Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Chapter 26

Of the resumption of war with Henry of England

Unbridled arrogance is worse than pride; for if pride will not break a superior, arrogance will not brook an equal. As the poet said, ‘Caesar could not bear to be second, Pompey to be equal first.’[1] And because ‘all power is intolerant of sharing’[2], Louis, king of the French, who enjoyed pre-eminence over Henry, intolerant king of Normandy, always treated him as if he were his vassal. But the nobility of his kingdom and his great wealth made his inferiority unbearable to the king of the English. So he relied on his nephew Theobald, Count Palatine and on many of Louis’ rivals to disturb the kingdom and attack the king in order to detract from his lordship. 

So the evil wars of earlier times were revived by mutual malice[3]. Because Normandy and Chartres lay side by side, the king of England and Count Theobald united in attacking the nearest frontier of the kingdom, while they sent Stephen, count of Mortain[4], Theobald’s brother and Henry’s nephew to Brie with an army to prevent the king from suddenly occupying that land in the count’s absence[5]. Louis spared neither the Normans nor the men of Chartres nor those of Brie. Encircled as he was by his enemies and forced by the extent of his lands to turn his attention first against one, then against the other, he nevertheless in his frequent skirmishes demonstrated all the vigour of royal majesty.  

But through the noble foresight of the English kings and the dukes of Normandy, the Norman frontier had an exceptional line of defence made up of newly built castles and of unfordable rivers. When Louis, who knew this well, decided to infiltrate Normandy, he approached the frontier with a handful of troops, intending to proceed very secretly[6]. He cautiously sent ahead spies clad as travellers, wearing mail under their cloaks and with their swords at their sides, who went down the public road to the ancient town called Gasny[7] that could offer the French free and easy access to Normandy. The river Epte flowed around it, making it safe in the middle, but preventing a crossing for a great distance either above or below. Suddenly the spies flung off their cloaks and drew their swords. The inhabitants saw them, rushed to arms and fought them fiercely but the spies resisted and with the utmost courage repelled them. Then, as they were beginning to tire, the king suddenly rushed dangerously down the mountain side, provided his men with the most appropriate help and, not without loss to himself, occupied the town’s central square and the church with its fortified tower. 

When he discovered that the English king was close by with a large army, as his custom, Louis summoned his barons and called on them to follow him. There hastened to him the young, elegant and amiable count of Flanders Baldwin[8], a true knight, Fulk, count of Anjou[9], and many other magnates of the kingdom. They broke the Norman defence line and then, while some fortified the town, others pillaged and burned the land enriched by a long peace, devastating and reducing to confusion the area around, an almost unparalleled occurrence when the English king was there. 

Meanwhile Henry very hastily set about building, encouraged the workmen, and erected a castle on the hill closest to that in which the French king had left a garrison before he departed. Henry intended that, from his new castle, with his large force of knights and using his crossbowmen and archers, he would cut off his enemy’s food supplies, distress them through their want of necessities, and bar them from his land. But the king of France played tit for tat, and returned the blow at once, like a dice player. He collected an army and suddenly came back at dawn to attack vigorously the new castle which men called Malassis[10]. With great effort, after many heavy blows had been given and received - for in this kind of market, it is that kind of tax one pays - he forced its surrender, tore it to pieces and utterly destroyed it, and to the glory of the kingdom and the shame of its enemies he valiantly put an end to all machinations against him. 

But Fortune in her power never spares anyone. As it is said, ‘If fortune wills, from rhetor you become consul; if she wills, from consul you become rhetor.’[11] The English king, after a lengthy and admirable succession of most pleasing prosperity, began to decline from the high point on the wheel of fortune and was tormented by a changing and unhappy set of events. From this side the king of France, from Ponthieu, bordering on Flanders, the count of Flanders and from Maine[12] count Fulk of Anjou employed all their powers in causing him great difficulty and attacking him with all their strength. And he was subjected to the injuries of war, not only from foreigners but also from his own men[13], from Hugh de Gournay[14], from the count of Eu[15] and the count of Aumale[16], as well as many others[17]

As the crowning evil, he suffered from internal malice. Fearful of the secret factions among his chamberlains and serving-men, he often changed his bed and increased the number of armed guards who kept watch over him for his nightly alarms. He ordered that his shield and sword should always be laid beside him as he slept. There was a certain close friend of the king, H[18] by name, who had been enriched by the royal liberality, and was well-known for his power, was about to be better known for his treason. When he was caught plotting, he was condemned to lose his eyes and genitals, a merciful punishment, for he deserved to be hanged. Through these and other plots the king enjoyed no security and, renowned though he was for magnanimity and courage, he became prudent in small matters. Even in his house he wore his sword and forbade his more faithful servants to leave their houses without their swords, on pain of a fine like a forfeit at play. 

