Sunday, 31 May 2009

Corruption and the Constitution

This weekend we’ve seen what looks like a biding war between the leaders of the three major parties.  For Gordon, it’s his Presbyterian conscience that’s offended and he’s always wanted to have a new constitutional settlement.  For David, it’s a case of the need for constitutional reform but we really need a general election first.  For Nick, it a case for constitutional reform now.  While there is undoubtedly a case for constitutional reform, it seems to miss the point that what people are so annoyed about is MPs expenses and we are in danger of allowing this to become submerged in a process of constitutional change.

Before any constitutional change is introduced, it is essential that the question of MPs’ expenses is sorted out.  Although political parties have established their own mechanisms for sorting out their own MPs, this lacks transparency and may be of dubious legality…more akin to a kangaroo court than anything else.  Yes the public wants a few scalps, and quite rightly so, but it appears that most ministers with the possible exception of Hazel Blears, appear to be safe (at least at present) and the whole process may be being used by party leaders to get rid of dead-wood or vocal opponents.  If an MP has claimed expenses for something that is now seen as not being within the decidedly ill-defined ‘spirit of the rules’ and this had been agreed by the Fees Office, then presumably a criminal case for fraud would be unlikely to succeed.  There is also the problem of retrospective guilt.  Yes an MP would probably not claim for something dubious today but that was not the case in the past and appears to have been acceptable to the House of Commons authorities.  Although the ‘I was within the rules’ defence sound hollow with the public, it is still a plausible defence and anyone prosecuted would be able to show where precisely in the rules the sentences that allowed them to claim actually were.  They may well be rotten rules, but they are nonetheless the rules under which MPs operated.  A legally-binding code of conduct for MPs as suggested by Gordon does not deal with the expenses question merely how MPs do their job.  Presumably, this will soon be followed by targets as in other areas of public service!!!!!

With a general election due in the next year, it is unlikely that any significant constitutional reform will be accomplished and it may be sensible to postpone this until the next parliament.  It would be better if each party put forward its own constitutional proposals in their respective manifestos rather than rush something and make constitutional matters worse.  What can be sorted out in the next year is the question of MPs’ pay. 

1. We need to increase MPs’ pay to include their expenses for renting a property while in London.  Those MPs within 25 miles of Westminster would only get the basic pay without the expenses component.  It’s then up to MPs how they spend their money.

2. MPs will need to be paid a travel component based upon the distance of their constituency from London based upon second-class rail travel. 

3.  If an MP wishes to claim any expenses above their pay to carry out their parliamentary duties, then this has to be agreed in advance and in writing by the independent auditor.  No agreement, no expenses.

This is a relatively simple system based on pay (basic pay+living costs+travel costs), all of which are taxable, with additional agreed expenses at cost.  As the pay element would be known to the general public, only the additional expenses component would need to be published for public scrutiny.  Though this would increase MPs’ pay, it should not be subject to charges of corruption and so satisfy public anger.  In addition, MPs’ pay would increase annually based on the RPI as for pensioners. 

To remove the problem of MPs employing family members, all office staff in London should be appointed by and paid by Parliament and, in the constituencies, by the local party organisation.  No spouse, child or step-child, sister or brother, parent or other close relative can be employed by an MP though there is no reason why they should not work unpaid like any other party volunteer. 

Any MP suspected of having broken these rules should be subject to immediate suspension from Parliament while the charge is investigated and if found warranted should be expelled from the House and a by-election called.

It is only once this has been achieved that effective constitutional reform can be introduced.   

Chapter 20

How Hugh was set free

Meanwhile[1] there occurred the death of Odo, count of Corbeil, a man yet not a man for he was irrational and brutal. He was the son of Bouchard, that most arrogant of counts, tumultuous leader of brigands, of such amazing self-importance that he aspired to the throne. One day, as he took up arms against the king, he refused to accept his sword from the man holding it out to him, and said insolently to his wife who was standing by him. ‘Noble countess, confer this splendid sword on your noble count with joy, for he who receives it from you as a count will today return it to you as a king.’ But by God’s will it came about quite differently; for at the end of the day he was neither what he had been nor what he wished to be. Struck that very day by the lance of count Stephen[2], who was fighting on the king’s side, his death strengthened the peace of the kingdom and took him and his war to the lowest pit of hell where he fights to eternity.

After the death of his son count Odo, count Theobald, his mother, Miles, Hugh[3] and their allies did what they could by gifts and promises to obtain his castle, in order to discomfort the king. On the other hand, the king and his men, rebutting their claims, sweated with great ardour to obtain it for themselves. But it was quite impossible to do this without consulting Hugh, because he was Odo’s nephew.[4]

A day and place - Moissy[5], a domain of the bishop of Paris, of evident ill-omen - were appointed to settle the affair. When we[6] met together, Hugh’s decision was in part against us, and in part in our favour, for since we could not have what we wanted; we wanted what we could have. He renounced his claim to the castle of Corbeil, to which he had boasted of being the heir and he also swore to stop all harassment, taxes and exorbitant charges on all churches and monasteries. Then after hostages had been given to guarantee these arrangements and after he had sworn he would never fortify Le Puiset without the king’s consent, deceived by his treachery not his cunning, we went home. 


[1] Odo de Corbeil died very probably in 1112: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 128.

