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The Ancestry of Margaret of Anjou and the College Coat-of-Arms

The Ancestry of Margaret of Anjou and the College Coat-of-Arms

 

The Ancestry of Margaret of Anjou and the College Coat-of-ArmsIn discussing the ancestry of our second Queen, Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV), in the 2001 issue of The Record, it was at least possible to introduce an element of romance. Elizabeth was the product of an impeccably royal mother and a rather unimportant commoner father. Their marriage scandalised the Court and the nation, though it seems they were quickly forgiven.

 

The antecedents of our first Queen, Margaret of Anjou (wife of Henry VI), were, on the other hand, uniformly, almost boringly, royal and aristocratic. In investigating her ancestry, however, there is at least the added interest of discovering why the College's coat-of-arms is so complicated. The arms are, of course, those of Margaret, inherited from her father 'King' Renй I, Duke of Anjou, with the added green border ('border vert') granted to the College by Clarencieux King-of-Arms in 1575.

 

It is perhaps worth rehearsing the provenance of the six sections of the Coat-of-Arms. Top left are the red and silver stripes ('barry of eight pieces of silver and gules') of the Kingdom of Hungary. Then, top centre, we have the gold fleur-de-lys on a blue background with a red 3-pronged 'label' across the top - it was corrected to red in the mid eighteenth century from white as can be seen in old glass in the Old SCR - ('azure sown with fleur-de-lys gold a label of three gules') denoting a junior branch of the French royal house, in this configuration the arms of the Kingdom of Naples. Top right there is a gold Jerusalem cross with little crosses in each quarter on a silver background ('silver a cross potent between four similar crosslets gold') which are the arms of the medieval Kingdom of Jerusalem. Bottom left we have another version of the French fleur-de-lys, this time with a red border, ('azure sown with fleur-de-lys gold a border gules') of the Duchy of Anjou - the border again being an heraldic device denoting a junior branch of the French royal family. In the centre of the lower row there are two gold-coloured fish and crosses of Lorraine on a blue background ('azure sown with crosses crosslet fitchy two barbels haurient back to back all gold'), the arms of the French Duchy of Bar in the Province of Lorraine. Finally on the bottom right there are three eagle-like birds on a diagonal red stripe across a gold background ('gold on a bend gules three alerions silver'), the badge of the Duchy of Lorraine itself.

 

Central to the understanding of this coat-of-arms is the fact that twice during the Middle Ages the title of Duke of Anjou was given to a younger son of the King of France. The French royal arms with the 3-pronged label belong to the first of these creations, to Charles Stephen (1226-1285), a younger son of Louis VIII and brother of Louis IX (St Louis). The similar arms with the red border belong to Louis I, Duke of Anjou (1339-1384), brother of Charles V and son of Jean II. The second Angevin house clearly felt it had some right to inherit the lands and titles (and coat-of arms) of the first Angevin house - there was a genealogical connection as a granddaughter of Charles Stephen married Charles I de Valois and was thus the mother of King Philippe VI of France and grandmother of Jean II (and so great-grandmother of Louis I of Anjou of the second creation), but the claim seems to have rested more on the fact they were French princes of the blood with the same title.

 

Margaret's father Renй (1409-1480) was the grandson of Louis I, Duke of Anjou of the second creation. He inherited the Duchy (a province of France centred on the city of Angers on the Loire) when his older brother Louis III of Anjou died in 1434. He also claimed the Duchy of Bar in right of his mother, Yolande (or Iolanthe) of Aragon (daughter of John I, King of Aragon in Spain and his wife Yolande, daughter of Robert, Duke of Bar). At the age of 9 he was married to Isabel of Lorraine who was the elder daughter and heiress of Charles II, Duke of Lorraine, and in due course he inherited that Duchy in right of his wife. Thus the bottom half of the coat-of-arms - Anjou, Bar, Lorraine - are easily explained. Renй also succeeded his father and brother as Count of Provence and it is really on the brilliance of his court at Aix-en-Provence that his fame rests - it is as well that Renй did not incorporate a device for Provence into his coat-of-arms as well!

