Mahaut d'Artois

From SiefarWikiEn

Jump to: navigation, search

Entry by Anne-Hélène Allirot, 2004

Mahaut, the great niece of Louis IX (St. Louis), born ca.1269, was the youngest daughter of Count Robert II of Artois and Amicie de Courtenay. She married Otto IV, Palatine Count of Burgundy and her father's comrade in arms, in January 1285. She had five children: Robert I, born before 1291, who died very young; Jeanne, born before 1291; Blanche, born after 1295; Jean, date of birth unknown, who died very young, probably before 1302, and Robert known as l'Enfant (the Child), born circa 1299-1300. In 1292 Jeanne was promised to Philip the Fair's second son, Philip of Poitiers, whom she married in 1307. Her dowry was the County of Burgundy (as had been decided in 1295). Blanche married Philip the Fair's third son, Charles, in 1308.

After losing her father during the battle of Courtrai in 1302, Mahaut was widowed in March 1303, and the County of Burgundy was split in two: one half became Mahaut's dower, and the other half was managed by Philip the Fair's agents before reverting to her daughter Jeanne. Philip the Fair, however, allotted the inheritance of the County of Artois to Mahaut to the detriment of his nephew Robert. Mahaut thus became a peer of France. Robert tried in vain to assert his inheritance rights against Mahaut in 1308-1309. In 1314 he began a new trial, accusing Mahaut of casting spells and attempting to poison King Louis X, Philip the Fair's first son who had just acceded to the throne, but the court cleared her of all charges.

Mahaut's rule over Artois did not go uncontested: in 1306, she had to squelch a revolt harshly at Saint-Omer. In 1316, Robert d'Artois launched a nobiliary uprising against her and plundered and looted her property. Condemned by Philip the Tall (that is, Philip of Poitiers, who had acceded to the throne in 1317), he had to compensate for the damage the countess had incurred: Mahaut was thus repaid for the aid she had given her son-in-law to reach the throne in place and on behalf of Louis X's daughter Jeanne (which marks the origin of a masculine monopoly over the French throne). Mahaut launched endless lawsuits against all kinds of opponents, the nobility, royalty and the clergy. The so-called affair of "Philip the Fair's daughters-in-law", in 1324, was another dramatic moment for the Countess of Artois, since two of the three young women accused of adultery were her own daughters: Jeanne was released, but Blanche was condemned and imprisoned at Château-Gaillard. She was freed in 1324, at the time of her own husband's accession to the French throne (Charles IV the Fair), yet died in 1326 in Maubuisson.

On the religious front, the countess seemed to follow the example of her great uncle Louis IX by giving generously to the county's mendicant order religious institutions. She created several hospitals, at Hesdin, Saint-Omer, Bapaume and Calais. An connoisseur of the arts, she commissioned rich clothes and silver and had one of the most complete women's libraries of historical works and novels of her age. She attached great importance to preserving the memory of the deceased members of her family and erected at least seven tombs, the place and design of which were chosen with care. In 1329, Robert of Artois reopened the case for the succession of the county for the third time, with recourse to counterfeit documents. Mahout died on November 27, the same year, just prior to being proved within her rights. Robert was then banished from the realm and the Artois and Franche-Comté were absorbed into the Duchy of Burgundy. The Countess of Artois was buried alongside her father and her daughter in Maubuisson, while her heart was transported to the Franciscan convent of Paris to remain alongside that of her son Robert.

A woman of power who fought her entire life to defend her patrimonial rights, Mahaut left the controversial image of an irascible and baleful countess that Maurice Druon drew upon in the XXth c. for his highly popular novel, Les Rois maudits (The Cursed Kings). Jules-Marie Richard, archivist of Pas-de-Calais from 1874-1879, was a great admirer of Mahaut, but his admiration has not translated into notable recent historical research despite the plentiful sources. The Treasury of Artois contains 12,000 original pieces including accounts of bailiwicks and works from the general Receipts of the Artois and her household, among which are to be found the countess's orders, receipts and contracts.

(translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier)

Selected bibliography

- L'Enfant oublié. Le gisant de Jean de Bourgogne et le mécénat de Mahaut d'Artois en Franche-Comté au XIVe siècle, Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1998.

  • Le Roux de Lincy, Antoine? «Inventaire des biens, meubles et immeubles de la comtesse Mahaut d'Artois pillés par l'armée de son neveu en 1316», Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes, 3e série, 3,1832-1853, p.53-79.

- Redoutey, Jean-Pierre, «Les trois testaments de Mahaut d'Artois», in Mémoires de la société pour l'histoire du droit et des institutions des anciens pays bourguignons, comtois et romands, 39, 1982, p.161-178.
- Richard, Jules-Marie, Une petite-nièce de saint Louis: Mahaut comtesse d'Artois et de Bourgogne 1302-1329, Étude sur la vie privée, les arts et l'industrie en Artois et à Paris au commencement du XIVe siècle, Paris, 1887.


- «Aussi n'étais-je pas exempt de toute prévention à son égard lorsque j'analysais les débris de ses archives: mais leur étude complète et sincère m'a fait voir en elle une femme honnête, bienfaisante, à l'esprit cultivé, aux goûts artistiques, appliquée à bien gouverner les pays que la Providence avait confiés à sa garde» (Jules-Marie Richard, voir supra «choix bibliogr.», p.XI).
- [Pensée de Philippe, comte de Poitiers, futur Philippe V] «Elle est fourbe comme le renard, obstinée comme le sanglier; elle a sans doute du sang sur les mains, mais je ne pourrais jamais me défendre d'avoir pour elle de l'amitié. [...] Dans sa violence comme dans son mensonge, il y a toujours une pointe de naïveté [...]» (Maurice Druon, Les Rois maudits, 3, Les poisons de la couronne, Paris, Del Duca, 1956, réed. 1966, p.82-83).

Mahaut d'Artois
Title(s) Comtesse d'Artois
Comtesse de Bourgogne
Spouses Othon IV, comte palatin de Bourgogne
Also known as Mathilde d'Artois
Birth date Around 1269
Death 1329
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Personal tools
In other languages