Medieval France. An Encyclopedia

(Darren Dugan) #1

acquire Aquitaine by marriage, and establish the Angevin empire of the 12th century.
After the king of France conquered the continental portions of this empire in 1202–04,
the stable administrative institutions found there influenced the development of the
Capetian kingdom.
In the 9th century, Anjou was merely a part of a larger lordship given to the Robertian
family by Charles the Bald to defend against Viking attacks. Its chief city, Angers, was
administered for the Robertians by a viscount, one of whom, Foulques le Roux (ca. 888–
941), usurped the title of count by 930. Under his descendants, Anjou expanded beyond
its original boundaries—sometimes by military conquest, often by marriage alliances.
Before the end of the 10th century, Anjou had absorbed the Mauges and dominated
Nantes in Brittany to the west, Vendôme to the east, and Loudun and the Gâtinais in the
Count Foulques Nerra (r. 987–1040) and his son Geoffroi Martel (r. 1040–60) were
the true architects of Angevin expansion into a major power. By military victories, Nerra
was able to maintain control of Nantes and the Mauges and to conquer Saintes, Saumur,
and a major part of the Touraine. By diplomatic means, he dominated Vendôme and
Maine. Geoffroi Martel capped Angevin expansion into the Touraine by capturing Tours
from the count of Blois in 1044. This union with the Touraine made Anjou a major power
in western Francia. Angevin control over the conquered territories was marked by an
ambitious program of castle building, creating a complex system of defense in depth.
Angevin domination was ensured as long as the lords of these castles were loyal to the
count of Anjou.
Under the weak and unpopular rule of Geoffroi le Barbu (r. 1060–68), however, the
system broke down. In the midst of a civil war between Geoffroi and his younger brother,
Foulques le Rechin (r. 1068–1109), the Angevin barons increased their own power to the
detriment of the count. By the time Foulques finally seized the countship in 1068, the
Angevin state had been seriously weakened. He spent most of his reign trying to reassert
his authority while successfully fighting off Norman advances into Maine. Although
Angevin domination of outlying regions receded, control over the heartland of Anjou and
the Touraine was maintained.
From this territory, Foulques le Rechin’s successors, Foulques V (r. 1109–29) and
Geoffroi Plantagenêt (1129–51), were able to reassert comital authority over the bar-

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