At this time a man called Enguerrand de Chaumont[19], by nature vigorous and prudent, advanced boldly with a small number of troops and seized the castle of Andelys[20], after having secretly put his own men in among the garrison on the walls. Trusting in the king’s help, he fortified it with great audacity and subjected totally all the land as far as the river Andelle[21], from the river Andelle, from the river Epte to Pont-Saint-Pierre[22]. Confident of the support of many knights superior to him in rank, he met King Henry in the open countryside, irreverently pursued him as he retreated, and within the limits mentioned treated the king’s land as if it were his own. As for Maine, when King Henry, after a long delay, decided to cooperate with Count Theobald in relieving the men besieged in the castle of Alencon, he was repulsed by Count Fulk, and in this shameful affair he lost many of his men, the castle and the keep.[23]

Deeply troubled over a long period by these and other ills, he had reached the trough of misfortune when divine pity, having harshly whipped and chastised him for some time, (for although he was a liberal benefactor of churches and a rich almsgiver, he was dissolute) decided to spare him and raise him up from his pit of dejection. Unexpectedly he was raised from adversity and inferiority to the top of the wheel of fortune while, rather through the divine hand than his own, those who troubled him, once higher, were brought down to the bottom or completely ceased to exist. Thus God normally mercifully extends his hand of pity to those near despair and bereft of human help.

Count Baldwin of Flanders, whose violent attacks frequent incursions into Normandy had so troubled the king, was struck in the face by a sudden but quite light blow from a lance, while he was engaged in attacking with unbridled energy the castle of Eu[24] and its adjacent seacoast. He scorned to look after so small a wound; but Death could.[25] By Baldwin’s death, it chose to spare the English king and all his allies.

Enguerrand de Chaumont, the boldest of men and a presumptuous aggressor against Henry, was stricken by a very dangerous disease because he had not shrunk from destroying some land belonging to the Virgin Mary in the archbishopric of Rouen. After long suffering and much well-merited bodily wretchedness, he learned belatedly what was due to the queen of heaven and died.[26] Count Fulk of Anjou, although he was bound to Louis by ties of homage, by oaths and by many hostages, put avarice before fidelity and, without consulting the king, and with a treachery that made him infamous, he gave his daughter in marriage to William, son of King Henry[27] and, allied with him by this bond of friendship, unjustifiably abandoned the enmity he had promised on oath to preserve. 

Once King Louis had forced Normandy to be silent in his presence, he ravaged it as relentlessly with small forces as he had with large ones. He had become used to vexing the king and his men for so long that he despised them as so many men of straw. Then suddenly one day King Henry, having discovered the French king’s improvident audacity, collected a large army and secretly approached him with his battle lines drawn. He lit fires to shock Louis, had his armed knights’ dismount in order that they might fight more bravely as foot-soldiers, and endeavoured prudently to take all sensible precautions for war. 

Louis and his men did not deign to make any preparations for battle. He simply flew at the enemy with great courage but little sense. The men of the Vexin were in the van under Bouchard of Montmorency and Guy of Clermont[28]. They energetically cut the first Norman line to pieces, made them flee the battle-field and bravely repulsed the first line of horsemen, sending them reeling back against the armed foot-soldiers. But the French who were meant to follow them were in confusion, and pressing against extremely well organised and regulated lines, as happens in such circumstances, they could not make their charge effective and yielded.[29] The king, amazed at his army’s failure, behaved as was usual in adversity. Using only his constancy to defend himself and his own men, he retired as honourably as he could to Andelys, though with great loss to his scattered army. For some time he was cut to the quick by the unfortunate outcome of his own thoughtlessness.[30]

Then, to prevent his enemies from declaring insultingly that he no longer dared to go into Normandy, and made more than usually courageous by adversity and more steadfast, as is the way with men like him, he recalled his army, summoned the absent, invited the barons of his kingdom and informed King Henry that on a certain day he would invade his land and fight a famous battle with him. He hastened to carry out his promise, as if performing a vow made under oath. So he launched himself into Normandy at the head of a marvellous army and ravaged it, taking the well-fortified castle of Ivry[31] by assault after a sharp skirmish, which he burned down and then went on to Breteuil.[32]

Although he remained for some time in that country, he did not see the English king or meet with anyone on whom he could take sufficient revenge for the injury he had suffered. So he returned to Chartres to fall on Count Theobald and began a savage attack on the city with the intention of burning it down. But he was interrupted by a delegation of clergy and citizens, bearing before them the shift of the blessed Virgin, who begged him very devotedly, as the principal defender of their church, to spare it through love of her and not to take revenge on his own people for the wrongs that had been inflicted by others. In the face of their prayers the king bowed his royal majesty, and to prevent the destruction by fire of the city and the noble church of Notre Dame, he ordered Charles, count of Flanders[33], to recall the army and to spare the city out of love and fear for the church[34]. When they returned to their own land they continued to repay their temporary hardship with a long, continuous and very harsh revenge.[35]


[1] Lucan, De bello civili, I, 125-6

[2] Lucan, De bello civili, I, 93-4

[3] Henry I crossed the Channel after Easter 1116: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 207. The pretext for war lay in Louis VI seeking to restore Normandy to William Clito, son of Robert Curthose who had the support of a significant number of Normans.

