French connections in late medieval Ireland: the case of Geoffrey de Geneville (c. 1226-1314).
Evans, Life in Medieval France, 99
The extent, position and wealth of France in the Middle Ages were all factors that facilitated the movement of its people into neighboring lands and further afield. Commerce, pilgrimage and crusades stimulated travel to more distant places, (2) and the expansion of Norman control into southern Italy, Sicily, the Near East and north Africa established firm contacts and provided incentives for speculators, mercenaries and the religious, among others, to exploit the opportunities presented by these new-found connections. (3) England fell quickly to the Normans after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, with Scotland and Wales soon coming under increasing Norman influence and control (Rowley, The Norman Heritage). In the decades that followed, direct contact and trade increased between Ireland on the one hand, and particularly England and coastal France on the other (Richter 121-39; Martin, "Diarmait Mac Murchada," 53; Wallace 217-18, 233-34). It was only a matter of time before the Anglo-Normans (the England-based descendants of the Normans of 1066 and later) arrived on Irish shores (Martin, "Diarmait Mac Murchada"; Martin, "Allies and an Overlord"; Otway-Ruthven, A History 35-65). They came in increasing numbers in the late 1160s and early 1170s, at which time Henry II, king of England, intervened personally and claimed authority in Ireland.
While the route-ways of later medieval Europe may have been well-trodden by itinerant merchants, migrant tradesmen, messengers, pilgrims, soldiers and refugees, a notable feature of this period was the migration of members of noble families and the establishment by them of powerful networks of wealth, land tenure and intermarriage. Robert Bartlett has referred to this movement of western European nobles into new areas as an "aristocratic diaspora," pointing out that the migrants came mainly from the former Carolingian Empire (The Making of Europe 24-59). (4) So influential was this aspect of the aristocratic diaspora that, by the mid-fourteenth century, 80 per cent of Europe's kings and queens were French (42). Among the families that came to prominence in the eleventh and twelfth centuries were the Drengots from near Rouen; the Grandmesnils from Calvados, who established themselves in Wales, Italy, Syria and Constantinople; and the Hautevilles (especially Robert Guiscard) from the Contentin, who left indelible marks on the Mezzogiorno and Sicily (Norwich; Gravett and Nicolle; Bartlett, The Making of Europe 28-29). French influence abroad can be traced in different ways in architecture, literature, art, music, language religion and politics, but behind all of this influence (itself a French word borrowed into English) were the people whose movement across the borders of Europe and beyond enabled French culture--in its broadest sense--to become one of the most pervasive the world has ever known.
Robin Frame has written about the "aristocratic nexus" that spread itself throughout much of Britain and Ireland in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries (The Political Development 50-71). (5) He also remarks on the "aristocratic colonization" of Ireland after 1170 by a "land-hungry upper class whose leading members belonged to an international elite" (Colonial Ireland 1-2), and he noted in 1988 that "the extension of the Anglo-French aristocratic world into Ireland in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries must be one of the most neglected of the major themes in medieval British history" ("Aristocracies" 145).
Richard de Clare (Strongbow, d. 1176), Hugh de Lacy (d. 1186) and William Marshal (d. 1219) were among the first and best-known international property tycoons in Ireland, but they were followed by many more. Among the first rank of Continental figures who received lands in Ireland in the thirteenth century were Peter de Geneve (d. 1249), Geoffrey de Lusignan (Henry Ill's Poitevin half-brother, d 1264), (6) the Savoyard Otto de Grandison (d. 1328) and William de Valence (first earl of Pembroke [in its second incarnation], d. 1296) (Hartland, "Vaucouleurs, Ludlow and Trim," 457-58; Frame, Ireland and Britain 151-69; Watson; Ridgeway). (7) Perhaps the most intriguing European aristocrat to turn up in Ireland at this time, however, was the Savoyard courtier, Geoffrey de Geneville (d. 1314) (figure 1) (Bartlett, The Making of Europe 25-28). (8) He was a member of the distinguished Geneville, or Joinville, family, seneschals of Champagne and lords of Joinville, which straddled the River Marne. As a second son (of Simon, d. 1233), Geoffrey was lord of Vaucouleurs on the River Meuse, some 300 km east of Paris. The Joinville family had been going on crusades since the Second Crusade in 1147, and Geoffrey's grandfather was killed in 1190 in the Gulf of Haifa during the great pyrrhic victory of the Third Crusade at the Siege of Acre. Some family members became Templars, and the names of others can be found among the lists of participants at tournaments across Europe. The best known Joinville, however, is undoubtedly Geoffrey's older brother, Jean (d. 1317). He was senior royal officer, or seneschal, of Champagne and a confidant and biographer of St Louis, King Louis IX of France (d. 1270) (Michel and Didot; de Wailly; Delaborde; Evans, The History of St Louis', Lucken).
