Historians have differed widely as to the year and even the decade of Geoffroy de Villehardouin's birth. Older historians (Du Cange, Buchon) long stated that he was born around 1164, although the more recent opinion is that he was born around 1150 at the château de Villehardouin, near Troyes, and that he was named marshal of Champagne around 1185 (Zink, 193). All historians agree that he died around 1213 and no later than 1218.
More certain details about his life are those provided in his famous chronicle of the Fourth Crusade, the Conquête de Constantinople, written, presumably, between 1207 and the year of his death. He lists himself among those French barons who took the cross in 1199. He was one of six French envoys sent to Venice in April 1201 to arrange with the Venetians for the transport of the French crusaders to Egypt. The Venetians, led by an aging, blind doge, Enrico Dandolo, agreed to build transports to carry 4,500 horses and 9,000 squires, and other ships to accommodate 4,500 knights and 20,000 foot sergeants, plus a nine months' supply of rations for all these men, for a total cost of 85,000 marks (Chronicles, trans. Shaw, 32-33). Villehardouin repeatedly bewails the failure of that contingent of French soldiers and barons—“those who sailed from other ports”—to meet at Venice at the appointed time (summer 1202), which precipitated a chain of events that led ultimately to the capture and plunder of Constantinople by the French and the Venetians combined on 13 April 1204. His view is that the Venetians, seeing that the French who did congregate at Venice were unable to meet their contractual obligations, agreed to transport them, but with conditions of their own. When the fleet sailed from Venice in October 1202, Doge Enrico Dandolo persuaded a divided French army to aid the Venetians to recapture the port of Zara (Zadar), further down the Dalmatian coast, which had been taken from them by the king of Hungary (Chronicles, 43). The