Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Chapter 19

How he captured Hugh and destroyed the castle of Le Puiset

As the pleasant fruit of a fertile tree recovers its sweet-smelling taste either by being transplanted as a twig or by the grafting of a branch, so the sucker of injustice and wickedness that ought to be rooted out passes by many wicked men to twine itself round one man, in the same way as a snake among the eels torments men with its native poison as bitter as absinthe. Like these was Hugh de Puiset, a wicked man rich only in his own and his ancestors’ tyranny, when he succeeded his uncle Guy in the honour of Le Puiset, his own father having with astonishing conceit taken arms in the first Jerusalem journey[1]. His father’s son, Hugh took after him in all wickedness, but ‘those whom his father chastised with whips, he chastised with scorpions.’[2]

Puffed-up with pride because he had most cruelly oppressed the poor, the churches and the monasteries and as yet unpunished, he reached the point where ‘the evil-doers have fallen; they have been driven forth and cannot stand.’[3] He could not triumph over the King of kings, nor over the king of the French, so he attacked the countess of Chartres[4] and her son Theobald, a handsome young man and skilled in arms. Hugh ravaged their land as far as Chartres, pillaging and burning it. The noble countess and her son sometimes attempted reprisals as best they could, though too little and too late but they never or almost never got within eight or ten miles of Le Puiset.[5] Such was Hugh’s cheek, such the force of his overbearing pride that many served him although few loved him. But if many defended him, more hoped for his destruction for he was more feared than loved.

When count Theobald realised that he was achieving little against Hugh on his own, but might achieve much with the king, he hastened to Louis with his most noble mother[6], who had always served the king faithfully, to try to move him with their prayers, claiming that they had deserved his assistance through many services, and recounting the crimes of Hugh, his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather. ‘O king, remember, as royal majesty should, the shameful affront Hugh[7] inflicted upon your father Philip when, in breach of his homage, he wickedly repulsed him from Le Puiset while Philip was attempting to punish his many crimes. Proud of his wicked relations, by criminal conspiracy he drove the king’s army back to Orleans, captured the count of Nevers, Lancelin of Beaugency[8] and about a hundred knights, and even in an unprecedented move dishonoured several bishops by keeping them in chains.’[9]

Theobald then added a lengthy explanation of how and why the castle had come to be built fairly recently by the venerable queen Constance[10] in the middle of land dedicated to the saints, to protect it, and how afterwards Hugh’s family had seized it all and left the king with nothing but injuries. But now, since the sizeable armies of Chartres, Blois and Chateaudun on which he customarily relied not only would not help him but would even fight against him, it would be easy for the king, if he wished, to destroy the castle, disinherit Hugh and avenge his father's injuries. If he did not wish to punish Hugh, either for his own or for his faithful servants’ injuries, he ought either to accept the gift for the oppression of churches and the depredations of the poor, the widows and the orphans which Hugh inflicted on the land of the saints and its inhabitants, or he ought to prevent them from occurring. The king was so moved by these and similar complaints that he named a day to take counsel on the affair. I went to Melun[11], along with many archbishops, bishops, clerks and monks, whose lands had been ravaged by Hugh, more rapacious than a wolf. They cried out and fell at Louis’ still unwilling feet, begging him to put an end to the brigand Hugh’s limitless greed, to seize back from the dragon’s jaws their prebends established by the generosity of kings in the fertile lands of Beauce for the support of God’s servants and to attempt to liberate the lands of the priests which even under the cruel authority of the Pharaohs had been unique in their freedom. They begged that as God’s vicar, bearing in his person God’s life-giving image, the king should restore the church’s goods to liberty.

He received their petition with good grace and in no way took it lightly. Then the prelates, the archbishop of Sens, the bishop of Orleans[12], and the venerable Ivo, bishop of Chartres[13], who had been imprisoned by force and held captive for many days in that castle, went home; and the king, with the approval of my predecessor abbot Adam of blessed memory sent me to Toury[14], a rich and well-provisioned though unfortified estate in the Beauce, belonging to St. Denis, of which I was in charge. He ordered that, while he summoned Hugh to answer these charges, I should provision the town and then attempt to gather as large a force as possible from his men and ours to prevent Hugh from burning it. Then the king would fortify it and, like his father, attack the castle from there.