This essay lays no claim to redressing the neglect flagged by Frame in 1988, but it draws attention to the theme of Prench connections in medieval Ireland once more and principally to the role of one remarkable individual who strode centre-stage in the mid-thirteenth century Geoffrey de Geneville. In order to provide some context, a brief overview is offered of some of the most significant prehistoric and early medieval Franco-Irish connections. This is followed by some discussion of de Geneville's predecessors in Ireland and of his background in France, and then of his role in Ireland at a local level in Trim and Meath and, more broadly, as justiciar of Ireland (figure 2). De Geneville's hand can be identified in works at Trim Castle (figure 3), and recent excavations in that town have also unearthed the foundations of a Dominican friary founded by him in 1263. This friary was de Geneville's final resting place when he died in 1314.
Ireland and France before 1170
Geoffrey de Geneville's arrival in Ireland was just one part ol the latest episode in a very lengthy history of Franco-Irish connections. (9) Indeed, there is evidence for human contact between prehistoric Ireland and France from as early as the Neolithic, some 6,000 years ago, and the intensity of this association ebbed and flowed for over four millennia before the first historically documented contacts occurred. (10) There should be little surprise at the connections between Ireland and France; after all, a mere 500 km separates them at the nearest point, and Cork, for example, is considerably closer to the Breton coast than it is to, say, London. This proximity is all the more significant given the fact that travel by sea was, until modern times, easier and safer than moving over land.
The coming of Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century AD marked the end of prehistory and the start of the island's documented past--its history. Traditionally, Christianity is said to have been brought to Ireland by St Patrick, from Britain; in fact, a bishop called Palladius (fl. 408-31), from Auxerre in France, was already preaching the Christian mission in Ireland before Patrick got there (Hughes 302-03; Bieler; Charles-Edwards ch. 5). Secular contact between Ireland and France also continued, as evidenced by the discovery in 1994 of two seventh-century Merovingian glass vessels at the early medieval lacustrine site of Moynagh Lough at the heart of what was at that time the kingdom of Meath (Bradley 15; Bourke 168-70). Among the other finds from Moynagh are amber from the Baltic, tin from Britain and E-ware--a buff-colored domestic pottery of probable French origin--that has also been found on many other sites throughout Ireland (Bradley; Doyle; Campbell; Belier).
Moynagh was clearly linked in to a far-reaching network of trade at that time, and Continental influence in various guises can be identified at a range of places across the island. Less than 35 km south of Moynagh, for instance, an early seventh-century Merovingian coin (a tremiss) from the northwest of France was found in the 1850s on the banks of the River Boyne close to the early medieval church site at Trim (Bruce-Mitford no. 66a 656, 669; Lindsay 12; Prou no. 437)." This can be seen as part of a small but significant and growing corpus of archaeological and documentary evidence for contact--both direct and indirect--between Ireland and France in the early Middle Ages. (12)
Traditionally, the medieval period in Ireland has been divided into early and late, with the fulcrum being the twelfth century. There were many watershed events in that hundred-year period, culminating in the arrival of the Anglo-Normans c. 1170. While that year is an obvious point at which to divide the Irish Middle Ages, the winds of change had been blowing for many decades before it. For example, in Dublin, archaeologists have found evidence for "a great influx of what appear to be northern French pottery imports in the later eleventh and twelfth centuries" (Wallace 217-18, 233-34; Hodges). (13) Similarly, Romanesque architecture--widely present in France from the eleventh century--began to make its appearance in Ireland in the 1120s (Toman; O'Keeffe; Stalley, "Ecclesiastical Architecture" 735-40; Stalley, Architecture). Cormac's Chapel at Cashel, County Tipperary, is probably the finest example of Romanesque architecture in Ireland, and, although the primary influences are from the west of England, there are clearly characteristics linking it with buildings on the Continent (O'Keeffe 123-65; Toman 248).
