Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou

Last updated

Geoffrey of Anjou
Count of Maine and Mortain
Geoffrey of Anjou Monument.jpg
Enamel effigy from his tomb at Le Mans. His decorated shield suggests early origins of the three lions of the Royal Arms of England.
Count of Anjou
Reign1129 – 7 September 1151
Predecessor Fulk the Younger
Successor Henry Curtmantle
Duke of Normandy
Reign1144 – 1150
Predecessor Stephen
Successor Henry Curtmantle
Born24 August 1113
Died7 September 1151(1151-09-07) (aged 38)
Château-du-Loir, France
(m. 1128)
House Plantagenet (founder)
Father Fulk, King of Jerusalem
Mother Ermengarde, Countess of Maine

Geoffrey V (24 August 1113 – 7 September 1151), called the Handsome, the Fair (French: le Bel) or Plantagenet, was the count of Anjou, Touraine and Maine by inheritance from 1129, and also Duke of Normandy by conquest from 1144. His marriage to Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England, led to the centuries-long reign of the Plantagenet dynasty in England. The name "Plantagenet" was taken from Geoffrey's epithet. Geoffrey's ancestral domain of Anjou gave rise to the name Angevin, and what modern historians name as the Angevin Empire in the 12th century.


Early life

Geoffrey was the elder son of Fulk V of Anjou and Ermengarde of Maine. Geoffrey received his nickname from the yellow sprig of broom blossom (genêt is the French name for the planta genista, or broom shrub) he wore in his hat. [1] :9 [2] :1 [3] The chronicler John of Marmoutier described Geoffrey as handsome, red haired, jovial, and a great warrior. [4] King Henry I of England, having heard reports on Geoffrey's talents and prowess, sent legates to Anjou to negotiate a marriage between his 25-year-old daughter Matilda and Geoffrey. Consent was obtained from both parties, and on 10 June 1128 the fifteen-year-old Geoffrey was knighted in Rouen by King Henry, in preparation for the wedding.


Geoffrey and Matilda's marriage took place in 1128. The marriage was meant to seal a lasting peace between England, Normandy (an English possession since William I) and Anjou. She was eleven years older than Geoffrey, and very proud of her status as dowager empress (as opposed to being a mere countess), and which she kept for the remainder of her life. Their marriage was a stormy but happy one with frequent long separations; they had three sons Henry, Geoffrey and William. [1] :14–18

Count of Anjou

The year after the marriage Geoffrey's father left for Jerusalem (where he was to later become king), leaving Geoffrey behind as count of Anjou.

When his father in law, King Henry I of England, died in 1135, Geoffrey supported Matilda in entering Normandy to claim her inheritance. The border districts submitted to her, but England chose her first cousin Stephen of Blois for its king, and Normandy soon followed suit. The following year, Geoffrey gave Ambrieres, Gorron, and Chatilon-sur-Colmont to Juhel de Mayenne, on condition that he help obtain the inheritance of Geoffrey's wife. [5]

In 1139 Matilda landed in England with 140 knights, where she was besieged at Arundel Castle by King Stephen. In the Anarchy which ensued, Stephen was captured at Lincoln in February 1141, and imprisoned at Bristol. [6] A legatine council of the English church held at Winchester in April 1141 declared Stephen deposed and proclaimed Matilda "Lady of the English". [6]

During 1142 and 1143, Geoffrey secured all of Normandy west and south of the Seine, and, on 14 January 1144, he crossed the Seine and entered Rouen. He assumed the title of Duke of Normandy in the summer of 1144. In 1144, he founded an Augustine priory at Château-l'Hermitage in Anjou. [7] Geoffrey held the duchy until 1149, when he and Matilda conjointly ceded it to their son, Henry, which cession was formally ratified by King Louis VII of France the following year. [8]

Geoffrey also put down three baronial rebellions in Anjou, in 1129, 1135 and 1145–1151. [9] He was often at odds with his younger brother, Elias, whom he had imprisoned until Elias died in 1151. The threat of rebellion slowed his progress in Normandy, and is one reason he could never intervene in England. Geoffrey died later the same year, aged 38, and Henry took his father's place as head of the Plantagenet ducal house. In 1153, the Treaty of Wallingford stipulated that Stephen should remain King of England for life and that Henry, the son of Geoffrey and Matilda should succeed him, beginning the Plantagenet era in English history. [10]


North West France 1150 North West France 1150.png
North West France 1150

Geoffrey died suddenly on 7 September 1151. According to John of Marmoutier, Geoffrey was returning from a royal council when he was stricken with fever. He arrived at Château-du-Loir, collapsed on a couch, made bequests of gifts and charities, and died. His wife and sons outlived him. He was buried at St Julien's Cathedral in Le Mans, France, and his son Henry succeeded him as Duke of Normandy. [10]


Geoffrey and Matilda's children were:

  1. Henry II, King of England (1133–1189)
  2. Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (1134–1158)
  3. William, Viscount of Dieppe (1136–1164)

Geoffrey also had illegitimate children by an unknown mistress (or mistresses): Hamelin who married Isabel de Warenne, 4th Countess of Surrey; Emma, who married Dafydd Ab Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales; and Mary, who became a nun and Abbess of Shaftesbury and who may be the poet Marie de France.

Early heraldry

An enamel effigy (funerary plaque) commissioned by his widow to decorate the tomb of Geoffrey of Anjou is one of the earliest examples of European heraldry. Jean de Marmentier, a late-12th-century chronicler, reported that in 1128 Henry I of England knighted his son-in-law Geoffrey and granted him a badge of gold lions. [11] A gold lion may already have been Henry's own badge, and different lion motifs would later be used by many of his descendants. The enamel shows Geoffrey with a blue shield depicting gold lions, apparently the same motif later used by a grandson of Geoffrey, William Longespee. [12] In addition to being one of the first authentic representations of a coat of arms, [13] according to British historian Jim Bradbury it "suggests possible evidence for the early use of what became the English royal arms". [14]


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stephen, King of England</span> King of England from 1135 to 1154

Stephen, often referred to as Stephen of Blois, was King of England from 22 December 1135 to his death in 1154. He was Count of Boulogne jure uxoris from 1125 until 1147 and Duke of Normandy from 1135 until 1144. His reign was marked by the Anarchy, a civil war with his cousin and rival, the Empress Matilda, whose son, Henry II, succeeded Stephen as the first of the Angevin kings of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Empress Matilda</span> Holy Roman Empress; claimant to the English throne during the Anarchy

Empress Matilda, also known as the Empress Maude, was one of the claimants to the English throne during the civil war known as the Anarchy. The daughter of King Henry I of England, she moved to Germany as a child when she married the future Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. She travelled with her husband to Italy in 1116, was controversially crowned in St Peter's Basilica, and acted as the imperial regent in Italy. Matilda and Henry V had no children, and when he died in 1125, the imperial crown was claimed by his rival Lothair of Supplinburg.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Anarchy</span> Civil war in England and Normandy (1135–1153)

The Anarchy was a civil war in England and Normandy between 1138 and 1153, which resulted in a widespread breakdown in law and order. The conflict was a war of succession precipitated by the accidental death of William Adelin, the only legitimate son of King Henry I, who drowned in the sinking of the White Ship in 1120. Henry sought to be succeeded by his daughter, known as Empress Matilda, but was only partially successful in convincing the nobility to support her. On Henry's death in 1135, his nephew Stephen of Blois seized the throne, with the help of Stephen's brother Henry of Blois, who was the bishop of Winchester. Stephen's early reign saw fierce fighting with disloyal English barons, rebellious Welsh leaders, and Scottish invaders. Following a major rebellion in the south-west of England, Matilda invaded in 1139 with the help of her half-brother Robert of Gloucester.

Geoffrey II, called Martel, son of Fulk the Black, was Count of Anjou from 1040 to 1060 and Count of Vendôme from 1032 to 1056. He fought battles against William VII, Duke of Aquitaine, Theobald I, Count of Blois, and William, Duke of Normandy. During his twenty-year reign Geoffrey II faced the ambitions of the Bishop of Le Mans, Gervais de Château-du-Loir, but was able to maintain his authority over the County of Maine. Martel founded the Abbey aux Dames in Saintonge and also -in collaboration with his wife Agnes- founded the Abbaye de la Trinité at Vendôme. The first mention of Geoffrey II in the Gesta Normannorum Ducum reads: "Geoffrey, count of the Angevins, nicknamed Martel, a treacherous man in every respect, frequently inflicted assaults and intolerable pressure on his neighbors."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angevin Empire</span> Medieval dynastic union of states in present-day England, France and Ireland

The Angevin Empire describes the possessions of the House of Plantagenet during the 12th and 13th centuries, when they ruled over an area covering roughly half of France, all of England, and parts of Ireland and Wales, and had further influence over much of the remaining British Isles. It may be described as an early example of a composite monarchy. The empire was established by Henry II of England, who succeeded his father Geoffrey Plantagenet as Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, becoming her royal consort, and inherited his mother Empress Matilda's claim to the English throne, succeeding his rival Stephen, in 1154. Although their title of highest rank came from the Kingdom of England, the Plantagenets held court primarily on the continent at Angers in Anjou, and at Chinon in Touraine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Plantagenet</span> Angevin royal dynasty that ruled England in the middle ages

The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The family held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, when Richard III died in battle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Normandy</span> Historical European noble family

The House of Normandy designates the noble family which originates from the Duchy of Normandy and whose members were counts of Rouen, dukes of Normandy, as well as kings of England following the Norman conquest of England. It lasted until the House of Plantagenet came to power in 1154. The house emerged from the union between the Viking Rollo and Poppa of Bayeux, a West Frankish noblewoman. William the Conqueror and his heirs down through 1135 were members of this dynasty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Waleran de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Worcester</span> British Earl

Waleran de Beaumont, Count of Meulan, Earl of Worcester, was the son of Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester and Elizabeth de Vermandois, and the twin brother of Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester. He is not referred to by any surname in a contemporary document other than 'Waleran son of Count Robert'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William FitzEmpress</span> Viscount of Dieppe

William FitzEmpress or William Longespee was the youngest of the three sons of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. His brothers were Henry II of England and Geoffrey, Count of Nantes.

Elias II was the younger son of Fulk V of Anjou and his first wife, Eremburga, daughter of Count Elias I of Maine. There is debate as to whether he was ever count of Maine or whether he merely made a claim to it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rout of Winchester</span> Conflict within the Anarchy (civil war)

In the Rout of Winchester the army of imprisoned King Stephen of England, led by his wife, Queen Matilda of Boulogne, Stephen's brother Bishop Henry of Blois, and William of Ypres, faced the army of Stephen's cousin Empress Matilda, whose forces were commanded by her half-brother Earl Robert of Gloucester. After Empress Matilda's army besieged a castle on the edge of Winchester, Queen Matilda's army arrived and blockaded the Angevin army within the city. Cut off from supplies, the Angevin army gave up the siege, then was crushed as it began to retreat. Robert of Gloucester was captured and was subsequently exchanged for Stephen, who was returned to the throne of England. However, the civil war known as The Anarchy dragged on with neither side gaining an advantage.

Ermengarde or Erembourg of Maine, also known as Erembourg de la Flèche, was Countess of Maine and the Lady of Château-du-Loir from 1110 to 1126. She was the daughter of Elias I, Count of Maine, and Mathilda of Château-du-Loire, daughter of Gervais II, Lord of Château-du-Loir. She was grandmother of King Henry II of England

Geoffrey VI was Count of Nantes from 1156 to 1158. He was also known as Geoffrey of Anjou and Geoffrey FitzEmpress. He was the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Empress Matilda. His brothers were Henry II of England and William FitzEmpress.

Events from the 1150s in England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matilda of England, Duchess of Saxony</span> English princess

Matilda of England was an English princess of the House of Plantagenet and by marriage Duchess consort of Saxony and Bavaria from 1168 until her husband's deposition in 1180.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">County of Anjou</span> Medieval French county (861–1360)

The County of Anjou was a small French county that was the predecessor to the better-known Duchy of Anjou. Its capital was Angers, and its area was roughly co-extensive with the diocese of Angers. Anjou was bordered by Brittany to the west, Maine to the north, Touraine to the east and Poitou to the south. The adjectival form is Angevin, and inhabitants of Anjou are known as Angevins. In 1360, the county was raised into the Duchy of Anjou within the Kingdom of France. This duchy was later absorbed into the French royal domain in 1482 and remained a province of the kingdom until 1790.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry II of England</span> King of England from 1154 to 1189

Henry II, also known as Henry Curtmantle, Henry FitzEmpress, or Henry Plantagenet, was King of England from 1154 until his death in 1189, and as such, was the first Angevin king of England. King Louis VII of France made him Duke of Normandy in 1150. Henry became Count of Anjou and Maine upon the death of his father, Count Geoffrey V, in 1151. His marriage in 1152 to Eleanor of Aquitaine, former spouse of Louis VII, made him Duke of Aquitaine. He became Count of Nantes by treaty in 1158. Before he was 40, he controlled England; large parts of Wales; the eastern half of Ireland; and the western half of France, an area that was later called the Angevin Empire. At various times, Henry also partially controlled Scotland and the Duchy of Brittany.

Brian fitz Count was descended from the Breton ducal house, and became an Anglo-Norman noble, holding the lordships of Wallingford and Abergavenny. He was a loyal adherent of Henry I, King of England, and a staunch supporter of his daughter, the Empress Matilda, during the Anarchy (1135–1153).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angevin kings of England</span> 12th–13th century English royal house of French origin

The Angevins were a royal house of French origin that ruled England in the 12th and early 13th centuries; its monarchs were Henry II, Richard I and John. In the 10 years from 1144, two successive counts of Anjou in France, Geoffrey and his son, the future Henry II, won control of a vast assemblage of lands in western Europe that would last for 80 years and would retrospectively be referred to as the Angevin Empire. As a political entity this was structurally different from the preceding Norman and subsequent Plantagenet realms. Geoffrey became Duke of Normandy in 1144 and died in 1151. In 1152, his heir, Henry, added Aquitaine by virtue of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry also inherited the claim of his mother, Empress Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I, to the English throne, to which he succeeded in 1154 following the death of King Stephen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capetian–Plantagenet rivalry</span> Conflicts between the dynasties of the Capetians and Plantagenets

The Capetian–Plantagenet rivalry was a series of conflicts and disputes that covered a period of 100 years (1159–1259) during which the House of Capet, rulers of the Kingdom of France, fought the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, to suppress the growing power of the Plantagenet-controlled Angevin Empire. Some historians refer to this series of events as the "First Hundred Years' War".


  1. 1 2 Costain, Thomas B (1962). The Conquering Family . New York: Popular Library.
  2. Jones, Dan (2013). The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. Viking. ISBN   9780670026654.
  3. J. Bernard Burke The Heraldic Register , p. 65, at Google Books
  4. Norgate, Kate (1887). England Under the Angevin Kings. General Books LLC. pp. 261–262. ISBN   978-1421259840.
  5. Bradbury, Jim. 1990. "Geoffrey V of Anjou, Count and Knight", in The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood III, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Ruth Harvey. Rochester: Boydell Press.
  6. 1 2 King, Edmund (2008). King Stephen's Reign. London: Woodbridge. pp. 58–79.
  7. Dutton, Kathryn (2014). The Haskins Society Journal. London: Boydell. pp. 125–154.
  8. Warren, W.L. (1977). Henry II . Berkeley: University of California Press. p.  38. ISBN   978-0520034945.
  9. Halphen, L (ed.); Poupardin, R (ed.); Marmoutier, John of (1913). Chroniques des comtes. Paris.{{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  10. 1 2 Haskins, Charles H. 1912. "Normandy Under Geoffrey Plantagenet", The English Historical Review, volume 27 (July): 417–444.
  11. Woodcock, Thomas and John Martin Robinson (1988), The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Oxford University Press, pg 10.
  12. Ailes, Adrian (1982). The Origins of The Royal Arms of England. Reading: Graduate Center for Medieval Studies, University of Reading. pp. 52–53.
  13. Gage, John (1999), Color and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction, pg ??.
  14. Bradbury, Jim (2004), The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 273
Geoffrey Plantagenet
Born: 24 August 1113 Died: 7 September 1151
Preceded by Count of Maine
Succeeded by
Preceded by Count of Anjou
Preceded by Count of Mortain
Preceded by Duke of Normandy