With God’s help I was able to fill it quite quickly with a force of knights and foot-soldiers. After Hugh had absented himself from the trial and been condemned by default, the king came to me at Toury with a great army to claim from Hugh the castle he had forfeited. When Hugh refused to leave it, the king without delay hastened to attack the castle, using both his knights and his foot soldiers. You might have seen a host of catapults, bows, shields and swords; it was war[15]. And you might have admired the rain of arrows from one side then the other; the sparks which shot out from the helmets under pressure of repeated blows; the amazing suddenness with which shields were broken or holed. As the enemy were pushed through the castle gate, from the inside, high up on the ramparts, a remarkable shower fell on our men, terrifying and almost intolerable to the bravest of men. Hugh’s forces began the counter-attack by pulling down beams and throwing stakes, but they could not complete it. The royal soldiers on the other hand fought with the greatest bravery and strength of body and mind; even when their shields were broken they took cover behind planks, doors or any wooden objects they could find, as they pressed against the gate. I organised carts piled high with dry wood mixed with grease, a very inflammable mixture for the enemy were excommunicated and all given over to the devil. Our men dragged the carts to the gate both to light an inextinguishable fire and to protect themselves behind the piles of wood. 

While they were dangerously attempting some of them to light the fire, others to extinguish it, Count Theobald at the head of a large army of knights and foot-soldiers assaulted the castle on the other side, the side near Chartres. Remembering his injuries he hastened to penetrate it and encouraged his men to climb up the steep slope of the rampart, but he then grieved to see them coming, or rather falling, down even faster; those whom he had forced to creep upwards cautiously and on their stomachs he saw being thrown over on their backs and pushed down carelessly, as he tried to find out whether they had died under the weight of stones thrown after them. The knights who were riding round the keep[16] on their swiftest horses came unfortunately on those who had crawled up the palisade on their hands, struck them, cut off their heads and flung them down from the top of the ditch. 

With broken hands and paralysed knees they had almost halted the assault, when the strong, rather the omnipotent, hand of God intervened to ensure that this great and just vengeance should all be ascribed to him. Since the general levies[17] of the country were there, God excited the courage of a certain bald priest[18] and made it possible for him, contrary to human judgment, to achieve what the armed count and his men had found impossible. Covering himself with the cheapest of planks and bareheaded, he climbed rapidly upward, came to the palisade and, hiding under the overhang which was well suited to it, he gradually pulled the palisade apart. Pleased that he was working undisturbed, he made a signal to the hesitant and those standing idle in the fields that they should help him. Seeing an unarmed priest bravely throwing down the palisade, the armed men rushed in, applied to it their axes and any iron implements they could find, cut it down and completely broke it. Then, as a miraculous sign of divine judgement, as if they had brought down the walls of a second Jericho, as soon as they had broken down the barriers, the armies of the king and the count entered. Thus a good many of the enemy, unable to avoid hostile attacks on either side, were captured as they rushed in all directions and were seriously wounded. 

The rest, including Hugh himself, seeing that the interior of the castle[19] and its surrounding wall could not offer safety, withdrew into the wooden tower that was on top of the motte. Almost immediately, terrified by the menacing spears of the pursuing army, Hugh surrendered and was imprisoned in his own home with his men and, wretched in his chains he recognised how much pride goes before a fall. When the victorious king had led off the noble captives as fit booty for the royal majesty, he ordered that the entire castle’s furniture and its riches should be publicly sold and the castle itself consumed by fire.[20] The burning of the keep was delayed for several days because count Theobald, forgetful of the great good fortune which he could never have achieved on his own, was plotting to extend his boundaries[21] by erecting a castle at a place called Allaines[22] within the lordship of Le Puiset which had been held in fief of the king. When the king formally refused to allow this, the count offered to provide proof by his steward in that part, Andrew of Baudement[23]. The king said he had never agreed to anything of the sort, but offered reason and judicial combat in the person of his seneschal Anselm, wherever the champions thought safe. Since they were both valiant men they often asked that a court be convened for this battle; but they never obtained one.

When the castle had been ruined and Hugh shut up in the keep of Chateau-Landon, Count Theobald, strengthened by the help of his uncle Henry the English king started a war against King Louis with his allies. He disturbed the land, seduced the king’s barons with promises and gifts and disgracefully plotted what evil he could against the state. But the king, an excellent knight, took frequent revenge on him and harassed his lands supported by many other barons, especially his uncle Robert, count of Flanders[24], a remarkable man, famous among Christians and Saracens for his skill in arms since the first Jerusalem journey. 

