The Angevin Dynasties

The formidable walls of Château d'Angers. The existing structure was built on the site of comte Foulques Nerra's stronghold (c.1230-1240). The current fortress was begun during the reign of Louis IX. However, over the years the 'fortress' was modified more to a grand palace, especially by the last duke d'Ajou, René I. The distinctive 17 towers were lowered in size during the sixteenth century.

Anjou is a historical and cultural region encompassing, today the western French département of Maine-et-Loire and coextensive with the former 'ancient' political province of Anjou.
Organized in the Gallo-Roman period as the Civitas Andegavensis, it later became the countship of Anjou and (from 1360) the duchy of Anjou. Some sources refer to Robert 'the Strong' (d.866) as count of Anjou. If so, his Angevin title went into the French Royal house with his sons, both of whom were kings of France: Eudes (Odo) (887-893) and Robert I (922-923). These early references are generally not identified, as would suggest, to be the 'first' House of Anjou. Rather the 'first house' of Anjou is assigned a slightly later date.

First Angevin Dynasty -- of counts (before 942-1214)

Under one of the sons of Robert 'the Strong' [le Fort], Anjou was entrusted to a certain Ingelger [Enjuger], who became the founder of the first Angevin dynasty. Ingelger's son Fulk [Foulque] I the Red [le Roux] rid the country of the Normans and enlarged his domains by taking part of Touraine. He died in 942, and under his successor, Fulk II 'the Good' [le Bon], the destruction caused by the preceding wars was repaired. Geoffrey [Geoffroi] I Grisegonelle [d.987], who succeeded Fulk II in about 960, began the policy of expansion that was to characterize this first feudal dynasty. He helped Hugh Capet to seize the French crown but died some months after the new king's accession (987).

Geoffrey's successor Fulk III Nerra [d.1040], one of the most remarkable figures of his period and the most powerful member of the dynasty, ruled from 987 to 1040. He finally drove his encroaching neighbours back beyond the frontiers of Anjou and built strongly fortified castles along the border of his territory. Fulk's son Geoffrey II 'Martel' (1040-60) pursued the policy of expansion begun by his father and annexed the Vendômois and a part of Maine to Anjou. Because he left no sons, his two nephews, Geoffrey III the Bearded [le Barbu] and Fulk IV 'the Rude' [le Réchin], shared the succession. However, they soon came into armed conflict, and Fulk defeated Geoffrey in 1068. Nevertheless, he had to give up most of the lands that Fulk III Nerra had acquired to defend his fief against the claims of the Duke of Normandy.
After the death in 1109, Fulk IV's son, by his third wife, Fulk V 'the Young' [le Jeune] [d.1142] endeavored to make good the losses caused during the previous various wars. By marriage, Fulk V assumed the title of count of Maine, which would remain linked to the Angevin domain for many years after. Fulk V also, by marriage to the daughter of king Baldwin II, acquired the additional title of 'king of Jerusalem (1131-1143). Fulk V was forced to spend considerable time is sustaining his near-east realm. It also set a precedent of association of the Angevins with the 'kingship' of Jerusalem long after there was any substantive basis for such. However, Fulk V most significant influence on the future was arranging the marriage of his son Geoffrey IV [V?*] the Handsome [le Bel] 'Plantagenet' to Matilda, the daughter of Henry I of England. She was also the widow of the German emperor Henry V, and was referred to as 'empress' in her lifetime.

[*Note: Fulk IV had a son, Geoffrey Martel le Jeune [d.1106], by his second wife. This son is sometimes listed as Geoffrey "IV" Martel le Jeune, 'count of Anjou'; though this Geoffrey died in 1106, before his father. This is the source of inconsistencies in numbering the following 'Geoffrey's' of Anjou'. Most authorative accounts do not hold Geoffrey Martel le Jeune as ever being 'count of Anjou'.]

By his marriage to Matilda, Geoffrey IV Plantagenet acquired [or perceived such] a claim to Normandy and England. However, the Anglo-Norman barons did not accept the 'Empress' Matilda as heir and chose, instead, her cousin, Stephen of Blois as the English king and as duke of Normandy. Geoffrey IV spent his life fighting for Normandy and protecting his Angevin lands. He not only succeeded in pacifying Anjou, but conquered the duchy of Normandy by 1144. He convayed the ducal title of Normandy, to his son, Henry, in late 1149 or early 1150. When Geoffrey IV died in 1151, he left to his son Henry, the counties of Anjou and Maine. In 1152, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine after the annulment of her marriage to Louis VII of France. Eleanor was the duches fo Aquitaine, and with the marriage, Henry of Anjou could claim the ducal title to that vary large region in southwestern France.
Not satisfied with this already immense domain in France, where as count and as duke, he was a feudal vassal to the king of France, Louis VII, Henry continued to persue the perceived inheritance, through his mother, the crown of England. He launched a campaign in England to overthrow king Stephen. During the war, Stephen's son and only heir, Eustase, died in 1153. A settlement was made at Winchester in November of 1153 that agreed to peace and Stephen's adoption of Henry as his 'heir' to the English throne. Stephen died in October 1154, and Henry II and Eleanor were crowned at Westminister Abby 19 December 1154. Thus the 'Angevin Empire' was founded, extending from England to the Pyrenees. [Link to a webpage on this 'empire' is at the bottom of this webpage.]
It should be noted that the label of 'Plantagenet' was equally descriptive of the Angevin nobles descended from Geoffrey. Even though the term was not used as such until some time later, the significance is that it distinguished more correctly the break of the ruliing dynasty of England from the French Angevin domain in 1214. There were other Angevin dynasties to follow in France, as the English 'Plantagenets' continued in a futile attempt to regain the French domains during the Hundred Years' War.