 

Much of Renй's early life was overshadowed by the closing stages of the Hundred Years War (indeed his daughter Margaret's betrothal to Henry VI of England was part of the eventual peace settlement of that conflict). Both Lorraine and Bar were attached to the party of the powerful and effectively independent Duke Philip of Burgundy who controlled much of Eastern France and sided in the War with the English against his nominal liege, the King of France. Renй was, however, of course, a prince of the French royal family - his father was the first cousin of mad King Charles VI - moreover his sister was married to the Dauphin, Charles's heir. So, not surprisingly, when he was old enough to fight, he espoused the French royal cause and was present at the coronation of his brother-in-law Charles VII at Rheims in 1429. Shortly afterwards both Duke Louis of Bar and Duke Charles of Lorraine died and Renй inherited both titles, but the Burgundians supported a rival claimant to the Duchy of Lorraine (a descendant in the male line of the original family). Renй was defeated in battle and imprisoned in Dijon (the capital of Burgundy). Though Renй's right to the Duchy of Lorraine was confirmed by the Emperor Sigismund, Burgundian opposition ensured that he was only released from prison after several years and after paying a heavy ransom which was to cripple his finances for years to come. Peace with Burgundy ensued and Renй's son was married to Duke Philip's niece. Renй had to appoint regents for Bar and Lorraine (and never really ruled those territories himself) and then set off to claim another piece of his 'inheritance' (and coat-of-arms), the Kingdom of Naples.

 

To understand how Naples (and Hungary and Jerusalem) got to be part of Renй's arms, it is necessary to go back to his distant ancestor Charles Stephen, Duke of Anjou of the first creation, brother of St Louis. In the middle of the thirteenth century the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily with its capital at Palermo was ruled by the Hohenstaufen family in the person of King Manfred, the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The Kingdom was nominally subject to the Pope, but Manfred and Pope Innocent IV were at daggers drawn. Determined to crush the Hohenstaufen once and for all, the Pope offered the Kingdom of Naples to a succession of European princes (including Henry III of England) - all they had to do was come and get it. Charles Stephen agreed to take up the challenge. Thus in 1265, with the support of Pope Clement IV, he arrived in Italy and decisively defeated and killed first Manfred then the last of the legitimate Hohenstaufen line, the Emperor Conradin. Most of his possible rivals having been eliminated, he assumed the throne of Naples and Sicily (and his coat of arms - azure sown with fleur-de-lys gold a label of three gules - became synonymous with Naples). He moved the capital from Palermo to Naples, but, following the 'Sicilian Vespers' when most of the French on the island of Sicily were murdered, he soon lost Sicily to Manfred's son-in-law, King Peter of Aragon. Charles Stephen's descendants ruled Naples until the last of his line, his great-great-great-granddaughter Joanna II died in 1435.

 

Charles Stephen's son, Charles II of Naples and Anjou, married Mary, daughter and eventual heiress of King Stephen V of Hungary. Thus the arms of Hungary were added to those of Angevin Naples. The Kingdoms were split - Charles's eldest son Charles Martel became King of Hungary and a younger son Robert King of Naples (it was their sister Margaret who married Charles de Valois thus producing the tenuous genealogical link between the two houses of Anjou). When the male descendants of Charles Martel ran out with the death of Louis I of Hungary in 1382, one of the Naples branch of the family, Charles of Durazzo, did claim that Kingdom and briefly reigned until his murder in 1385, but eventually Hungary passed through Louis I's daughter to her husband the King of Bohemia and then entirely away from the Angevin family - nevertheless the red and silver stripes of the Kingdom of Hungary remained part of the coat-of-arms of the Kings of Naples.

 

That leaves us with Jerusalem - how did that Kingdom find its way into the Angevin coat-of-arms? Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders in 1099 and they established a Kingdom in the Holy Land under Baldwin of Boulogne. The title passed to his nephew and eventually (despite the loss of the city of Jerusalem to the Saracens in 1187) to Isabella II de Brienne. The title of King of Jerusalem was by then entirely titular as the Kingdom itself had ceased to exist, but through Isabella the title passed to her husband, the Emperor Frederick II and on to her grandson Conradin, the same young man who was also titular King of Naples and Sicily who was eliminated by Charles Stephen of Anjou. Charles Stephen seems to have felt that if he had wrested Naples from Manfred and Conradin by force then he was entitled to the latter's nominal Kingdom of Jerusalem as well (there were, of course, legitimate heirs, cousins of Isabella, who considered themselves Kings of Jerusalem and continued to use the title into the sixteenth century). In 1277, just to be sure, Charles Stephen 'purchased' a claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and thereafter impaled the arms of the Holy City on those of Naples.

