Arthur, duke of Brittany

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Arthur de Bretagne, duc de Bretagne

Also Known As: "le Posthume"
Birthdate: (16)
Birthplace: Nantes, 44000, Loire-Atlantique, FRANCE
Death: circa April 3, 1203 (12-20)
Rouen, 76000, Seine-Maritime, Normandie, FRANCE
Place of Burial: Notre-Dame,de Pres,(alleged)
Immediate Family:

Son of Geoffrey II, duke of Brittany and Constance, duchess of Brittany
Brother of Eleanor of Brittany; Matilda and Jufré I de Loaisa
Half brother of Catherine de Thouars, dame d'Aubigné and Alix de Thouars

Managed by: Noah Tutak
Last Updated:

About Arthur, duke of Brittany

Arthur I (29 March 1187 –April 1203) was Duke of Brittany between 1194 and 1203. The posthumous son of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany (d. 1186) and Constance, Duchess of Brittany. In 1191 he was designated heir to the throne of England, by Richard I; the intent being that Arthur would succeed Richard —in preference over Richard's younger brother John Lackland.

Richard, Geoffrey and John were sons —third, fourth and fifth, respectively— of King Henry II of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine.

Contents [hide]

1 Early life

2 English invasion and Arthur's capture

3 Disappearance

4 Legacy

4.1 In literature

4.2 In music

5 Ancestry

6 References

[edit] Early life

While Richard I was away on the Third Crusade, Constance took more independence for Brittany, and in 1194 had the young Arthur proclaimed its duke as a child of seven years.

When Richard I died in 1199, his brother John immediately claimed the throne of England, but much of the French nobility refused to recognize him as king, They preferred Arthur, who declared himself vassal of Philip II of France, thereby forswearing his vassalage to John. This was sufficient provocation for King John, who invaded France in 1202.

[edit] English invasion and Arthur's capture

Phillip recognized Arthur's right to Brittany, Anjou, Maine, and Poitou. But, by the Treaty of Le Goulet, May 1200, Philip had recognised John as heir of his brother Richard I and King of England, and thus had formally abandoned support for Arthur's claim to the English throne.

On 31 July 1202, Arthur was surprised by John's forces while besieging Mirebeau, where he was holding as hostage his grandmother, John's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Captured by John's barons, Arthur was imprisoned at Falaise in Normandy, guarded by Hubert de Burgh. At this time his sister Eleanor was also captured, then imprisoned at Corfe Castle in Dorset. The following year Arthur was transferred to Rouen, under the charge of William de Braose, and then vanished mysteriously in April 1203.

[edit] Disappearance

The puzzle of Arthur's disappearance gave rise to various stories. One account was that Arthur's jailers feared to harm him, and so he was murdered by John directly and his body dumped in the Seine. The Margam annals provide the following account of Arthur's death:

After King John had captured Arthur and kept him alive in prison for some time, at length, in the castle of Rouen, after dinner on the Thursday before Easter, when he was drunk and possessed by the devil (ebrius et daemonio plenus), he slew him with his own hand, and tying a heavy stone to the body cast it into the Seine. It was discovered by a fisherman in his net, and being dragged to the bank and recognized, was taken for secret burial, in fear of the tyrant, to the priory of Bec called Notre Dame de Pres. {See Bec Abbey}.

William de Braose rose high in John's favour after Arthur's disappearance, receiving new lands and titles in the Welsh Marches, so much so that he was obviously suspected of complicity, and indeed many years later, after conflict with King John, William de Braose's wife Maud de Braose personally and directly accused the King of murdering Arthur, which resulted in Maud and her eldest son, also William, being imprisoned and starved to death in Windsor Castle. William de Braose escaped to France, where he was supposed to have published a statement on what happened to Arthur, but no copy has been found.

[edit] Legacy

[edit] In literature

The death of Arthur is a vital ingredient in Shakespeare's history play King John, in which Arthur is portrayed as a child whose innocence dissuades Hubert de Burgh from committing the murder demanded by King John. However, Arthur soon dies after jumping from his place of confinement in an escape attempt. In the 19th century the Breton poet Auguste Brizeux wrote of Arthur in La chasse du Prince Arthur.

