the Erdre, corresponds
with the course of the new city wall attributed to Dukes Guy de
Thouars and Peter de Dreux in the early thirteenth century, but this
charter indicates these works began under Geoffrey.24
Henry II's hesitation in granting Geoffrey all of his endowment is
understandable. The county of Nantes would have been respectable
provision for a younger son, the duchy of Brittany and the honour of
Richmond generous, but the combination of all three was perhaps
excessive. Together, Nantes and the rest of Brittany had common
borders with all of Henry II's continental dominions. This gave their
possessor the potential to engage in military action in any of these
territories, and for rebels from all of them to take refuge in Brittany.
Their combined wealth, and the strategic position of Nantes, might
have encouraged Geoffrey to defy his father and elder brothers, which
is, in fact, what happened in 1186.
The turning-point in Geoffrey's career was his marriage and accession
to the duchy of Brittany in 1181. Until then, Geoffrey had been obliged
to maintain his father's favour in order to secure possession of the lands
which had been promised him. Although Geoffrey was betrothed to
Constance when he was eight, until they were married and Geoffrey
became duke of Brittany jure uxoris, the betrothal could be quashed by

See pp. 121±2.
23

‚ Á

Charters, no. Ge 28; A. Chedeville and N.-Y. Tonnerre, La Bretagne feodale, XIe-XIIIe siecles,
24

‚ographie historique et
Rennes, 1987, pp. 423±4; N.-Y. Tonnerre, Naissance de la Bretagne: Ge
‚ Á
structures sociales de la Bretagne meridionale (Nantais et Vannetais) de la ®n du VIIIe a la ®n du XIIe
Á
siecle, Angers, 1994, pp. 529, 540.

130
Duke Geoffrey, Henry II and the Angevin empire
Henry II, especially after the death of the bride's father in 1171, and the
proposed disposition of these lands rearranged. Constance could just as
well have been given to Richard or John if Henry II had willed it.25
Geoffrey was completely dependent on his father's favour towards him.
In 1181, two fundamental changes occurred. Firstly, it became
manifest that Henry II did not intend to give Geoffrey all of his lands at
once, if at all. Secondly, with his possession of Brittany (albeit without
Nantes), the balance of power moved in Geoffrey's favour. Having
married the heiress, he could not easily be ousted from Brittany, even
by Henry II himself.26 For the ®rst time, Geoffrey possessed lands, and
hence the source of ®nance and armed men. Instead of being entirely
dependent upon his father's goodwill, Geoffrey now had the capacity to
achieve his ends by military means. Secure in his possession of Brittany,
after 1181, Geoffrey was at last able to defy his father instead of
appeasing him.
Geoffrey's military prowess was noted by contemporaries. He had
gained military experience both in tournaments and in the ®eld, having
led Breton knights on campaign in Brittany, under Henry II's orders, in

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