Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Abbot Hugh: An Overlooked Brother of Henry I, Count of Champagne

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Abbot Hugh: An Overlooked Brother of Henry I, Count of Champagne

Article excerpt

Hugh (d. 1171), a natural son of Count Thibaut IV of Blois and II of Champagne (d. 1152), was a half-brother of Count Henry I of Champagne (1127-1181) and Adèle (d. 1206), queen of France and mother of Philip Augustus. A knight wounded in battle, Hugh became a monk of Tiron Abbey near Chartres. Supported by his uncles King Stephen and Bishop Henry of Winchester, Hugh became abbot of St. Benet of Holme in Norfolk and of Chertsey outside London. Hugh returned to Champagne ca. 1155 and became abbot of Lagny near Paris (1163-1171). A castrate, Hugh may have inspired Chrétien de Troyes' Fisher King.

Count Henry I "the Liberal" of Champagne (1127-1181) was the oldest of ten children of Count Thibaut "the Great" IV of Blois and II of Champagne (d.1152) and his wife Mathilda of Carinthia. Thibaut II, a warrior and magnate who was a nephew of Henry I of England, was offered the English throne before it was seized by his younger brother, Stephen (r. 1135-1154). Count Henry's wife, Countess Marie (1145-1198) was the older daughter of Louis VII of France (b. 1121, r. 1137-1-180) and his first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1 122-1204). His second brother, Count Thibaut V of Blois (d. c.1191), was seneschal of France and had married Countess Marie's younger sister,Alix (1150-c. 1197). His third brother was Stephen, count of Sancerre (d. 1190). His fourth brother, William of the White Hands (d. 1202), was bishop of Chartres, archbishop of Sens, papal legate in England, archbishop of Reims, Cardinal of Santa Sabina, regent of France, and head of the Royal Council of his nephew Philip Augustus (r. 1 180-1223). 1 His youngest sister, Adèle (d. 1206), was queen of France as the third wife of Louis VII and mother of the heir Philip Augustus. Count Henry was a crusader, an administrator, a diplomat, and a literary patron. His kinship network extended over modern France and to the England of his second cousin, Henry II (b. 1133, r 1154-1189), and his travels extended through the Holy Roman Empire to the Holy Land. These distinguished children of an illustrious father were central figures in the politics of twelfth-century France. It is less well known that they had a half brother.

Count Henry's English connections included his paternal uncles: Stephen, king of England, and Stephen's younger brother Henry, bishop of Winchester and abbot of Glastonbury (d. 1171). Bishop Henry was not elected archbishop of Canterbury, but was compensated for some time by the more powerful position of papal legate in England. Bishop Henry lived in England during the reigns of Stephen and Henry II until 1171, interrupted by a sojourn at Cluny during a tense period in 11551162. His half-brother Hugh (d. 1171), a Benedictine abbot, lived in England for a decade before returning to his family in Champagne. Hugh was an interesting person in his own right, and his story is a fascinating addition to the genealogy of the House of Blois-Champagne.

Hugh was Count Thibaut's natural son, and his birthdate and mother are unknown.2 The only solid documentation of Hugh's life covers his adult years, from c.1141 until 1171. The major sources are references to him in the thirteenth-century Chronica of John of Oxenedes (d. c 1293), the records of St. Benet of Holme in William Worcestre Itineraries, the Chronicle of Robert of Torigni, and the Annals of Lagny cited in Gallia Christiana. He is also mentioned in the cartularies of the abbeys of Tiron, St. Benet of Holme, Chertsey, and Lagny and in the Letters and Charters of Gilbert Foliot. Although Oxenedes is inaccurate about Hugh's dying at Chertsey Abbey, he provides the most comprehensive account of Hugh's life.3 For his Chronicle, Oxenedes borrowed from various sources, including the Chronicle of Hugh of St. Victor, John of Salisbury's Polycrates, and William of Malmesbury.4 Oxenedes paid tribute to Stephen as an excellent knight of great piety, but chose to include his perjuries regarding his obligations to the Church and to others. …

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