25 April 2017

Count Renauld II "The Bad" of Sense (†1055)

Count Renaud II “The Bad” of Sense was described as “mad”. He was the eldest son of Fromond II of Sense (†1012) and his wife Gerberge de Roucy. Fromond was at loggerheads with the archbishop of Sense, Lietry, whom he could not forgive for having got the archbishopric in stead of his son Bruno.

After succeeding his father, Renaud II became involved in the power struggle with the archbishop of Sens. Renaud acted with disrespect to the church, which he despoiled, apparently claiming that he was “King of the Jews”. On another occasion, during mass, Renauld spat at the archbishop. French King Robert The Pious (972–1031) decided to intervene. For some reason, when the King took Sens on April 22, 1015, Renaud II was naked when he fled. Renaud’s brother Fromond was defending in the Big Tower in the city of Sens when he was captured. Fromond was subsequently interned in Orléans where he died.
Denier of French King Robert II the Pious.
Finally, a bargain was struck, whereby Renaud was to keep the county for life, and at his death the entire county was to revert to the crown. This agreement was carried out on Renaud’s death in 1055.
Renaud's brother Bruno was installed as archdeacon of the Church of Langres. Another brother, Renaud, became abbot of Sainte-Marie du Charnier. In 1023 Renaud II married a woman named Juvilla and fathered a son named Fromond.

28 March 2017

"Raging Wolf" Thomas of Marle (1073-1130), Lord of Coucy

Thomas of Marle was born in 1073 as son of Enguerrand I of Coucy (±1042-1116), a man of many sandals. Enguerrand divorced his first wife, Thomas' mother Adèle of Marle, for adultery. Thus, Thomas' paternity was cast into doubt, and Enguerrand openly vented doubts that Thomas was his biological son.
When Enguerrand abducted and married his second wife, Sibyl of Château-Porcien, she was still married to Godfrey of Lorraine, while he was absent and at war. Thus, Enguerrand and Godfrey became bitter enemies, fighting each other in a private war. Thomas of Marle hated his father and joined his enemies. Still, in 1095 they both took part in the First Crusade.

Coucy Heraldry
As a knight, Thomas of Marle should have been an example of virtues like wisdom, charity and loyalty, but he wasn't like that at all. He achieved notoriety as a "wild beast", an "unbearable madman" and "like a wolf gone mad". He was "the vilest of men and a plague to God and man alike". He had a habit of "torturing peasants and captives, hanging them by the testicles, beating and starving them to death".
Thomas even cut the throat of a relative, archdeacon Walter of Laon. He supported the citizens of Laon in their rising of 1112, and sheltered its leaders. As a result Thomas was excommunicted in 1114, and condemned in the Royal Court of France, but continued with his deplorable activities.

In 1102 Thomas had married Ida of Hainault and they subsequently had 2 daughters. After Ida's death he married Melisende of Crécy in 1108, and had 2 sons and 2 more daughters. Thomas succeeded his father upon Enguerrand's death in 1116.

In 1130, while King Louis VI was hampered by obesity, his relative Raoul of Vermandois* organized an expedition against Thomas of Marle. At Coucy Ralph's men caught him, and Raoul pierced him with his sword - before handing him over to the French King. Thomas made a long confession, was imprisoned, and died soon afterwards in prison.

Peace was finally achieved when Thomas' son, Enguerrand II, married Agnès de Beaugency, a niece of Raoul of Vermandois. It was Enguerrand VII de Coucy (1340-97) who married Princess Isabella (1332-82), daughter of English King Edward III.

 * Raoul of Vermandois was a grandson of King Henry I of France (1008-1060).

16 March 2017

The violent deaths of the Counts of Flanders around 1100

Around 1100 successive Counts of Flanders in Belgium met with violent deaths.

Robert the Frisian was a younger son of Count Baldwin V of Flanders (1012-67) and his wife, Princess Adèle of France. Robert married Gertrude of Saxony, widow of Count Floris I of Holland. While acting as regent for his stepson Dirk I of Holland, Thus, Robert acquired the nickname "The Frisian" (Frisia being the name for Holland at the time). In addition to 7 children from her first marriage, Gertrude gave Robert 3 sons and 3 daughters. On February 22, 1071, near Cassel Robbrecht attacked his unpopular nephew Arnulf III of Flanders, a teenager, who died in battle.
Thus, Robert succeeded as Count of Flanders. On October 13, 1093, Robert was crossing the Marne River on campaign with the French King, when he fell from his horse and was trampled on by other horses.

Robert II of Flanders, Robert I’s eldest son, joined the First Crusade. He became known as a cruel conqueror who participated in the killings and looting in Jerusalem. He brought back with him a relic, said to be the arm of Saint George. In 1111 Robert led an army against Meaux. While approaching the city Robert was fatally wounded. He fell from his horse, and drowned in the River Marne on October 5.

