Sweet Lands of Liberty
By D Fowler
Part 5 – Merry Go Round of Wives
Philip II of France changed wives like some people change their hats, some quip. There’s another joke that came about, that has King Philip, around this time, giving advice to young Arthur of Brittany before he left Paris. It goes like this:
Philip II’s wife had died in childbirth in 1190, just before the Crusade. Another wife came to him. Philip was explaining to Arthur, “Now, one thing about women, don’t ever tell them the outfit they are in makes them look fat.”
“No, Sir,” Arthur said in total innocence, “you should be polite. Tell her nothing could make her look fatter than she already is.”
Philip told his new queen just that, and she refused to have anything to do with him, and demanded an annulment.
The reality is that it was Philip who was repulsed by his new queen, for whatever reason, not the other way around. He tried to claim the marriage had never been properly consummated, and in the meantime, sent for a new queen, from Geneva.
Pietro II of Savoy had other ideas. He was leaning Waldensian himself, but strove to be peaceable with all people, if possible, just as they preached. He wanted to help the Church. If Philip had consummated a marriage, then unless there was some scandalous reason Philip couldn’t have married her, Philip couldn’t marry the woman from Geneva who was coming through. So, he hijacked her carriage, and he married her instead.
Arthur was witness to this, and thought it was really weird. “Isn’t there a better way for people to marry? Perhaps then, the French king would not have been repulsed by his wife. Then, he would not be so unhappy,” the boy king told his mother. “And then, the princess from Geneva would have known who she was marrying.” The question was one of uncertainty, not right and wrong, borne by the incredible uncertainty in Arthur’s life. Uncertainty would be a problem Arthur would try to fight his entire life, because of the constant fleeing and hiding.
“Well, the Church allowed it, and what God has allowed, we should not let man put asunder,” his mother replied.
“But, Waldo says that the Pope is not God,” Arthur replied.
That was true. His mother was unsure what to say, so she simply told him that when he was king, he would hopefully be very wise and able to understand these things.
“And, I am to marry one of Tancred’s daughters?” She said he was. “What if I do not like her?” He wondered aloud.
“It was in the treaty. He has several daughters; you will like one of them.”
Arthur wasn’t so sure. “Do I have to marry her to be king?”
His mother wasn’t sure what to say. As regent, she actually felt “no” was her best option – what if there was someone more important politically for him to marry? She just told him not to worry, as they would discuss it later. However, he kept pondering.
While Arthur, his mother, and his sister, Eleanor were stuck in the Savoyard castle – one which would never be captured, because of its location – except for excursions nearby, Philip’s marital problems came to a head. He’d found a third wife, while merely shaking his fist a little toward Savoy; he didn’t want to anger them too much, as they were protecting his interests by protecting Arthur. Indeed, by siding with the Church in opposing Philip, Pietro II of Savoy was earning favor back with them.
Phlip married the third woman, but then the Pope declared that Philip II’s first marriage was consummated properly, and that he must stick with that wife.
Philip was upset at Rome, which helped him to continue supporting Savoy, as well.
The Holy Roman Emperor, meanwhile, had finally raised enough money by 1196. It was done in a number of ways. Some often joked that Henry VI was so desperate to raise money, he would hold lotteries where the numbers could be anywhere from one to one billion. John, meanwhile, continued taxing his people; with similar jokes being made about him.
Henry VI attacked Messina in the middle 1190s, and captured it. Then, in 1197, he moved toward Sicily. While they were fighting, he came down with malaria, and died.
Tancred was spared, for now; he was still the King of Sicily. But, there were two rival claimants to the throne of Holy Roman Emperor. Otto was supported by the Pope and by John. Philip was supported by Philip II of France. Then, at the end of 1197, the Pope died, succeeded in January, 1198 by Innocent III. A man who quickly decided he would declare war on heresy.
Philip II recognized that – with the new Pope – he would be expected to attack heretics; definitely the Cathars, and maybe Savoy, too. He decided that, though Arthur was still in his minority, this was the best time to attack England. He didn’t want to attack either, but would do nothing to stop the Crusade against the Cathars, at least. As for Savoy, just in case, Philip felt this was the best time to get Arthur to England.
He asked the Count of Savoy to send troops, as well, and tried to get support from Scotland and Wales, too. The barons were already somewhat unhappy with John’s reign, and would welcome Arthur.
Savoyard help in this matter would place them firmly in the Robin Hood legends, too, though with a change in the title of nobility, to Dukes instead of Counts. And, the principality name would be changed to Hazzard - a fitting name considering how crazy things had gotten, and would get, in Europe.