[2] Stephen, count of Meaux and Brie before 1081, count of Blois and Chartres from 1090 to 1102 was the father of Theobald IV. The revolt and the death of Bouchard can be dated between 1076 and 1081. Bouchard had had visions of grandeur and longed to be the King of France. Guy ‘the Red’ de Montlhery married Adelaide de Crecy who was the widow of Bouchard de Corbeil. Adelaide’s son by Bouchard was named Odo de Corbeil, so, Hugh de Crecy and Odo de Corbeil were half-brothers. There are several possibilities: that Hugh de Crecy was actually the son of Bouchard and adopted by Guy, that Hugh was born at a later date than 1070, that Adelaide the mother of Hugh was divorced from Bouchard and married to Guy prior to Bouchard’s death

[3] Hugh de Puiset was at that time imprisoned in Chateau-Landon.

[4] By his mother Alice, daughter of Bouchard and Adelaide de Crecy and as a result the sister of Odo.

[5] Moissy is the modern Moissy-Cramayel. It is about five miles east of Corbeil and about twenty-five miles south-east of Paris. Bishop Galon of Paris was an opponent of St-Denis that may account for Suger’s seeing the choice of this location as foretelling evil.

[6] The use of the plural ‘we’ suggests that Suger was involved in the interview. However, Manuscript F says that Louis alone was involved.

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

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.

Friday, 22 May 2009

An 1832 Moment?

Some commentators are drawing comparisons between events in 1832 with its ‘Days of May’ and the current crisis caused by MPs’ expenses.  Much as Lord Grey and ministers such as Lord John Russell and Lord Durham seized the political initiative in the aftermath of the 1830 general election to introduce fundamental political reform, so people are calling for politicians now to introduce fundamental constitutional change.  Purging Parliament of corrupt MPs and Lords may be a necessary first step but in the eyes of the people this is not sufficient.  Yet we must be careful is drawing too close comparisons with the ‘Great Reform Act’ that represented not a fundamental shift in constitutional practice but, as Grey always said, a broadly ‘conservative’ measure that extended the franchise to the middle classes but denied the same rights to working people and left in place the principle that the right to vote was enshrined not as a individual right but as a consequence of the possession of property.  It was not a case of ‘one person, one vote’.  It also demonstrated what has been the way in which our constitution had evolved, in a broadly piecemeal way.  Although the vote was made an individual right in the Third Reform Act, it was not until 1928 that all men and women over 21 had the vote and a further twenty years before the last vestiges of the pre-reform system were finally ended with the abolition of the university seats.  1832 marked the beginning of a process of constitutional change, not the end.

Since 1997 and arguably before then, there has been a chipping away of the British constitution in two important respects.  First, devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has not been paralleled by similar developments in England.  We have not resolved the ‘West Lothian question’ and have seen a Labour government buttressed by MPs from Wales and Scotland who can vote on English issues while English MPs cannot vote on many Scottish issues, now the purview of the Scottish Parliament.  Secondly, under the guise of security from terrorism, there has been an erosion of individual rights and the emergence of a surveillance society of a considerable, though largely hidden capacity.  A major problem since 1997 has been that although the government quickly introduced some constitutional reform, it appears to have run out of steam by 2000 leaving a hybrid House of Lords.  In addition, having been promised a referendum on the European constitution, it was unwilling to do the same for the Lisbon Treaty (something justified in terms of the previous Maastricht Treaty) despite its being, in essence, that constitution.  This angered many people who felt that the government was making decisions that it had promised would be subject to further popular mandate.  This, combined with what is recognised as the growing, largely unaccountable power of central government and the creation of nominated quangos, the creatures of government patronage and today’s ‘nominated boroughs’ resulted in the MPs expenses scandal marking a political tipping-point.    Having a general election, something most people want, to replace a discredited and corrupt government, will not sort this out.  What is essential is real constitutional change.

This means a written constitution and a bill of rights and a move away from representative to participatory democracy.  No longer should the people effectively devolve their democratic rights to MPs, MEPs or local councillors and then take the opportunity to pass judgement on them in elections.  The people need to be involved in and contribute to the making of political decisions at all levels of government.  That is one of the aims of introducing Citizenship in schools and it is essential if we are to hold those elected to account. 

First, Parliament.  Make the House of Lords wholly elected by proportional representation every four years with 200 members.  This would give it a popular legitimacy it lacks and increase its ability to scrutinise and review legislative proposals from the Commons with the right to delay legislation for one parliamentary session as is currently the case.   The House of Commons should also be elected for a fixed four year term with the elected for the Lords two years into a Parliament.  I am inclined to retain the first-past-the-post system but consideration should be given to proportional representation for both Houses.  The number of MPs should be reduced to 400, something necessary because of devolution.  As I have written before MPs should be paid a salary that includes expenses.  There should also be primary elections in constituencies to decide who the candidates should be.  The Speaker should be elected every four years and can hold the office only for two consecutive parliaments. Parliament should work business hours (10-6); there is no need to retain the arcane system of Parliament sitting after lunch. 

Secondly, the government.  We should elect our Prime Minister by proportional representation.  This would maximise people’s participation and ensure that the individual elected has the broadest possible support.  The Prime Minister then chooses his or her cabinet and its members, some of whom might also be MPs or members of the Lords, sit in Parliament without a voting capacity but should be held accountable to it.  It is the government’s job to formulate policy that it needs to persuade Parliament to accept and legislate on.  This would strengthen Parliament’s power to hold the executive to account.  This is a move towards the separation of the executive and the legislature but does not take it as far as the American model.

Thirdly, the European Union.  Since an increasing amount of legislative originates in Europe, we need to reinvigorate support for the European project as a union of independent sovereign states.  We need to build into the constitution the need for a referendum (on the Irish model) for all significant changes to Europe including all constitutional treaties like Lisbon.  One reason why many people in Britain are reticent about the EU is the unwillingness of governments to give the people a say. 

Finally, local government.  It already has fixed term elections and has recently undergone a move towards a cabinet structure so I would be inclined not to alter this at present except for local government finance.  The current rating system needs to be abolished and replaced by local income tax.  This would mean that local government finance would be based on the individual’s ability to pay and, since it would be administered through the Inland Revenue, would make collection easier. 

What we need is radical not cosmetic change that takes account of people’s desire to have a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives, to be able to hold government at whatever level to account and to do so quickly.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Chapter 17

How William, his brother-in-law, committed treason against Guy at Roche-Guyon; of Guy's death and the prompt revenge taken against William

On a sharp promontory above the bank of the great river Seine there stands a frightening and looming castle called la Roche-Guyon[1], carved out of a high rock so as to make its outside invisible. The skilled hand of hand of its builder had created, by breaking the rock in the slope of the mountain, living quarters of good size entered through a small and mean hole. One would take it for a seer’s grotto in which the oracles of Apollo are produced or the cave of which Lucan spoke: ‘For although the prophet of Thessaly did violence to the fates, it is not known whether, when she looked on the shadows of the Styx, she had called them up, or had descended to find them.’[2] Perhaps it is the route to the underworld.

The owner of this wicked fortress, despised equally by gods and men, was Guy[3], a young man imbued with goodness, breaking the evil tradition of his ancestors, who had decided to lead an honourable life, free from their wretched hunger for rapacity. But overcome by the evil inherent in that ill-fated place, he was most wickedly betrayed by his sinful father-in-law and beheaded, thus losing through his untimely death both the place and his life. His brother-in-law[4] William, a Norman by birth, was a traitor without equal. He passed for Guy’s closest and most intimate friend, but he ‘travailed with wickedness and hath conceived mischief. [5] At dawn[6] one Sunday, he found the opportunity for his crime. He came early to the church in a crevice of the rock next to Guy’s home, with the more devout worshippers. But he was unlike them in wearing mail beneath his cloak and being accompanied by a handful of traitors. While the others were praying he pretended to do so for a little as he calculated how to get to Guy. Then he flung himself at the entrance through which Guy was hastily coming into the church, drew his sword, and with his appalling companions gave himself up to the frenzy of his hatred; Guy was careless and would have smiled at him had he not seen the sword; William struck him, slew him and left him to perish.[7]

At the sight, his noble wife was bemused, tore her cheeks and hair like a woman distracted, rushed to her husband, careless of the danger, and threw herself on his body crying: ‘Vile murderers, slay me in my misery, for I deserve death more than he did.’ Lying on her husband’s body stopping the blows and wounds aimed at him by the swordsmen, she asked, ‘O dearest husband, how did you injure these men? Were you not, as brothers-in-law, the closest of friends? What is this madness? You are consumed by fury!’ When they dragged her off by her hair, her whole body was hacked, wounded and bloody. They murdered her husband in the most appalling way and then, finding her children, they killed them by dashing their heads against the stones with wickedness worthy of Herod. 

While they revelled in frenzy here, there and everywhere, the prostrate woman raised her wretched head, saw her husband’s beheaded corpse, and seized by love, despite her weakness she dragged her blood-soaked self across the floor like a serpent to her dead body and, as best she could, kissed him as if he were alive, then broke into a mournful chant, making her grief the best possible sacrificial offering for the dead. ‘O dearest husband, what have you left me? Surely your loving behaviour towards me did not deserve this? Surely this is not the proper complement to your rejection of your father’s, grandfather’s and great grandfather’s evil ways? Is this what you get for not plundering your neighbours and the poor, even though there was want at home?’ And no-one could separate her half-dead body from her husband’s corpse, both soaked in the same blood.

But at least, after he had exposed them to public view as if they were pigs, the wicked William, sated in human blood like a wild animal, allowed his rage to subside. He appreciated the rock’s strength, and somewhat later began to consider how he could most forcefully plunder roundabout, how he could at will strike fear into the hearts of the French and Normans. Then he put his mad head out of the window and called the inhabitants of the land, and ignorant of any good, he promised them evil if any adhered to him. Not one single man came over to him.

But in the morning the news of such a great crime spread not only in the neighbourhood but also to remote places. The men of the Vexin, vigorous and skilled in arms, were much disturbed by it and, each according to his strength collected together an army of knights and foot-soldiers. Fearing lest Henry, the most powerful king of the English, should assist the traitors, they hastened to the rock, posted large numbers of knights and foot-soldiers around the slope to stop anyone from going in or out, and to prevent help coming, they blocked the route to Normandy with the bulk of the army. Then they sent to King Louis news of the plot and a request for orders.

Drawing on his royal power, Louis ordered that the plotters be punished by the most long-drawn out and shameful of deaths, and promised help if they needed it[8]. As the army surrounded William for days, growing larger each day, that wicked man began to be seized by fear. Having considered what he had done at the devil’s bidding, on the devil’s advice he summoned several of the noblest among the men of the Vexin and, in order to remain at peace on the rock, he offered them an alliance, swearing to serve the king of France most faithfully, and making many other promises. They rejected this and, intent on vengeance against the traitor whose courage was already failing, they pressed him so hard that he agreed to hand over to them the fortress he had seized, on condition that they swore to allow him some land and security in which to withdraw to it. After this arrangement had been sworn to, a few or more French were received in the castle.

The question of the land delayed their departure until the next day; then in the morning some others besides those who had sworn entered, then others followed them; and those outside set up a great roar, demanding that the traitors be taken out, or that those who sheltered them be condemned to the same fate as the traitors themselves. Those who had sworn struggled against both their rashness and fear and resisted. Those who had not sworn rushed against them and attacked them at sword-point piously murdering those impious traitors mutilating some, painfully disembowelling others and tortured them with every kind of cruelty, thinking themselves too kind. There can be no doubt that the hand of God exacted this swift vengeance. Men were thrown out of the windows dead or alive, bristling with numerous arrows like hedgehogs. They waved about in the air on the points of the lances, as if the very earth had rejected them. For the unparalleled deed of William they discovered a rare vengeance for he who in life had been heartless had his heart cut out of his dead body. When they had taken it from his entrails, all swollen with fraud and iniquity, they put it on a stake and set it up for many days in a fixed place to demonstrate the punishment for crime. 

His body and those of some of his companions, were placed on hurdles tied with cords and ropes, and sent sailing down the Seine so that, if nothing stopped them floating down to Rouen, the Normans should see the punishment incurred by his crime, and also so that those who had briefly fouled France with their stink should in death continue to foul Normandy, their native soil.


[1] La Roche-Guyon was of some strategic importance as it lay on the frontier between the lands of England and France. It is on the north bank of the Seine a few miles upstream from its junction with the Epte, about forty-two miles north-west of Paris. Suger’s strong language immediately alerts the reader to the evil that is to follow.

[2] Lucan De bello civili, VI, 651-53

[3] In 1097, Guy, lord of La Roche-Guyon and Veteuil sold his castles to the English for gold. Suger suggests that this Guy could have been his son by using the term ‘adolescens’. He was descended from the counts of Meulan and was their vassal. This may account for his involvement in the Vexin wars in the late 1090s with Robert of Meulan supporting William Rufus: see ibid, Barlow, Frank, William Rufus, p. 379.

[4] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, p. 53 no 4 discussed the marital relationship between Guy and William suggesting that while it is possible that the murderer killed his own sister who was married to Guy, it is more likely that William was married to Guy’s sister. However, in the title of the chapter William is called the brother-in-law of Guy but here he is Guy’s father-in-law and then two lines later Suger uses the term ‘gener’ that can be translated as either ‘son-in-law’ or ‘brother-in-law’. The problem may be overcome if Guy’s unnamed father-in-law planned the murder while his son William, Guy’s brother-in-law carried it out. Even so, the precise nature of the story remains unclear and Suger’s lack of clarity suggests that he did not revise the chapter.

[5] Psalm VII, 14

[6] The question is whether this refers to twilight or dawn as the term can mean either. In his description of events after the murder, Suger does not make any allusion to the darkness of the night. There are a number of parallels between the events narrated in this chapter and the later murder of Charles the Good in chapter 30, which also occurred in a church, and its results.

[7] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, p. 53 no 1 argued that the drama at La Roche-Guyon took place in 1110 or 1111. Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 72 suggests that events took place in May 1109. However, the murder took place a little time after the meeting at Les-Planches-de-Neaufles. Henry I had returned to England and did not return until 13th June 1111.

[8] It is difficult to explain why Suger included this chapter in his narrative in the light of Louis’ failure to involve himself personally beyond this. Louis VI allowed the knights in the Vexin to deal with the murderers because he is occupied in another part of his lands, perhaps at the siege of Le Puiset or he may have been involved in preparations for an expedition to Barcelona. It is interesting to see Louis standing off, particularly in view of possible intervention by Henry.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Chapter 16

Of the interview between King Louis and Henry, king of the English at Neaufles

At that time[1] Henry, king of the English, happened to arrive in Normandy. He was a very courageous man, excellent in peace and war, whose great reputation had spread almost throughout the world. That marvellous if rustic prophet, the visionary and reporter of England’s eternal destinies, Merlin, loudly vaunted Henry’s excellence with elegance and truth.[2] In the course of his praise, he suddenly burst forth, as prophets do[3]: ‘There shall come forth a lion of justice, at whose roar French towers and island dragons shall tremble. In his days, gold will be extracted from the lily and the nettle and silver shall trickle from the hooves of those who bellow. The acknowledged one shall be clothed with various cloaks and the outer habit shall signify his inner character. The feet of dogs shall be shortened, the wild animals shall have peace and humanity will suffer in torment. The means of exchange will be split; half will be round[4]. The rapacity of the kite shall perish and the teeth of wolves grow blunt. Lion cubs shall be transformed into fish of the sea and an eagle will build her nest on Snowdon’.[5]

All the sayings of this great and ancient prophet apply so exactly to the king's courage both of his person and of his administration of the realm, that not one word seems out of place. What is said at the end about the lion cubs clearly relates to his son and daughter, who were shipwrecked[6] and devoured by the fish of the sea. Their physical transformation proves the truth of the prophecy.

So King Henry, succeeding by good fortune his brother William, organised the kingdom of England, on the advice of skilled and trustworthy men, in accordance with the law of ancient kings and in order to attract popularity he confirmed by oath the ancient customs of the realm.[7] Then he sailed into harbour in the duchy of Normandy and, relying on the help of the French king[8] he settled the land, revised the laws, imposed peace by force and threatened to tear out the eyes of thieves or to hang them. These and like threats, rapidly put into effect, made a deep impression, for ‘anyone can be rich in promises’[9] but ‘the land fell silent in his presence’.[10] The Normans, fierce descendants of the Danes and devoid of desire for peace, reluctantly kept the peace, so proving the correctness of the rustic prophet’s words: ‘The rapacity of the kite shall perish and the teeth of wolves grow blunt.’ Neither nobles nor common people dared presumptuously to pillage or steal. As for what Merlin said, ‘At the roar of the lion of justice the French towers and the island dragons shall tremble.’ This was fulfilled because Henry ordered almost all the towers and fortified places of Normandy, which is a part of France, to be pulled down, or he put his own men into them and paid for them himself or, if they were already ruined, he subjected them to his will. ‘The island dragons trembled’ since none of the English barons even dared to murmur during the whole of his reign. 

‘In his days gold shall be extracted from the lily’, that is, from the religious in good odour; ‘and from the nettle’, from stinging secular people. He extracted it so that all should serve him because he profited them all. For it is safer that one man should take something from all men when he defends all of them, than that all should perish because one man has nothing. ‘Silver shall trickle from the hooves of those who bellow’ because security in the countryside means full granaries, and full granaries mean plenty of silver in full coffers.

On this occasion, he managed to wrest the castle of Gisors from Pagan of Gisors[11] as much by flattery as by threats. This very well-fortified castle is advantageously situated on the frontier between France and Normandy, on a river rich in fish called the Epte. By an old agreement and a geometrical measurement made with measuring ropes[12], it marked out the lands of the French from those of the Danes. The castle offered the Normans an easy point of access for their raids on France, but kept the French out.[13] Had he had the chance of acquiring it, the king of France, no less than the king of England, would have tried to obtain it through the law of the land, because of its site and the protection it afforded. So Henry’s annexation of this castle fomented a sudden hatred between the two kings. The king of France asked Henry either to give up the castle or to destroy it but his request failed. And so, accusing him of having broken the treaty, he fixed a day and place for negotiations on the matter.[14]

Meanwhile, as usually happens in such affairs, the hatreds of the kings were fanned by the malicious words of their rivals, rather than damped down while it was still possible. In order to present themselves at the talks looking confident and intimidating, they increased their military muscle. Louis collected together the greater number of the French barons: Count Robert of Flanders with about four thousand men, the Palatine Count Theobald, the count of Nevers[15], the duke of Burgundy[16] and a great many others, along with many archbishops and bishops. Then he marched through the land of the count of Meulan[17], ravaging and burning it because the count supported the king of England. By such benefits he paved the way favourably for the future talks.

When each side had collected a huge army, they came to the place commonly called Les-Planches-de-Neaufles, by the ill-omened castle where the ancient tradition of the inhabitants holds that negotiations there never or hardly ever succeed. Then the armies settled down on either bank of a river[18] that prevented passage. But after reflection, a chosen group of the noblest and wisest French crossed it by a shaky bridge so aged that it seemed likely to pitch them suddenly into the river and approached the English king.

Then the skilled orator among them who had been charged with the negotiations, without greeting the king, spoke in the name of his companions: ‘When through the generous bounty of the king of France you received the duchy of Normandy as your own fief[19], held by his generous right hand, among and before other conditions, you promised on oath in relation to Gisors and Bray[20] that, by whatever means one or other of you obtained these places, neither should keep them. Rather within forty days of their acquisition the possessor should, in compliance with the treaty totally destroy these castles to their foundations. Because you have not done this, the king orders that you should do so forthwith; or, if you refuse, make due legal amends. For it is shameful for a king to break the law, since both king and law derive their authority from the same source.[21] If your men have either forgotten the promise or pretended to forget because they did not want to declare it, we are ready to prove its truth by the clear testimony of two or three barons, according to the law of duel.’

After this speech they returned to the French king; but they did not arrive in his presence before some Normans who had followed them entered, shamelessly denying anything that could compromise their stand and asking that the case should be heard in due judicial order. Their one aim was to hold up the negotiations by some kind of delay, so as to prevent the truth from being revealed to so many great men of the realm. So even nobler men were sent back with the first envoys, who boldly offered to reveal the truth through that peerless champion Robert of Jerusalem, count of Flanders, to refute all verbal exaggeration by the law of duel, and demonstrate by force of arms on which side justice lay.[22]

The Normans neither accepted nor refused the proposition plainly. Then the magnanimous king Louis, as great of heart as of body, swiftly sent messengers to Henry requiring him to choose between destroying the castle and fighting in person against the king of France on account of his breach of faith. ‘Come’, he said, ‘let the pain of this encounter be his to whom also the glory of truth and victory belongs.’ As to the place for the duel, he decided most suitably; ‘Their host should retire from the bank of the river to allow us to cross, so that the safer place may give each greater security; or, if he would prefer, let each take the noblest men of the other army as hostages to guarantee the single combat, provided that I am permitted to cross after my army has retired. Otherwise it is not possible to go across the river.’ But some people cried out in a ridiculous jest that the king ought to fight on the shaky bridge which would instantly break; and King Louis, as light-hearted as he was bold, wanted this. 

But the English king said, ‘The matter is too unimportant for me to lose a famous and most useful castle on details like this.’ And parrying this and other suggestions, he said ‘When I see my lord the king where I can defend myself, I shall not avoid him’; for he did not want to fight in a hostile place.

Angered by this preposterous reply, the French ‘as if the luck of place gives rise to wars’[23] rushed to arms, as did the Normans. And while each army hurried towards the river, only the impossibility of crossing prevented the great disaster of an immense massacre. Therefore they spent the day in negotiations and that night the Normans went back to Gisors, our army to Chaumont[24]. But ‘as soon as the first rays of dawn chased the stars from the sky’[25] the French, remembering the previous day’s injuries, their martial ardour at morning high pitch, set off on their fastest horses and near Gisors rushed into battle, deploying wonderful fierceness and marvellous courage. They pushed the tired Normans through the gate, and strove to demonstrate the great superiority of those long used to war over those softened by long peace.[26]

These and similar incidents were the beginnings of a war that lasted for almost two years[27], and which harmed the king of England more because, at great expense he surrounded all the frontiers of Normandy as far as the duchy extended with great garrisons for the defence of the land.[28] The king of France relied on ancient fortifications and natural defences and the valiant assistance, given freely, of the Flemish and the men of Ponthieu, the Vexin and other frontier regions. Thus he ceaselessly attacked Normandy, pillaging and burning it. When William, the English king’s son, performed homage[29] to King Louis, by a particular act of grace Louis added that castle to his fief and restored him to his former favour on that occasion.  But before this happened, this particular conflict led to much loss of life, which was punished with reprisals.


[1] Henry’s visit to Normandy may have been connected with the accession of Louis the previous year. Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 72 dated Henry’s arrival in Normandy as February or early March 1109.

[2] The prophecies attributed to the poet and seer Merlin were known through the fourth book of Historia Britannum of Geoffrey of Monmouth recently written while Suger was writing his life of Louis VI. Orderic Vitalis 4: 490 reproduces the passage which he applied to Henry I but Geoffrey of Monmouth is generally regarded as its author. The original version was written not long before Henry’s death in 1135.

[3] Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae, vii, 3 

[4] Suger is here alluding to the half-penny that had recently become an important coin in circulation.

[5] It is highly probable that Suger’s ‘montem Aravium’ is Snowdon. In Welsh it is called ‘Mynydd Eryri’ of the mountain of the eagles. The correct Latin form would be ‘mons Ararium’.

[6] The wreck of the White Ship on 25th November 1120 robbed Henry of his only legitimate heir William Adelin married to Matilda of Anjou, Richard and Mathilda, countess of Mortagne

[7] This is a reference to Henry I’s coronation oath: the text can be found in Douglas, D.C. and Greenaway, G.W., (eds.), English Historical Documents, vol. ii, 2nd ed., London 1981, pp. 432-434. For the administrative reforms introduced in England by Henry I, see Green, Judith, The Government of England under Henry I, (Cambridge University Press), 1986.

[8] With the agreement of Prince Louis, but not of King Philip who recognised unlike his son that this would cause future problems. The conquest of Normandy was the result of the battle of Tinchebrai fought between Henry and his brother Robert Curthose on 28th September 1106.

[9] Ovid, De Arte Amandi, I, 444

[10] Maccabees I, chapter i, 3

[11] At the age of around fifty, in 1123, Pagan with the agreement of King Louis made a futile attempt to retake his castle. Henry I stripped him of all his goods and Pagan took holy orders at the abbey of Saint-Martin de Pontoise.

[12] This is an allusion to the ropes that usually served to mark the boundaries between pieces of land. The river Epte had formed the border between the French and Norman Vexin since the tenth century. It flows into the Seine midway between Paris and Rouen. Gisors is located on the Norman side in a small bulge in of the river towards the east, about forty miles north-west of Paris.

[13] The dates of this war between Henry I and Louis VI are unclear. Suger argues that it lasted two years from 1109 to 1111 and ended when Louis gave the castle of Gisors to William Adelin. Henry of Huntingdon says the war began soon after Philip’s death in 1108 when Henry I tried to embarrass the new king by making him surrender part of the French Vexin: Henry of Huntingdon The History of the English People 1000-1154, edited by Diana Greenway, (Oxford University Press), 2002, p. 53. Only Suger mentions the conference at Neaufles-Saint-Martin which he dated to 1109. Ibid, La Chronique de Saint-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens, pp. 148-149 supports the view that the war between England and France was especially over the castle at Gisors and Henry’s failure to do homage for Normandy. In fact, the conference did result in a truce and for the next two years Henry I and Louis VI contented themselves with attending to their own affairs: in 1110-1111 Henry feared rebellion in England and banished a number of his English and Norman vassals and made an unsuccessful effort to arrest William Clito; and Louis was concerned with dealing with rebellious vassals of his own. War only resumed in 1111 and ended with the peace of Gisors in 1113.

[14] For relations between Henry and Louis, see Hollister, C. Warren ‘War and Diplomacy in the Anglo-Norman World: The Reign of Henry I’, in Brown, R. Allen, (ed.), Anglo-Norman Studies VI: Proceedings of the Battle Conference, 1983, Suffolk, 1983, pp. 72-78, reprinted in Hollister, C. Warren, Monarchy, Magnates and Institutions in the Anglo-Norman World, London, 1986, pp. 273-290.

[15] William II, count of Nevers and Auxerre from 1100 to 1148.

[16] Hugh II, duke of Burgundy ‘the Peaceful’ was born in c.1085 and died in 1143. He succeeded his father Eudes I ‘the Red’ in March 1102. He married Matilda or Maud of Turenne or Mayenne.

[17] Robert I, count of Meulan, son of Robert ‘the Beard’ castellan of Beaumont-le-Roger, had inherited the county of Meulan from his maternal uncle Hugh III in 1092. He died on 5th June 1118. He was a veteran of the Norman Conquest of England and had fought at Hastings in 1066. He had twin sons. Robert succeeded to his English properties and the earldom of Leicester. Waleran inherited Meulan and the Norman and French estates: see Crouch, D., The Beaumont Twins, (Cambridge University Press), 1986, 2008. Henry of Huntingdon in his Historia Anglorum v 7-8 said of Robert of Meulan that ‘At his will French and English kings would at one time be peacefully allied and at another violently embattled’, in ibid, Henry of Huntingdon The History of the English People 1000-1154, p. 118.

[18] The River Epte runs a kilometre south of Les-Planches-de-Neaufles.

[19] Louis clearly regarded Normandy as a fief but homage was not done for it until 1120.

[20] Bray-et-Lu is seventeen kilometres downstream from Les-Planches-de-Neaufles and on the left bank of the River Epte.

[21] This is an important statement respecting the theory of imperial power which represented human government as an emanation from the divine. It reinforces what Suger wrote about Louis’ coronation in chapter 14: ‘After a mass of thanksgiving, the archbishop took off his sword of secular chivalry and replaced it with the church’s sword for the punishment of evil-doers, crowned him most willingly with the royal diadem, and with great devotion bestowed on him the sceptre and rod as a sign that he must defend the church and the poor…’

[22] On trial by battle see Bartlett, Robert, Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval judicial ordeal, (Oxford University Press), 1986, pp. 103-126.

[23] Lucan, De bello civili, IV, 661-2.

[24] Chaumont-en-Vexin is about five miles east of Gisors.

[25] Suger is here imitating Vergil Aenied, v, 42.

[26] The most notable part of Louis’ offensive was the siege of Meulan. He successfully took the castle and laid waste to the surrounding area. Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 103 placed these events at the end of 1110 or beginning of 1111.

[27] Suger is misleading here. Following the interview with Louis, Henry spent the next two years in England: see Hollister, C. Warren, ‘Normandy, France and the Anglo-Norman Regnum’, Speculum, vol. 11, (1976) pp. 202-242, reprinted in ibid, Monarchy, Magnates and Institutions in the Anglo-Norman World, pp. 17-57. A truce was concluded in May 1113 but peace was not finally made until 1120.

[28] Suger is certainly exaggerating here. Henry had done well in the war and had won over Anjou by betrothing his son William Adelin to the daughter of the Angevin count. The peace terms of 1113 were also highly favourable and Louis is not reported to have raised the vexed question of Henry’s homage. Indeed, Louis conceded to Henry the right to receive homage from the count of Anjou (for Maine) and the count of Brittany. However, Henry’s position in Normandy was far from secure. William Clito had a persuasive legal claim to the duchy and remained free. As a viable pretender to Normandy and England, Clito was an obvious focus for French, Flemish, Angevin and domestic opposition to Henry I. The 1113 truce avoided any mention of the feudal bond between Louis and Henry and did not commit Louis to future support of Henry’s rule or William Adelin’s succession. Louis was therefore free to give his support to Clito whenever he chose. Re-establishing the feudal relationship with France therefore became a means for Henry to limit the actions of Clito for Louis would be morally bound to support him against all opposition or at the very least not give active support to Clito. It took four years of war for Henry to achieve this objective.

[29] This too is rather misleading. The events in this chapter began in 1109 and Suger describes the war that developed immediately out of the incident at Planches-de-Neaufles as having lasted for nearly two years whereas in fact it occurred between 1111 and 1113. He then locates William’s homage immediately after. However, in 1115, Henry I invested his son William with the duchy of Normandy and it seems likely that Louis VI only ceded Gisors to the young prince in return for an act of homage and a money payment between 30th May and 29th September 1120: Achille Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, Paris, 1890, n° 298. William’s homage is mentioned by William of Malmesbury but not by Orderic Vitalis and constituted a major breakthrough for Louis VI as William I, William II and Henry I had all apparently not rendered homage for the duchy. Henry I consciously did not use the ducal title at all and simply ruled as ‘rex Anglorum’, a practice followed with one exception by his own chancery. Even in 1120, Henry managed to win the full benefit of Louis’ lordship while escaping the responsibility and embarrassment of personal vassalage and homage done by the heir to the English throne. This was a precedent that was followed by king Stephen’s son Eustace to Louis VI in 1137 and to Louis VII in 1140.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Chapter 15

Of the Capture of La Ferte-Baudoin and the freeing of the Count of Corbeil and Anselm of Garlande

Louis, now king of France by the grace of God, could not forget the lessons he had learned in youth of defending churches, protecting the poor and needy and working for the peace and defence of the realm.

Guy the Red[1], mentioned above, and his son Hugh de Crécy[2], an intelligent young man of valour but made for rape and arson who was quick to disturb the whole kingdom, both persisted in detracting from the king’s dignity on account of the bitterness[3] they felt at the shameful loss of the castle of Gournay. Therefore Hugh chose not even to spare his brother Odo, Count of Corbeil[4], because he would give him no help against the king; so he ambushed him, exploiting his simplicity. One day, Count Odo decided to hunt peacefully on his own property, when the foolish man discovered what kind of realities and hopes a blood relationship can give rise to, once corrupted by envy. For he was captured by his brother Hugh, shackled and chained in the castle of La Ferté-Baudoin[5], and not allowed to escape, even if he had been able to unless he would make war on the king.

In the face on this singular madness, large numbers of the inhabitants of Corbeil (for that castellany was rich in knights of ancient families) fled to the refuge offered to all by the crown. Kneeling at the king’s feet, with tears and sobs they told him of the count’s capture and its cause and begged and prayed Louis to set him free by force. When Louis’ promise of help gave them hope of his release, their anger cooled and their sorrow was eased. They turned to the question of the means and forces they had to recover their lord. La Ferté-Baudoin belonged to Hugh, not through hereditary right but because of his marriage with the Countess Adelaide, whom he had then repudiated while keeping the castle.[6] Some men of La Ferté therefore entered into negotiations[7] with those of Corbeil and swore to let them into the castle, though they took precautions.

Persuaded by the men of Corbeil, the king hastened there with a handful of household troops to avoid arousing too much attention. It was late and the men in the castle were still chatting around their fires, when those who had been sent on ahead, the seneschal Anselm of Garlande[8], a very brave knight and about forty armed men, were received at the gate which had been agreed, and made vigorous efforts to capture it. But the garrison, surprised by the neighing of the horses and the inopportune noise of the knights rushed to oppose them. Because the entrance was narrow by the enemy’s gates, those who had entered could neither go forward nor back at will. This allowed the defenders, encouraged by their position, to cut down very easily those in front of the gates. The attackers, oppressed by darkening shadows and by their unfortunate position, could no longer sustain their attack and retreated to the outer gate. But the very courageous Anselm, sacrificing himself in retreat, could not beat the enemy to the gate. He was captured and imprisoned in the tower of the castle, not as its conqueror but as a captive along with the Count of Corbeil. Their misery was equal, though their fears were different; for one feared death, the other only disinheritance; so it might aptly have been said of them: ’Carthage and Marius consoled each other on their destinies.’[9]

When the shouts of the fugitives reached the ears of the hastening king, angry that he had been delayed and diverted by the difficulties of the dark night, he sprang on to a very fast horse and rushed to help his men by boldly attacking the gate. But he found the gate locked, and repulsed by a hail of arrows, spears and stones, he withdrew. The grief-stricken brothers and relatives of the captured seneschal fell at his feet, crying: ‘Have pity glorious and courageous king, for if that wicked and abandoned man Hugh de Crécy, sated with human blood, can lay his hands on our brother either by coming here or by having him taken to him, he will throw himself at his throat without the least thought for the penalty that would await him if he consigned him to sudden death. For he is more ferocious than the most ferocious of men.’[10]

Moved by their fear, the king at once surrounded the castle, blocked the roads which led to the gates, built four or five barriers around it and deployed both the kingdom’s and his own resources for the capture of the captives and the castle. Hugh was at first been delighted by the capture of Anselm, but was now terrified of the prospect of losing him and the castle. Anxiously he planned to leave the castle by any means; both on horseback and on foot he disguised himself, now as a jongleur, now as a prostitute. 

One day as he was giving his whole attention to this, he was spotted from the castle and jumped upon. Unable to fight off the murderous attack, he sought safety in flight. Suddenly William[11], brother of the captured seneschal, a knight of outstanding valour, among others in pursuit but ahead of them by the speed of his horse and his own determination, rushed at him and tried to cut off his retreat. Hugh recognised him by his great speed and brandished his lance often in his direction, but not daring to delay on account of his pursuers, he set off in flight. He was of matchless skill. Had it been possible for him to have fought in single combat, he would have displayed his great daring either in winning the trophy for the duel or in facing death. Unable to avoid all the villages in his path or the inevitable attacks of the approaching enemies except by a trick, he passed himself off as William of Garlande; he cried out that he was being pursued by Hugh and invited others, in the name of the king, to bar his pursuer’s path. By these and other tricks, thanks to quickness of tongue and courage of heart, he was successful in flight and so one man laughed at many.

Neither this nor any other reason drew the king away from the siege he had begun. He tightened the blockade and harassed the garrison. He continued attacking until he forced them to surrender to his power, after a secret assault was led by his knights and assisted by the treachery of some of the garrison. In the commotion, the knights fled into the keep. They were concerned only to save their lives, not to evade capture. For once shut up there, they could neither protect themselves adequately nor get out by any means. In the end, after some had been slain and others wounded, they gave themselves and the castle up to the king’s will, with the approval of their lord. And so ‘Both dutiful and wicked in one and the same action’[12] he restored his seneschal to himself, a brother to his brother and their count to the people of Corbeil, displaying both prudence and clemency. Of the knights who were in the castle, some he disinherited, seizing their goods and some he condemned to lengthy imprisonment. By this harsh punishment, he intended to deter others. By this great victory, won through God’s aid against the hopes of his enemies, he increased the revenues of the crown.[13]


[1] Guy, count de Rochefort, called the Red because of the colour of its hair was the brother of Miles: see a genealogical table of the families of Montlhéry and Rochefort in ibid, Fliche, A., Le reign of Philippe Ier, p. 321, no 2.

[2] Crécy-en-Brie is about thirty miles east of Paris on the Grand Morin.

[3] Suger puns on Guy de Rochefort’s nickname ‘the Red’ (rubeus) and his being ‘reddened with shame’ (erubescentia) when he lost the castle at Gournay.

[4] Odo, count of Corbeil (died c.1112) was the son of Adélaïde de Crécy and Bouchard II of Corbeil. Suger later tells of the death of Bouchard in the 1080s in a battle with Stephen, count of Blois in chapter 20. This creates a problem as Odo and Hugh had the same mother, Adélaïde de Crécy. Most writers accept that Adélaïde married Guy of Rochefort after Bouchard’s death that must have occurred in 1082-1083 as Hugh de Crécy was already around twenty-five by 1107.

[5] La Ferté-Baudoin is the modern La Ferté-Alais about forty miles south of Paris on the river Essone.

[6] Suger is confused between Hugh, son of Adelaide de Crécy and Guy of Rochefort, her husband, father of Hugh.

[7] Manuscript F uses the term ‘opprimebat’ at this point. All the other manuscripts use ‘opimabat’. The first suggests that there was an unwritten alliance between the burgesses of Corbeil and those of la Ferté-Baudoin, an example of the nascent hostility between lords and burgesses. The others do not suggest this was the case.

[8] Anselm de Garlande, count of Rochfort (1069?-1118) became seneschal a little before Louis became king perhaps because of the quarrel between king Philip and Louis and Guy de Rochfort in the summer of 1108 after the events at Gournay. He married [unknown] de Montlhery and their daughter Agnes de Garlande died in 1143. She was married to Amaury III de Montfort in 1120.

[9] Lucan, De bello civili, II, 91-92

[10] They were brothers-in-law; Anselm de Garlande was married a sister of Hugh de Crécy

[11] William de Garlande was seneschal between 1118 and 1120, after the death of Anselm.

[12] Ovid, Metamorphoses III, 5

[13] The siege of La Ferte-Baudoin occurred in the last months of 1108 probably in December. Ibid, La Chronique de Saint-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens, pp. 146-147 states that the siege took place ‘per nives, per grandines, in tempestates hiemales’: ‘in snow and storms, at the heart of winter’.