Constance, duchess of Brittany

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Also Known As: "CONSTANCE Dss de Bretagne", "Countess of Richmond"
Birthplace: Nantes, Bretagne, France
Death: September 05, 1201 (39-40)
Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France
Place of Burial: Villeneuve Abbey, Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany and Margaret de Huntingdon, Princess of Scotland
Wife of Ranulf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester; Guy de Thouars, gouverneur de Bretagne and Geoffrey II, duke of Brittany
Mother of Catherine de Thouars, dame d'Aubigné; Alix de Thouars; Matilda; Eleanor of Brittany and Arthur, duke of Brittany
Half sister of William de Washington, II; Walter de Washington; Marjory de Washington; Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Surety of the Magna Carta and Margaret de Bohun

Occupation: Duquesa da Britânia, Duchesse, de Bretagne, Comtesse, de Richmond
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Constance, duchess of Brittany

CONSTANCE Dss de Bretagne

Also known as Constance of Penthièvre de Bretagne, hereditary Duchess of Brittany

  • CONSTANCE de Bretagne ([1161]-[Nantes] [3/5] Sep 1201, bur Bégard Monastery, transferred 24 Nov 1225 to Villeneuve-les-Nantes, Abbaye de Notre-Dame). The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "Constantiam comitis Conani filia" as wife of "Gaufridus dux Britannie comes Richemontis filius Henrici regis Anglie natu tertius", specifying that she married [thirdly] "Guido frater vicecomitem de Tuart"[289]. She is named by Matthew of Paris, who also gives her parentage, when he records her betrothal[290]. She succeeded her father in 1171 as CONSTANCE Dss de Bretagne.
  • The Genealogia Comitum Richemundiæ records the death in 1201 of "Constantia filia Conani" and her burial "apud Begar"[296]. The Chronicon Britannicum records the death "III Non Sep" in 1201 of "Constantia Ducissa Britanniæ"[297]. Another Chronicon Britannicum records the death "pridie non Sep" in 1201 of "Constantia comitissa, Conani filia, mater Arturi"[298]. The Chronicon Ruyensis Cœnobii records the death in 1201 of "Constantia Comitissa apud Nannetum"[299]


  • Married: firstly (betrothed 1166, Jul 1181) GEOFFREY of England, son of HENRY II King of England & his wife Eléonore Dss d'Aquitaine (23 Sep 1158-Paris 19 Aug 1186, bur Notre dame Cathedral, Paris). Proclaimed GEOFFROY Duke of Brittany 1169 by his father Henry II King of England. He was trodden to death by a horse during a tournament in Paris. m secondly (3 Feb 1188, repudiated 1198) as his first wife, RANULF "de Blundeville" Earl of Chester, son of HUGH Earl of Chester & his wife Bertrade de Montfort (Oswestry, Powys [1170]-Wallingford 28 Oct 1232, bur 3 Nov 1232 Chester, Abbey of St Werburgh). m thirdly (Oct 1199) as his first wife, GUY de Thouars, son of GEOFFROY [IV] Vicomte de Thouars & his wife Aumou --- (-château de Chemillé 23 Apr 1213, bur 24 Nov 1225 Villeneuve-les-Nantes, Abbaye de Notre-Dame). The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines records that Philippe II King of France besieged "Albam Marnam castrum" in 1196 and captured "Guido frater Reymundi vicecomitis Thoarcensis", who later married "matrem Arturi iunioris Constantiam relicta…Gaufridi" and became "comes Britannie"[300]. After the death of Arthur Duke of Brittany in 1203, he was chosen by the nobles of Brittany as GUY Duke of Brittany during the minority of his daughter. His English lands were confiscated in 1203. Philippe II "Auguste" King of France conquered Brittany in 1206, deposed Guy as Duke but left him as Regent, a post which he continued to hold until 1213. The Chronique de Guillaume de Nangis records that "Guy de Thouars" died of leprosy[301].
  • Robert of Torigny records the marriage in 1182 of Gaufredus dux Britanniæ filius regis Henriciand "filiam Conani comitis Britanniæ"[291]. The Annales Cestrienses record in 1188 that Rannulphus comes Cestrie was knighted “in die circumcisionis domini apud [Cadomum]” by King Henry II who also granted him “relictam [Galfridi filii sui]...comitissam Britannie filia Alani comitis Britannie...Constancia et toto comittatu de Richemund” whom he married “in die Sancte Werburge...III Non Feb apud ---“[292]. The Genealogia Comitum Richemundiæ records that Constantia filia Conani married secondly Ranulphus Comes Cestriæ, stating that he divorced her because of her adultery and that the marriage was childless[293]. Living apart from her second husband, he captured her at Pontorson in 1196 and imprisoned her at his castle at Beuvron. She was liberated in Summer 1198, and repudiated her marriage.
  • The Genealogia Comitum Richemundiæ records that "Constantia filia Conani" married thirdly Guidoni de Thoarcio [294]. The Annals of Burton record the death in 1201 of “Constantia mater Arthuri comitis Britanniæ”[295].

