Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Nantes, was born in Rouen on the 1st of June 1134. He was second of the three sons of Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou and Empress Matilda. Also known as Geoffrey of Anjou and Geoffrey FitzEmpress, he was Count of Nantes from 1156 to 1158.
Geoffrey’s father, Geoffrey V of Anjou called the Handsome, gave him in possession several castles at Chinon, Loudun, Mirebeau, and Montsoreau. According to his father’s will, his second son would become Count of Anjou and of Maine provided that his elder son Henry ascended the English throne. According to some sources, the body of the deceased Count Geffrey remained unburied until Henry consented with the terms of their father’s will. This story was reported in some local chronicle, but Geoffrey could have invented it – I think the latter is true.
It is interesting that Geoffrey of Anjou attempted to abduct Eleanor of Aquitaine in March 1152. Most likely, his plan was to marry Eleanor by force after her abduction in order to receive her lands, thus becoming Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou. At the time, Eleanor traveled from Beaugency, where her first marriage to King Louis VII of France had been annulled, to Poitiers, where she had spent much of her childhood. Having been forewarned about Geoffrey’s intentions in advance, Eleanor successfully avoided his trap and returned to Poitiers.
This episode from Geoffrey’s life proves his greed and ambitions. After his elder brother’s marriage to the woman who he had lost, Geoffrey must have been intensely angry and jealous, for Henry obtained the wealthiest heiress on the continent and added vast lands to his domains. The age difference between each of the brothers and Eleanor did not matter to them – her wealth did.
The news of Henry’s matrimony with Eleanor spread across Europe like wildfire. The King of France was furious, for he would never have consented to his former wife’s matrimonial union with Henry Plantagenet. In June 1154, an exasperated Geoffrey established an alliance with King Louis and the French monarch’s brother Count Robert I of Dreux, as well as Count Henry I of Champagne and the Count Theobald V of Blois. It was the alliance against his own brother Henry, whom Geoffrey was going to betray in such a vile way. They agreed that if they had succeeded, the conspirators would divide the lands of Henry and Eleanor amongst themselves.
In the attempt to retaliate for Eleanor’s marriage to Henry, King Louis VII of France ordered the French troops to attack Normandy in late 1153. At the same time, the Count of Blois invaded Touraine, which Henry considered his possession. For some reason, Geoffrey and the others were taken prisoner, and Theobald demanded that Henry destroy the fortress of Chaumount-sur-Loire to have them released. Even in this situation, Henry helped his treacherous brother regain his freedom! The plans of the five conspirators were derailed by the triumph of Henry’s army.
To watch over Geoffrey, he accompanied Henry and Eleanor to England in December 1154 when King Stephen died. Nevertheless, after Geoffrey was back on the continent, he continued stirring up trouble for his brother, who was now the King of England. Upon his return to Anjou, Henry besieged Geoffrey’s castles of Chinon, Mirebeau, Loudun, and Montsorea, and his brother soon capitulated. Henry’s behavior towards Geoffrey displayed brotherly affection, which was undeserved because of Geoffrey’s treachery. After his surrender, Geoffrey received from Henry an annuity of £1500 for his two castles. Moreover, when a little bit later the populace of Nantes demanded that their count is replaced, Henry suggested that Geoffrey should continue being the leader of Nantes, which was quite a noble act despite all of his brother’s misdeeds.
Fate intervened: the County of Nantes was later seized by Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, who was forced to cede it to Henry. Unexpectedly, Geoffrey of Anjou died in 1158 in Nantes. Then Conan endeavored to reclaim Nantes, but Henry defeated him and annexed the land for himself.
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Text © 2020 Olivia Longueville