Sunday, 5 July 2009

Chapter 31

How he made an end of Thomas de Marle

On another occasion he wreaked a similar vengeance, equally pleasing to God and equally celebrated on Thomas de Marle, a malicious man who persecuted the church without respect for God or man. By the strength of his arm Louis snuffed him out like a smouldering brand.[1]

Moved by the complaints and lamentations of the churches, he came to Laon to take revenge. At the instigation of the bishops and magnates, and especially on the advice of the noblest count of Vermandois, Raoul, who was the most powerful man in that area after the king, it was decided that he should lead the army against Thomas at Coucy.[2] As he was hurrying towards the castle, those who had been sent ahead to find a suitable means of access reported that it was completely impregnable and inaccessible. Although he was pressed by many people to change his plan in the light of what he had heard, the king scorned to do so, saying with spirit: ‘This strategy was laid down at Laon. I shall not change what was decided there, either for life or for death. The magnificence of the royal majesty will justly be cheapened if we are scorned for having fled through fear of a wicked man.’ 

He spoke, and despite his corpulence, set off with astonishing enthusiasm on precipitous roads obstructed by woods, cutting his way through with his army until he arrived close to the castle. At that moment Count Raoul, who was scouting on the other side of the castle, was told that ambushes had been prepared for the army and that catastrophe was imminent for them. At once Raoul armed himself, and set out along a secret path in that direction with a few companions. He sent some of his men on ahead, then seeing that Thomas had already been struck and fallen, he spurred on his horse, charged him and boldly struck him with the sword, inflicting a mortal wound. If he had not been restrained, he would have repeated it. Captured and bleeding to death, Thomas was brought before King Louis and taken on his orders to Laon, with the approval of almost everyone, both his men and ours. 

The following day his lands in the plain were confiscated and his palisades broken down, but Louis spared the land because he held its lord. The king then went back to Laon. But neither his wounds not imprisonment nor threats nor prayers could induce that abandoned man to give back the merchants whom he held in prison, and whom he had deprived of all their possessions in shocking violation of his duties on the highway. When with the royal permission he summoned his wife, he seemed more grieved by being compelled to release the merchants than to lose his life. As the appalling pain of his wounds brought him to death’s door, he was implored by many people to confess and take the last rites, but would scarcely consent. When the priest had brought the body of the Lord into the chamber where the wretched man lay, it seemed as if even the Lord Jesus could not bear to enter the miserable shell of that insufficiently penitent man, for as soon as the wicked man raised his neck, he let it fall back broken, and breathed out his hideous spirit without having taken the Eucharist. The king disdained to proceed further against a dead man or a dead man’s lands, so he extorted from Thomas’ wife[3] and children[4] freedom for the merchants and the greater part of his treasure. Then, having restored peace to the churches by the death of the tyrant, he returned victorious to Paris. 

On another occasion, there arose between the king and the illustrious Amaury de Montfort, a great dispute about the seneschalship, which Stephen of Garlande fanned and both the English king and Count Theobald encouraged by their support[5]. With a hastily gathered army the king besieged the castle of Livry, brought up the siege engines, and by dint of frequent assaults and aggressions, he very courageously stormed it. And because his noble cousin Raoul, count of Vermandois, the swiftest in attack, had lost an eye from a crossbow bolt, he totally flattened the castle which had been very strong. But he so impressed them by this great act of war that they gave up the seneschalship and all hereditary claim to it[6], leaving it in peace. In this war the king, great soldier as he was and always prompt to take action against the enemy, was pierced in the leg by a bolt from a crossbow. Although seriously wounded he bravely made light of it, and as if enthroned royal majesty disdained the pain of a wound, he held himself stiffly, bearing it as if he had nothing to bear.[7]


[1] Thomas de Marle had been declared anathema in 1114 (chapter 24) but he had subsequently been restored to the communion of the church. However, he died without the sacrament and it not difficult to detect a note of satisfaction in Suger’s description of the death of a former excommunicant.

[2] Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 461 argues for October 1130. However, there is some disagreement in the manuscripts on the exact date of the expedition against Thomas de Marle: some suggest 1130 while others 1128. Manuscript F maintains the earlier date and Luchaire followed this.

[3] Milesende was the daughter of Guy de Crecy and Nouvion and so was related to Louis’ enemy Hugh de Crecy.

[4] Thomas de Marle died on 9th November 1130. Louis VI allowed Enguerrand, son of Thomas de Marle to succeed after he had restored things acquired by force and had compensated the churches attacked by his father. Enguerrand was attacked by Louis is 1132 but agreement was reached with the king when he agreed to marry a niece of Louis’s cousin and ally, Count Ralph of Vermandois: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 491.

[5] The dispute between Louis VI and the Garlande family lasted from 1127 to 1132. Stephen became both chancellor and seneschal in 1120 and gave the latter to the Amaury de Montfort, husband of his niece. Louis VI, encouraged by his queen Adelaide an enemy of the Garlandes, opposed them by force. The taking of Livry was the principal event of the war and occurred in 1128 according to the Annales de Lagny. Suger’s discussion of these events is brief perhaps because he was regarded as part of the Garlande ‘party’ in the 1120s and owed his rise in royal favour at least in part to the patronage of Stephen de Garlande: Bournazel, Eric, ‘Suger and the Capetians’, ibid, Gerson, P.L., (ed.), Abbot Suger and St Denis, pp. 55-72, especially p. 56. Under Louis, the four Garlande brothers (Anselm, William, Gilbert and especially Stephen) acquired considerable power and influence. Stephen became chancellor in 1106 and seneschal in 1120 though the latter involved military command that many felt was incompatible with his also being an archdeacon. The brothers were from a non-noble family and this attracted considerable resentment especially for Stephen. However, from the mid-1110s growing opposition to him developed: in 1115 Louis married Adelaide de Maurienne; in 1119 her uncle became pope and her sister subsequently married William Clito. Stephen was also opposed by various streams of ecclesiastical opinion represented by Ivo of Chartres and Bernard of Clairvaux. It is difficult to assess the respective roles of political jealousy, social antagonism, clerical opposition, marriage alliance and the claim to hereditary succession in the fall of Stephen in August 1127. There may also have been concerns, heightened by the murder of Charles the Good about people of lowly origins in Louis’ court. Stephen was driven from court and with Amaury de Montfort allied himself to Henry I and count Theobald. Although Louis and Ralph de Vermandois attacked Livry in 1128, the war dragged on until 1130.

[6] This probably took place in 1130 but Stephen was not restored as chancellor until after 3rd August 1132 though charter evidence suggests that his power was much less than in 1132: Achille Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, Paris, 1890, n° 420. However, the balance of power had shifted decisively towards Suger and Ralph de Vermandois. Members of the Garlande family had been successive chancellors of Louis VI and increasingly considered the position to be hereditary within their family. Stephen died on 14th January 1150.

[7] Suger’s handling of the entire affair is understated and lacks the passion animating the Morigny chronicle and Bernard of Clairvaux. However, it is in keeping with the rest of his work that Suger focuses on the deeds of Louis concentrating on the fall of Livry.

No comments: