Constance, Duchess of Brittany

Last updated

Constance
Duchess of Brittany
Reign1166–1201
Predecessor Conan IV
Successor Arthur I
Co-rulers Geoffrey II (1181-1186)
Arthur I (1196-1201)
Guy of Thouars (1199-1201)
Borncirca 1161
Diedcirca 5 September 1201
Nantes
Burial
Spouse Geoffrey II (m. 1181; dec. 1186)
Ranulph de Blondeville, Earl of Chester (m. 1188; ann. 1198)
Guy of Thouars (m. 1199)
Issue Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany
Matilda of Brittany
Arthur I, Duke of Brittany
Alix, Duchess of Brittany
Catherine of Thouars
House Penthièvre
Father Conan IV, Duke of Brittany
Mother Margaret of Huntingdon
Religion Roman Catholicism

Constance (Breton: Konstanza; 1161 c. 5 September 1201) was Duchess of Brittany from 1166 to her death in 1201 [1] and Countess of Richmond from 1171 to 1201. [lower-alpha 1] Constance was the daughter of Duke Conan IV by his wife, Margaret of Huntingdon, a sister of the Scottish kings Malcolm IV and William I.

Contents

Life and reign

Banner of Constance of Penthievre Banniere Maison Penthievre.svg
Banner of Constance of Penthièvre

Constance's father Conan IV had reunited the Duchy of Brittany in wars with Henry II of England. After the wars with Henry II, Conan IV faced rebellions from some Breton nobles. He appealed to Henry II for assistance in putting down those rebellions.

In 1166, Henry invaded Brittany in order to punish the local barons' revolt. In order to gain complete control over the duchy, he forced Conan IV into abdicating in Constance's favor and betrothing her to his fourth legitimate son Geoffrey. Five-year-old Constance succeeded him as Duchess of Brittany. [2]

She spent her youth at the English court. [3]

In February 1171, Conan IV died. Although his daughter Constance was the heiress of the Earldom of Richmond, she did not enter her inheritance until 1183/1184. [1]

In 1181, twenty-year-old Constance was forced into marriage with Geoffrey. On August 19, 1186, Geoffrey was trampled to death in a riding accident during a tournament in Paris. Constance thereafter became the effective ruler of Brittany.

However, on 3 February 1188, Henry II of England arranged for Constance to marry Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, one of the most powerful earls in England. Though Ranulf used, not consistently, the style Duke of Brittany, he never had the control of the duchy, and is not known to have played an important role there, [4] and the Bretons, as well as Constance, never acknowledged him as Duke jure uxoris , and excluded him from the government of the Duchy. [5]

In 1191, King Richard I of England officially proclaimed his nephew, Constance's son Arthur as his heir in a treaty signed with Philip II of France.

To promote her son Arthur's position and inheritance, Constance included him in the government of the Duchy in 1196. In response to this act that thwarted his projects, Richard summoned her to Bayeux and had her abducted by Ranulf in Pontorson and imprisoned in Saint-James de Beuvron. He spread the rumour that Constance had been imprisoned for matrimonial reasons. As a result, rebellions were sparked across Brittany on her behalf and Arthur was sent to Brest. Richard demanded that hostages were delivered to him in exchange for Constance's freedom. The Bretons agreed but Constance and the hostages remained imprisoned and rebellions went on. Richard eventually bowed to growing pressure and had the Duchess released in 1198. [6] Back in Brittany, Constance had her marriage annulled.

On 1 June 1199, Pope Innocent III eventually decided that the Archbishopric of Dol should be subordinated to the Metropolitan of Tours and deprived the Archbishop of his title and pallium. The Archbishopric then became a Bishopric again. Constance disagreed with this decision that gave an advantage to Philip Augustus over Brittany and was consequently excommunicated. [7]

Constance took Guy of Thouars as her next husband in September or October 1199. [lower-alpha 2]

Between 1198 and the time of her death delivering twin daughters, Constance ruled with her son Arthur as co-ruler. Throughout these years, Constance advised her son towards a French alliance, pursuing the policy of her late husband Geoffrey II. [lower-alpha 3]

Family

As a girl, Constance could not inherit the duchy at her father's death if she had a brother. A charter by Margaret, Constance's mother, seems to show that she and Conan had more than one child. [8] [lower-alpha 4] However, two charters made by Constance and her son Arthur towards 1200 mention a brother of Constance, William "clericus". As a boy, William should logically have inherited the duchy after Conan.[ citation needed ] According to Everard, Henry II's forcing Constance's father into abdicating in 1166 was meant to prevent any son of the Duke from inheriting the duchy. [9] [lower-alpha 5]

Constance and Geoffrey had three children:

Constance and Guy had two daughters:

Several sources indicate that Constance might have had a third daughter by Guy: [13]

Death and Burial

Constance died, age 40, on 5 September 1201 at Nantes. She was buried at Villeneuve Abbey near Nantes, which she had founded earlier that year. [19]

Constance's cause of death is debated. The Chronique de Tours indicate that she died of leprosy but this statement is doubtful. [lower-alpha 10] [20] It is also believed that she died from complications of childbirth, shortly after delivering twin daughters. [lower-alpha 11]

Media

Constance is a character in the play King John by William Shakespeare, in which she has several very eloquent speeches on grief and death. On screen, she has been portrayed by Julia Neilson in the silent short King John (1899), which recreates John's death scene at the end of the play, Sonia Dresdel in the BBC Sunday Night Theatre version (1952), and Claire Bloom in the BBC Shakespeare version (1984). In the ITC series The Adventures of Robin Hood , she appeared in five episodes variously played by Dorothy Alison (series 1 and 2), Pamela Alan (series 3) and Patricia Marmont (series 4). She was also played by Paula Williams (as a girl) and Nina Francis (as an adult) in the BBC TV drama series The Devil's Crown (1978).

Ancestry

See also

Notes

  1. Although she inherited the Earldom of Richmond from her father in 1171, Constance did not enter her inheritance until 1183/1184 (see Judith Everard and Michael Jones, The Charters of Duchess Constance and Her Family (1171-1221), The Boydell Press, 1999, p 38)
  2. Judith Everard, Michael Jones, The Charters of Duchess Constance of Brittany and her Family (1171-1221), The Boydell Press, 1999, p 135: "The first occasion on which the names of Constance and Guy are linked is at Angiers in October 1199. (...) cf. also the date of Gu2 [a grant for the monks of Buzay], which records that on 27 August 1201, Guy was still only in his second regnal year."
  3. When Richard I died in 1199, Phillip II agreed to recognize Arthur as count of Anjou, Maine, and Poitou, in exchange for Arthur swearing fealty to Phillip II, becoming a direct vassal of France. However 13-year-old Arthur was captured while besieging Mirebeau, and the following year he was transferred to Rouen, under the charge of William de Braose, and then vanished mysteriously in April 1203. After Constance's death, Arthur was thought to have perished himself in 1203 after a period of imprisonment under John I. He was succeeded by his infant half-sister, Alix of Thouars. Guy served as regent of Brittany for Alix from 1203 to 1206. During the conflicts with John I, Constance's eldest daughter Eleanor was captured and imprisoned at Corfe Castle in Dorset and later elsewhere until her death.
  4. Margaret of Huntingdon made a donation for the souls of "herself, Duke Conan IV, and 'our boys', or 'our children' (pro salute anime... puerorum... nostrorum). This would seem to be a reference to at least one son of the marriage who did not survive infancy, leaving Constance as heiress in 1166." (Everard and Jones, The Charters of Duchess Constance and Her Family (1171-1221), The Boydell Press, 1999, p 94).
  5. According to Everard, the fact that Constance’s brother was called William seems to indicate that he was not an illegitimate son of Conan IV, as William was the name of one of Margaret of Huntingdon’s brothers. (Everard, Judith (2000). Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire, 1158-1203. Cambridge University Press, 2000, p 43).
  6. Dom Lobineau mentions her existence in his Histoire de Bretagne
  7. Andrew III and his children Philippa and Andrew IV were the last members of their family to be Baron(ess)of Vitré, which came into the hands of the Counts of Laval through Philippa's marriage to Guy VII of Laval.
  8. According to historians Dom Morice, Dom Charles Taillandiers, Prudence-Guillaume de Roujoux and Arthur Le Moyne de La Borderie, Constance and Guy had a third daughter, called Margaret.
  9. Historians Pierre Daru and François Manet state that Constance and Guy had three daughters, but do not specify their names.
  10. In the Middle Ages, leprosy was considered a divine punishment for sins of a sexual nature. According to Eric Borgnis Desbordes, the monks of Tours may have considered Constance's third marriage invalid, or they did not forgive the duchess for not having recognized the supremacy of the Archbishopric of Tours over the Bishopric of Dol.
  11. That Constance was having twins, at the age of forty, in the unsanitary conditions of the age, should be taken greatly into account in this debate. As the exact date of the twins' birth is not currently known, and may never be known, there may never be a resolution to this question.

Related Research Articles

Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany 12th-century Duke of Brittany and son of King Henry II of England

Geoffrey II was Duke of Brittany and 3rd Earl of Richmond between 1181 and 1186, through his marriage with the heiress Constance. Geoffrey was the fourth of five sons of Henry II, King of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine.

Arthur I, Duke of Brittany Duke of Brittany

Arthur I was 4th Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany between 1196 and 1203. He was the posthumous son of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany and Constance, Duchess of Brittany. His father, Geoffrey, was the son of Henry II, King of England.

Duchy of Brittany Medieval duchy in northwestern France

The Duchy of Brittany was a medieval feudal state that existed between approximately 939 and 1547. Its territory covered the northwestern peninsula of Europe, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the English Channel to the north. It was less definitively bordered by the Loire River to the south, and Normandy and other French provinces to the east. The Duchy was established after the expulsion of Viking armies from the region around 939. The Duchy, in the 10th and 11th centuries, was politically unstable, with the dukes holding only limited power outside their own personal lands. The Duchy had mixed relationships with the neighbouring Duchy of Normandy, sometimes allying itself with Normandy, and at other times, such as the Breton-Norman War, entering into open conflict.

Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany Eldest daughter of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany

Eleanor Fair Maid of Brittany, also known as Damsel of Brittany, Pearl of Brittany, or Beauty of Brittany, was the eldest daughter of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, the fourth son of King Henry II of England, and Constance, Duchess of Brittany. After the presumed death in 1203 of her imprisoned younger brother, Arthur, she was heiress to vast lands including England, Anjou, and Aquitaine as well as Brittany, realms where the Salic Law barring the accession of females did not apply. Her uncle John, King of England was the fifth son of Henry II, and Eleanor inherited Arthur's claim to the throne as child of John's elder brother Geoffrey. Thus she posed a potential threat to John, and following his death in 1216, equally to her cousin, Henry III of England. She was imprisoned from 1202, and thus became the longest-imprisoned member of an English royal family. As a prisoner she was also unable to press her claim to the Duchy of Brittany as her mother's heiress.

Conan IV, Duke of Brittany Duke of Brittany

Conan IV, called the Young, was the Duke of Brittany from 1156 to 1166. He was the son of Bertha, Duchess of Brittany, and her first husband, Alan, Earl of Richmond. Conan IV was his father's heir as Earl of Richmond and his mother's heir as Duke of Brittany. Conan and his daughter Constance would be the only representatives of the House of Penthièvre to rule Brittany.

Guy of Thouars French nobleman, Duke of Brittany jure uxoris

Guy of Thouars was the third husband of Constance, Duchess of Brittany, whom he married in 1199 in Angers, County of Anjou between August and October 1199 after her son Arthur of Brittany entered Angers to be recognized as count of the three countships of Anjou, Maine and Touraine. He was an Occitan noble, a member of the House of Thouars.

Alix of Thouars ruled as Duchess of Brittany from 1203 until her death. She was also Countess of Richmond in the peerage of England.

Earl of Richmond title in the Peerage of England; now forfeited to the Crown

The now-extinct title of Earl of Richmond was created many times in the Peerage of England. The earldom of Richmond was initially held by various Breton nobles associated with the Ducal crown of Brittany; sometimes the holder was the Breton Duke himself, including one member of the cadet branch of the French Capetian dynasty. The historical ties between the Ducal crown of Brittany and this English Earldom were maintained ceremonially by the Breton dukes even after England ceased to recognize the Breton Dukes as Earls of England and those dukes rendered homage to the King of France, rather than the English crown. It was then held either by members of the English royal families of Plantagenet and Tudor, or English nobles closely associated with the English crown. It was eventually merged into the English crown during the reign of Henry VII and has been recreated as a Dukedom.

The Counts of Nantes were originally the Frankish rulers of the Nantais under the Carolingians and eventually a capital city of the Duchy of Brittany. Their county served as a march against the Bretons of the Vannetais. Carologinian rulers would sometimes attack Brittany through the region of the Vannetais, making Nantes a strategic asset. In the mid-ninth century, the county finally fell to the Bretons and the title became a subsidiary title of the Breton rulers. The control of the title by the Breton Dukes figured prominently in the history of the Duchy. The title Count of Nantes was given to Hoel, a disinherited son of a Duke. He lost the Countship due to a popular uprising. That uprising presented an opportunity for King Henry II of England to attack the Breton Duke. In the treaty ending their conflicts, the Breton Duke awarded the Countship of Nantes to Henry II.

Guihomar, Guidomar, or Guyomar IV was the Viscount of Léon from 1168 until his death. He was the son and successor of Harvey II. His reign was spent in constant rebellion against his nominal lords in an effort to preserve his historical independence.

Bertha of Cornouaille, also known as Bertha of Brittany, was hereditary Duchess of Brittany between 1148 until her death and Dowager Countess of Richmond. Bertha was the elder daughter of Conan III of Brittany by Maude, the illegitimate daughter of King Henry I of England. She was the last member of the Breton House of Cornouaille to reign over Brittany.

The Count of Rennes was originally the ruler of the Romano-Frankish civitas of Rennes. From the middle of the ninth century these counts were Bretons with close ties to the Duchy of Brittany, which they often vied to rule. From 990 the Counts of Rennes were usually Dukes of Brittany. In 1203 the county was integrated into the ducal demesne.