One day, as the king was leading an expedition against the count, he saw him in the city of Meaux. In anger Louis attacked him and his men, fearlessly he followed the fugitive across the bridge and with count Robert and the other great men of the kingdom he threw them at sword point into the waves. When they themselves fell in you would have seen this unencumbered hero moving his arms like Hector’s, launching massive attacks on the trembling bridge, pressing forward to the perilous entrance in order to occupy the city despite its numerous defenders; and not even the great river Marne would have prevented him from doing so, if the gate across the river had not been locked. 

He enhanced his reputation for valour with an equally brilliant exploit when, leading his army out of Lagny, he met Theobald’s troops in the beautiful plain of meadows beside Pomponne[25]. He attacked them and put them to flight at once under the pressure of his repeated blows. Fearing the narrow entrance of a nearby bridge, some of them, thinking only to save their lives, were not afraid to throw themselves into the water at grave risk of death; others, treading each other under foot in their efforts to get to the bridge, threw off their arms and, more hostile to each other than were their enemies, all tried to go across at once, though only one man at a time could make the journey. And while their disorderly push plunged them in confusion, the more they hurried the more they were held up, and so it came about that ‘the first was last and the last became first.’[26] But as the approach to the bridge was surrounded by a ditch, it offered them some shelter, because the king’s knights could only follow them one by one, and even that could not be achieved without great loss since, although many pressed in, only a few could reach the bridge. Whichever way they entered, they were as often as not upset by the milling crowd of both armies, fell on their knees in spite of themselves, and as they hastily got up, pushed others down. The king in hot pursuit with his own men brought about great bloodshed. Those he struck he destroyed and flung into the river Marne, either by sword blow or by a push from his powerful horse. Those who had no arms floated on account of their lightness but those who were mailed were instantly dragged down by their own weight. Before their third soaking they were saved by their own companions, though after the shame of rebaptism, if one can talk like this[27].

By these and other injuries the king exhausted the count. He devastated all his lands, both in Brie and in Chartres, making no distinction between the times when the count was present and those when he was absent. Because the count was apprehensive over the scarcity and lack of energy of his own men, he tried to draw the king's men away from him, bribing them with gifts and promises and holding out the hope that, before he made peace with Louis, he would obtain satisfaction on their behalf for various grievances.

Among those he attached to himself were Lancelin of Bulles, lord of Dammartin[28] and Pagan of Montjay, whose lands, situated at a fork in the road, offered a secure access for the harassment of Paris[29]. For the same reason he seduced Raoul of Beaugency[30], whose wife, the daughter of Hugh the Great, was the king’s first cousin. Preferring expediency to honour and tormented by great anxiety, - need makes the old wife trot, as the proverb runs - Theobald joined his noble sister in incestuous marriage[31] with Miles de Montlhéry, to whom the king returned the castle as we have previously said. 

This done, he interrupted the lines of communication and restored in the very heart of France the old endless sequence of storms and wars. With Miles he gained his relation Hugh of Crécy, lord of Chateaufort, and Guy of Rochefort[32], thus exposing the country of Paris and Etampes to the ravages of war, had the knights not prevented it. While access across the Seine to Paris and Senlis lay open to count Theobald with the men of Brie and to his uncle Hugh[33] with the men of Troyes, Miles had access from this side of the river; thus the inhabitants lost the chance of helping each other. The same was true for the men of Orleans, whom those of Chartres, Chateaudun and Brie kept at a distance with the help of Raoul of Beaugency, and with no opposition. The king nevertheless often put them on their back feet, although the wealth of England and Normandy was poured forth unsparingly against him. For the famous King Henry attacked Louis’ lands with all his strength and all his effort. But he was no more beaten down than if ‘all the rivers together threatened to take their waters from the sea.’[34]


[1] Hugh III, Vicomte de Chartres, Seigneur de Puiset and Comte de Corbeil was born around 1090 and died in 1132. He was the son of Everard III (born c.1060) who went to the Holy Land in 1096 and died before Antioch on 21st August 1097. The two brothers of Everard were successively their nephew’s guardian: Hugh II married a daughter of Ebles de Roucy and went to the Holy Land with Bohemond in 1106 and Guy, canon of Chartres had married the viscountess of Etampes in 1104. Everard III, Hugh II and Guy were the sons of Hugh I known as ‘the Blue’ possibly because of the colour of his clothes. Hugh I was lord of Puiset in 1067, viscount of Chartres in 1073 and died on 23rd December 1094. He was married to Alice de Montlhery, sister of Guy I de Montlhery.

