Marie of France, Countess of Champagne

Marie of France (1145 – 11 March 1198) was a French princess who became Countess of Champagne by marriage to Henry I, Count of Champagne. She was regent of the county of Champagne three times: during the absence of her spouse between 1179 and 1181; during the minority of her son Henry II, Count of Champagne in 1181–1187; and finally during the absence of her son between 1190 and 1197.

Marie of France
Marie Champagne.jpg
Seal of Marie of France
Countess consort of Champagne
Tenure1164 – 17 March 1181
Kingdom of France
Died11 March 1198(1198-03-11) (aged 52–53)
County of Champagne
SpouseHenry I, Count of Champagne
IssueHenry II, Count of Champagne
Marie, Latin Empress
Theobald III, Count of Champagne
Scholastique, Countess of Mâcon
FatherLouis VII of France
MotherEleanor of Aquitaine

Early lifeEdit

Marie's birth was hailed as a "miracle" by Bernard of Clairvaux,[1] an answer to his prayer to bless the marriage between her mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and her father, Louis VII.[2] She was just two years old when her parents led the Second Crusade to the Holy Land. Not long after their return in 1152, when Marie was seven, her parents' marriage was annulled.[3] Custody of Marie and her younger sister, Alix, was awarded to their father, since they were at that time the only heirs to the French throne. Both Louis and Eleanor remarried quickly; Eleanor married King Henry II and became Queen of England. Louis remarried first Constance of Castile (d. 1160) and then Adele of Champagne on 13 November 1160. Marie had numerous half-siblings on both her mother's and father's side, including the eventual kings Philip II of France and John and Richard I of England.


In 1153, Marie was betrothed to Henry of Champagne by her father Louis.[4] These betrothals were arranged based on the intervention of Bernard of Clairvaux, as reported in the contemporary chronicle of Radulfus Niger. After her betrothal, Marie was sent to live with the Viscountess Elizabeth of Mareuil-sy-Aÿ and then to the abbey of Avenay in Champagne for her Latin-based education. In 1159, Marie married Henry I, Count of Champagne.[a][6]


Marie became regent for Champagne when her husband 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 Augustus, became king of France. 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 the queen mother Adela of Champagne and the archbishop of Reims—in plotting unsuccessfully against Philip. Eventually, relations between Marie and her royal brother improved. Marie's husband died soon after his return from the Holy Land in 1181, leaving her again as regent for her young son Henry.

Marie, who had retired to the nunnery of Château de Fontaines-les-Nonnes near Meaux (1187–1190), served again as regent for Champagne as her son Henry II joined the Third Crusade from 1190 to 1197. He remained in the Levant, marrying Queen Isabella I of Jerusalem in 1192. Over the course of her regencies, Champagne was transformed from a patchwork of territories into a significant principality.[3]


Marie died on 11 March 1198, not long after hearing the tragic news of her son's death.[3] She was buried in Meaux Cathedral.

French religious warEdit

On 25 June 1562, rioting Huguenots devastated many edifices, including the Cathedral of Maux; it was on this occasion that the tomb of Marie de Champagne, located in the choir, was destroyed.[b]

Literary patronageEdit

Marie pictured as patroness in a medieval manuscript

Marie was a patron of literature and her court became a sphere of influence on authors and poets[8] such as Andreas Capellanus, who served in her court and referred to her several times in his writing, Chrétien de Troyes, who credits her with the idea for his Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart, the troubadours Bertran de Born and Bernart de Ventadorn, Gautier d'Arras and Conon de Bétune.[9]

Being literate in both French and Latin, she amassed and maintained her own extensive library.[3] Marie's half-brother King Richard, mentions her in a stanza from his celebrated poem J'a nuns hons pris, lamenting his captivity in Austria, was addressed to her.[10]


Marie and her husband Henri I of Champagne had:

Genealogical tableEdit

Selective genealogy of Countess Marie[11]
Henry II of EnglandEleanor of AquitaineLouis VII of FranceAdelaHenryRobert I of DreuxPeter I of Courtenay
Henry the Young KingRichard I of EnglandGeoffrey II of BrittanyHenry I of ChampagneMarie of FranceAliceMargaretPhilip II of FrancePeter II of Courtenay
Henry II of ChampagneTheobald III of ChampagneMarieScholastica


  1. ^ An 1159 charter refers to Marie as Trecensis comitissa indicating the marriage had taken place. The marriage date of 1164 is from Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville based on "a late and unreliable document".[5]
  2. ^ McCash state Protestants during the reformation destroyed Marie's tomb. She gives no dates[7]


  1. ^ Seaman 2003, p. 8.
  2. ^ Kelly 1991, p. 126.
  3. ^ a b c d Evergates 2018, p. ?.
  4. ^ McCash 1979, p. 707.
  5. ^ McCash 2008, p. 15.
  6. ^ McCash 1979, p. 705.
  7. ^ McCash 1979, p. 699.
  8. ^ Benton 1961, p. 551.
  9. ^ McCash 1979, p. 700.
  10. ^ a b McCash 1979, p. 704.
  11. ^ a b c d e Evergates 2018, p. 109.


  • Benton, John F. (1961). "The Court of Champagne as a Literary Center". Speculum. 36 (4): 551–591. doi:10.2307/2856785. ISSN 0038-7134. JSTOR 2856785. S2CID 161184362.
  • Evergates, Theodore (2018). Marie of France: Countess of Champagne, 1145-1198 (1st ed.). Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-8122-5077-0. OCLC 1033578543.
  • Kelly, Amy Ruth (1991). Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. Harvard University Press.
  • McCash, June Hall Martin (1979). "Marie de Champagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Relationship Reexamined". Speculum. 54.4 (Oct): 698–711.
  • McCash, June Hall (2008). "Chrétien's Patrons". In Grimbert, Joan Tasker; Lacy, Norris J. (eds.). A Companion to Chrétien de Troyes. Boydell & Brewer.
  • Seaman, Gerald (2003). Busby, Keith; Dalrymple, Roger (eds.). "Reassessing Chretien's Elusive Vanz". Arthurian Literature XX. D.S. Brewer.