Book of Hours: Images of the Life of Christ and the Saints
This manuscript, a book of hours from the late 13th century, is comprised of 87 full-page illuminations illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the lives of saints. The book is a Cistercian church calendar in Latin. The other text to be found in the work is a short caption under each image. When it was first created, the codex included 90 illuminations. A masterpiece of gothic illumination, the manuscript shows how important religious images were for the devotions of its owner. This most likely was a wealthy lay woman, probably Marie de Rethel, lady of Enghien (circa 1231−1315), who lived in Mons, in the county of Hainaut and diocese of Cambrai. Another possible owner could have been Marie of Gavre, a Cistercian from Wauthier-Braine near Nivelles, also in the diocese of Cambrai. The paintings are by two artists: Master Henri and an anonymous painter who was, however, more involved in the work and who painted the most beautiful illustrations. The style of the illuminations shows influences from the artistic traditions of France, England, and the Holy Roman Empire. The presence of local saints such as Gertrude of Nivelles (626−59), Waudru (died circa 688), Lambert, and others links the manuscript to the diocese of Cambrai.
Consort Duchess of Brittany. Daughter of Louis I, Count of Nevers and Joan, Countess of Rethel, and the sister of Louis I, Count of Flanders, she married John of Monfort in March 1329. John of Monfort claimed the title of Duke of Brittany. He went to Paris to be heard by King Philip VI of France. who imprisoned him, despite having given him a promise of safe conduct. Joanna then announced her infant son as the leader of the Montfortist faction. She mustered an army and captured Redon. From there she went to Hennebont, to prepare it for a siege. Charles of Blois duly arrived in 1342 and besieged the town. She then sent Amaury de Clisson to ask King Edward III of England for aid. This, Edward was eager to give, since he had been claiming the French crown for himself, and was therefore at odds with Philip. If he could get Brittany as an ally, this would be of great advantage for future campaigns. He prepared ships under the command of Sir Walter Manny to relieve the siege. In the siege of Hennebont, she took up arms and, dressed in armour, conducted the defence of the town, encouraging the people to fight, and urging the women to “cut their skirts and take their safety in their own hands.” When she looked from a tower and saw that the enemy camp was almost unguarded, she led three hundred men on a charge, burned down Charles’ supplies and destroyed his tents. After this she became known as “Jeanne la Flamme.” When the Blois faction realised what was happening, they cut off her retreat to the town, but she and her knights rode to Brest, drawing a portion of the Blois force with them. Having secured Brest, she gathered together extra supporters and secretly returned to Hennebont, evading the Blois forces and re-entering the town with her reinforcements. Joanna sailed to England to seek further reinforcements from King Edward, which he provided, but the English fleet was intercepted on its way to Brittany by Charles of Blois’ ally, Louis of Spain. In a hard-fought battle, the sailors and knights grappled in hand-to-hand combat as Louis’ men attempted to board Joanna’s ship. According to Froissart, Joanna fought in person “with the heart of a lion, and in her hand she wielded a sharp glaive, wherewith she fought fiercely.” When her husband died in 1345 in the midst of the war, she again became the leader of the Montfort party to protect the rights of her son John V against the House of Blois. In 1347, English forces acting on her behalf captured Charles of Blois in battle. She lived long enough to have experienced the final victory of her son John V, Duke of Brittany over the House of Blois in 1364, but she never returned to the duchy. The last mention made of the duchess and her guardian is 14 February 1374. It seems she died that year.
Constance of Hauteville was the sole heiress of the Norman kings of Sicily. She was Queen of Sicily from 1194 to 98, first jointly with her husband, Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, from 1194 to 1197, and later with her infant son Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. As the wife of Henry she also bore the title of Empress Consort of the Holy Roman Empire from 1186 to 1197.
Constance was the posthumous daughter of King Roger II of Sicily by his third wife Beatrice of Rethel and was born on 2 November 1154 in Palermo. Constance was not betrothed until she was 30, which is unusual for a princess whose marriage was an important dynastic bargaining chip. This later gave rise to stories that she had become a nun and required papal dispensation to forsake her vows and marry (this version is also supported by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Canto III, lines 109-120).
The death of her younger nephew Henry of Capua in 1172 made Constance heiress presumptive to the Sicilian crown, after her elder nephew King William II, who did not marry until 1177, and whose marriage remained childless. Abulafia (1988) points out that William did not foresee the union of German and Sicilian crowns as a serious eventuality; his purpose was to consolidate an alliance, with an erstwhile enemy of Norman power in Italy. But it is unclear why he delayed so in finding a husband for his aunt.