In later spring of 1198, Philip II’s assistance and manpower allowed Arthur to land in England. Residents of London opened the gates of London, and in Runnymede Meadow, King John was defeated, on June 15. Arthur was crowned Arthur II that day. His first order of business would be to learn English. As for John, he fled to Aquitaine with his mother; he would attempt an attack on England in 1202, and die in a losing battle, as the people wildly supported Arthur. His mother, then, became Queen of Aquitaine for several years, before it passed to Philip II upon her death. Arthur II would sin on the throne of England past the year 1250.
Meanwhile, another Philip had become Holy Roman Emperor, and wanted Sicily.
Part 6 – Alliances and Treaties, 1201
With Arthur still in his minority, he was still reigning as King of England. He recognized that the people of Brittany hadn’t wanted to be annexed to the English crown – so he gave John the title. However, John launched an invasion of England instead, which was put down quickly. John died in the process.
With John, Duke of Brittany gone, Arthur reached an agreement with the King of France. He appointed his sister, Eleanor, Duchess of Brittany; Philip’s son, Louis, married her right away, though he was still in his early teen years, she in her middle teens. The arrangement let Brittany come into union with France. Arthur was praised for his negotiating; it was felt (correctly) that this would be an era of peace for England. However, there would be problems in some areas.
Marriage was one of them. A lack of funds, then Henry VI’s death, had left the island of Sicily itself and some of the mainland under Tancrend’s control. However, in 1201, with the new Holy Roman Emperor seated firmly on the throne, he asked the Venetians to help him take the island, too. He recognized that he still didn’t have the funds to do it himself, or necessarily the manpower. However, he could provide Venice with some funds,a nd once Venice succeeded, they could have unlimited trading rights and a colony on the island itself, govern a prince who would then be loyal to the HRE.
Venice agreed to this, and in 1201, HRE forces attacked with the Venetian fleet. Tancred and one of his children were killed in the fighting, while the other daughters were placed in convents. The HRE sent word to Arthur that he would have to purchase hre release to fulfill the treaty to marry her.
Arthur, however, didn’t like this. There was too much uncertainty; much like that around him when he was younger. On Christmas Day, 1201, he sent word annulling the treaty, but also began to search the Scriptures, as he’d seen the Waldensians do so much while stuck in Savoy. He dislike this intense politics, and wondered what could be done about it. What was the right way to live, anyway?
Was it possible to have freedom, and liberty, in this life? The Waldensians had spoken of the freedom of conscience, and of religion. What about freedom of choice? True, his sister Eleanor of Brittany had been married late in 1200 to the future Louis VIII, when he was 13 and she 16. However, arranged marriages were very common in those days, and they seemed to like each other. It was more common to have a younger wife, but she hadn’t had a chance for much education, being on the run with him and – at some points – watching over him while his mother made sure they were protected.
Arthur knew that he needed a new wife. Therefore, he sent emissaries to Scotland and Wales – he informed his mother that he wished closer ties with these nations. She greatly approved of this.
From friendly treaties, to the more conniving kind, we have the Byzantines. One of their emperors, Isaac II Angelos, had been blinded and imprisoned, deposed by Alexios III Angelos, who was spending with incredible lavishness. Isaac’s son, Alexios, wanted his throne; for his father as much as for himself. He escaped with Pisan help, but found little help in Middle or Western Europe; Innocent III was more worried about the heresy in the West, and the Holy Lands were in Christian hands once more.
Next, Isaac’s son went to the Bulgars. He promised a very favorable peace, and marriage that could wind up leading to a Bulgar dynasty someday, if they would assist him in claiming the throne. He would have to wait until they were able to seize Adrianople, but he promised that, with his help, it wouldn’t be too hard.
However, the Bulgars knew Isaac II had fought them hard just a few short years ago. They were suspicious from the start. In 1203, the Bulgars assembled a large force. They sent scouts with isaac’s son to see the reaction before they laid siege to Adrianople. They found that the people were very indifferent; they didn’t mind having Alexios III as emperor. Alexios IV was quickly killed; the Bulgars thought it was a trick. While it’s doubtful that they would have succeeded even with Isaac’s son, without him they failed. Alexios would keep spending on lavish palaces, until his death. A death sparked by rioting, mayhem, a civil war, again, the usual thing in Byzantine history of this time. Things which would end with a familiar name returning to the throne.