Duchess Constance & her first husband GEOFFREY of England had three children

  • a) MATHILDE de Bretagne ([1182/83] or 1185-before May 1189). “Constantia comitis Conani filia ducissa Britanniæ et comitissa Richemontis” donated property to the abbey of Saint-Gildas de Ruis, for the souls of “Conani patris mei et Gaudefridi mariti mei et Mathillæ filiæ meæ”, by charter dated May 1189[302].
  • b) ELEONORE de Bretagne "la Brette [1184]-Corfe Castle, Dorset or Bristol 10 Aug 1241, bur Bristol, St James, transferred to Amesbury convent). The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "Arturum iuvenum et filiam unam Alienordem" as children of "Gaufridus dux Britannie comes Richemontis filius Henrici regis Anglie natu tertius" & his wife[303]. She is named as daughter of "Galfridi comitis Britanniæ" by Matthew of Paris[304]. The Chronicon Briocensi names "Arturum et…Alienor" as the two children of "Goffridus Henrici Regis filius" and his wife "Constantiam de Brittania"[305]. Her betrothal was agreed as part of the terms for the release of Richard I King of England from the custody of Emperor Heinrich VI in Feb 1194, together with the betrothal of her fiancé's younger brother to the daughter of Isaakios Dukas Komnenos ex-Emperor in Cyprus[306]. The two brides left for Vienna from Normandy in Dec 1194 in the charge of Baudouin de Béthune, but turned back when they learnt of the death of Leopold V Duke of Austria[307]. Eléonore was imprisoned in England by King John, who feared her marriage as she was the rightful heir to the throne of England. She was therefore unable to succeed her brother as Dss of Brittany. She was styled Countess of Richmond from 27 May 1208. The Annales Londonienses record the death "apud Bristowe" in 1241 of "Alienora quondam comitis Britanniæ filia, in custodia diuturni carceris strictissime reservata", commenting that she was the true heir to England[308]. The Annals of Tewkesbury record the death “IV Id Aug” in 1241 of “Alienora de Britannia consanguinea domini regis Henrici Angliæ”, her burial “in ecclesia Sancti Jacobi Bristollis” and her transfer “circa festum sancti Nicholai VI regia apud Ambresburiam”[309]. Betrothed (Feb 1194) to FRIEDRICH of Austria, son of LEOPOLD V Duke of Austria & his wife Ilona of Hungary (-Palestine on crusade 16 Apr 1198, bur Heiligenkreuz). He succeeded his father in 1195 as FRIEDRICH I "der Katolische" Duke of Austria.
  • c) ARTHUR de Bretagne (posthumously Nantes 29 Mar 1187-murdered Rouen or Cherbourg 3 Apr 1203, bur Notre dame des Prés, Rouen or Abbaye de Bec, Normandy). Benedict of Peterborough records that "filia sororis regis Scotiæ Willelmi comitissa Brittaniæ" gave birth "in nocte Dominicæ Resurrectionis apud Namnetisis in Britanniam" to "filium…Arturum"[310]. Ralph de Diceto´s Abbreviationes Chronicorum record in 1187 that “Constantia comitissa Britanniæ” gave birth “die Paschæ” to “filium...Arturum”[311]. His birth is recorded by Matthew of Paris, who specifies that he was born posthumously but does not give the precise date[312]. The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "Arturum iuvenum et filiam unam Alienordem" as children of "Gaufridus dux Britannie comes Richemontis filius Henrici regis Anglie natu tertius" & his wife[313]. The Chronicon Briocensi names "Arturum et…Alienor" as the two children of "Goffridus Henrici Regis filius" and his wife "Constantiam de Brittania"[314]. He succeeded from birth as ARTHUR I Duke of Brittany. His uncle Richard I King of England recognised him as his heir in England and in his territories in France. On Richard's death 6 Apr 1199, Arthur, who was in Brittany, led a force into Anjou and Maine, where he was recognised by the barons as the rightful heir. He styled himself Duke of Brittany, Comte d'Anjou and Earl of Richmond from 18 Apr 1199. He did homage to Philippe II "Auguste" King of France but, offended by the latter, fled to his uncle John who received him kindly. Warned of John's intentions, he escaped to Angers but was captured by the king at Mirebeau and sent to Falaise. He was murdered on the orders of King John. The Chronicon Britannicum records that "Arturus Dux Britanniæ" was held captive in 1203 "apud Mirabellum" by his uncle John King of England and murdered[315]. Betrothed (11 Nov 1190) to --- of Sicily, daughter of TANCRED di Lecce King of Sicily & his wife Sibilla ---. Benedict of Peterborough records the betrothal in 1190 of "Arturum ducem Britanniæ" and "unam de filiabus regis Tancredi"[316]. This betrothal was arranged as part of the treaty signed between Richard I King of England and Tancred King of Sicily, concerning the inheritance of Tancred's predecessor Guillaume II King of Sicily whose widow was King Richard's sister[317]. The agreement between “Tancredo...Regi Siciliæ” and “Ricardus...Rex Angliæ...”, dated 1190, includes the betrothal of “Arthurum...ducem Britanniæ...nepotem nostrum et hæredem si forte sin prole nos obire contigerit” and “filiam vestram” [referring to King Tancred][318]. Betrothed (Apr 1202) to MARIE de France, daughter of PHILIPPE II "Auguste" King of France & his third wife Agnes von Andechs-Merano (after 1197-15 Aug 1238, bur Louvain, église Saint Pierre). The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "filium unum Philippum…et filiam unam Mariam" as children of "Philippus [rex]" and "Mariam filiam ducis Meranie et marchionis Histrie", and in a later passage records their legitimation[319]. The primary source which confirms this betrothal has not yet been identified.