[4] Stephen was the fourth son of Stephen II Henry, Count of Blois, and Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror and younger brother of Theobald IV. He was born in 1096. A favourite nephew of King Henry I, he received the county of Mortain (before 1115) and county of Boulogne (from 1125) and in 1125 was married to Matilda, the granddaughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and heiress of the county of Boulogne. When Stephen heard the news about the death of his uncle, he crossed at once to England to seize the crown. In disregard of the rights of King Henry’s daughter, Matilda, he was recognised as king in London and Winchester and was crowned on 22nd December 1135. In 1137, Stephen crossed to Normandy to claim the duchy, but he failed to break the resistance of Geoffrey ‘Plantagenet’, count of Anjou, who also laid his claim to Normandy and conceded to truce. In England he was entangled in a war with rebellious barons and offended the Church by arbitrary arrests of several bishops. On 30th September 1139, Matilda and her illegitimate half-brother, Robert earl of Gloucester, landed at Arundel and brought most of western England under their control. A battle at Lincoln on 2nd February 1141 resulted in Stephen’s capture by Angevin forces. The church council summoned by papal legate, Henry, bishop of Winchester (Stephen’s younger brother), deposed the king by accepting Matilda as ‘Angliae Normanniaeque domina’ (8th April 1141). On 1st November 1141, Stephen was released in an exchange for Robert of Gloucester, who had been captured by Stephen's forces, and declared lawful sovereign of England by legatine church council (7th December 1141). The civil war continued until February 1148, when Matilda gave up her struggle and departed for the continent. The state of anarchy engulfed the kingdom with barons becoming increasingly independent from the royal authority. Matilda’s son, Henry (later King Henry II) invaded England in 1149 and again in 1153. Stephen fought against Henry and attempted to crown his own son, Eustace, but failed to obtain the consent of pope Eugenius III. On 6th November 1153, Stephen and Henry concluded the treaty of Winchester. Stephen retained the kingship for his lifetime and Henry was acknowledged as heir to Stephen by a charter issued at Westminster on 25th December 1153. Stephen died on 25th October 1154

[5] In addition to the counties of Blois and Chartres, Theobald inherited from his father the county of Meaux and several other lordships in Champagne.

[6] Orderic Vitalis states that this occurred in 1118 while ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 233 suggests it was in February and March of that year.

[7] Gasny is on the lower Epte near its confluence with the Seine about fifty miles north-west of Paris. Its strategic importance can be gauged from Patourel, John le, The Norman Empire, (Oxford University Press), 1976, map 2, p. 383 which also gives an idea of the line of castles.

[8] Baldwin VIII was the son of Robert II (born 1065) who he succeeded in 1111. He died in 1119. From the beginning of hostilities in 1116, his troops for the first time cooperated with those of Louis: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 207.

[9] Fulk V, called ‘the Young’ count of Anjou since 1109. He was born in 1092 and died at Acre on 10th November 1143.

[10] The name was one of ridicule as it means ‘badly located’. Orderic Vitalis reported that Henry I had also built another castle that the French called ‘trulla leporis’ or ‘the lodging of the hare’. As for the taking of Malassis by Louis VI, Orderic Vitalis said nothing.

[11] Juvenal, Satires, VII, 197-8

[12] He became count of Maine after the death of count Elias on 11th July 1110, to whose daughter Ermengarde or Ermentrude de La Fléche (1090-1126) he was married.

[13] The three were supporters of William Clito. Hugh de Gournay and Henry, count of Eu were thrown into prison in Rouen in 1118 on Henry I’s orders.

[14] Hugh de Gournay IV was born about 1090 and died in 1155. He was the son of Gerard de Gournay and Edith de Warenne. Hugh married Beatrix de Vermandois. Beatrix was born about 1090. She died about 1144.

[15] Henry I, 5th count of Eu, Lord of Hastings died on 12th July 1140. He was related to Henry I through his marriage to Margaret de Sully.

[16] Stephen, count of Aumale was born in c.1070 and died in 1127/1130. He was married to Hawisse de Mortimer (c.1086-c.1189) and had two children William count of Aumale (died c.1179) and Agnes countess of Aumale (c.1103-c.1130).

