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of Robert de Dreux (AD, Eure-et-Loir, G 1087). See D.J. Power, `The Norman Frontier in the
Twelfth and early Thirteenth Centuries', Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge (1994), p. 63.
See below, note 85.
76


140
Duke Geoffrey, Henry II and the Angevin empire
one of the leading Capetian warriors, he would have been an ideal
person to represent Philip Augustus in discussions of military strategy.
Finally, there is the evidence of Philip Augustus' distress at Geoffrey's
death. Even discounting Gerald of Wales' dramatic account of the
king's hysterical outburst of grief at Geoffrey's funeral, Geoffrey was
accorded the honour of burial in front of the high altar in the new
cathedral of Notre-Dame. The same day Philip Augustus endowed two
chaplaincies in the cathedral, `pro anima dilecti sui comitis Britannie'.77
The actual nature of the conspiracy is equally obscure. Roger of
Howden records that Geoffrey had gone over to Philip Augustus,
offering him hostages for Brittany and boasting that he would lay waste
to Normandy.78 On the other hand, that the plan was to take the
county of Anjou from Henry II for the bene®t of Geoffrey is suggested
by the rumour that Philip Augustus made Geoffrey seneschal of France,
an of®ce which, in Angevin mythology at least, belonged to the count
of Anjou.79 The intention clearly was to unite against Henry II and
Richard with the aim of acquiring as much of their territory as possible.
Whether they intended to attack Normandy, Anjou or both, is a matter
of detail. The territory acquired would be held by Geoffrey and his
heirs directly of the king of France, no doubt on more onerous terms
than it had been held by Geoffrey's Norman and Angevin ancestors.
With the bene®t of hindsight, Gervase of Canterbury recorded that
Geoffrey and Duchess Constance had submitted themselves and their
lands to Philip Augustus, and that Henry II had done nothing to
prevent it.80
Geoffrey's extension of the forti®cations of Nantes, and the attesta-
tions to ducal charters made there in 1186, were mentioned above in
the context of Geoffrey taking possession of the county of Nantes for
Henry II. Alternatively, these may be consequences of Geoffrey's
alliance with Philip Augustus. As noted above, the baronial witnesses
were all men whose lands were at the south-eastern frontiers of the

county of Nantes. Maurice de Lire (Geoffrey's seneschal of Nantes) and
William de Clisson were barons of the county of Nantes. Brient de
Varades and Oliver de Vritz held small baronies on the Angevin frontier
north of the Loire. Maurice de Montaigu's barony was situated in the
marches of the counties of Poitou and Nantes, and he had interests in

Werner (ed.), `De principis instructione', p. 176; Rigord, pp. 68±9; A. de Bouard, `Une
77

Ã
diplome de Philippe Auguste', Le Moyen Age 26 (1924), 66±9.
Gesta, p. 350.
78

Werner (ed.), `De principis instructione', p. 176. William of Newburgh (p. 235) also indicates
79

Geoffrey was interested in the county of Anjou.
GC, i, p. 336.
80


141
Brittany and the Angevins
both. William de Maulevrier, however, was a baron of the county of
Anjou.81 The attestations to these two charters indicate that Geoffrey
attracted the frontier-barons to his court at Nantes. This may have been
because he did not trust them, and required the security of their
presence at court, or alternatively that the frontier-barons were allied
with Geoffrey against Henry II and Richard.
After at least one visit to Paris, in 1186 Geoffrey returned to Brittany
and began making preparations for war with Henry II and Richard. If
he had not done so in the previous months, Geoffrey extended the
forti®cations of the city of Nantes. He assured himself of the loyalty of
the barons of the southern and eastern frontiers of the county of Nantes,
who now attended his court at Nantes. Then in August 1186 he
returned to Paris for further discussions with Philip Augustus.
Numerous chronicles record Geoffrey's death. With varying amounts
of detail, all agree he died at Paris in August 1186. Contemporary
sources differ, however, as to the circumstances of Geoffrey's death.
Some say Geoffrey died while taking part in a tournament, others that
he died of an illness. Although the `tournament' version is widely
accepted, in fact there are only two sources for it, both emanating from
a single author, Roger of Howden.82
Since these are so generally relied upon as sources for Geoffrey's
death, they deserve further attention. In Howden's chronicle, there is
merely a brief notice that Geoffrey died in 1186 at Paris, `in con¯ictu
militari pedibus equinis contritus'. The Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi gives
more detail. This narrative records Geoffrey's death from the point-of-
view of the Angevin court, describing how Henry II received the news.
A message arrives from France to the effect that Geoffrey has been
unhorsed and trampled to death in a tournament, at an unspeci®ed
location. This is followed by the observation that certain people had
been saying that Geoffrey had gone over to the king of France, boasting
that he would lay waste to Normandy, but that, having made this
speech, Geoffrey was seized by acute abdominal pain.83 From the
context, this could be part of the messenger's speech, but I am inclined
to think that it is additional material introduced by the chronicler, at an

