Geoffrey of Nantes was the second child and son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, he was born on 1st June 1134 at one of the major cities of Normandy, this being either Rouen, or Agentan. He was born just over a year after his older brother, Henry FitzEmpress, the future King Henry II of England. For most of his childhood, Geoffrey was brought up by his father, who was also in charge of choosing his education. This was due to the fact that his mother, Matilda, had marched on England against her cousin, King Stephen of England, in the hopes of taking the, in her her belief, her rightful throne. The people called this war When Christ and His Saints Slept, later historians would refer to it as The Anarchy. Little is known about Geoffrey during this time.
When his father died, Geoffrey obtained three castles through his father’s will, though the Norman chronicler, Robert de Torigny, states four, but the fourth castle remains unknown. The known three castles were Chinon, Loudon and Mirebeau. Rumour has it however, that Geoffrey of Anjou intended that Anjou would go to his second son, and not to Henry. Some historians argue that this was rumour started by Geoffrey of Nantes in the hopes that he would be given Anjou or have cause to fight for it, as he did. However the historian, Amy Kelly argues that “At his fathers deathbed Henry had agreed that, upon his accession to Normandy, he would cede to his brother Geoffrey that part of Anjou south of Loire…” However this changed later when Henry decided that he would marry Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had recently had her marriage to Louis VII of France annulled. Instead, Geoffrey became Count of Nantes in 1150.
Not long after Eleanor of Aquitaine had obtained an annulment from her marriage to King Louis VII of France, she was travelling to Poitiers when Geoffrey ambushed her at Port des Piles. His plan was to marry Henry’s intended bride and thus obtain Aquitaine, one of the greatest and richest duchy’s in Europe, a duchy that even after his annulment the King of France still sought. When the kidnapping of Eleanor failed, Geoffrey allied himself, in the summer, with Louis’ brother, Robert, Count of Dreux, Henry, Count of Champagne and Theobald, Count of Blois. In retaliation to Henry’s marriage of Eleaonor, Louis began to invade some of the Angevin territories. If Louis’ plan of capturing Normandy was successful then the three men would be able to divide Henry’s lands between them. However, when Theobald invaded Touraine his three comrades had already been captured by Henry and to secure their release, Theobald was forced to destroy the castle of Chaumount-sur-Loire. In winter of the same year, King Stephen of England died and the English throne passed to Henry, making him King Henry II of England. By this time Henry had married Eleanor in secret and Geoffrey was said to have accompanied the two to England.
Two years later in the summer of 1156, Geoffrey had risen in rebellion once again against his brother. Henry laid siege to the three castles that Geoffrey had inherited from their father, and forced him to yield.
The last history hears of Geoffrey is his unexpected death at Nantes in 26 July 1158, aged 24.
- Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1974)
- W.L. Warren, Henry II (Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 2000)
- Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England (Vintage, Great Britain, 1999)