Henry I, Count of Champagne

Henry I, Count of Champagne

Henry I of Champagne
Spouse(s) Marie of France, Countess of Champagne
Noble family House of Blois
Father Thibaut II of Champagne
Mother Matilda of Carinthia
Born December 1127
Died 17 March 1181(1181-03-17)

Henry I of Champagne (December 1127 – March 16, 1181), known as "the Liberal",[1] was count of Champagne from 1152 to 1181. He was the eldest son of Count Thibaut II of Champagne (who was also Count Thibaut IV of Blois) and his wife, Matilda of Carinthia.[1]

Henry took part in the Second Crusade under the leadership of Louis VII of France.[2] He carried a letter of recommendation from Bernard of Clairvaux addressed to Manuel I Komnenos, Byzantine Emperor; he is listed among the notables present at the assembly held by Baldwin III of Jerusalem at Acre on 24 June 1148.

On his father's death, Henry chose to take Champagne, leaving the family's older holdings (including Blois, Chartres, Sancerre, and Châteaudun) to his younger brothers. At the time this may have been surprising, for the other territories were richer and better developed. Henry must have foreseen the economic possibilities of Champagne, and it is during his rule that the county achieved its high place as one of the richest and strongest of the French principalities.

Henry established orderly rule over the nobles of Champagne, and could fairly reliably count on the aid of some 2,000 vassals, which just by itself made him a power few in France could equal. This order in turn made Champagne a safe place for merchants to gather, and under the count's protection the Champagne Fairs became a central part of long-distance trade and finance in medieval Europe.

In addition, the count's court in Troyes became a renowned literary center.[3] Walter Map was among those who found hospitality there. The scholar Stephen of Alinerre was among Henry's courtiers, becoming chancellor of the county in 1176.[4]

In 1179 Henry went to Jerusalem again[5] with a party of French knights including his relatives Peter of Courtenay (brother of Louis VII) and Philip of Dreux, bishop of Beauvais.[6] Henry returned towards Europe by the land route across Asia Minor, and was captured and held to ransom by Kilij Arslan II, Seljuk sultan of Rüm.[6] The ransom was paid by the Byzantine Emperor.[6] Henry would later die, 16 March 1181.[7]

Henry's tomb in the church of Saint-Étienne (Troyes)

In 1164, Henry married Marie of France, daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine.[1]

They had four children:

Henry built the collegiate church of Saint-Étienne in Troyes between 1157 and 1171, which he planned as a necropolis for the House of Blois. He was buried there, as was his son Theobald III, but most of his descendants were buried elsewhere.[8] He died in 1181 and was succeeded by their eldest son Henry. After Henry became king of Jerusalem, the younger son Theobald became count.


  1. 1 2 3 Abbot Hugh: An Overlooked Brother of Henry I, Count of Champagne, Ruth Harwood Cline, The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jul., 2007), 501.
  2. The Second Crusade, Virginia G. Berry, A History of the Crusades, Vol. I, ed. Kenneth M. Setton, (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 469.
  3. The Court of Champagne as a Literary Center, John F. Benton, Speculum, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Oct., 1961), 551.
  4. The Court of Champagne as a Literary Center, John F. Benton, 559.
  5. Theodore Evergates, The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 24.
  6. 1 2 3 Bernard Hamilton, The Leper King and His Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 150.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 The Court of Champagne as a Literary Center, John F. Benton, 554.
  8. Baudin, Arnaud (2006). "Saint-Etienne de Troyes" (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-21.

Henry I, Count of Champagne
Born: December 1127 Died: 17 March 1181
Preceded by
Theobald II
Count of Champagne
Succeeded by
Henry II
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