 

By the fourteenth century, therefore, the arms of the Kings of Naples, descended from the Dukes of Anjou of the first creation, were the same as the top half of the present arms of Queens' College. In 1382, however, Queen Joanna I (a granddaughter of King Robert) who was childless despite four marriages, decided to disinherit her cousin and heir Charles of Durazzo and to 'adopt' Louis I of Anjou (Renй's grandfather), aiming to pass on her Kingdom to the new Angevin line. Charles was not amused and had her murdered, assuming the throne himself, but the precedent had been set - from thenceforth Louis of Anjou and his son and grandsons felt they had a legitimate claim to the Kingdom of Naples, styled themselves titular King and even adopted the Neapolitan Coat-of-Arms - so at last the six sections of Renй of Anjou's coat-of-arms come together.

 

The moment was approaching when Renй of Anjou could make his titular claim to be King of Naples a reality, but unfortunately when the moment actually arrived he was still in his Burgundian prison and in no position quickly to consolidate his windfall. The last of the Neapolitan Angevins, the descendants of Charles Stephen, the rather bad Queen Joanna II had no heirs. At first she determined to bequeath her Kingdom to Alphonso of Aragon (a distant descendant of King Manfred from whom her ancestor had grabbed the throne). She then repudiated him and decided to follow the example of her predecessor Joanna I 50 odd years earlier and leave the Kingdom to the second Angevin dynasty. Her designated heir, Renй's brother Louis promptly died, so the 'adoption' passed to Renй who became, de jure at least, King of Naples on Joanna's death in 1435. Still imprisoned in Dijon he was in no position to claim his inheritance, however. Meanwhile Alphonso of Aragon, who already held Sicily, started to make in-roads onto the mainland of the Kingdom of Naples. Renй did sail to Naples in 1438, but his reign was marked by battle after battle and slowly Alphonso gained the upper hand. Early in 1442 Renй had to abandon Naples, and, apart form one brief attempt to regain his throne in 1453-4, never returned to Italy. The fortunes of his house declined as he grew older and he turned to literary and artistic pursuits. He was an accomplished poet and painter, a famous patron of the arts and a holder of many tournaments. His Courts at Angers, Saumur and Aix became famous for the last great flowering of chivalry and its celebration in poetry and prose. He enjoyed excellent relations with Charles VII, but not with his nephew Louis XI who eventually seized both Anjou and Bar. Renй retired to Provence, leaving Lorraine to his daughter Yolande and her husband Ferry, who was himself of the old Lorraine male line, and through them to his only surviving grandchild, Renй II of Lorraine.

 

Thus the story of how Renй, Duke of Anjou and for a brief while King of Naples, and through him his daughter Margaret, Queen of England, and through her Queens' College, Cambridge, came to bear the arms of Hungary, Naples, Jerusalem, Anjou, Bar and Lorraine.

 

A few notes on Margaret's ancestry: her father Renй of Anjou's grandparents were Louis I, Duke of Anjou, second son of King Jean II of France and his wife Judith of Bohemia, Marie de Chatillon, a member of an important aristocratic French family and descended on her mother's side from the Dukes of Britanny, John I, King of Aragon, who through his mother was also descended from the Aragonese Kings of Sicily and thus, ironically, from the Hohenstaufen emperors, and Yolande, heiress of Bar. Margaret's mother was Isabel of Lorraine, daughter of Charles II, Duke of Lorraine, and his wife Margaret of the Rhine (the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Rupert III of the Rhine and through her mother descended from the Hohenzollern family, at that point in history Burgraves and Princes of Nurnberg). Charles' parents were John I, Duke of Lorraine, and Sophia, daughter of the Count of Wurttemberg.

 

Margaret's husband, Henry VI, was the grandson of Charles VI of France through his mother Catherine, and so both were great-great grandchildren of Jean II of France and therefore third cousins.

 

Margaret could trace her ancestry from most of the major families of medieval Western Europe, blue-blooded to the tips of her fingers. Yet her father by the time of her marriage was already impoverished, his attempt to win a kingdom already lost, his claim to vast territories, evinced by his elaborate coat-of-arms, already a sham, his hold on what territories remained entirely dependant on his cousin the King of France. She was a princess, but the daughter of a king without a kingdom or any real power.

 

King Renй's house did, however, have a future. His grandson, Renй II, Duke of Lorraine, was the progenitor of the great House of Lorraine which, with its cadet branch the House of Guise, had so great a role in the affairs of Europe and especially of France, over the next 250 years. Eventually one of Renй's descendants, Francis Stephen, Duke of Lorraine and Bar, who still retained all six of the elements in Renй I's famous coat-of-arms in his rather complex one, married the Empress Maria Theresa, the last of the Hapsburgs. Their descendants, the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, included all the last Holy Roman Emperors and the Emperors of Austria.

 

 

JONATHAN HOLMES

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