Duchess Constance & her third husband GUY de Thouars had three children

  • d) ALIX de Thouars [1200]-21 Oct 1221, bur 24 Nov 1225 Villeneuve-les-Nantes, Abbaye de Notre-Dame). The Genealogia Comitum Richemundiæ names "Adelicia" as the daughter of "Constantia filia Conani" and her third husband "Guidoni de Thoarcio", stating that she married "domno Petro Mauclerc"[320]. The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "unam filiam Mabiliam" as the child of "Constantiam comitis Conani filia" and her [third] husband "Guido frater vicecomitem de Tuart"[321]. A Chronicon Comitum Pictaviæ et Aquitaniæ Ducum names "Alipsam et Catherinam" as the two daughters of "Wido…comes de Thoarcio" and "Constantiam Gaufridi Ducis Britanniæ relictam", stating that Alix married "Petro Comiti Drocarum"[322]. She succeeded her half-brother in 1203 as ALIX Dss of Brittany, Ctss of Richmond. The marriage contract between "G. de Thoarco comes Britannie...A filia mea quam habeo de comitissa Britannie Constancia" and "Alanus filius comitis...Henricus filius predicti Alani primogenitus" is dated 1209[323]. Her first betrothal is confirmed by the charter dated 1209 under which "Alanus comes, Henrici comitis filius" granted letters of assurance to "domino Andreæ de Vitreio", with the consent of "Henrico filio meo et Alici uxori eius"[324]. The Chronique de Guillaume de Nangis records that daughter of Guy de Thouars and Constance de Bretagne married "Pierre Mauclerc, fils de Robert comte de Dreux"[325]. The Chronicon Britannicum records the death "XII Kal Nov" in 1221 of "Aalis Ducissa Britanniæ"[326]. Betrothed (contract Paris 7 Dec 1209, broken) to HENRI d'Avaugour, son of ALAIN de Bretagne Comte de Penthièvre & his second wife Adélaïde --- ([1205]-6 Oct 1281, bur Dinan). He succeeded his father in 1212 as Comte de Penthièvre. m ([Mar 1213/Oct 1214]) as his first wife, PIERRE de Dreux, son of ROBERT II Comte de Dreux et de Braine & his second wife Yolande de Coucy ([1187]-at sea off Damietta end-May 1250, bur Braine, église abbatiale de Saint-Ived). He swore allegiance at Paris 27 Jan 1213 to Philippe II "Auguste" King of France as PIERRE I "Mauclerc" Duke of Brittany. Comte de Penthièvre by annexation 1214. Created Earl of Richmond by Henry III King of England 16 Jan 1218/19 (confiscated Nov 1224, restored Oct 1229, confiscated again Jan 1235). He surrendered the Duchy of Brittany to his son in 1237, after which he called himself PIERRE de Braine. He accompanied King Louis IX on crusade in 1249 and was captured at Faraskur 6 Apr 1250, after being wounded at the battle of Mansourah. He died at sea on his way back to western Europe. - DUKES of BRITTANY 1213-1514 (DREUX-CAPET).
