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.