Marie de Champagne


Marie de Champagne
(1145–1198)
   In his Art of Courtly Love (ca. 1180–1290),ANDREAS CAPELLANUS several times refers to Marie de Champagne. She was the daughter of ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE (1121–1204, daughter of Guillaume X, duke of Aquitaine, and granddaughter of the first troubadour, GUILLAUME IX) and King Louis VII of France (1120–1180). Eleanor’s second husband, King HENRY II (1133–1189) of England, demonstrated, like his wife, great interest in courtly poetry. Eleanor’s daughter Marie married Henry I, count of Champagne (1127–1181), also known as “the Liberal,”who transformed his territory from a fairly backward country into one of the richest and strongest French principalities. Their court at Troyes became a center of literary patronage. After Henry’s death on a crusade,Marie ruled as a fairly independent regent from 1181 until 1187 when her son Henry II of Champagne (1166–97) assumed his inherited authority (he also became king of Jerusalem in 1191 through marriage with Isabella, the daughter of Amalric I of Jerusalem; Henry died under mysterious circumstances in 1197).
   From a variety of accounts we know that Marie was a highly learned person to whom lovers appealed, asking for a judgment in contested cases of love. Andreas might have made up this story, but the historical circumstances suggest that Marie, along with her mother, Eleanor, with whom she seemed to have enjoyed a friendly relationship, had established a literary center at her court in Troyes and was considered an authority in the area of COURTLY LOVE. In Andreas’s treatise Marie consistently argues that true love is possible only outside of marriage. Both Marie and her mother Eleanor obviously exerted a considerable influence on the standard, formalistic image of fin’ amors prevalent at the French courts of their time. CHRÉTIEN DE TROYES (fl. 1165–91) seems to have created several of his courtly ROMANCES on behalf of Marie de Champagne. Above all in the prologue to LANCELOT, The Knight of the Cart, Chrétien credits Marie for having provided him with both “the matter and the meaning” of his romance, but he seems to have disagreed with the idealization of adultery in the tale, leaving his text as a fragment, which then was completed by Godefroi de Leigni. Many other 12th-century poets, such as RAIMBAUT D’ORANGE and Gautier d’Arras, frequented Marie’s court where they received her patronage. It seems very likely that another TROUBADOUR, BERTRAN DE BORN, spent time at Marie’s court and dedicated some of his poems to her, and so did CONON DE BÉTHUNE, GACE BRULÉ, and Aubouin de Sézanne. We can also infer from a variety of literary sources that the famous troubadour BERNART DE VENTADORN (ca. 1147–ca. 1170) wrote some of his poetry for Marie de Champagne. The troubadour Rigaut de Barbezieux’s (fl. 1175–1215) poem “Pros comtess’e gaia, ab pretz valen,/que tot’avetz Campaigna enluminat” has traditionally been associated with Marie de Champagne, who served as his patron. However recent scholars have seriously questioned this connection.
   Marie was also interested in religious literature and asked Evrat, cleric at the Church of Saint-Etienne, for a verse translation of the Old Testament book Genesis into French. Although the first part seems to reconfirm traditional male misogyny, in the second part, which might have been influenced by Marie herself, the role of women is painted in much more positive terms.
   Bibliography
   ■ Andreas Capellanus. The Art of Courtly Love.With introduction, translation, and notes by John Jay Parry. 1941. Reprint, New York: Norton, 1961.
   ■ Hall-McCash, June. “Marie de Champagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Relationship Reexamined,” Speculum 54 (1979): 698–711.
   ■ ———. “Marie de Champagne’s ‘Cuer d’ome et cors de fame’: Aspects of Feminism and Misogyny in the Twelfth Century.” In The Spirit of the Court: Selected Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, Toronto 1983, edited by Glyn S. Burgess and Robert A. Taylor, 234–245. Cambridge, U.K.: Brewer, 1985.
   ■ Henderson, Jane Frances Anne. “A Critical Edition of Evrat’s Genesis: Creation to the Flood.” Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1977.
   Albrecht Classen

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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