  • e) CATHERINE de Thouars [1/5 Sep 1201]-[1237/40]). A Chronicon Comitum Pictaviæ et Aquitaniæ Ducum names "Alipsam et Catherinam" as the two daughters of "Wido…comes de Thoarcio" and "Constantiam Gaufridi Ducis Britanniæ relictam", stating that Catherine married "Andreæ de Vitreio"[327]. As her mother gave birth to two children during her short third marriage, it is likely that Catherine was born towards the end of her mother’s life, which may have ended in giving birth to Catherine. The primary source which confirms that this speculation is correct has not been identified. A charter dated 1212 records the dowry agreed between "Alix filia comitis Britanniæ" and "Andreæ de Vitreio juveni" for the latter´s marriage to "Catherina sorore mea"[328]. A charter dated to [1213] records that “comes Guido Britannie" married "Katherinam filiam suam" to "domine Andree de Vitriaco" with "in maritagium unam partem foreste Redonensis"[329]. m (1212) as his first wife, ANDRE [III] Seigneur de Vitré, son of ANDRE [II] Seigneur de Vitré & his [third] wife Eustachie --- (-Mansurah 8 Feb 1250).
  • f) MARGUERITE (-[1216/1220]). The parentage of the first wife of Geoffroy [I] de Rohan is discussed more fully below. Her marriage is confirmed by the following document: "Gaufredus vicecomes de Rohan" confirmed donations to Bonrepos abbey made by “avus meus Alanus vicecomes de Rohan et pater meus”, for the salvation of “Margaritæ uxoris meæ”, with the consent of "fratribus meis Oliverio et Alano", by charter dated 1216[330]. The following charter appears to provide the only indication of Marguerite’s family origin: "Petrus dux Britanniæ comes Richemundiæ" confirmed, for the souls of “nostræ et...Margaritæ sororis nostræ dicti Gaufridi quondam uxoris”, that “Alanus vicecomes de Rohan” had donated revenue “de Costeteia” to Bonrepos for the soul of "Gaufridi fratris sui", by charter dated 1232[331]. If “sororis” in this document is read literally, she was the sister of Pierre de Dreux Duke of Brittany. Another possibility is that “sororis” should be interpreted as sister-in-law. This parentage was assumed to be correct by several 18th and 19th century secondary sources[332] and is an attractive possibility considering Marguerite’s Breton marriage. The difficulty is that Constance, during her short third marriage, appears to have had insufficient time to have given birth to three children, although Léa Chaillou has suggested recently that Marguerite may have been twin with Catherine and that a difficult twin birth may explain Constance’s early death[333]. m as his first wife, GEOFFROY [I] Vicomte de Rohan, son of ALAIN [IV] Vicomte de Rohan & his wife Mabile de Fougères (-15 Sep 1221).]

