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Marie of France, Countess of Champagne

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Marie of France
Seal of Marie of France
Countess consort of Champagne
Tenure1164 – 17 March 1181
Kingdom of France
Died11 March 1198(1198-03-11) (aged 52–53)
County of Champagne
SpouseHenry I, Count of Champagne
IssueHenry II, Count of Champagne
Marie, Latin Empress
Theobald III, Count of Champagne
Scholastique, Countess of Mâcon
FatherLouis VII of France
MotherEleanor of Aquitaine

Marie of France (1145 – 11 March 1198) was a Capetian princess who became Countess of Champagne by her marriage to Henry I of Champagne. She served as regent of the County of Champagne three times: during Henry I's absence from 1179-1181; during the minority of their son Henry II from 1181–1187; and during Henry II's absence from 1190-1197. The daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France, she was the sister of Alice of France and the half-sister of: William IX, Henry the Young King, Richard I, Geoffrey of Brittany, Matilda of England, Eleanor of England, Joan of England, John of England; Margaret of France, Alys of France, Agnes of France, Philip II of France; and the stepdaughter of Henry II of England, and Constance of Castile, and Adela of Champagne.

Early life[edit]

Marie's birth was hailed as a "miracle" by Bernard of Clairvaux, [1] an answer to his prayer to bless the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII. [2] Marie was just 2 years old when her parents joined the Second Crusade to the Holy Land. With the birth of her sister Alice in 1150 instead of the desperately needed son and heir the couple hoped for, the marriage broke down and was annulled on 21 March 1152; Marie was 7 and Alice was not yet 2. [3] Custody of the girls was awarded to their father as they were at that time the only heirs to the French throne. Eleanor quickly moved on, marrying Henry, Duke of Normandy, on 18 May. Louis married Constance of Castile in 1154. Just 5 weeks after Constance died while giving birth to their second child and daughter, he married Adele of Champagne on 13 November 1160, who gave birth to Philippe in 1165.


In 1153, Marie was betrothed to Henry of Champagne by her father Louis.[4] These betrothals were arranged based on the intervention of Bernard of Clairvaux, as reported in the contemporary chronicle of Radulfus Niger. After her betrothal, Marie was sent to live with the Viscountess Elizabeth of Mareuil-sy-Aÿ and then to the abbey of Avenay in Champagne for her Latin-based education. In 1159, Marie married Henry I, Count of Champagne.[a][6]


Marie became regent for Champagne when her husband Henry I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 1179 until 1181. While her husband was away, Marie's father died and her half-brother, Philip Augustus, became king of France. He confiscated his mother's dower lands and married Isabelle of Hainaut, who was previously betrothed to Marie's eldest son. This prompted Marie to join a party of disgruntled nobles—including the queen mother Adela of Champagne and the archbishop of Reims—in plotting unsuccessfully against Philip. Eventually, relations between Marie and her royal brother improved. Marie's husband died soon after his return from the Holy Land in 1181, leaving her again as regent for their young son Henry.

Marie, who had retired to the nunnery of Château de Fontaines-les-Nonnes near Meaux (1187–1190), served again as regent for Champagne as her son Henry II joined the Third Crusade from 1190 to 1197. He remained in the Levant, marrying Queen Isabella I of Jerusalem in 1192. Over the course of her regencies, Champagne was transformed from a patchwork of territories into a significant principality.[3]

Literary patronage[edit]

medieval illumination of sitting woman
Marie pictured as patroness in a medieval manuscript

Marie was a patron of literature and her court became a sphere of influence on authors and poets[7] such as Andreas Capellanus, who served in her court and referred to her several times in his writing, Chrétien de Troyes, who credits her with the idea for his Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart, the troubadours Bertran de Born and Bernart de Ventadorn, Gautier d'Arras and Conon de Bétune.[8]

Being literate in both French and Latin, she amassed and maintained her own extensive library.[3] Marie's half-brother King Richard, mentions her in a stanza from his celebrated poem J'a nuns hons pris, lamenting his captivity in Austria, was addressed to her.[9]


Marie died on 11 March 1198, not long after hearing the news of her son's death.[3] She was buried in Meaux Cathedral.

On 25 June 1562, rioting Huguenots devastated many edifices, including the Cathedral of Meaux; it was on this occasion that the tomb of Marie of Champagne, located in the choir, was destroyed.[b]


Marie and her husband Henri I of Champagne had:

Genealogical table[edit]

Selective genealogy of Countess Marie[11]
Henry II of EnglandEleanor of AquitaineLouis VII of FranceAdelaHenryRobert I of DreuxPeter I of Courtenay
Henry the Young KingRichard I of EnglandGeoffrey II of BrittanyHenry I of ChampagneMarie of FranceAliceMargaretPhilip II of FrancePeter II of Courtenay
Henry II of ChampagneTheobald III of ChampagneMarieScholastique


  1. ^ An 1159 charter refers to Marie as Trecensis comitissa indicating the marriage had taken place. The marriage date of 1164 is from Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville based on "a late and unreliable document".[5]
  2. ^ McCash state Protestants during the reformation destroyed Marie's tomb. She gives no dates.[10]


  1. ^ Seaman 2003, p. 8.
  2. ^ Kelly 1991, p. 126.
  3. ^ a b c d Evergates 2018, p. ?.
  4. ^ McCash 1979, p. 707.
  5. ^ McCash 2008, p. 15.
  6. ^ McCash 1979, p. 705.
  7. ^ Benton 1961, p. 551.
  8. ^ McCash 1979, p. 700.
  9. ^ a b McCash 1979, p. 704.
  10. ^ McCash 1979, p. 699.
  11. ^ a b c d e Evergates 2018, p. 109.


  • Benton, John F. (1961). "The Court of Champagne as a Literary Center". Speculum. 36 (4): 551–591. doi:10.2307/2856785. ISSN 0038-7134. JSTOR 2856785. S2CID 161184362.
  • Evergates, Theodore (2018). Marie of France: Countess of Champagne, 1145-1198 (1st ed.). Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-8122-5077-0. OCLC 1033578543.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Kelly, Amy Ruth (1991). Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. Harvard University Press.
  • McCash, June Hall Martin (1979). "Marie de Champagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Relationship Reexamined". Speculum. 54.4 (Oct): 698–711.
  • McCash, June Hall (2008). "Chrétien's Patrons". In Grimbert, Joan Tasker; Lacy, Norris J. (eds.). A Companion to Chrétien de Troyes. Boydell & Brewer.
  • Seaman, Gerald (2003). Busby, Keith; Dalrymple, Roger (eds.). "Reassessing Chretien's Elusive Vanz". Arthurian Literature XX. D.S. Brewer.