Baldwin VII of Flanders
Baldwin VII of Flanders, Robert II's only son, was born in 1093. Aged 18, the new Count solicited the advice of his cousin, Charles the Good, who was several years older. It was Baldwin who arranged the marriage of Charles to the heiress of the County of Amiens, Margaret of Clermont, in 1118. Once Baldwin VII personally hanged ten knights who had violated the peace of the fair of Torhout, and he had another one boiled in oil. During a fight over the castle of Bures-en-Bray, Baldwin VI was being hit on the head by a lance. The nosepiece of his helmet was shattered, wounding him in the face. Badly hurt, Baldwin continued to fight, but soon his face was badly swollen. He was first taken to the abbey of Auchy, then to Atrecht, while the swelling on his face increased. He had trouble moving his arms, while his lower body became paralysed. Baldwin never recovered and died within a year on July 17, 1070.

Baldwin had nominated his cousin Charles the Good as his heir. Charles was born in 1084 in Denmark to King Canute IV and his wife Adela of Flanders, a daughter of Robert The Frisian. After Canute IV had been murdered in 1086 in the church of Odense, Adela took her son for safety to Flanders. During Charles' reign a solar eclipse was followed by a great famine, but Charles took measures that helped to address the famine quickly.
Charles made increased use of courts to settle disputes, and tried to tackle corruption. That way, Charles managed to antagonize the Ergembald family, and also a man named Didier Hacket by punishing the man's son for his part in a feud. While praying prostate on the floor of the St-Donatien Church in Bruges on March 2, 1127, Didier and some henchmen entered the church and blocked off all the exits. Charles was attacked, and his head was cut off as he looked up. The murderes were arrested and executed, while 21 others were hanged from the tower of Bruges. All members of the Ergembald family were hunted down and killed.

Charles had died childless. His successor as Count of Flanders was the unpopular William Clito of Normandy. William was wounded in the hand by an arrow at Alost; it turned gangrenous, and he died on July 28, 1128. He was succeeded by Thierry of Alsace, another grandson of Robert The Frisian. His rule was moderate and peaceful.


28 February 2017

King Chilperic I (±539-584), the Nero & Herod of his time

Frankish King Chilperic I (±539-584) was one of the sons of Clothaire I of the French Merovingian dynasty. After his father’s death in 561 Chilperic became King of Neustria (the northwestern part of France). Chilperic’s reign saw the introduction of the Byzantine punishment of eye-gouging (the act of pressing or tearing the eye). After sizing some ecclesiastical property, chronicler Gregory of Tours described Chilperic as “the Nero and Herod of his time”.

Chilperic murdering his wife
Chiliperic had his first wife Audovera, the mother of 5 of his children, committed to a convent. There she was murdered in 580. Next, Chilperic married the Visigothic Princess Galaswintha (540-568) in 567, but soon tired of her. One day she was found strangled in bed. She may have been murdered at the instigation of Chilperic’s mistress, a serving-woman called Fredegund, who then married him. Rumour also had it that Chilperic himself had murdered his wife in bed (see picture). 
Since Chilperic’s brother Sigibert had married Galaswintha’s sister, the Visigothic Princess Brunhilda, the murder of Galaswintha resulted in a series of bloody wars. In 575 Fredegund had Sigebert assassinated. His widow Brunhilda then married her nephew Merovech, a son of Chilperic and his first wife Audovera. To nullify the marriage, Chilperic had Merovech tonsured and sent to a monastery to become a priest.

There is a story that one day Chilperic found his new wife Fredegund washing over a basin, and then smacked her bottom. She thought it was her lover and cried out “what do you think you are doing, Landeric?’ She saved herself by having her husband killed. Chilperic was stabbed to death by an unkown assailant. 

7 February 2017

The cruelty & bloodshed of Queen Keo Phimpha of Lan Xang

The notorious Queen Nang Keo Phimpha of Lan Xang in Laos may have been born as the eldest child of King Samsenthai (†1417) and his 1st-wife-and-1st-cousin, Queen Bua Then Fa. After Samsenthai's death Keo Phimpha intrigued and connived as King Maker and Breaker for the best part - or worst - of a decade.

In 1428 King Phommathath, Keo Phimpha's nephew, was beheaded on her orders within 10 months of his accession. Another nephew, King Youkhon, reigned for 8 months and then fled for his life before being killed on the others of his aunt. A 3rd nephew, King Konekham, reigned for 1½ year before Keo Phimpha had him murdered, too.
One of Keo Phimpha’s brothers, called Lue-Sai or Meunsai, who had earlier been passed over in the succession, was allowed to reign for 6 months before committing suicide in the Palace gardens. In 1436 Keo Phimpha raised another brother to the throne. This Khong Kham claimed to be a reincarnation of this own father. He died from a fit in 1438.

Then, finally, the aged Keo Phimpha mounted the throne herself. By then the Council of Ministers and the senior nobility had tired of her intrigues, cruelty and bloodshed. They succeeded in deposing Keo Phimpha within a few months of her accession. She was abandoned on a rock at Pha-Dieo, bound together with her husband and grandnephew, Wiang Pha. They died from either thirst, starvation or being eaten by wild animals.