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Anjou (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2004-07-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: anjou | fleur-de-lys: 3 (yellow) |
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[Anjou]by Pierre Gay

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History of Anjou

The first House of Anjou

Anjou was originally known as the pagus andecavis, named after the Gaul tribe of Andecaves. At the end of the IXth century, Charles le Chauve, king of Francia occidentalis, allied himself to the Duke of Brittany and expelled the Vikings from Anjou. He appointed Robert le Fort, the root of the Capetian house, to protect the area against potential invaders.

At the end of the IXth century, the royal power faded away and feudal states emerged all over France. Foulques I le Roux founded in 898 the first house of Anjou. He bore the hereditary title of count of Anjou. Foulques II le Bon confiscated Maine to the witless king of France Louis IV. Geoffroi I Grisegonelle accepted the homage of the count of Nantes. The counts of Anjou made use of the rivalry between the Robertians and the last Carolingians to preserve their independence and increase their power.

Accordingly, the county of Anjou was in the XI-XIIth centuries a very powerful state.
Count Foulques III Nerra (987-1040) was one of the most brilliant lords of that time. He was a fiercy and greedy warrior, not to say a criminal, who always attempted to increase his state: he received Saintonge as a fief from the duke of Aquitaine, and seized the cities of Blois, Châteaudun, Langeais, Saumur, Vendôme and Tours, being only expelled from the latter city by king of France Robert le Pieux. Anjou main competitor was the county of Blois, which depended on the powerful county of Champagne but was almost totally annexated by Anjou. Foulques also had a few periods of repentance, during which he funded several churches and abbeys and went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Foulques' son, Geoffrei II Martel (count in 1040-1060) conquered Maine and Touraine but died without a male heir.
His two nephews fought for the succession: the apathetic Foulques IV le Réchin (lit., the Despondent) defeated Geoffrei III but lost Saintonge, Maine and Gâtinais. In 1092, king of France Philippe I seduced, abducted and married Geoffrei's wife, Bertrade de Montfort. Pope Urban II refused to cancel Philippe's first marriage with queen Berthe and excommunicated him. The king's excommunication was lifted by the council of Beaugency in 1104, four years only before the king's death.
Foulques V le Jeune (count in 1109-1131) put the county on his feet again by making use of the French-English rivalry. He reincorporated Maine by marriage in 1109. In 1128, he married his son Geoffrei V le Bel with Mathilde, daughter of king of England Henry I Beauclerc and widow of German Emperor Henry V. In 1129, Foulques married Mélisande, daughter and heir of king of Jerusalem Baudouin II, and founded there a new Anjou dynasty.

The Plantagenet Empire

Geoffrei V (count in 1131-1151) was nicknamed Plantagenet because he wore a hat decorated with a branch of broom (genest at that time, genêt in modern French). On his wife's behalf, Geoffrei revendicated the throne of England and annexated the duchy of Normandy in 1144.
In 1152, Henri Plantagenet, son of Geoffrei V and Mathilde, married Aliénor d'Aquitaine, who had just divorced from king of France Louis VII. The count's domain, which already included Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Normandy, incorporated Poitou, Périgord, Limousin, Angoumois, Saintonge and Gascogne. Suzereignty was granted over Auvergne and the county of Toulouse. In 1153, Henri forced Etienne of Blois, king of England, to recognize him as his successor. Henri II was crowned king of England in 1154.Henri II then ruled the so-called "Anglo-Angevin Empire" and was much more powerful than the Capetian King of France. However, the Capetians eventually expelled the Plantagenets by making use of the complex feudal laws, the familial troubles inside the Plantagenet dynasty, and the local aspirations of the provinces included by force in the Plantagenet Empire.

Henri II's son and successor Richard Lionheart was killed in Châlus in 1199. He was succeded by his treacherous and scheming brother John Lackland. John abducted Isabelle of Angoulême, betrothed to the Count of Marche, and married her in Chinon on 30 August 1200. The barons of Poitou complained and John was summoned to the Royal Court in Paris. Since John refuse to come to Paris, king of France Philippe-Auguste confiscated all his French possessions. Philippe-Auguste achieved the confiscation by seizing Chinon in 1205. In 1213, John set up an English-German coalition, which was defeated in 1214 in la Roche-aux-Moines, near Angers. The treaty of Chinon (18 September 1214) officialized John's defeat, and John died two years later.

The second House of Anjou

According to the testament of king of France Louis VIII, Charles, brother of Louis IX (Saint Louis) was granted Anjou as his apanage. Charles I d'Anjou founded the second house of Anjou. He was count of Anjou, Maine and Provence (1246-1285), King of Sicily (1266-1282), King of Naples (1282-1285) after having been expelled from Sicily following the Sicilian Vespers, King of Albania (1272) and King of Jerusalem (1277). The apanage was later transfered from the Capetians to the Valois. When Philippe VI de Valois, son of Charles de Valois, himself brother of king of France Philippe le Bel, was crowned king of France in 1326, Anjou was incorporated to the royal domain.

The third House of Anjou

In 1356, king Jean II le Bon reestablished the apanage on Anjou, as a duchy, for his son Louis, who founded the third house of Anjou. Jean was defeated in Poitiers by the Black Prince and sent to London as an hostage. In 1360, he came back to France but two of his sons, including Louis, went to London as hostages. Louis escaped and king Jean had to come back to London, where he died in 1364.
The third house of Anjou extincted with René I (1409-1480), known as le Bon Roi René (the Good King René). René was one of the most educated princes of his times: he could speak French, Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Catalan and Italian, composed and played music, and wrote poems. René was also interested in mathematics, geology, and jurisprudence. He organized popular festivals, promoted traditional chevalry and was fond of gardening: he is said to have introduced the carnation, the rose of Provins and the Muscat grapes in his states. René was also king of Sicily (nominally), duke of Lorraine and count of Provence. At the end of his life, he understood he would not be able to resist King of France Louis XI, who wanted to reincorporate Anjou to his domain, and retired in Aix-en-Provence, where he died in 1480.

Ivan Sache, 14 December 2002

Description of the flag of Anjou

The banner of arms of Anjou is:

d'azur aux trois fleurs de lys d'or, à la bordure cousue de gueules (GASO)

In English:

Azure, three fleurs de lis or a bordure gules (Brian Timms)

The second and third houses of Anjou (1246-1480) bore from 1270 a semy of fleurs-de-lys (France ancient) with a bordure gules as the mark of cadency. These are the arms called Anjou ancient. When Louis XI reincorporated Anjou to France in 1480, the arms of Anjou kept the mark of cadency but three fleur-de-lys replaced the semy (Anjou modern), since king of France Charles V had in the meantime made a similar change to the arms of France (France modern).

The flag of Anjou is common in the department of Maine-et-Loire, which corresponds more or less to the province of Anjou in 1789 (then much smaller than the county of Anjou in the XIIth century). It is flown for instance in front of the city hall of Angers, along with the flags of France, European Union and Angers, and over the castle of Angers during summer season.

There is a city of Anjou, now part of Montreal in the province of Quebec (Canada). The municipal flag of Anjou bears a shield based on the arms of Anjou ancient.

Ivan Sache, 14 December 2002