Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Chapters 6-7

The castle of Meung

No less famous was the armed assistance he gave to the church of Orleans when Leon, a nobleman from the castle of Meung-sur-Loire[1], liegeman of the liegeman of the bishop of Orleans, tried to seize from the church the greater part of that castle and the lordship of another. Louis restrained him by force, besieged him and his large band of followers in that castle, and when the castle fell, forced Leon to take refuge in a church close by his home, which he surrounded with ramparts. To subdue the strong by the stronger, Louis beat down on him with an intolerable pressure of sword and fire. Leon was not the only man to pay heavily for the excommunication under which he had laboured so long; for when he and about sixty others jumped down from the tower of the burning church, they were skewered on the points of lances and by arrows shot at them; so breathing their last breaths they took their wretched souls miserably down to hell.

The castle of Montaigu

It so happened that the well-fortified castle which is called Montaigu[2] in the district of Laon fell by a marriage alliance into the possession of Thomas de Marle[3], the vilest of men[4], a plague both to God and to men. His unspeakable madness, like that of a cruel wolf, was increased by his confidence in possessing an impregnable castle. All his neighbours feared and loathed him. The man thought to be his father, Enguerrand de Bove[5], a venerable and honourable man, tried harder than anyone else to eject him from the castle because of his brutal tyranny. Enguerrand and Ebles de Roucy[6] agreed that with all the men they could gather, they would besiege the castle with Thomas inside, surround him with a wattled stockade, and force him to surrender through fear of slow starvation. Then they would, if possible, throw down the castle and imprison him for ever. When Thomas saw that, though the stakes were already in place, the gaps between them had yet to be closed, he quietly slipped out one night and hastening to Prince Louis, he corrupted his entourage with presents and promises, and rapidly obtained the military aid he sought.[7]

The prince was both by age and by temperament pliable; so having collected about seven hundred men, he hastened to that part of the country. When he approached the castle of Montaigu, the men who were besieging it sent messengers to him begging him, as their designated lord, not to shame them by making them lift the siege, and not to lose the service of men like themselves for the sake of such an evil man. They declared with truth that if Thomas remained at liberty, he would do more harm to Louis than he had done to them. But when neither flattery nor threats moved him, they retired because they were afraid to attack their future lord. However, they intended, as soon as Louis departed, to start the war again and resume the siege. So they unwillingly left him to do his will. Louis therefore with great strength cut down and broke the stockade freed Montaigu and frustrated their intentions by generously supplying it with arms and men. Then the barons, who had withdrawn out of love and fear, were angry that he had done nothing at all for them, and threatened with oaths that they would no longer show him deference. And when they saw him leave, they struck camp, drew up battle lines and pursued him with the intention of fighting him.

There was an obstacle to their meeting. Between the two armies there lay a flood which could only be crossed with much delay. So for two days both sets of trumpets blew, and ‘spears menaced spears’[8], until suddenly there came to the French a certain jongleur, a chivalrous knight, from the other side, who announced that the others, as soon as they had found a means of access, would indisputably join battle and avenge with their spears and swords the injuries borne for their liberty. But he had left them so that he might fight for and with his natural lord. The rumour spread through the camp and the soldiers danced with joy. They put on magnificent helmets and breastplates and this increased their eagerness for battle and they hastened to attempt the crossing if they could find a suitable place, reckoning that attack was more befitting than defence.

When the most noble men Enguerrand de Boves, Ebles de Roucy, count Andrew of Ramerupt[9], Hugh le Blanc of La Ferte, Robert de Cappy and the other wise and discreet men saw this they admired the boldness of their designated lord. After discussions, they decided to make their homage to him. Approaching in peace, they embraced his youth and gave their hands in friendship and entered his service. Not long afterwards, and the frustration of the impious may be attributed to the divine will, Thomas de Marle lost both the castle and his marriage by annulment on grounds on consanguinity.[10]


[1] Meung-sur-Loire is downstream about eight miles south-west of Orleans and about eighty miles south of Paris. The expedition probably occurred in 1103: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 25.

[2] Montaigu is about ten miles south-east of Laon and about 110 miles north-east of Paris.

[3] Thomas de Coucy Sire de Coucy and Marle was born about 1073 in Coucy, Picardie, France and died in 1131. He was one of the most powerful lords in the north of the Capetian lands. On the death of his father, he took the name of Marle, land left him by his mother Ada de Roucy, first wife of Enguerrand I de Coucy.

[4] Thomas de Marle is the most wicked character in Suger’s work. Guibert de Nogent is equally damning describing him as ‘the most evil man of all we know in this generation’ and Orderic Vitalis saw him as ‘a rebel bandit who terrorised a whole province’. All these writers wrote from an ecclesiastical position and a case for a more positive assessment is made by Chaurand, Jacques, Thomas de Marle, Sire de Courcy, Marle-sur-Serre, 1963.

[5] Enguerrand I lord of Coucy and count of Amiens was born in 1042 in Coucy, Picardie, France and died in 1116. He married Ada de Marle de Roucy about 1072 and had obtained the land of Coucy in 1086 in his capacity as grandson of Aubry de Coucy. Guibert de Nogent in De vita sua III, c.11 employed the same terms as Suger having reservations about Thomas’ paternity and legitimacy. These are explained by the behaviour of his first wife, Ada, whom he divorced for adultery. Enguerrand hated Thomas and wanted to disinherit it.

[6] Ebles de Roucy was the maternal great-uncle of Thomas de Marle.

[7] Louis’ intervention on behalf of Thomas de Marle needs some explanation and there is no need to dismiss the explanation provided by Suger as a clumsy whitewash. Louis was surrounded by an entourage of young knights whose influence could be damaging and the relationships and alliance that were to characterise the greater part of his reign took time to develop. Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n°° 25 and 26 suggests that the expedition to Montaigu took place in the second half of 1103.

[8] Lucan, De bello civili I, 7

[9] Andrew count of Ramerupt and Arcis-sur-Aube was the brother of Ebles de Roucy. Robert de Cappy was a brother of Enguerrand de Boves and died between 1106 and 1109. This makes clear the importance of family in building up alliances.

[10] He was married to Ermengarde, daughter of Roger de Montaigu and this gave him control over the castle. Thomas lost of castle when the marriage was annulled because of consanguinity.

No comments: