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This Week In History

Geoffrey Plantagenet. August 24, 1113.

Geoffrey V, called the Handsome or the Fair and Plantagenet, was the Count of AnjouTouraine, and Maine by inheritance from 1129 and then Duke of Normandy by conquest from 1144, and was born on August 24, 1113. By his marriage to the Empress Matilda, daughter and heiress of Henry I of England, Geoffrey had a son, Henry Curtmantle, who succeeded to the English throne as King Henry II (1154–1189) and was the first of the Plantagenet dynasty to rule England. His ancestral domain of Anjou gave rise to the name Angevin for three kings of England (Henry II his son and heir, and Henry’s sons Richard and John), and what became known as the Angevin Empire in the 12th century.

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. Geoffrey was described as handsome, red haired, jovial, and a great warrior. King Henry I of England, having heard good reports on Geoffrey’s talents and prowess, sent his royal legates to Anjou to negotiate a marriage between Geoffrey and his own daughter, Empress Matilda. 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 peace between England, Normandy and Anjou. She was eleven years older than Geoffrey, and very proud of her status as Empress (as opposed to being a mere countess). Their marriage was a stormy one with frequent long separations but she bore him three sons and survived him.

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

When King Henry I died in 1135, Matilda at once entered Normandy to claim her inheritance. The border districts submitted to her, but England chose her 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 helped obtain the inheritance of Geoffrey’s wife.

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. A legatine council of the English church held at Winchester in April 1141 declared Stephen deposed and proclaimed Matilda “Lady of the English“.

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. 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.

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 Henry succeeded him as Duke of Normandy.

When Geoffrey died, aged just 38, Henry took his father’s place as Head of the Plantagenet 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 England.

 

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