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Marie of France, countess of Champagne and Troyes

Title social-status: 
countess of Champagne and Troyes

Marie, countess of Champagne and Troyes, was the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her first husband, Louis VII, king of France. She was born in 1145 and betrothed to Henry I of Champagne (Henri le libéral), grandson of Adela of Blois, in 1153, and went to live with him in 1164; her sister Alix was married to Henry’s brother Thibaut of Blois. Adela, the sister of Henry and Thibaut, was then queen of France and stepmother to Marie and Alix, as well as their sister-in-law and contemporary. Marie and Henry had two sons Henry II and Thibaut III (whose own son, Thibaut IV of Champagne was a recognized poet/trouvère) and two daughters, Marie and Scholastique. Marie of France was regent both for her husband Henry when he went on crusade from 1179 to 1181, and for her son Henry from his father’s death in 1181 until his majority in 1187,(1) and again when he was on crusade in the 1190's until he died in 1197. He married the queen of Jerusalem, Isabel, and lived in the East until he died. Marie continued to rule for her younger son, Thibaut, until her own death in 1198. Marie arranged the marriage of her daughter Marie with Baldwin IX of Flanders (whose daughters, Joan and Marguerite, would rule Flanders successively in their own right), though she had to force Baldwin’s father to honor the marriage agreement. The other half of the agreement, the marriage between his daughter and her son, Henry, fell apart when Henry betrothed himself to someone else. Marie defended her position on toll-taking to her father, see HGF ep.355, and she engaged in a brief war with her [Capetian] half-brother Philip Augustus who had confiscated the dower lands of his mother, Marie’s sister-in-law, and married the fiancée of Marie’s son Henry, Isabel of Hainaut. Marie was a patron of secular and religious works: she commissioned Chrétien de Troye’s Chevalier de la charrette, and in her widowhood Evrat’s translation of Genesis, and probably a translation and gloss of Psalm 44, Eructavit cor meum. She may have visited her mother Eleanor in Poitiers in the 1170’s,(2) though there is no evidence for any meeting between them; she apparently got on with her half-brothers, Eleanor’s Plantagenet sons, particularly Richard who addressed a poem to her while he was imprisoned in Germany; see the letter from Richard, King of England.

Biographical notes: 

(1) In Champagne, the age of majority for counts was unusually high, 21 rather than 15, see Theodore Evergates, “Aristocratic Women in the County of Champagne,” Aristocratic Women in Medieval France, ed. Theodore Evergates (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999), 76., who also provided corrections for this biography.  (2) See June Hall McCash in “Marie de Champagne's ‘Cuer d’ome et cors de fame’: Aspects of Feminism and Misogyny in the Twelfth Century,” The Spirit of the Court ed. G.S. Burgess and R. A Taylor (Cambridge: Brewer, 1985).