Countess Marie of Champagne is primarily known today as the daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine and as a literary patron of Chrétien de Troyes. In this engaging biography, Theodore Evergates offers a more rounded view of Marie as a successful ruler of one of the wealthiest and most vibrant principalities in medieval France.
From the age of thirty-four until her death, Marie ruled almost continuously, initially for her husband, Henry the Liberal, during his journey to Jerusalem, then for her underage son, Henry II, and after his majority, during his absence on the Third Crusade and extended residence in the Levant. Presiding at the High Court of Champagne and attending to the many practical duties of governance, Marie acted with the advice of her court officers but without limitation by either the king or a regency council. If Henry the Liberal created the county of Champagne as a dynamic and prosperous state, it was Marie who expertly preserved and sustained it.
Evergates mines Marie's letters patent and the literary and religious texts associated with her to glean a fuller picture of her life and work. He situates Marie within the regional institutions and external events that influenced her life as well as within her extended families of royal half-siblings—including King Philip II of France and her Plantagenet brothers—and her many in-laws, including the queen mother Adele and Archbishop William of Reims. Those who knew Marie best describe her as determined, gracious, and pious, as well as an effective ruler in the face of several external threats.