‚ ‚
The map accompanying E. Chenon, `Les marches separantes d'Anjou, Bretagne et Poitou',
81

RHD 16 (1892), 18±62, 165±211 (between pp. 34, 35) depicts Maulevrier as the caput of a
Á
`marche avantagere' of Anjou over Brittany, that is, a region pertaining simply to Anjou in

terms of sovereignty, jurisdiction and custom (ibid., pp. 197±202). See also R. Cintre, Les
‚‚ Á Á
Marches de Bretagne au Moyen Age: Economie, guerre et societe en pays de frontiere (XIVe-XVe siecles),
Pornichet, 1992, pp. 36±41.
RH, ii, p. 309; Gesta, p. 350.
82

Ibid. I am grateful to Dr Daniel Power for the suggestion that there are two different accounts
83

here.

142
Duke Geoffrey, Henry II and the Angevin empire
appropriate place in the narrative, recording rumours that were already
circulating at the Angevin court. Signi®cantly, the rumours refer to
Geoffrey's illness but not his death, suggesting that their bearers had left
Paris before Geoffrey's death, and hence arrived in England ahead of the
messenger.
The Gesta thus incorporates two contradictory pieces of information.
First, it records that Geoffrey was killed in a tournament, second that he
became seriously ill while at the French court, although this is not
expressly said to have been fatal. They could be reconciled on the basis
that Geoffrey was at the French court, became ill, but then recovered
suf®ciently to take part in a tournament, in which he was killed, but this
is rather tenuous in the absence of any corroborative evidence. The
chronicler, indeed, makes no attempt to reconcile them and makes no
comment on whether either is a true report.
There are two possible explanations for the tournament story. One is
that it is complete invention, and that Howden chose the sinful
tournament, which he had previously written about as being a particular
passion of Geoffrey's, as a ®tting end for this treacherous son. The
image of such a great prince being trampled into the earth made a very
effective literary device. If that were so, however, Howden would not
have spoilt the effect by recording the alternative account of Geoffrey's
illness. He does, however, press the `illness' account to the service of his
moral agenda by implying that, after his treacherous speech, Geoffrey
was immediately seized by agonising pain, suggesting divine judgment
on him.
It seems more likely that Howden simply recorded in good faith both
of the accounts which came to his knowledge, without commenting on
the veracity of either, but using both to condemn Geoffrey's treachery.
What, then, was the source of the tournament story? The account in
the Gesta does not specify whether the source of the message delivered
to Henry II was Philip Augustus himself, or a servant of Henry II's on
the continent who had received the information from Paris.
If the messenger was sent by Philip Augustus, it may be that the
tournament story was the `of®cial' version of the Capetian court. Philip
Augustus would have wished to conceal from Henry II the fact that he
had been plotting with Geoffrey, since without Geoffrey's aid, Philip
was not ready to enter into armed con¯ict over the Angevin territories.
It is possible that, in order to obscure the true reason for Geoffrey's
presence in Paris, the French king invented a purely social occasion, a
tournament, to explain it. The truth, however, ®ltered back to England,
if only in the form of rumours.
The Gesta, then, has incorporated two versions of the circumstances
143
Brittany and the Angevins
of Geoffrey's death which were current at the time, one essentially true
and the other fabricated. The strongest evidence that Geoffrey in fact
died of an illness is supplied by the detailed account of Geoffrey's death
given by the French royal clerk, Rigord.84 Rigord records that, when
Geoffrey arrived in Paris in August 1186, Philip Augustus was absent
from the city. While Geoffrey waited for his return, he fell ill. Philip
learnt of this and was so concerned for Geoffrey's health that he ordered
all the medical practitioners in Paris to try their best to cure him.
(Rigord himself may have been one of these medici, and furthermore
one of the witnesses to Geoffrey's last charter may be identi®ed with
Roger de Fournival, medicus regis Philippi.)85 Their efforts were to no
avail and Geoffrey died within a few days, on 19 August.86 The highest
honours were then shown to Geoffrey's memory. His body was taken
to the new cathedral of Notre-Dame, where the citizens and the
knights of Paris kept a vigil over it until the king returned to the city the
next day. The body was then placed in a lead cof®n, and after a funeral
service conducted by the bishop of Paris and all the clergy of the city,
was buried in front of the high altar of the cathedral.87 Returning to the
royal palace, Philip Augustus made a grant to the cathedral of four
chaplaincies, `pro anima dilecti sui comitis Britannie'.88
Rigord's account contains so much detail that it is unlikely to be
®ctitious. By the time Rigord was writing, it was perhaps unnecessary
to continue the pretence about the tournament, but his failure to give
any reason for Geoffrey's presence in Paris, and his emphasis on Philip's
absence when Geoffrey arrived, still suggest an intention to gloss over
Philip's involvement in any conspiracy with Geoffrey. Gervase of
Canterbury and Gerald of Wales are the other contemporary sources to
record that Geoffrey died of an illness.89 Like Rigord, neither of them
even mentions a tournament. The rumours recorded in the Gesta were,
Rigord, `Gesta Philippi Augusti', in H.-F. Delaborde (ed.), êuvres de Rigord et Guillaume le
84