[2] Kings, III, xii, v.11. A ‘scorpion’ was a type of small ballista.

[3] Psalm xxv,13

[4] Adela was the sister of Henry I of England and widow of Stephen, count of Blois and Chartres, who was born 1046 and died in the battle of Ramleh, in Egypt on 27th May 1102. She acted as regent for her son until he came of age in 1107. Theobald III was born in 1090 and died on 8th October 1152. Adela was born around 1046 and died on 8th March 1138 and was widely regarded as an energetic and intelligent woman.

[5] Le Puiset is about twenty-five miles south-east of Chârtres and about fifty miles south of Paris.

[6] This occurred before 12th March 1111: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 108. The presence of Adela was important. The king had not forgotten the complicity of Theobald with Guy the Red and Hugh de Crecy in the attack on Gournay four years earlier but Theobald appears in a more favourable light presumably because he appears humbled before Louis. Suger quickly reverted to his usual negative portrayal of Theobald later in the chapter. By contrast, Adela had sent reinforcements to the young Louis against Bouchard de Montmorency.

[7] Hugh I was the brother-in-law of Miles the Great, lord of Montlhery.

[8] Lancelin I of Beaugency was lord of Beaugency and was born around 1000 and died between 1055 and 1060. His son, Lancelin II of Beaugency was lord of Beaugency (c.1045 - after 1098). His son was Raoul de Beaugency (c.1082-c.1130).

[9] It is not possible to date this event precisely but the spring of 1079 or 1080 seems most likely: ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, p. 61, no 3 argued for 1080 on the basis of a charter dated to that year. Details of this expedition can be found in Certain, E. de, (ed.), Miracles de saint Benoit, Societe d’Histoire de France, Paris, 1858, pp. 315-317. The count of Nevers, William I (c.1030-c.1100) was the first cousin of King Philip by his mother Adelaide, daughter of Robert the Pious. His brother Robert, bishop of Auxerre from 1077 to 1095 accompanied him to Puiset.

[10] Constance of Arles was the second wife of Robert the Pious. She had made Puiset her stronghold in her war against her son Henry I who was obliged to retake it by force in 1032 or 1033: ibid, Miracles de saint Benoit, pp. 242-243. The importance of the possessions of the abbey of St-Denis in the Beauce is made explicit by the reference to ‘land dedicated to the saints’ and Suger was himself responsible for extending the amount of land held by the abbey in this area.

[11] The meeting at Melun about twenty-seven miles south-east of Paris occurred on 12th March 1111. Suger used an abridged version of this passage in his Liber de rebus administratione gestis, in ibid, Lecoy de la Marche, A., (ed.), Oeuvres completes de Suger, recueilles, annotées er publiées d’après les manuscrits, pp. 170-171.

[12] Daimbert, archbishop of Sens and Jean II, bishop of Orleans.

[13] Ivo was bishop of Chartres from 1091 until 1116. He was imprisoned in 1092 by Hugh I de Le Puiset on the orders of King Philip I because he refused to approve of the king’s marriage with Bertrade and remained at Le Puiset for two years. The clergy and the faithful of Chartres had considered taking up arms to secure his release.

[14] Suger was made provost of Toury, a few miles south-east of Le Puiset and about fifty miles south of Paris on the road to Orleans. His description is that of an eyewitness.

[15] Psalms, lxxv, 4

[16] They rode around the palisade on the inside of the surrounding walls.

[17] During Louis’ reign, the bishops of France established communities of the people so that their priests would accompany the king to a siege or battle with their banners and all their parishioners. ‘Parish militias’ might be a better translation than general levies.

[18] He was the parish priest of Guilleville.

[19] From Suger’s description, we have a fairly clear idea of the nature of the castle at Le Puiset. It was constructed with a double ring of two walls (a simple palisade and a wall probably of stone) and a wooden keep on top of a motte.