Nevertheless, in 1184 Constance was betrothed to Henry of Hohenstaufen (the future Emperor Henry VI), and they were married two years later, on 27 January 1186.
The papacy, also an enemy of the emperors, would not want to see the kingdom of southern Italy (then one of the richest in Europe) in German hands, but Henry pressed Pope Celestine III to baptize and crown his son: the Pope put him off. Nor would the kingdom’s Norman nobles welcome a Hohenstaufen king. William made his nobles and the important men of his court promise to recognize Constance’s succession if he died without direct heirs. But after his unexpected death in 1189, his cousin (and Constance’s nephew) Tancred of Lecce seized the throne. Tancred was illegitimate, but he had the support of most of the great men of the kingdom.
Constance’s father-in-law died in 1190, and the following year Henry and Constance were crowned Emperor and Empress. Constance then accompanied her husband at the head of a substantial imperial army to forcefully take the throne from Tancred. The northern towns of the kingdom opened their gates to Henry, including the earliest Norman strongholds Capua and Aversa. Salerno, Roger II’s mainland capital, sent word ahead that Henry was welcome, and invited Constance to stay in her father’s old palace to escape the summer heat. Naples was the first time that Henry met resistance on the whole campaign, holding well into the southern summer, by which time much of the army had succumbed to malaria and disease and the imperial army was forced to withdraw from the kingdom altogether. Constance remained in Salerno with a small garrison, as a sign that Henry would soon return.
Once Henry had withdrawn with the bulk of the imperial army, the towns that had supposedly fallen to the Empire immediately declared their allegiance to Tancred, for the most part now fearing his retribution. The populace of Salerno saw an opportunity to win some favour with Tancred, and delivered Constance to him in Messina, an important prize given that Henry had every intention of returning. However, Tancred was willing to give up his negotiation advantage, that is, the Empress, in return for Pope Celestine III legitimising him as King of Sicily. In turn, the Pope was hoping that by securing Constance’s safe passage back to Rome, Henry would be better disposed towards the papacy and he was still hoping to keep the Empire and the Kingdom from uniting. However, imperial soldiers were able to intervene before Constance made it to Rome, and they returned her safely across the Alps, ensuring that in the end, both the papacy and the kingdom failed to score any real advantage in having the Empress in their custody.
Henry was already preparing to invade Sicily a second time when Tancred died in 1194. Later that year he moved south, entered Palermo unopposed, deposed Tancred’s young son William III, and had himself crowned instead.
While Henry moved quickly south with his army, a pregnant Constance followed at a slower pace. On 26 December, the day after Henry’s crowning at Palermo, she gave birth to a son, Frederick (the future Emperor and king of Sicily Frederick II) in the small town of Iesi, near Ancona. Constance was 40, and she knew that many would question whether the child was really hers. Thus she had the baby in a pavilion tent in the market square of the town, and invited the town matrons to witness the birth. A few days later she returned to the town square and publicly breast-fed the infant (as you can read in Giovanni Villani’s chronicle).
Henry died in 1197. The following year Constance had the three-year-old Frederick crowned King of Sicily, and in his name dissolved the ties her late husband had created between the government of Sicily and of the Empire. She adopted very different policies from those of her late consort. She surrounded herself with local advisors and excluded the ambitious Markward von Anweiler from a position of power and attempted to restrict him to his fief in Molise. She made no mention of any claims to the German kingship and empire when her son was anointed and crowned at Palermo, May 1198; Constance made warm overtures to the new pope Innocent III, abandoning the long-contended principle that the king was the apostolic legate, a central principle of Norman autonomy in the regno. Faced with the dangers that surrounded any child-king, Constance placed Frederick under the protection of Pope Innocent III. She expected him to be raised as a Sicilian, and to be nothing more than King of Sicily, without distracting claims to Germany or even to the title “King of the Romans” to which her brother-in-law Philip of Swabia was acclaimed by the Roman nobles. That he became much more than that could not be predicted when she died in late November 1198. In her will she made Innocent, who was the child’s feudal suzerain, his guardian, a reminder to all of the inviolability of his inheritance.
Frederick II became one of the most powerful and significant monarch of the European Middle Ages. During his life he became King of Sicily, King of the Romans, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy and King of Jerusalem. Frederick was also an avid patron of science and the arts: he played a major role in promoting literature through the Sicilian School of poetry.
The French airship Alsace shot down on October 3, 1915, near Rethel. The crew survived unharmed and were taken prisoner. Airships were not just used for aerial reconnaissance, but also for the bombardment of civilian and military targets.