[17] Hugh de Gournay, Henry I, 5th count of Eu and Stephen, count of Aumale were supporters of William Clito. Suger ignores the association between Louis and William until his installation of count of Flanders following the murder of Charles the Good in 1127. However, Louis had been supporting William Clito’s claim to Normandy for some time.

[18] The Chronicles of St-Denis vol. III, p. 308 called the traitor ‘Hugh’ and manuscript G writes Henry. The same is reported by William of Malmesbury Gesta regum Anglorum, edited D. Hardy, vol. II, p. 641 who alone wrote that the traitor was ‘a chamberlain who was born of a plebeian father but became prominent as keeper of the royal treasures’. His lowly origin perhaps reflects in the punishment that Suger believed should have occurred. Warren Hollister identifies Henry’s attacker with Herbert the Chamberlain: ‘The Origins of the English Royal Treasury’, English Historical Review, vol. xciii, (1978), pp. 262-275.

[19] Enguerrand de Chaumont was the son of Dreux de Chaumont who, on his return from the crusade around 1101 retired to the abbey of Saint-Germer. He held the lordship of Trie, whose castle lay on the frontier of Vexin and he had poorly defined family links with Hugh le Borgne, viscount of Chaumont, constable of France from 1108 to 1138. He died in 1119.

[20] Andelys is in the Norman Vexin, about sisty-five miles north-west of Paris.

[21] The river Andelle flows into the right band of the Seine. The area between the Andelle and the Epte is the Norman Vexin and was the area where military action was concentrated in 1118 and 1119.

[22] Pont-Saint-Pierre is on the west bank of the Andelle in Normandy, just upstream from its junction with the Seine, about ten miles north-west of Andelys and a similar distance south-east of Rouen.

[23] The town of Alencon was given by Henry I to Stephen, brother of Theobald of Champagne. Helped by the townspeople who revolted against their lord Stephen de Mortain, Fulk of Anjou occupied Alencon in November 1118 and defeated a relieving force led to Henry I under the walls of the town the following month. Deprived of food, the garrison of the castle could do nothing other than surrender.

[24] Eu is about fifty-five miles north of Rouen.

[25] Baldwin VII died on 17th June 1119, aged twenty-six from a wound he had received in September 1118 in the attack on Bures-en-Brai. Orderic Vitalis attributes the final sickness of Baldwin less to his wound but from having eaten freshly killed meat, drunk mead and slept with a women on the following night while William of Malmesbury is of the opinion that his condition was worsened by his having eaten garlic with goose and sleeping with a woman.

[26] Enguerrand de Chaumont was excommunicated by the archbishop of Rouen for taking church land. He was on Louis VI’s side at the siege of Chateauneuf-sur-Epte in 1119. At the news of the burning of Evreux, Louis ordered a retreat and set fire to his camp. Enguerrand died not long afterwards because he attacked land belonging to Mary but Orderic Vitalis attributed his death to a wound in the eyebrow.

[27] William Adelin married Matilda of Anjou in Lisieux in June 1119, peace having been agreed the previous month. William died in the wreck of the White Ship in November 1120 and his wife became a nun in the abbey of Fontevrauld. Nine years later the two houses were reunited again with the marriage of Geoffrey, Fulk’s son and Matilda, daughter of Henry I and widow of the emperor Henry V.

[28] Guy de Clermont was the son of Hugh de Clermont.

[29] The battle took place at Brémule on 20th August 1119. Orderic Vitalis provides the most extensive account of this battle, noting how few people were killed during the fight. His account of the battle is included as Appendix 1.

[30] Suger lessened the gravity of Louis’ defeat at Brémule. 140 knights were captured. The king lost his horse and his standard and only succeeded in reaching Andelys with the help of a peasant after he had become a fugitive in the woods of Musegros.

[31] Ivry is the modern Ivry-la-Bataille about fifty miles west of Paris. Breteuil is about twenty-seven miles west of there.

[32] He reached Breteuil on 17th September 1119. Orderic Vitalis’ account of the events following the battle at Brémule is slanted rather differently. He stated 4: 370 that Louis having come to Breteuil ‘failed to achieve anything but dishonour and loss’.

[33] Charles the Good had succeeded his young cousin Baldwin VII in 1119.

[34] Ibid, Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), p. 31 states that part of the town had already completely destroyed. Louis arrived at Chartres between the 22nd and 25th September 1119.

[35] Peace took place at the beginning of 1120 thanks largely to the mediation of pope Calixtus II who had an interview with Henry I at Gisors on 24th November 1119. Suger, however, ends the chapter giving the impression of continuing hostility and this allows him to imply later in chapter 28 that the war was still going on in 1124.

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