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Anjou (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of Anjou - Image by Pierre Gay, 14 December 2002

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History of Anjou

The first House of Anjou

Anjou was originally known as the pagus andecavis, named after the Gaul tribe of Andecaves. At the end of the 9th century, Charles the Bald, King of Francia occidentalis and the Duke of Brittany expelled the Vikings from Anjou. Charles appointed Robert the Strong, the root of the Capetian house, to protect the area against potential invaders.
In the same period, the royal power faded away and feudal states emerged all over France. Fulk I the Red founded in 898 the first house of Anjou, bearing the hereditary title of Count of Anjou. Fulk II confiscated Maine to the witless King of France Louis IV. Geoffrey I Grisegonelle (Greymantle) accepted the homage of the Count of Nantes. The counts of Anjou made use of the rivalry between the Robertians and the last Carolingians to preserve their independence and increase their power. Accordingly, the county of Anjou was in the 11th-12th centuries a very powerful state.

Count of Anjou Fulk III Nerra (987-1040) was one of the most brilliant lords of that time. A fiercy and greedy warrior, not to say a criminal, who always attempted to increase his state, he received Saintonge as a fief from the Duke of Aquitaine, and seized the towns of Blois, Châteaudun, Langeais, Saumur, Vendôme and Tours, being only expelled from the latter town by King of France Robert the Pious.
Anjou's main competitor was the County of Blois, which depended on the powerful County of Champagne but was almost totally annexated by Anjou. Fulk III also had a few periods of repentance, during which he funded several churches and abbeys and went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Fulk III's son, Geoffrey II Martel (The Hammer, Count in 1040-1060) conquered Maine and Touraine but died without a male heir.
His two nephews fought for the succession: the apathetic Fulk IV le Réchin defeated Geoffrey III but lost Saintonge, Maine and Gâtinais. In 1092, King of France Philip I seduced, abducted and married Geoffrey's wife, Bertrade de Montfort. Pope Urban II refused to cancel Philippe's first marriage with Queen Berthe and excommunicated him. The king's excommunication was lifted by the Council of Beaugency in 1104, four years only before the king's death.
Fulk V the Younger (Count in 1109-1131) put the county on its feet again by making use of the French-English rivalry. He reincorporated Maine by marriage in 1109. In 1128, he married his son Geoffrey V le Bel (The Handsome) with Mathilde, daughter of King of England Henry I Beauclerc and widow of German Emperor Henry V. In 1129, Fulk married Mélisende, daughter and heir of King of Jerusalem Baldwin II, and founded there a new Anjou dynasty.

The Plantagenet Empire

Geoffrey V (Count in 1131-1151) was nicknamed Plantagenet because he wore a hat decorated with a branch of broom (genest at that time, genêt in modern French). On his wife's behalf, Geoffrei revendicated the throne of England and annexated the Duchy of Normandy in 1144.
In 1152, Henry Plantagenet, son of Geoffrey V and Mathilde, married Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had just divorced from King of France Louis VII. The count's domain, which already included Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Normandy, incorporated Poitou, Périgord, Limousin, Angoumois, Saintonge and Gascogne. Suzereignty was granted over Auvergne and the County of Toulouse. In 1153, Henri forced Stephen of Blois, King of England, to recognize him as his successor. Henry II was crowned King of England in 1154. He then ruled the so-called Angevin Empire and was much more powerful than the Capetian King of France. However, the Capetians eventually expelled the Plantagenets by making use of the complex feudal laws, the familial troubles inside the Plantagenet dynasty, and the local aspirations of the provinces included by force in the Plantagenet Empire.

Henry II's son and successor Richard Lionheart was killed in Châlus in 1199. He was succeeded by his treacherous and scheming brother John Lackland. John abducted Isabelle of Angoulême, betrothed to the Count of Marche, and married her in Chinon on 30 August 1200. The barons of Poitou complained and John was summoned to the Royal Court in Paris. Since John had refused to come to Paris, King of France Philip II Augustus confiscated all his French possessions, a confiscation achieved with the seizure Chinon in 1205. In 1213, John set up an English-German coalition, which was defeated in 1214 in La Roche-aux-Moines, near Angers. The Treaty of Chinon (18 September 1214) officialized John's defeat, and John died two years later.

The second House of Anjou

According to the testament of King of France Louis VIII, Charles, brother of Louis IX (St. Louis) was granted Anjou as his apanage; with the title of Charles I of Anjou. Founder of the second house of Anjou. Charles was Count of Anjou, Maine and Provence (1246-1285), King of Sicily (1266-1282), King of Naples (1282-1285) after having been expelled from Sicily following the Sicilian Vespers, King of Albania (1272) and King of Jerusalem (1277). The apanage was later transfered from the Capetians to the Valois. When Philippe VI of Valois, son of Charles of Valois, himself brother of King of France Philippe IV the Fair, was crowned King of France in 1326, Anjou was incorporated to the royal domain.

The third House of Anjou

In 1356, King John II the Good reestablished the apanage on Anjou, as a Duchy, for his son Louis, who founded the third house of Anjou. Defeated in Poitiers by the Black Prince and sent to London as an hostage, John came back to Franc in 1360 but two of his sons, including Louis, went to London as hostages. Louis escaped and John had to come back to London, where he died in 1364.
The third house of Anjou extincted with René I (1409-1480), known as Good King René. One of the most educated princes of his times, René could speak French, Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Catalan and Italian, composed and played music, and wrote poems. He was also interested in mathematics, geology, and jurisprudence. René organized popular festivals, promoted traditional chivalry and was fond of gardening: he is said to have introduced the carnation, the rose of Provins and the Muscat grapes in his states. René was also King of Sicily (nominally), Duke of Lorraine and Count of Provence. At the end of his life, he understood he would not be able to resist King of France Louis XI, who wanted to reincorporate Anjou to his domain, and retired in Aix-en-Provence, where he died in 1480.

Ivan Sache, 14 December 2002

Flag of Anjou

The flag of Anjou is a banner of the arms D'azur aux trois fleurs de lis d'or, à la bordure cousue de gueules (Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or a border gules).

The second and third houses of Anjou (1246-1480) bore from 1270 onwards the arms known as Anjou ancient, a semy of fleurs-de-lis (France ancient) with a border gules as the mark of cadency.
When Louis XI reincorporated Anjou to France in 1480, the arms of Anjou, known as Anjou moderns, kept only three fleurs-de-lis; King of France Charles V had in the meantime made a similar change to the arms of France (France modern).

In his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941), Jacques Meurgey gives the arms of Anjou as D'azur semé de fleurs de lis d'or à la bordure de gueules, as the arms of the Dukes-Peers of Anjou. He adds that Anjou bore under the Plantagenet's rule De gueules à deux léopards d'or (Gules two leopards or) and under the Counts-Peers of the Valois branch Semé de France au lambel de trois pendants de gueules (Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or a label gules).
Meurgey does not mention at all the arms of Anjou modern, which were eventually retained for the flag.

The flag of Anjou is commonly used in the Department of Maine-et-Loire, which matches more or less to the Province of Anjou as of 1789, then much smaller than the County of Anjou in the 12th century. It is flown for instance in front of the town hall of Angers, along with the flags of France, European Union and Angers, and over the castle of Angers during summer season.

The municipal flag of Anjou, a town part of Montreal (Province of Québec, Canada), is charged with a shield based on the arms of Anjou ancient.

Ivan Sache, 14 December 2002