Philip II Augustus [Philippe Auguste] of France, conquered Anjou from John Lackland of England at the beginning of the 13th century. An attempt by the English to retake Anjou failed when they were defeated at La Roche-aux-Moines in 1214 [Part of the War of Bouvines (1214)]. Anjou was definitively ceded to France by the Treaty of Paris (1259).

Second Angevin Dynasty (1246-1351)

In 1246 Louis IX of France gave Anjou as an appanage to his brother Charles. Charles I of Anjou married his first wife, Beatrice of Provence in 1246, bringing that rich provence in southern France into the Angevin domains. Charles I of Anjou also became king of Sicily and Naples [see below]. Charles I count of Anjou was succeeded by his son Charles II. Charles II was followed by his son-in-law Charles I of Valois, who became also Charles III of Anjou. Under Charles III's rule the economic and social conditions of the people of Anjou saw much improvement. The son of Charles III of Anjou [Charles I of Valois] became king of France, as Philip VI, in 1328 -- the first of the Valois line. From that year until 1351 Anjou was once more united to the crown and benefited from royal attention.

During the second Angevin dynasty, there were the beginnings of another 'empire'. This one established a brief foothold on the 'kingdom of Naples and Sicily'. Charles I of Anjou (with the Pope's invitation) conquered Naples and Sicily in the 1260s by defeating the last Hohenstaufen at Battles of Benevento (1266) and Tagliacozzo (1268). He also claimed the title of king of Jerusleum, when one of the heiress, Marie of Antioch, ceded her rights to him in 1277. However, the title of this lost city was being contested by others. Nevertheless, the Angevins of subquent French dynasties continued to espouse this titular claim. Charles I of Anjou was also an unsuccessful candidate for the imperial crown in 1273.
Charles I of Anjou was overthrown in Sicily by the Argonese during a local uprising known as the 'Sicilian Vespers' in 1282. However, he remained king of Naples, and the title conveyed to his son, Charles II count of Anjou. In effect, this began the First House of Anjou in Naples. Charles II's son Robert followed as king of Naples and the line -- separate from the Angevin counts in France -- continued until 1414. Charles II had one son who estblished a royal dynasty in Hungary that continued until 1382. His daughter, Margaret married Charles I count of Valois, who took over the Angevin domain [as Charles III count of Anjou] in France. The overseas initiatives of this second Angevin dynasty, created so-called 'Angevin dynasties' outside of France, particularly in Naples, that tended to divert the later Angevin line in France from its core domain of Anjou, in France.

The striking château de Saumur was constructed in the second half of the fourteenth century upon foundations of an earlier Angevin fortress. This structure was begun by Louis I, duc d'Anjou. On the right is an early fifteenth-century painting of the château, which not long after was the favorate residence of the remarkable duchesse d'Anjou, Yolande d'Argon, and later her son René I, comte d'Anjou. [Painting is an illumination from Trée Riches Heures, prayer book of the duc de Berry (1340-1416); Musée de Condé, Chantilly.]

Third Angevin Dynasty (1351-1480)

John [Jean] II, king of France gave the countship of Anjou to his son Louis in 1351. Thus began the third Angevin dynasty, which was raised to ducal rank in 1360. At this period bands of English soldiers under the command of Sir Robert Knollys were wandering through Anjou, causing great destruction. The later Angevin princes were more interested in the conquest of the kingdom of Naples than in the defense of their duchy, and Louis II, as his father, Louis I, spent most of his life away from Anjou. After his death his widow, Yolande of Aragon, strove to protect Anjou against attacks by the English. She played a remarkable role in not only preserving her duchy, but is saving the Valois king, Charles VII, as ruler of France.
The last of the rulers of Anjou was René I. After his death (1480) Anjou was for the last time returned to the crown of France, and its fate was thenceforth linked with that of the French kingdom.

Visit The Angevin Empire of Henri II webpage.

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originally established 24 January 2002; revised 6 August 2002.