Henry the Blind

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Henry the Blind (c. 1113 – 14 August 1196; French Henri l'Aveugle, Dutch Hendrik de Blinde), sometimes called Henry IV of Luxembourg,[1] was his father's heir as count of Namur from 1136 until his death, and heir of his mother's family as count of Luxembourg from 1139 until his abdication in 1189. He also inherited the smaller lordships of Longwy, La Roche-en-Ardenne and Durbuy.

Henry IV, Count of Luxembourg
Henry IV, Count of Luxembourg.png
Bornc. 1113
Died(1196-08-14)14 August 1196
Noble familyHouse of Namur
Spouse(s)Laurette of Alsace
Agnes of Guelders
IssueErmesinde, Countess of Luxembourg
FatherGodfrey I, Count of Namur
MotherErmesinde of Luxembourg

Henry is an important figure in the history of the southern Netherlands and the modern countries of Belgium and Luxembourg. He was especially important to the history of the county of Namur, where he was the last member of the first line of counts, and the most powerful of them. His important inheritances were divided again after his death, bringing Namur and Luxembourg to different families. His daughter, born late in life kept Luxembourg and the smaller Ardennes lordships, while descendants of his sister Alice, counts of Flanders and Hainaut, possessed Namur.

Henry lost the use of this eyes in 1182, but was not referred to as "the blind" until much later. Modern historians use that byname in order to distinguish him from a later count Henry of Namur, Henry I, Count of Vianden.[2]


Henry was the second known son of Count Godfrey I of Namur and Ermesinde, a daughter of Count Conrad I of Luxembourg, about 1113.[3] He first appears in the written record in the foundation charter for the abbey of Floreffe in 1121. His elder brother Albert died young, about 1127, leaving Henry as next in line, and he subsequently started being associated with the government of the county of Namur from 1131.[3] In 1136 Henry was active in his father's conflict against Count Godfrey I of Louvain, which followed after the death of Anselm, the abbot of Gembloux.[4]

Also in 1136, Conrad II of Luxembourg, a relative of his mother, died. The allodial lands were divided between Henry and his maternal aunt's husband, Henry of Grandpré. Henry of Namur was eventually granted the feudal lordship and advocacies by the Emperor Lothair II, who thus prevented its passing to the French count of Grandpré. He therefore held the advocacies of the abbeys of Saint-Maximin at Trier and Saint-Willibrord at Echternach. After the death of his father in 1139, Henry inherited Namur.[4]

From the 10th to 12th centuries, the counts of Namur had lost power due to the expansionary policy of the neighbouring prince-bishops of Liège, and the uncertainty of comital rights versus those of the emperor. The counts had however successfully accumulated control of some territories in the Ardennes region, which may have been a deliberate policy. The marriage of Henry's parents, whereby his father acquired the succession rights to the county of Luxembourg, has been described as a completion of this family project.[5]

Under Henry's lordship, Luxembourg was joined by several smaller Ardennes possessions which the family had acquired earlier. By 1151, Henry had inherited the lordship of Durbuy from his cousin Henry II of Durbuy. By early 1153 he had inherited the lordship of La Roche-en-Ardenne from another cousin on his father's side, Henry II of La Roche. Together with the lordship over La Roche came the advocacy of the abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy.[4] It has been proposed that Durbuy had come to Henry's grandfather, Albert III of Namur, from his mother's father, Duke Gozelon; and La Roche and the advocacy of Stavelot were part of inheritance of Duke Frederic, ancestor of the dukes of Limburg, which appears to have been split off from the main inheritance and granted to his widow Ida, the mother of Henry's father.[6][5] Longwy was a personal possession of Henry's mother Ermensinde, who died 1141.[7]

In 1141, after a battle in 1140 at Fosses-la-Ville, a possession of the bishop near Namur, Henry made peace with Adalbero II "de Chiny" Bishop of Liège (died 1145), and helped lead his successful military expedition to take Bouillon under the secular control of the bishopric. Despite the improved relationship with the bishop of Liège, in 1142, Henry and the Duke of Brabant supported Otto II, Count of Duras, in his dispute with the bishop and the citizens of Sint-Truiden.[5]

In 1147, Henry gave up the advocacy Saint-Maximin, but he regained it on the death of Albero of Montreuil, archbishop of Trier, in 1152. The new archbishop of Trier, Hillin of Falmagne, exchanged the rights over the abbeys with the town of Grevenmacher in 1155.

