Sunday, 24 May 2009

Chapter 18

How he seized the castles of Mantes and Montlhery from his brother Philip, despite Philip’s resistance

The rarity of good faith means that evil is more often returned for good than good for evil. To do the latter is godlike; to do the former is neither godlike nor human; but it happens. This evil characterised Philip, King Louis’ half-brother born of the countess of Anjou. At the instance of his father, whom he never opposed, and also through the seductive flattery of his most noble and beguiling step-mother, Louis had arranged that Philip should obtain the honour of Montlhéry and Mantes, in the very heart of the kingdom. Philip, ungrateful for these great benefits, and trusting in his noble birth, presumed to be rebellious. For his uncle was Amaury de Montfort[1], a brilliant knight and most powerful baron, while his brother was Fulk, count of Anjou[2], later king of Jerusalem. His mother, even more powerful, was a heroic woman, particularly skilled in all the astonishing female arts by which women boldly tread their husbands under their feet after they have tormented them with many injustices. She so appeased the count of Anjou[3], her first husband, that although he was totally excluded from her bed, he respected her as his wife, often sat on a stool at her feet, and obeyed her will in everything, as if by a sorcerer’s power.[4] One thing that united and buoyed up the mother, her sons and the whole family, was the expectation that if some chance misfortune should befall the king[5], one of these two brothers would succeed him, and thus the whole clan would with great satisfaction raise itself to the throne to take part in the royal honour and lordship.[6]

So when Philip, though frequently summoned, imperiously refused to appear at a hearing or judgement before the royal court, Louis, worn out by his depredations against the poor, his attacks on churches and the disorder he inflicted on the whole countryside, promptly though unwillingly took up arms against him. Philip and his allies, with a strong force of men, had often boasted that Louis would be repulsed; yet they timidly abandoned the castle’s outworks. The mail-clad king easily rushed into them and hastened through the middle of the castle to the keep, which he besieged with siege engines, mangonels and trebuchets, until, not immediately but after many days, he forced them to surrender because they despaired of their lives.[7]

Meanwhile Philip’s mother and his uncle Amaury de Montfort, fearing the loss of the other honour of Montlhéry, conferred it on Hugh de Crécy and married him to Amaury’s daughter[8]. Thus they hoped to put in the king’s path an insuperable obstacle. For the castles of this honour with those of Guy de Rochefort, Amaury’s brother meant that Amaury’s power stretched without interruption into Normandy.[9] This would obstruct the king’s path; and as well as the injuries they could inflict on him every day as far as Paris, they would bar his access to Dreux.[10] Immediately after his marriage Hugh rushed to Montlhéry; but the king followed him even faster; the very hour, the very minute, in which he heard the news, he most boldly flew to Châtres [11], the chief town of that honour. 

Louis was able to attract the best men of that land through the hope of his liberality and his proven mercy, which might spare them from their long-accustomed fear of cruel tyranny. Both antagonists stayed there for several days, Hugh planning to gain the lordship, the king to prevent him[12]. Then since one deception leads to another, Hugh was tricked in this way. Miles de Bray[13], son of the great Miles, deliberately turned up at once, seeking the honour on grounds of hereditary right. He threw himself at the king’s feet, weeping and lamenting, till by his many prayers he prevailed upon the king and his counsellors. He humbly begged that the royal munificence would give him back the honour and restore his paternal inheritance, on condition that Miles would be almost the king’s serf or his tenant, subject to his will. The king deigned to answer this humble prayer, called the inhabitants of the town to him and offered them Miles as their lord, consoled them for their past sufferings and inspired in them as much joy as if he had brought the moon and stars out of heaven for them. Without delay they ordered Hugh to come out and threatened that if he did not they would kill him at once, since against their natural lord promises and oaths counted for nothing; what mattered was strength or weakness.

Confused by this, Hugh took to flight, thinking that he had escaped without losing his belongings; but the brief joy of his marriage he had brought on himself the lasting shame of a divorce, along with the loss of many horses and much furniture. He learned from his shameful expulsion what it meant to take arms against the king with the king’s enemies.[14]


[1] Amaury III de Montfort from 1101 to about 1137 after his three brothers, Amaury II, Richard and Simon II died without children. Bertrade of Anjou was his younger sister. He was married to Richilde de Hainault.

[2] Fulk V, called ‘the Young’ was the son of Fulk IV and Betrade. He was born in 1090. In September 1131, he succeeded his father in law Baldwin as king of Jerusalem and died in 1142.

[3] Fulk IV was born in 1043 and died in 1109 and was Bertrade’s fisrt husband

[4] Philip I and Bertrade were received by Fulk at Angers on 10th October 1106.

[5] Louis had certainly brought some of these problems upon himself by failing to marry and produce legitimate heirs. Around 1109, Count Hugh de Champagne proposed marriage between Louis and his cousin, the daughter of the marquis of Montferrat. Louis then discovered that the girl had not been born of a legitimate union and it was abandoned. No more is heard of a royal marriage for four or five years and, if Ivo of Chartres’ letter in 1113 suggesting that marriage would silence Louis’ opponents he appears to have lived fairly loosely. One illegitimate daughter is known to have been born to him, probably before 1108 as the result of a prolonged liaison with the girl’s mother that continued after he became king. In 1115 (probably between 25th March and 3rd April), Louis married Adelaide, sister of the count of Maurienne.

[6] According to Orderic Vitalis 4: 196-98, Bertrade attempted to have Louis poisoned when he stayed in England in 1101.

[7] The attack and capture of Mantes occurred either at the end of 1109 or early in 1110. The conspiracy of Bertrade, Philip and Amaury was formed soon after the death of Philip I. It is possible that the plot did not represent a serious attempt by Philip to seize the throne but rather an effort to obtain additional properties from Louis VI. Since the recent death of his wife, Elisabeth de Montlhéry, Philip had secure title only to Mantes, a much smaller endowment than Philip I had intended his him.

[8] She was called Lucienne and was still a child.

[9] The lordship of Montfort consisted of the cantons of Montford, Rambouillet, Dourdan and several towns in the cantons of Nogent, Maintenon and Auneau.

[10] This is another example of the weakness of royal authority in the early twelfth century. Dreux is about thirty-five miles west-south-west of Paris.

[11] Châtres was, before 1720, the name of Arpajon. It is about eighteen miles south of Paris on the river Orge.

[12] Guy Trousseau, before he died on 16th March 1108 had left Montlhéry to Louis: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 53. His daughter, Elizabeth the wife of Philip of Mantes died without children. Philip did not have any right to inherit.

[13] Miles de Bray was the brother of Guy Trousseau and cousin of Hugh de Crecy.

[14] The taking of Châtres took place several weeks after Mantes. Hugh de Crecy never forgave his cousin Miles of Montlhery who had ousted him. Miles was treacherously captured by Hugh in the early months of 1118, thrown into prison and then strangled. Ibid, Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), p. 23 says ‘He then imprisoned Miles II in his Châteaufort tower. One night, ‘taken by folly’, Hugh strangled his cousin with his own hands, and then threw him out of the window, ‘perhaps to make it look like an accident.’ Hugh was not given a royal pardon, renounced his lands and entered a monastery. He died in 1148.

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