Margaret of Huntingdon was a Scottish princess and Duchess of Brittany. She was the sister of Scottish kings Malcolm IV and William I, wife of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, and the mother of Constance, Duchess of Brittany. Her second husband was Humphrey de Bohun, hereditary Constable of England. Following her second marriage, Margaret styled herself as the Countess of Hereford.

The Honour of Richmond in north-west Yorkshire was granted to Count Alan Rufus by King William the Conqueror sometime during 1069 to 1071, although the date is uncertain. It was gifted as thanks for his services at the Conquest. The extensive district was previously held by Edwin, Earl of Mercia who died in 1071. The district is probably mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 but its limits are uncertain.

Catherine of Thouars was the daughter of Constance, suo jure Duchess of Brittany and Countess of Richmond, and her third husband Guy of Thouars. She was the first wife of Andrew III, Baron of Vitré.

Andrew III of Vitré was Baron de Vitré from 1173 to 1210/11.

Andrew III of Vitré was Baron of Vitré and Aubigné from 1211 to 1250.

Villeneuve Abbey former Cistercian monastery in Rouans, Pays de la Loire, formerly in Brittany

Villeneuve Abbey, dedicated to Our Lady, was a Cistercian monastery at the present-day Les Sorinières, near Nantes in Pays de la Loire, France, founded in 1201 and dissolved in 1790, during the French Revolution.

References

  1. 1 2 Judith Everard, Michael Jones, The Charters of Duchess Constance of Brittany and her Family (1171-1221), The Boydell Press, 1999, p. 38
  2. Everard, Judith (2000). Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire, 1158-1203. Cambridge University Press, 2000, p 42
  3. Borgnis Desbordes, Eric, Constance de Bretagne (1161-1201), une duchesse face à Richard Cœur de Lion et Jean sans Terre, Yoran embanner, 2018, p. 91
  4. Eales 2008
  5. Jacques Choffel, La Bretagne sous l'orage Plantagenet, 1990, pp 140 and 165
  6. Jacques Choffel, La Bretagne sous l'orage Plantagenet, 1990, pp 203-204.
  7. Borgnis Desbordes, Eric, Constance de Bretagne (1161-1201), une duchesse face à Richard Cœur de Lion et Jean sans Terre, Yoran embanner, 2018, p. 408-409
  8. Judith Everard and Michael Jones, The Charters of Duchess Constance of Brittany and Her Family (1171-1221), The Boydell Press, 1999, pp 93-94
  9. Everard, Judith (2000). Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire, 1158-1203. Cambridge University Press, 2000, p 43
  10. Michael Jones, « Eleanor, suo jure duchess of Brittany (1182x4–1241) », Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 ; online edition, January 2008.
  11. Guy-Alexis Lobineau, Histoire de Bretagne, Palais Royal, 1973, I, p. 171, CLIX
  12. Malcolm A. Craig, « A Second Daughter of Geoffrey of Brittany », Historical Research, vol. 50, n° 121 (May 1977), p. 112-115.
  13. 1 2 Arthur Le Moyne de La Borderie, Histoire de Bretagne, Tome troisième, p. 288
  14. 1 2 Pierre-Hyacinthe Morice, Histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, Tome premier, p. 129 and 150
  15. Charles Taillandier, Histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, Tome second, p. IX
  16. 1 2 Prudence Guillaume de Roujoux, Histoire des rois et des ducs de Bretagne, Tome second, p. 231
  17. Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno, comte Daru, Histoire de Bretagne, Tome premier, p. 407
  18. François Manet, Histoire de la Petite-Bretagne, ou Bretagne Armorique, depuis ses premiers habitans connus, Tome second, p. 308
  19. Quaghebeur, Joëlle. La Cornouaille du IXème au XIIème siècles : mémoire, pouvoirs, noblesse, Rennes Quimper, Presses universitaires de Rennes, Société archéologique du Finistère, 2002, p. 367.
  20. Borgnis Desbordes, Eric, Constance de Bretagne (1161-1201), une duchesse face à Richard Cœur de Lion et Jean sans Terre, Yoran embanner, 2018, p. 437, note 200
Constance, Duchess of Brittany
Born: 1161 1201
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Conan IV
Duchess of Brittany
Countess of Rennes

1166–1201
with Geoffrey II (1181–1186)
Arthur (1196–1201)
Guy (1199–1201)
Succeeded by
Arthur I
Preceded by
Henry
Countess of Nantes
1185–1201
with Geoffrey III (1185–1186)
Arthur (1196–1201)
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Conan IV
Countess of Richmond
1171–1201
with Geoffrey II (1181–1186)
Arthur I (1196–1201)
Guy (1199–1201)
Succeeded by
Arthur I