Although Félix Rousseau proposed that Henry would have married an earlier wife when he came of age around 1131, there is no record of this. Between 1152 and 1159 he married Laurette (d.1175), daughter of Count Thierry of Flanders and Margaret of Clermont.[8][9] They separated in 1163. Left without child, he designated his brother-in-law Count Baldwin IV of Hainault, husband of his sister Alice of Namur, as his heir. When Baldwin died in 1171, he designated Baldwin's son Baldwin V. Baldwin V and Henry carried out two wars, in 1170 and 1172, with Duke Henry III of Limburg.

In 1171, Henry married a second time, this time to Agnes, daughter of Henry I, Count of Guelders and Agnes of Arnstein.[8] Heirless still, he repudiated her in 1184, but fell seriously ill and rejoined her. In September 1186, a girl, Ermesinde, was born to them.[8] This birth called into question the plan of succession, as Henry considered his promise to Baldwin null and void. Henry, then 76 years old, pledged his daughter in marriage to Henry II of Champagne.[8] Baldwin still claimed his inheritance. It was then decided that Baldwin would inherit Namur, Ermesinde would inherit Durbuy and La Roche, and Luxembourg (fief masculin) would revert to the Empire.

The fiefs were dispensed in 1189. After the planned marriage between Ermesinde and the count of Champagne was cancelled, Henry betrothed her instead to Theobald I of Bar. He entered into a war with Henry of Limburg and was defeated on 1 August 1194 at Noville-sur-Mehaigne. He died two years later in Echternach.

Dynastic connectionsEdit

Selected relations of Henry and his daughter
Duke of Lower Lotharingia
"House of Ardenne"Count Sigfried
Albert II, Count of NamurRegelindeCount Frederic
Henry I of DurbuyAlbert III,
Count of Namur
Duke of Lower Lotharingia
Gilbert, Count of Luxembourg
Male line endedAncestor of Dukes of Limbourg, Counts of Arlon
Henry I of La RocheConrad, Count of Luxembourg
Male line endedGodefrid, Count of NamurErmensinde of LuxembourgMale line ended
Henry the BlindAlice
Theobald I, Count of BarErmensinde IIWaleran III, Duke of Limburg,
Count of Arlon
Cunigunda of LorraineBaldwin
Count of Hainaut, Flanders and Namur
House of Luxembourg
Counts of Luxembourg and Arlon
Dukes of LimbourgLords of Hainaut, Flanders and Namur


  1. ^ Parisse, Michel (1981), "Généalogie de la Maison d'Ardenne", La maison d'Ardenne Xe-Xie siècles. Actes des Journées Lotharingiennes, 24 – 26 oct. 1980
  2. ^ Rousseau 1921, ch.1 footnote 16.
  3. ^ a b Rousseau 1921, ch.1 footnote 17.
  4. ^ a b c Rousseau 1921, ch.1.
  5. ^ a b c Rousseau 1921, ch.2.
  6. ^ Margue 2011.
  7. ^ Rousseau 1921, ch.1 footnote 35.
  8. ^ a b c d Gilbert de Mons 2005, p. xx.
  9. ^ Rousseau 1921, ch.1 footnote 21.


Henry the Blind
 Died: 14 August 1196
Preceded by Count of Luxembourg
Succeeded by
Preceded by Count of Namur
Succeeded by
Baldwin I as Margrave