Constance of France – An unhappy marriage

This article was written by Carol.

Constance of France was born in 1124 the daughter of the French King Louis VI and his second wife Adelaide de Maurienne. Her brother was King Louis VII. In 1140 when she was 16, her brother arranged her marriage to Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne. This was a prestigious match because Eustace was the son of King Stephen of England. At the time of her marriage, Constance had every expectation of becoming the next Queen of England. However, this all came to naught when Eustace died in 1153 and Stephen agreed that his rival Matilda’s son Henry would be the next King.

Eustace’s death opened an opportunity for King Louis VII to make another strategic marriage for his sister. Louis wasted no time in marrying his sister to the Count of Toulouse to give him an ally in the south. Raymond and Constance’s marriage was not a happy one, although they had four children. We know this because several letters from Constance to her brother Louis survive. Raymond was known to have affairs. In her letters, Constance complained about her treatment in Toulouse and increasingly sounded the alarm.

In 1164 she wrote her brother, “I call God as my witness unless you help me I am in bad straits and worse will happen in the future.”

Her situation did not improve and she must have worried that Louis was receiving conflicting information from the Count of Toulouse’s supporters because another letter in 1165 stated, “I left the household and entered the home of a certain Knight in the town for I did not have anything to eat or to give my servants. The Count has no concern for me nor do I receive counsel from him or anything from his land which might be necessary for me. That is why I send to you, begging your highness, that you not believe messengers who are come to your court if they tell you I am well. My situation is as I tell it. Indeed if I dared to write it to you, I would say more about the harm to me.”

A final letter in response to his letters, also in 1165, said, “If the promise in them is soon kept, I who have long been unfortunate will be very fortunate and happy. Yet I fear the words of your messengers deceive me…”

Louis must have finally come through with help for his sister because she was next seen living in Paris. Further letters survive in which the people and the Commune of Toulouse ask for their Countess to be sent back to them. Even the Pope chimed in urging her to return to her husband. Constance replied that Raymond would have to give up his illicit lifestyle before she would consider it.

Constance did not return to Toulouse and their marriage was annulled in 1166. She appears to have moved to Jerusalem, perhaps because her brother Peter of Courtenay and his family were living there. Records show she purchased property there in 1176. She died shortly thereafter. Raymond lived until 1194 at which point her eldest son became Count of Toulouse. He named his first child Constance – no doubt in memory of his mother.

About Moniek 1968 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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