Constance of France, Princess of Antioch
Constance of France (1078 – 14 September 1125) was the daughter of King Philip I of France and Bertha of Holland. She was a member of the House of Capet and was Countess of Troyes from her first marriage and Princess of Antioch from her second marriage. She was regent during the minority of her son.
Nuptial of Bohemond and Constance
|Princess consort of Antioch|
|Countess consort of Troyes|
|Tenure||1093/95 – 1104|
|Died||14 September 1126 (aged 47–48)|
|Spouse||Hugh I, Count of Troyes|
Bohemond I of Antioch
|Issue||Manasses of Troyes|
Bohemond II of Antioch
John of Antioch
|Father||Philip I of France|
|Mother||Bertha of Holland|
Her mother was repudiated by her father for Bertrade de Montfort. It caused the displeasure of the church and an interdict was placed on France several times as a result. Constance was the eldest of five children and was the only daughter of her father from his first marriage. Constance's brother was Louis VI of France.
Between 1093 and 1095, Phillip I arranged for his daughter, Constance, to marry Hugh, Count of Troyes and Champagne. Philip hoped to influence Hugh's family, the powerful House of Blois, and offset the opposition of Count Fulk IV of Anjou after he had kidnapped Fulk's wife, Bertrade. But the union between Constance and Hugh was too late to achieve the desired result. Hugh's half-brother, Stephen II, Count of Blois, holder of most counties of the House of Blois was married. Stephen had married Adela of Normandy, daughter of William I of England, and their marriage had produced children.
After ten years and without any surviving issue (their only known son, Manasses, died young in 1102), Constance demanded an annulment of their marriage, for unknown reasons. Constance obtained a divorce at Soissons on 25 December 1104, under grounds of consanguinity.
Constance went to the court of Adela, wife of Stephen. She was acting as regent since Stephen was killed in the Holy Land. Adela was well educated and all seemed to be well at the Court. It appeared that Adela used all her power to help Constance get a divorce from Hugh, who later left to fight in the Holy Land.
At the same time, Bohemond I of Antioch was just released by the Turks. He returned to Europe to obtain relief for the Crusaders in the Holy Land. The regency of the Principality of Antioch was assured by Bohemond's nephew Tancred, Prince of Galilee. Bohemond now needed a wife. He impressed audiences across France with gifts of relics from the Holy Land and tales of heroism while fighting the Saracens, gathering a large army in the process. Henry I of England famously prevented him from landing on English shores, so great was his influence expected to be on the English nobility. His new-found status won him the hand of Constance. Of this marriage wrote Abbot Suger:
Bohemond came to France to seek by any means he could gain the hand of the Lord Louis' sister Constance, a young lady of excellent breeding, elegant appearance and beautiful face. So great was the reputation for valour of the French kingdom and of the Lord Louis that even the Saracens were terrified by the prospect of that marriage. She was not engaged since she had broken off her agreement to wed Hugh, count of Troyes, and wished to avoid another unsuitable match. The prince of Antioch was experienced and rich both in gifts and promises; he fully deserved the marriage, which was celebrated with great pomp by the bishop of Chartres in the presence of the king, the Lord Louis, and many archbishops, bishops and noblemen of the realm.
The marriage was celebrated in the cathedral of Chartres between 25 March and 26 May 1106, and the festivities were held at the court of Adela, who also took part in negotiations. The groom took the opportunity to encourage the nobility to fight in the Holy Land, and also negotiated for a marriage between Bohemond's nephew Tancred, Prince of Galilee and Constance's half-sister Cecile of France.
Pleased by his success, Bohemond resolved to use his army of 34,000 men, not to defend Antioch against the Greeks, but to attack Alexios I Komnenos. He did so; but Alexius, aided by the Venetians, proved too strong, and Bohemond had to submit to a humiliating peace, (the Treaty of Devol in 1108).
After her marriage, Constance accompanied her husband to Apulia, where she gave birth to their first son, Bohemond, future Prince of Antioch, between 1107 and 1108. A second son, John, was also born in Apulia between 1108 and 1111, but died in early infancy, ca. 1115-1120. Bohemond became the vassal of Alexius, consented to receive his pay, with the title of sebastos, and promised to cede disputed territories and to admit a Greek patriarch into Antioch. Henceforth Bohemond was a broken man. He died without returning to the East, and was buried at Canosa in Apulia, in 1111.
Constance acted as regent on behalf of her son  and took the title of Queen as a daughter of the King of France, but she was imprisoned by Grimoald Alferanites, who proclaimed himself Lord of Bari. Constance was released in 1120 on the intervention of King Roger II of Sicily and the Pope, but in exchange for her release, Constance had to give up the regency over her son.
She died on 14 September 1125, and Bohemond II then went to take over his principality of Antioch.
|Ancestors of Constance of France, Princess of Antioch|
- Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West, (Cambridge University Press, 2002), 39 note 16.
- Nicholas L. Paul, To Follow in Their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages, (Cornell University Press, 2012), 38.
- Ivo of Chartes, Epistolæ, in Migne, J. P. (ed.) Patrologiæ cursus completes, serie Latina CLXII, pp. 163-4 ep. 158, cited in Chibnall, Vol. VI, p. 70 footnote 5.
- Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, Vol. II, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 48.
- The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 4, C.1024-c.1198, Part II, ed. David Luscombe and Jonathan Riley-Smith, (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 760.
- Suger, Vita Ludovici Grossi Regis, vol. IX, p. 31.
- Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West, 31.
- Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West, 36.