Saturday, 11 April 2009

Chapter 5

Concerning Ebles, Count of Roucy

The noble church of Reims and the churches dependent on it found themselves a prey to the tyrannical, valiant and turbulent baron Ebles[1] of Roucy[2] and his son Guichard, who robbed it of its goods. Ebles was a man of great military prowess. Indeed he became so bold that one day he set out for Spain[3] with an army of a size fit only for a king. His feats of arms only made him more outrageous and rapacious in pillage, rape and all over evils. 

Many pitiful complaints had been laid against this powerful and wicked man. At least a hundred complaints had been made to King Philip and before his son two or three. So Louis, exercised by the charges assembled a relatively small army of about seven hundred knights from the most noble and valiant of French lords.[4] They hastened to Reims, where he fought vigorously for about two months, punishing the evils inflicted in the past on the churches, and ravaging, burning and pillaging the lands of the tyrant and his associates. It was well done; for the pillagers were pillaged, and the torturers exposed to equal or worse tortures than they had inflicted on others[5].

Such was the dedication of the prince and his army that throughout the whole time they were there they scarcely rested, except on Saturdays and Sundays[6]. They ceaselessly fought with lances or swords, to avenge by harrying the injuries the count had done. He fought not only against Ebles but also against all the barons of that area who, because of their family ties with the great men of Lotharingia, made up a formidable army.

Meanwhile there were many peace negotiations; and since the prince’s presence was demanded elsewhere by other preoccupations and dangerous affairs, he held a council with his men and then both besought and demanded peace for the churches from that tyrant. Then taking hostages, he forced Ebles to confirm the peace with oaths. When he had met him and sent him away humbled, he left the negotiations over Neufchatel to another time. [7]

[1] Count Ebles II de Roucy was born around 1050 in France and died in 1104. He fought for the cause of Gregory VII in Italy and married Sibylle, daughter of Robert Guiscard about 1081 in France. He was the son and successor of Hilduin III of Ramerupt who became count of Roucy because of his marriage to Adela, daughter of Ebles I. The complex family background of Ebles de Roucy is discussed by Guenée, B., ‘Les Généalogies entre l’histoire at la politique: La fierté d’être capetien, en France, au moyen age’, Annales economies, societes civilisations, vol. xxxiii, (1978), pp. 450-477 especially 453.

[2] Roucy is on the River Aisne about twelve miles north-west of Reims and a hundred miles north-east of Paris.

[3] Ebles’ sister Felicia (1069-1086) was married to Sancho V (born 1067, died 1094), king of Aragon (1069-1094) and king of Navarre (1076-1094). In 1073, Ebles sought to establish a state with the support of Pope Gregory VII like those in Normandy and Southern Italy by taking land from the Moors but his plans came to nothing. See Defourneaux, Marcelin, Les Français en Espagne au XIe at XIIe siècles, Paris, 1948.

[4] These ‘French lords’ came from the Capetian domain in the Ile-de-France.

[5] This occurred in the summer of 1102.

[6] The church, through the Truce of God tried to prevent fighting on Saturdays and Sundays though this was often ignored. The Battle of Hastings, for example, was fought on a Saturday. Louis’ conduct is particularly commendable in Suger’s eyes.

[7] Neufchatel sur-Aisne is upstream from Roucy, about twelve miles north of Reims. It can be implied in this and the following chapters that Louis did not do especially well in these encounters and it can be argued that he was coming off worse.

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