Breton, Paris 1885, ii, pp. 68±9, and i, p. xxx.
Y.G. Lepage (ed.), L'Oeuvre lyrique de Richard de Fournival, Ottawa, 1981, p. 9.
85

This date agrees with that given by Ralph of Diss (RD, ii, p. 14), and Roger of Wendover
86

(RD, p. 137). The necrology of the abbey of Ronceray has an entry for Geoffrey `comes
Nannetensis' on 20 August (`XIII kalendas Septembris' ± BN ms fr. 22329, p. 604).
Geoffrey's burial in the cathedral choir is also recorded by Roger of Howden (RH, ii, p. 309),
87

Roger of Wendover (RW, p. 137), and Gerald of Wales (in Werner (ed.), `De principis
instructione', p. 176).
Ã
de Bouard (ed.), `Une diplome de Philippe Auguste', Le Moyen Age 26 (1924), 66±9. 66±9.
88

GC, p. 336, `Gaufridus comes Britannie ex adversa valitudine pressus diem clausit extremum';
89

Werner (ed.), `De principis instructione', p. 176, ` . . . comes Gaufredus, eodem quo et frater
antea morbo acutissimo, scilicet febrili calore, letaliter correptus . . . rebus humanis exemptus
est'. Since Gerald of Wales emphasises that Geoffrey died of the same cause as the Young King
Henry, a fever, one might suspect that he had invented the cause of death for literary effect, if it
were not corroborated by the other sources cited here.

144
Duke Geoffrey, Henry II and the Angevin empire
therefore, probably true. While visiting Paris in August 1186, Geoffrey
was taken seriously ill and died within a few days. The account in the
Gesta is only inaccurate in that, for literary effect, Geoffrey's illness is
made to follow immediately upon his declaration of allegiance to Philip
Augustus, whereas in reality the two events were probably separated in
time.
The honour shown to Geoffrey in Paris, both during his illness and
after his death, should not be surprising. By itself, it would have been
extremely embarrassing that an Angevin prince had fallen ill and died
while a guest of the king of France. A lavish show of mourning and
respect was the least the Parisians and the royal court could do. Geoffrey
had come to Paris not just on a social visit, but as an ally of Philip
Augustus, to make further plans for what was to be, according to Gerald
of Wales, the greatest uprising that Henry II had ever seen.90 Philip
Augustus was grief-stricken because an unprecedented opportunity to
divide and conquer the Angevin empire had died with Geoffrey.
Geoffrey's death seems to have affected Philip Augustus more than it
did his own father. Henry II's immediate reaction, according to Roger
of Howden, was to recall John, who was waiting to cross to Ireland.91
Within three weeks of Geoffrey's death, Henry II was gaily helping to
celebrate the nuptials of William, king of Scotland, and Ermengarde de
Beaumont at Woodstock.92 Gerald of Wales records that Henry II was
grief-stricken, but principally because Geoffrey's death reminded him of
that of the Young King Henry.93
Werner (ed.), `De principis instructione', p. 176.
90

Gesta, p. 350. 92 Gesta, p. 351.
91

Werner (ed.), `De principis instructione', pp. 176±7.
93




145
6

THE END OF ANGEVIN BRITTANY,
1186 ± 1203


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