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Marie of France, Countess of Champagne : biography

1145 - March 11, 1198

Marie of France, Countess of Champagne (1145 – March 11, 1198) was the elder daughter of Louis VII of France and his first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine.


Marie's parents' marriage was annulled in 1152, and custody of Marie and her sister, Alix, was awarded to their father, King Louis. Their mother, Eleanor, married Henry, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, later King Henry II of England. In 1160, when her father, King Louis, married Adele of Champagne, he betrothed Marie and Alix to Adele's brothers. After her betrothal, Marie was sent to the abbey of Avenay in Champagne for her education.

In 1164, Marie married Henry I, Count of Champagne. They had four children:

  • Henry II of Champagne (1166–1197)
  • Marie of Champagne (died 1204), married Baldwin I of Constantinople
  • Theobald III of Champagne (1179–1201)
  • Scholastique of Champagne (died 1219), married William IV of Macon

Marie was left as Regent for Champagne when 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, became king. 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 Queen Adele and the archbishop of Reims -- in plotting against Philip. Eventually, relations between Marie and her royal brother improved. Her husband died soon after his return from the Holy Land. Now a widow with four young children, Marie considered marrying Philip of Flanders, but the engagement was broken off suddenly for unknown reasons.

After Henry I's death in 1181, Marie acted as regent until 1187 when her son, Henry, came of age. However, Henry II also went on Crusade and so Marie was regent from 1190 to Henry's death in 1197. She retired to the nunnery of Fontaines-les-Nones near Meaux, and died there in 1198.

Marie is remembered today mainly for her role in the heresy that was the target of the Albigensian Crusade. She was also a patron of literature, including Andreas Capellanus, who served in her court, and Chrétien de Troyes. She was literate in French and Latin and maintained her own library. A deep affection existed between Marie and her half-brother Richard I of England, and his celebrated poem J'a nuns hons pris, lamenting his captivity in Austria, was dedicated to her.


Marie's younger sister was Alix of France.

She was an older paternal half-sister to Marguerite of France, Alys, Countess of the Vexin, Philip II of France and Agnes of France. She was also an older maternal half-sister to William IX, Count of Poitiers, Henry the Young King, Matilda, Duchess of Saxony, Richard I of England, Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, Leonora of England, Joan of England and John of England.



  • Wheeler, Bonnie. Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, 2002
  • Evergates, Theodore. Aristocratic Women in Medieval France, 1999

Category:1145 births Category:1198 deaths Category:French princesses Category:Female regents Category:Women of medieval France Category:House of Capet Category:Patrons of literature Category:Countesses of Champagne

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