17 June, 2015

Blanche of Brittany (c. 1270-1327)

Blanche of Brittany somehow seems to keep popping up in the book I'm writing about Queen Isabella, and is a prime example of how hopelessly, horrendously confusingly the European nobility of the early fourteenth century was inter-married and inter-related.  Blanche was Edward II's first cousin and Isabella's second cousin, she was the mother-in-law of Isabella's uncle Louis, count of Evreux, her son Robert of Artois was the son-in-law of Isabella's other uncle Charles, count of Valois, she was the grandmother of Joan and Marie of Evreux who were, respectively, Isabella's sister-in-law and Edward's niece-in-law, her niece Mahaut of St Pol, countess of Valois, was Isabella's aunt-in-law, and her sister-in-law Mahaut, countess of Artois was the mother-in-law of two of Isabella's brothers.  She was also the grandmother of a king and two queens.  Confused??  Yep, me too.  If your brain hasn't raised a white flag of surrender, or exploded, read on :-)

Blanche of Brittany's mother Beatrice of England (1242-1275) was the second daughter of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and her father was John II, duke of Brittany (1239-1305).  Blanche was thus a niece of Edward I and of Margaret of England, queen of Scotland (1240-1275), and a first cousin of Edward II.  Her brothers included Arthur II, duke of Brittany (1262-1312) and John of Brittany, earl of Richmond (1266-1334), who spent most of his life in England.  Blanche also had two sisters: Eleanor, abbess of Fontevrault, and Marie of Brittany, who married Guy de Châtillon, count of St Pol (d. 1317).  Marie and Guy's children, Blanche's nephews and nieces, included Marie, countess of Pembroke (d. 1377), and Mahaut (d. 1358), who married Queen Isabella's uncle Charles, count of Valois, as his third wife and was the mother of Blanche of Valois, Holy Roman Empress and the grandmother of Joan I, queen of Naples.  Blanche of Brittany's paternal grandmother Blanche of Navarre/Champagne, duchess of Brittany, after whom she was presumably named, was the daughter of Thibaut or Theobald I 'the Troubadour', king of Navarre and count of Champagne: Thibaut was the great-grandfather of both Blanche of Brittany and Isabella of France, making them second cousins.

In 1280/81, Blanche of Brittany married Philip of Artois, who was about the same age as she, born in 1269 as the only son of Robert, count of Artois (born 1250), the posthumous son and heir of Louis IX's younger brother Robert, count of Artois (1216-1250, killed during a reckless attack on Mansourah in Egypt during Louis's first crusade).  Philip of Artois was thus a great-grandson of Louis VIII of France and his queen Blanche of Castile, and was the nephew of Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster (who was Isabella of France's maternal grandmother and Edward II's aunt by marriage).  Philip of Artois died in 1298 in his late twenties from wounds sustained at the battle of Furnes, predeceasing his father Robert, who was killed at the battle of Courtrai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs in July 1302.  The county of Artois passed to Philip's sister Mahaut (c. 1268-1329), Blanche of Brittany's sister-in-law, who married Othon IV, count of Burgundy and was the mother of Joan and Blanche of Burgundy, the wives of Isabella of France's brothers Philip, count of Poitiers and later King Philip V, and Charles, count of La Marche and later King Charles IV.  Blanche of Brittany's son Robert of Artois (1287-1342) is famous as one of the main characters of Maurice Druon's The Accursed Kings series of novels, and for the unsuccessful battles he waged against his aunt Mahaut for control of Artois, which he felt should have passed to him.

Robert of Artois, Blanche's only son (or only surviving son anyway), moved to England and supported Edward III in the early years of the Hundred Years War.  He died there in 1342 and was buried at St Paul's Cathedral.  Robert married the much younger Joan of Valois (b. c. 1304), the second daughter of Queen Isabella's uncle Charles, count of Valois and his second wife Catherine Courtenay, titular empress of Constantinople.  Joan's elder full sister Catherine of Valois inherited the title of empress.  Her elder half-brother was King Philip VI of France, and one of her elder half-sisters was another Joan of Valois, who married William III, count of Hainault and Holland and was the mother of Philippa of Hainault, Edward III's queen.

Blanche of Brittany and Philip of Artois's eldest child was Marguerite of Artois, born in about 1285 when Blanche was only about fifteen, who married Louis, count of Evreux (b. 1276), Queen Isabella's uncle, half-brother of Philip IV of France and of Charles of Valois.  Marguerite and Louis's eldest child Marie of Evreux, who married Edward II's nephew Duke John III of Brabant, was probably born in 1303, so that Blanche of Brittany became a grandmother when she was still in her early thirties.  Another daughter of Marguerite of Artois and Louis of Evreux, Joan or Jeanne of Evreux, married her widowed first cousin Charles IV of France in 1324 and became queen-consort of France and Queen Isabella's sister-in-law, and Louis and Marguerite's elder son and heir Philip of Evreux married his cousin Queen Joan II of Navarre (daughter of Louis X, and Queen Isabella's niece).  Marguerite of Artois, countess of Evreux, died in 1311 at the age of about twenty-six.

Blanche of Brittany's second daughter was Joan of Artois, who married Gaston I, count of Foix, a nobleman of Gascony and thus a vassal of Edward II, and her third was Marie of Artois, who married John, marquis of Namur.  It was probably on account of Marie that Edward II borrowed one thousand pounds from Queen Isabella in 1310 to give to Blanche of Brittany "in aid of marrying a certain daughter of hers."  Marie of Artois and John of Namur were the parents of Blanche of Namur, who married Magnus IV, king of Sweden and Norway (as Magnus VII).  Blanche of Brittany was thus the grandmother of a queen-consort of France, a queen-consort of Sweden and Norway, and a king-consort of Navarre.  Another of her granddaughters, Joan of Foix, married James II of Aragon's son Peter, count of Ribagorza, and was the mother of Eleanor of Aragon, queen of Cyprus and titular queen of Jerusalem.  Blanche of Brittany's fourth daughter was Catherine, who married John of Ponthieu, count of Aumale; his father, also John of Ponthieu, count of Aumale, was Edward II's first cousin, son of Eleanor of Castile's brother Fernando of Castile, and who was killed at the battle of Courtrai in 1302.  Finally, Blanche's fifth daughter Isabella became a nun at Poissy.  Her daughter Joan, countess of Foix, was imprisoned for many years by her son Gaston II, count of Foix on the grounds of her scandalous conduct and bad governance.


Anerje said...

Once again, a fabulously complicated, needs to be read a couple of times, interesting and well re-searched post! I don't know how you keep doing it!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje! :)

Sami Parkkonen said...

I would need a map to get some sense of these relationships. One thing I would not like to do, however, is to be the guy whose job it was to make the seating arraingements for the dinners. That mus have been a test of nerves, diplomatic skills and incredible understanding of the formal, personal and other relationships in these hydra-extented families.

Satima Flavell said...

My brain, she is exploding. I don't know how you can get that complicated genealogy sorted and express it so clearly!

Kathryn Warner said...

It's really horrendously complicated :-)