Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou

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Geoffrey Plantagenet
Enamel effigy from Geoffrey's tomb at Le Mans. His decorated shield suggests early origins of the three lions of the Royal Arms of England.
Count of Anjou
Reign1129 – 7 September 1151
PredecessorFulk the Younger
SuccessorHenry II
Duke of Normandy
SuccessorHenry II
Consort of the English monarch
Tenure8 April 1141 – 1148
Born24 August 1113
Died7 September 1151(1151-09-07) (aged 38)
Château-du-Loir, France
(m. 1128)
HouseAnjou-Châteaudun (by birth)
Plantagenet (founder)
FatherFulk, King of Jerusalem
MotherEremburga, Countess of Maine

Geoffrey V (24 August 1113 – 7 September 1151), called the Handsome, the Fair (French: le Bel) or Plantagenet, was the Count of Anjou, Touraine and Maine by inheritance from 1129, and also Duke of Normandy by his marriage claim, and conquest, from 1144.

Geoffrey's marriage to Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England and Duke of Normandy, led through their son, Henry II, to the 300-year long reign of the Plantagenet dynasty in England. Although it was never his family name or last name, "Plantagenet" was taken for the dynasty from Geoffrey's epithet, long after his death. Geoffrey was 'of Anjou', his ancestral domain of Anjou in north central France gives rise to the name Angevin, and what modern historians name as the Angevin Empire in the 12th century.

Early life[edit]

Geoffrey was the elder son of Fulk V of Anjou and Ermengarde of Maine. The chronicler John of Marmoutier described Geoffrey as handsome, red haired, jovial, and a great warrior.[1] King Henry I of England, having heard reports on Geoffrey's talents and prowess, sent legates to Anjou to negotiate a marriage between his 25-year-old daughter Matilda and Geoffrey. Consent was obtained from both parties, and on 10 June 1128 the fifteen-year-old Geoffrey was knighted in Rouen by King Henry, in preparation for the wedding. Geoffrey of Anjou, perhaps received the nickname (much later used for the royal dynasty that resulted from this marriage) from the yellow sprig of broom blossom (genêt is the French name for the planta genista, or broom shrub) he wore in his hat.[2]: 9 [3]: 1 [4]


Geoffrey and Matilda's marriage took place in 1128. The marriage was meant to seal a lasting peace between England, Normandy and Anjou. She was eleven years older than Geoffrey, and very proud of her status as dowager empress (as opposed to being a mere countess), and which she kept for the remainder of her life. Their marriage was a stormy but happy one with frequent long separations; they had three sons Henry, Geoffrey and William.[2]: 14–18 

Count of Anjou[edit]

The year after the marriage, Geoffrey's father, Fulk left on crusade for Jerusalem (where he was to later become king), leaving Geoffrey behind as count of Anjou.

When his father in law, King Henry I of England, died in 1135, Geoffrey supported Matilda in entering Normandy to claim her inheritance. The border districts submitted to her, but England chose her first cousin Stephen of Blois for its king, and Normandy soon followed suit. The following year, Geoffrey gave Ambrieres, Gorron, and Chatilon-sur-Colmont to Juhel de Mayenne, on condition that he help obtain the inheritance of Geoffrey's wife.[5]

In 1139, Matilda landed in England with 140 knights, where she was besieged at Arundel Castle by King Stephen. In the Anarchy which ensued, Stephen was captured at Lincoln in February 1141, and imprisoned at Bristol.[6] A legatine council of the English church held at Winchester in April 1141 declared Stephen deposed and proclaimed Matilda "Lady of the English".[6]

A map of Normandy in 1142
Geoffrey of Anjou's invasion of Normandy, 1142–43

During 1142 and 1143, Geoffrey secured all of Normandy west and south of the Seine, and, on 14 January 1144, he crossed the Seine and entered Rouen. He assumed the title of Duke of Normandy in the summer of 1144. In 1144, he founded an Augustine priory at Château-l'Hermitage in Anjou.[7] Geoffrey held the duchy until 1149, when he and Matilda conjointly ceded it to their son, Henry, which cession was formally ratified by King Louis VII of France the following year.[8]

