Henry II, Count of Champagne

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Henry II of Champagne (or Henry I of Jerusalem) (29 July 1166 – 10 September 1197) was count of Champagne from 1181 to 1197, and King of Jerusalem from 1192 to 1197, although he never used the title of king.

Early Life and Family[edit]

Henry was the eldest son of Count Henry I of Champagne and Marie of France, a daughter of King Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine. His aunt Adèle of Champagne was Queen of France.

In 1171, Henry was betrothed to Isabella of Hainault.[1] When she married Philip II of France instead, his father, aunt and other members of his family were angered. It temporarily made Queen Mother Adèle's faction hostile to Isabella's family and so caused tension at the French court.[2]

Henry's father died in 1181, and his mother ruled as regent until 1187.

Crusade[edit]

In 1190 Henry left for the East, after having his barons swear to recognize his younger brother Theobald as his successor should he fail to return. He joined the Third Crusade, arriving ahead of his uncles, King Philip II of France and King Richard I of England. Initially, he was one of the leaders of the French contingent at the siege of Acre before Philip's arrival. He is said to have been a member of the group involved in the abduction of Queen Isabella I of Jerusalem, to get her to consent to a divorce from Humphrey IV of Toron so that she could be married to Conrad of Montferrat. Henry was related to Conrad through both his maternal grandparents. According to Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad, he was wounded at Acre on 15 November.

Later on in the campaign, Henry shifted his allegiances to Richard. In April 1192, King Richard sent Henry as his representative from Acre to Tyre, to inform Conrad of Montferrat of his election as King of Jerusalem. Henry then returned to Acre. A few days later, Conrad was murdered by two Hashshashin. Henry came back to Tyre two days later, ostensibly to help organise Conrad's coronation, but found that a funeral was being prepared instead. He was immediately betrothed to the newly widowed—and pregnant—Queen Isabella I of Jerusalem. They were married just eight days after Conrad's death.

The marriage was glossed romantically by some of the chroniclers: that Isabella was so taken with Henry's physical attractions (he was 20 years younger than Conrad) that she asked him to marry her. Since she was already known to be pregnant with Conrad's child (Maria of Montferrat), the marriage was considered scandalous by some, but it was politically vital for her to acquire another husband to defend the kingdom. However, some consultation with the Haute Cour might have been expected. The couple went on to have two daughters, Alice and Philippa.

Henry asked for permission from his uncle Richard, who gave it promptly: however, since Richard was suspected of Conrad's murder, this raises further questions about the whole episode. Indeed, Henry, who was known to the Arabs as "al-kond Herri", later sought an alliance with the Hashshashin, and was invited to visit their fortress stronghold, al-Kahf. To demonstrate his authority, the grand master of the Hashshashin beckoned to two adherents, who immediately flung themselves from the ramparts to their deaths. The Hashshashin then offered to commit a murder for Henry, as an honour to their guest. Henry demurred, concluded the treaty, and departed. Patrick A. Williams has suggested Henry himself as a suspect in Conrad's murder, although it would have been a risky undertaking without his uncle's support.

Henry died in 1197, falling from a first-floor window at his palace in Acre. There are varying accounts in different manuscripts of the Old French Continuation of William of Tyre, also known as The Chronicle of Ernoul. The majority suggest that a window-lattice or balcony gave way as he leaned against it. A servant, possibly a dwarf named Scarlet, also fell, after trying to save him by catching hold of his hanging sleeve, but he weighed too little to pull the king (who was tall and strongly built) back. Another version suggests that Henry had been watching a parade from the window, when a party of Pisan envoys entered the room. Turning to greet them, he stepped backwards and overbalanced. Whatever the exact circumstances, Henry was killed outright; the servant, who suffered a fractured femur, raised the alarm, but later died of his injury. Some accounts suggest that Henry might have survived if his servant had not landed on top of him.

Legacy[edit]

His widow Queen Isabella remarried soon after his death. Her fourth (and last) husband was Amalric of Lusignan, king of Cyprus. Henry's heir-general was his eldest daughter Alice who was soon married to her stepbrother King Hugh I of Cyprus and whose heirs represent the senior line of Counts of Champagne.

Henry left behind several difficulties for Champagne. He had borrowed a great deal of money to finance his expedition to Jerusalem, and for his marriage; and the succession to the county of Champagne would later be contested by his daughters. In 1213, supporters of his nephew Theobald IV of Champagne alleged to a papal legate that the annulment of Isabella's marriage to Humphrey of Toron (who was still alive during her marriage to Henry) was invalid, and therefore the girls were illegitimate. However, this was questionable: the legitimacy of Isabella's daughter by Conrad, Maria, and the right of her descendants to the throne of Jerusalem was never challenged, and if Maria was legitimate, so too were Isabella's daughters by Henry. Theobald eventually had to buy off both Alice and Philippa at considerable cost.

Fictional representations[edit]

Henry has generally been treated favorably in novels about the Third Crusade. However, in Alan Gordon's The Widow of Jerusalem (2003), he is one of the chief villains. This treatment may be influenced by Patrick A. Williams's article, listed below.

Henri is a major character in the new book Lionheart by historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman about the life and times of Richard I. He also appears in her novel Devil's Brood.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nolan. p. 79.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Nolan. p. 81.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Sources[edit]

  • Morgan, M. R. The Chronicle of Ernoul and the Continuations of William of Tyre,1973
  • Nolan, Kathleen D. Capetian Women, 2003.
  • Payne, Robert. The Dream and the Tomb, 1984
  • Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades, vol. 3, 1954
  • Wheeler, Bonnie. Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, 2002
  • Williams, Patrick A. "The Assassination of Conrad of Montferrat: Another Suspect?", Traditio, vol. XXVI, 1970.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Isabella I
as sole ruler
King of Jerusalem
1192–1197
with Isabella I
Succeeded by
Isabella I
as sole ruler
Preceded by
Henry I
Count of Champagne
1181–1197
Succeeded by
Theobald III