The Medieval Review 11.03.05

Evergates, Theodore. The Cartulary of Countess Blanche of Champagne. Medieval Academy Books, 112. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2010. Pp. 493. $95 ISBN 978-1-4426-3995-9. .

Reviewed by:

Kathryn Salzer
Pennsylvania State University
kes30@psu.edu

The Cartulary of Countess Blanche of Champagne is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of edited medieval cartularies. This particular cartulary is intriguing and unusual in that it is not dedicated to the preservation of charters recording the consolidation of lands, which is the focus of so many monastic cartularies. Rather this collection provides testament to political consolidation; it offers explicit evidence of the political struggles of Countess Blanche as ruler of her county and regent for her son. The countess' political efforts are representative of the actions of many of her contemporaries, yet a medieval collection documenting such political efforts is rare indeed.

The information offered in these documents helps to expand our knowledge of this medieval county, which was pivotal to both the political and economic developments of Europe during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In his short introduction, Prof. Evergates adds to the history of this county that he has studied so well. One of the most interesting aspects of his introduction is his explanation of how Countess Blanche managed to maintain, and even enhance, power for herself and her son, citing such examples as her use of the title "countess palatine" (4) and the familial images used in the iconography of the metalwork on the tomb created for her husband (6). Prof. Evergates offers a number of helpful tables, which categorize the documents of the cartulary. These are useful in understanding the documents as a unified collection, though an enlargement of Table 2 into a modern Table of Contents of the cartulary would complement the indices provided by the author (and discussed below). Such a modern Table of Contents might be redundant, but would allow for another way to research specific historical subjects.

This edition is wonderfully rich and convenient to use, not least because Prof. Evergates has provided textual notes and indices. The textual notes, for example, indicate instances within the cartulary where documents relate to each other. The notes of document 154 (160-1), in which Simon of Joinville confirms the liege homage he has made to Countess Blanche, refer the reader to two other documents, numbers 155 and 347, which also relate to this act of homage. The two very thorough indices, an Index rerum and an Index Nominum, allow the reader to quickly determine, for instance, which documents refer to alodial land (seven instances), how many times Guillaume of Perche appears in the documents (twenty-two times as bishop of Châlons, and once as a canon and provost of Chalautre and Sandoye), and the gifts (four written separately and two implied) which the countess makes in 1214 from the profits of her new, three-wheeled mill.

The Index Nominum specifically allows readers to follow individual and familial involvement in the political life of the county, as the documents involve many of the county's knightly and noble families, as well as bishops from within the county and the larger region. The cartulary is especially useful in the number of documents that it includes with reference to the civil war between Countess Blanche and her son, Thibaut IV, on the one hand, and Erard and Philippa of Brienne on the other. Their respective struggles to forge alliances and to keep, or gain, control of the county are documented throughout the cartulary. The documents record Countess Blanche's efforts, for instance, to create political alliances with certain families, her attempt to control problematic individuals, such as the Joinville brothers, and her continuous efforts to involve King Philip II's active interest--in her favor--in the county. The cartulary records the constant communication with the French royal house and contains thirty-four documents directly involving King Philip II, and three each involving Philip's father, King Louis VII, and Philip's son, King Louis VIII.

Two fundamental historical subjects for which this cartulary offers much evidence are the fairs which defined the county in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and the topic of homage--simple and liege--which is an integral part of recent historiographical discussions on medieval power. The documents regarding the fairs of Champagne in this edition are a nice complement to those that Prof. Evergates has translated elsewhere (cf. Feudal Society in Medieval France. Documents from the County of Champagne, U Penn Press, 1993). The fairs, as described in the documents of this edition, are mature, even aging, and are used not merely as sources of income, but as ways to create power and to maintain authority. In document 239 from 1219, for instance, Countess Blanche uses revenues from the fairs at Bar-sur-Aube to strengthen the support she receives from Ponce of Mont-Saint-Jean against Erard and Philippa of Brienne and against Queen Alix of Cyprus and her heirs (223-4).

Many documents in this cartulary show Countess Blanche, like many of her contemporaries, strengthening her political position through the use of homage. The documents involving her own and her son's homage to King Philip II have already been noted. While these are significant documents, they are outweighed, in one sense, by the many more documents recording the countess' successful efforts to renew or establish her control as lord over others who owed her homage. Multiple individual examples of homage and liege homage given to the countess or her son are included in the cartulary, such as the case of Simon of Joinville noted above. Remarkably, there are also four quires--numbers eight, nine, twelve and thirteen--which begin with the medieval note "de homagiis nobis factis" (238). The documents, I would argue, show that her success at demanding, and receiving homage, was an essential weapon during the civil war.

Prof. Evergates' editing practices are extremely sound. In cases where they are extant, for instance, he correctly uses as the basis of the edition the original charter or letter (27). Prof. Evergates offers a good history of the codex after 1489 when it is known to have been in the Chambres des Comptes in Paris (20). However, the life of the cartulary before 1489 is less clear, and more information on the cartulary's earlier history, if known, would be helpful. The use of "nostris" in the lines introducing the quires on homage noted above, for instance, offers an allusion to possession of the cartulary either by the countess or her son. And finally, more information on the actual size of the text and the color(s) of ink used would expand the codicological discussion, which already includes the interesting use of tabs which attempted to break the codex into sections (20). This request for additional information, however, is minor with reference to the edition as a whole. Prof. Evergates has once again provided medieval scholars and their students with interesting and important sources on this intriguing and rather important medieval county.