Geoffrey also put down three baronial rebellions in Anjou, in 1129, 1135 and 1145–1151.[9] He was often at odds with his younger brother, Elias, whom he had imprisoned until Elias died in 1151. The threat of rebellion slowed his progress in Normandy, and is one reason he could never intervene in England. Geoffrey died later the same year, aged 38, and Henry took his father's place as head of the ducal house. In 1153, the Treaty of Wallingford stipulated that Stephen should remain King of England for life and that Henry, the son of Geoffrey and Matilda should succeed him, beginning the Plantagenet era in English history.[10]


North West France 1150

Geoffrey died suddenly on 7 September 1151. According to John of Marmoutier, Geoffrey was returning from a royal council when he was stricken with fever. He arrived at Château-du-Loir, collapsed on a couch, made bequests of gifts and charities, and died. His wife and sons outlived him. He was buried at St Julien's Cathedral in Le Mans, France, and his son Henry succeeded him to by then a substantial part of France.[10]


Geoffrey and Matilda's children were:

  1. Henry II, King of England (1133–1189)
  2. Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (1134–1158)
  3. William, Viscount of Dieppe (1136–1164)

Geoffrey also had illegitimate children by an unknown mistress (or mistresses): Hamelin who married Isabel de Warenne, 4th Countess of Surrey; Emma, who married Dafydd Ab Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales; and Mary, who became a nun and Abbess of Shaftesbury and who may be the poet Marie de France.

Early heraldry[edit]

An enamel effigy (funerary plaque) commissioned by his widow to decorate the tomb of Geoffrey of Anjou is one of the earliest examples of European heraldry. Jean de Marmentier, a late-12th-century chronicler, reported that in 1128 Henry I of England knighted his son-in-law Geoffrey and granted him a badge of gold lions.[11] A gold lion may already have been Henry's own badge, and different lion motifs would later be used by many of his descendants. The enamel shows Geoffrey with a blue shield depicting gold lions, apparently the same motif later used by a grandson of Geoffrey, William Longespee.[12] In addition to being one of the first authentic representations of a coat of arms,[13] according to British historian Jim Bradbury it "suggests possible evidence for the early use of what became the English royal arms".[14]



  1. ^ Norgate, Kate (1887). England Under the Angevin Kings. General Books LLC. pp. 261–262. ISBN 978-1421259840.
  2. ^ a b Costain, Thomas B (1962). The Conquering Family. New York: Popular Library.
  3. ^ Jones, Dan (2013). The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. Viking. ISBN 9780670026654.
  4. ^ J. Bernard Burke The Heraldic Register, p. 65, at Google Books
  5. ^ Bradbury, Jim. 1990. "Geoffrey V of Anjou, Count and Knight", in The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood III, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Ruth Harvey. Rochester: Boydell Press.
  6. ^ a b King, Edmund (2008). King Stephen's Reign. London: Woodbridge. pp. 58–79.
  7. ^ Dutton, Kathryn (2014). The Haskins Society Journal. London: Boydell. pp. 125–154.
  8. ^ Warren, W.L. (1977). Henry II. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0520034945.
  9. ^ Halphen, L (ed.); Poupardin, R (ed.); Marmoutier, John of (1913). Chroniques des comtes. Paris. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ a b Haskins, Charles H. 1912. "Normandy Under Geoffrey Plantagenet", The English Historical Review, volume 27 (July): 417–444.
  11. ^ Woodcock, Thomas and John Martin Robinson (1988), The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Oxford University Press, pg 10.
  12. ^ Ailes, Adrian (1982). The Origins of The Royal Arms of England. Reading: Graduate Center for Medieval Studies, University of Reading. pp. 52–53.
  13. ^ Gage, John (1999), Color and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction, pg ??.
  14. ^ Bradbury, Jim (2004), The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 273
Geoffrey Plantagenet
Born: 24 August 1113 Died: 7 September 1151
Preceded by Count of Maine
Succeeded by
Preceded by Count of Anjou
Preceded by Count of Mortain
Preceded by Duke of Normandy