Medieval France. An Encyclopedia

(Darren Dugan) #1

it has been part of the department of the Charente. Owing to its small size and its
proximity to larger territorial states, it did not give rise to a feudal principality of any
consequence save for brief periods in the late 9th and early 12th centuries. Nor did it
become an ecclesiastical center of any more than regional importance. In early Roman
times, the Angoumois belonged to the jurisdiction of the Santones (Saintes, Saintonge),
then in the 4th century it broke away as a separate civitas centered on the town of
Angoulême. Early tradition credited a 4th-century St. Ausonious with being the first
bishop, though the first attested one is St. Cybard (d. 581). The bishopric of Angoulême
belonged to the archdiocese of Bordeaux.
Almost nothing is known of the Angoumois under the Merovingians save that
Angoulême, its only town of any size, was fortified by the 7th century and formed part of
the duchy of Aquitaine. Armies of Pepin the Short conquered the province in the 760s
preparatory to a century of Carolingian rule. After heavy damage by 9th-century Viking
raids, recovery began later in the century with the establishment of Vulgrin I as count of
Angoulême (r. 867–86) by Charles the Bald. Vulgrin not only restored order in the
Angoumois but annexed the neighboring counties of Périgord and Agen to the south and
possibly the Saintonge to the west and began the hereditary dynasty of the counts of
Angoulême later called Taillefer. For a brief moment, Angoulême was the capital of a
major territorial principality of west-central France, but Vulgrin’s successors not only
were unable to preserve it intact but could not resist the counts of Poitou/dukes of
Aquitaine, who extended their power over the Angoumois in the 11th century.
The county became part of the Plantagenêt empire in the later 12th century, though its
counts led bitter Aquitanian resistance to their rule. King John of England’s abduction in
1200 of Isabelle, heiress of the county of Angoulême, led to Capetian intervention and
the ousting of the English. After John’s death in 1216, Isabelle’s marriage with Hugues X
de Lusignan, her intended husband prior to her abduction, contributed to the creation of a
powerful feudal state ruled by the united Taillefer-Lusignan dynasty, which controlled
the counties of the Aunis, Saintonge, La Marche, and Angoulême in the early 13th
century. Capetian power gradually prevailed, however, and the Angoumois was
integrated into the royal domain in 1314. Several monasteries flourished in the medieval
Angoumois, most notably those of Cellefrouin, Saint-Étienne-de-Baigne, Saint-Amant-
de-Boixe, and the oldest, Saint-Cybard-d’Angoulême. A monk of this latter abbey,
Adémar de Chabannes (d. 1034), here wrote the chronicle that is the most important
surviving source for the history of Aquitaine from the 9th to 11th century.
George T.Beech
Boisonnade, Prosper. L’ascension, le déclin et la chute d’un grand état féodal du Centre-Ouest: les
Taillefer et les Lusignan, comtes de la Marche et d’Angoulême et leurs relations avec les
Capétiens et les Plantagenêts 1137–1314. Angoulême: Société Archéologique et Historique de
la Charente, 1935, 1943.
Boussard, J. Historia pontificum et comitum Engolismensium. Paris: Argences, 1957.
Debord, André. La société laïque dans les pays de la Charente Xe–XIIe siècles. Paris: Picard, 1984.
Depoin, Joseph. “Les comtes héréditaires d’Angoulême de Vulgrin Ier a Audouin II, 869–1032.”
Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique de la Charente (1904).
Histoire du Poitou, du Limousin et des pays charentais. Publiée sous la direction de Édmond-René
Labande. Toulouse: Privat, 1976.

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