He is also the principal character of a highly inventive alternative history novel by the eccentric English writer Frederick Rolfe ('Baron Corvo'), entitled Hubert's Arthur, posthumously published by A. J. A. Symons in 1935. The novel started as a collaboration between Rolfe and Harry Pirie-Gordon, but in the event the latter only supplied the copious heraldic details pertaining to the characters. This is presented as the lengthy narrative of the aged Hubert de Burgh, who is supposed to have saved Arthur's life and accompanied him on crusade to the Holy Land, where he becomes King of Jerusalem and eventually returns to England, defeats King John and kills his son Henry Plantagenet (the historical Henry III) in single combat. The remainder of the book details the prosperous reign of King Arthur, his defeat of the Barons under Simon de Montfort, and his eventual miraculous death. Of all Rolfe's novels this one has never been reprinted, no doubt because of the strong strain of anti-semitism, which draws upon the myths of Christian boys martyred by Jews, such as St. Hugh.

In the novel Saving Grace by Julie Garwood, the heroine finds documents relating to Arthur's murder, committed under the orders of King John, by two of King John's barons. She is married to a Scottish Laird, Gabriel MacBain, to escape England, but is harassed by both King John's barons, and the English faction hoping to take down King John; each party unsure of how much she knows.

[edit] In music

In 1912 the Breton composer Joseph-Guy Ropartz composed a symphonic poem, La Chasse du Prince Arthur (Prince Arthur's Hunt) after the poem by Brizeux. The Breton folk-rock band Tri Yann have made a song about Arthur's life[1].

[edit] Ancestry

Ancestors of Arthur I, Duke of Brittany[hide]


 16. Fulk of Jerusalem 

 8. Geoffrey V of Anjou   

 17. Ermengarde of Maine 

 4. Henry II of England   

 18. Henry I of England 

 9. Empress Matilda   

 19. Matilda of Scotland (sister of 28) 

 2. Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany   

 20. William IX of Aquitaine 

 10. William X of Aquitaine   

 21. Philippa of Toulouse 

 5. Eleanor of Aquitaine   

 22. Aimery I of Châttellerault 

 11. Aenor de Châtellerault   

 23. Dangereuse de L' Isle Bouchard 

 1. Arthur I, Duke of Brittany   

 24. Stephen, Count of Tréguier 

 12. Alan, 1st Earl of Richmond   

 6. Conan IV, Duke of Brittany   

 26. Conan III, Duke of Brittany 

 13. Bertha, Duchess of Brittany   

 27. Maude of England (daughter of 18) 

 3. Constance, Duchess of Brittany   

 28. David I of Scotland (brother of 19) 

 14. Henry, Earl of Northumbria   

 29. Maud, 2nd Countess of Huntingdon 

 7. Margaret of Huntingdon, Countess of Hereford   

 30. William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey 

 15. Ada de Warenne   

 31. Elizabeth of Vermandois 

[edit] References

M. Dominica Legge, "William the Marshal and Arthur of Brittany", Historical Research, volume 55 (1982)

F. M. Powicke, "King John and Arthur of Brittany", The English Historical Review, volume 24 (October 1909), pp. 659-674

Tudor Place

^ Lyrics (Note: the words of the song are in Middle French and seem to come from an anonymous manuscript, probably dating from the 1400s)

Arthur I, Duke of Brittany

House of Plantagenet

Born: 29 March 1187 Died: April 1203

Peerage of England

Preceded by

Constance Earl of Richmond

1187–1203 Extinct

English royalty

Preceded by

Richard, Duke of Aquitaine Heir to the English Throne

as heir presumptive

6 July 1189 - 6 April 1199 Succeeded by

Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine

French nobility

Preceded by

Constance Duke of Brittany

1194–1203 Succeeded by


Preceded by

Richard I of England Count of Anjou

1199–1203 Seized by France

[hide]Family information

Henry II of England

House of Plantagenet Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany Arthur I, Duke of Brittany

Eleanor of Aquitaine

House of Poitiers

Conan IV, Duke of Brittany

House of Penthievre Constance, Duchess of Brittany

Margaret of Huntingdon

House of MacAlpin

Retrieved from ",_Duke_of_Brittany"

Categories: 1187 births | 1203 deaths | Heirs to the English throne | Counts of Anjou | Dukes of Brittany | Earls in the Peerage of England | House of Plantagenet | Rulers who died as children | Medieval child rulers | Burials at Rouen Cathedral

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Arthur, duke of Brittany's Timeline

March 29, 1187
Nantes, 44000, Loire-Atlantique, FRANCE
April 3, 1203
Age 16
Rouen, 76000, Seine-Maritime, Normandie, FRANCE
Notre-Dame,de Pres,(alleged)