Source- Projects MedLands Dukes of BRITTANY -

Constance of Penthièvre from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Constance of Penthièvre (Breton: Konstanza Penture, or Konstanza Breizh; 1161 – 5 September 1201) was hereditary Duchess of Brittany between 1171 and 1196. Constance was the only child of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond, by his wife Margaret of Huntingdon, later called Countess of Hereford, a granddaughter of David I of Scotland.


  1. As Duchess
  2. Death and Burial
  3. Media

As Duchess

As part of a diplomatic settlement in 1181, twenty-year-old Constance was forced into marriage with Geoffrey Plantagenet, the fourth son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. With Geoffery she had three children: Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany (1184-1241), Matilda/Maud of Brittany (1185-bef 1189) and Arthur (b 1186-1203), the latter born after Geoffrey's death. As de jure uxoris Duke, Geoffrey excluded Constance from exercising authority in government. In 1186, in a riding accident in Paris, Geoffrey was stamped to death during a tournament. Constance thereafter became the effective ruler of Brittany.

However, Henry II of England arranged for Constance to marry Ranulph de Meschines, 4th Earl of Chester on 3 February 1188. In 1191 King Richard I of England officially proclaimed his nephew, Constance's son Arthur of Brittany, as his heir in a treaty signed with Philip II of France. To promote her son's position and inheritance, Constance abdicated in his favor in 1194.

Constance's marriage with Ranulph deteriorated, with Ranulph imprisoning Constance in 1196. With Constance imprisoned in England, rebellions were sparked across Brittany on her behalf. Ranulph bowed to growing pressure and had the Duchess released in 1198.

Back in Brittany, Constance had her marriage annulled. Later in 1198 at Angiers, Constance took Guy of Thouars as her 'second' husband. Throughout these years, Constance advised her son towards a French alliance, pursuing the policy of her late husband Geoffrey II.

When Richard I died in 1199, Phillip II agreed to recognize Arthur as count of Anjou, Maine, and Poitou, in exchange for Arthur swearing fealty to Phillip II, becoming a direct vassel of France. However 13-year-old Arthur was captured while besieging Mirabeau, and the following year he was transferred to Rouen, under the charge of William de Braose, and then vanished mysteriously in April 1203.

During the conflict, Constance's eldest daughter Eleanor was captured and imprisoned at Corfe Castle in Dorset, where she remained imprisoned until her death.

Constance bore her third husband twin daughters; Alix of Thouars, who married Peter de Dreux, first Breton ruler of the House of Dreux; and Katherine of Thouars (1201-c. 1240) who married Andre III of Bretagne, Sire of Vitre.

Death and Burial

Constance died, age 40, on 5 September 1201 at Nantes. She was buried at Villeneuve Abbey in Nantes.

Constance's cause of death is debated. Some historians believe she died of leprosy. Others believe she died from complications of childbirth, shortly after birthing twin girls. Still others believe that she had leprosy, leading to a difficult delivery, and ultimately to her death shortly after the birth of the twins, thus both leprosy and childbirth being the causes of death. That Constance was birthing twins, at the age of forty, in the unsanitary conditions of the age, should be taken greatly into account in this debate. As the exact date of the twins birth is not currently known, and may never be known, there may never be a resolution to this question.


Constance is a character in the play King John by William Shakespeare, in which she has several very eloquent speeches on grief and death. On screen, she has been portrayed by Julia Neilson in the silent short King John (1899), which recreates John's death scene at the end of the play, Sonia Dresdel in the BBC Sunday Night Theatre version (1952), and Claire Bloom in the BBC Shakespeare version (1984). She was also played by Paula Williams (as a girl) and Nina Francis (as an adult) in the BBC TV drama series The Devil's Crown (1978).

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Constance, duchess of Brittany's Timeline

Nantes, Bretagne, France
March 29, 1187
Nantes, 44000, Loire-Atlantique, FRANCE
September 1, 1201
September 5, 1201
Thouars, Deux Sevres, Anjou Poitou Charentes, France
September 5, 1201
Age 40
Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France