[20] The date of the first siege of Le Puiset took place in the summer of 1111. In a charter, dated before 3rd August 1111, the king recalled the destruction of the castle and confirmed the liberties of the church lands ravaged by the lords of Le Puiset: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n°° 114 and 116. In another charter dated a few days after 3rd August, the king attributed his victory ‘to God’s help and thanks to the decisive intervention of the saints’, an allusion perhaps to the decisive actions of the bald priest: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 119.

[21] Theobald was seeking to push back his frontiers.

[22] Allaines is the modern Allaines-Mervilliers, a few miles south-west of Le Puisset.

[23] Andrew of Baudement was also known as his seneschal and was the father-in-law of Odo of Corbeil.

[24] Robert II had been count of Flanders since 1098.

[25] Pomponne is north of the river Marne, a few miles north-west of Lagny which is about seventeen miles east of Paris.

[26] This is the end of a phrase inspired by St Matthew, xxix, 30.

[27] Orderic Vitalis suggests, on the contrary the French were crushed under the weight of numbers and that King Louis withdrew. In was in these circumstances that Robert of Flanders, trampled by horses’ hooves received wounds from which he died on 5th October 1111. Suger makes no reference to Robert’s fatal fall in the attack on Meaux because his account only deals with the first part of the battle when the king won. Therefore Suger’s account complements rather than contradicts Orderic Vitalis. Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 121 dates the events between 3rd August and 6th October 1111.

[28] Lancelin of Bulles, count of Dammartin died without heirs in 1113. Manasses, who was killed at Bar in 1037, was younger brother of Hilduin III de Ramerupt, and son of Hilduin II (died 992). He probably was granted Dammartin as a result of his marriage to Constance of France, daughter of Robert II and Constance of Provence. He had at least two sons who followed him: Odo, who died shortly before 1071, and Hugh, Count from 1071 until his death in 1103 (he must have been quite old). He married Rohais/Roaide de Bulles. In addition to several daughters, he had son Pierre, Count, died 1107, married to Eustachie, and had a sole son and heir: Lancelin de Bulles who died without issue circa 1113. Lancelin appears to have married Clemence de Bar, (if so this is a case of infant marriage, at least for her), who later in life, as wife of Renaud de Clermont, still went by the title Countess of Dammartin. From the death of Lancelin, it becomes difficult to follow who was holding the county, but identification with Dammartin passed into the descendants of the daughters (and perhaps younger sons) of Hugh holding in England.

Odo, founder of the Middleshaw line, appears to have married Basilie, one of the daughters of Hugh, and adopted her surname. Another daughter, Aelis married first, Aubri de Mello, and had Aubri, William, Odo, and perhaps others. She married second, Lancelin de Beauvais, who is sometimes confused with her nephew. Since he was exercising a certain control over Dammartin in 1112, it would seem that Aubri de Mello had died by that time. This is important in dating the birth of Aubri's children. The eldest child of Aelis and Aubri de Mello was Aubri I, Count of Dammartin, maternal grandson of Count Hugh. He is said to have been born in 1110, but this seems too late, since his father would appear to have died by 1112, and there were younger sons. In addition, Aubri appears as a member of the French royal household 1122-1129, suggesting a birth at least twenty years earlier. He is traditionally said to have married Amice de Gloucester though this cannot be documented in contemporary sources, but is chronologically possible. If so it was late in life. He would seem to have been Count in 1166, and is said to have died c.1182.

[29] Montjay and Dammartin are about fifteen and twenty-two miles east and north-east of Paris respectively. Bulles is about five miles north-west of Clermont and about forty miles north of Paris.

[30] Raoul de Beaugency (1082-1130), the son of Lancelin II, was married to Maud or Matilda de Vermandois in 1111 and was a vassal of Theobald. Hugh ‘the Great’ Crepi (1050-1102) was her father and younger brother of King Philip I and her mother was Countess Adela of Vermandois. Beaugency is on the Loire about thirteen miles south-west of Orleans.

[31] Miles II de Montlhery was born c.1082 and died in 1118. He married Adelaide de Blois (born after 1097) in 1112.

[32] Hugh de Crecy and his brother Guy II of Rochefort, both sons of Guy ‘the Red’ were first cousins of Miles II of Montlhery.

[33] Hugh I, count of Troyes and Champagne (1075-June 1125/6) since 1093 was half brother of Stephen, count of Blois, Theobald’s father and the unfortunate husband of Constance of France in 1104.

[34] Lucan, De bello civili, V, 366-337

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