Another feature of late eleventh--and early twelfth-century Europe was the rise and expansion of religious orders. St Bernard's founding of a Cistercian house at Clairvaux in France in 1115 was rapidly followed up by the establishment of daughter houses right across Europe (Leroux-Dhuys). In the 1140s, Continental religious orders (notably the Cistercians and the Augustinians) established their first houses in Ireland, the earliest being Mellifont, County Louth, founded in 1142 (Leroux-Dhuys 256-59; Stalley, The Cistercian Monasteries; Leask). The first community at Mellifont was made up of French monks and Irish brethren who had been trained at Clairvaux. The cruciform churches, cloisters and regular layout of the Cistercian monasteries were all part of a trans-Continental package, the regularity and uniformity of which contrasted starkly to the arrangement and layout of early medieval Irish monasteries (O Carragain; Manning; Hamlin and Hughes; Edwards 99-131).
In retrospect, these and other similar and related developments in twelfth-century Ireland were all part of the prelude to the landing of the Anglo-Normans at Bannow Bay on the south coast in 1169. This initial wave of invaders was followed by another in 1170 and then in 1171 by the French-born king of England, Henry II, and his royal entourage. Henry was also duke of Normandy, lord of Anjou and duke of Aquitaine, and he moved swiftly to add Ireland to his portfolio. One of the king's first steps in his efforts to secure control in Ireland was to grant the abovementioned ancient kingdom of Meath to one of his loyal followers, Hugh de Lacy.
The de Lacys in Meath
Hugh de Lacy, fifth Baron Lacy, whose family originally came from Lassy in Normandy, was lord of Meath from 1172 until his death in 1186 (Orpen 2601-06; Mullally 2599-604). (14) The lordship granted to him extended to almost 325,000 hectares (over 800,000 acres) and stretched from Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon, eastwards to the Irish Sea. De Lacy chose the small settlement of Trim as the caput or headquarters of his new lordship, and this site was to become the administrative centre of Meath (Potterton, Medieval Trim). He built Trim Castle--a confident statement of authority and status--as his hub of government, housing the chancery, exchequer, treasury, prison, garrison and hall, as well as functioning as the repository for all documentary records (figure 3) (Potterton, Medieval Trim 211-66; Hayden).
Archaeological evidence indicates a human presence in Trim from as early as the Neolithic, with activity increasing during the Bronze Age (Potterton, Medieval Trim 27-66). By the seventh century at the latest, there was a church overlooking a ford across the Boyne. The significance of the site is typified by the aforementioned discovery there in the nineteenth century of a seventh-century Merovingian coin (Bruce-Mitford no. 66a, 656, 669; Lindsay 12; Prou no. 437). The land around Trim was fertile and productive, there was an established crossing point on the river, the location was known to traders and merchants and a certain level of organization was already in existence. Trim's importance in pre-Anglo-Norman times was clearly recognized by de Lacy.
By the time of his death in 1186 (AFM, under the year 1186; Hanmer ii, 322-23; Newburgh i, 240; Hewlett i, 136; Luard, Matthew Paris, ii, 324; Madden i, 434, ii, 510, iii, 206; Butler, Clyn 6; Butler, Grace 18-19), de Lacy had accumulated such a large power-base in Ireland that he was referred to by some contemporaries as "king of all Erin" (ALC, under the years 1185, 1186). Hugh's son and successor, Walter, was lord of Meath for almost fifty years, but this time was characterized by forfeiture after forfeiture and fine upon fine. Walter's failing health was an issue from at least 1237 (CD/, 1171-1251 no. 2429; CR, 1237-42 11), and early in 1241, having become blind and infirm, he died in England (AClon., under the year 1241; Camden 799; Gilbert, Chartularies, ii, 315; Luard, Matthew Paris iv, 93, 174; Madden ii, 447, 510, iii, 283; Butler, Grace 30-31; Brewer and Bullen 123). (15) Although Irish chroniclers described him on his death as the "bountifullest Englishman for horses, cloaths, mony and goold, that ever came ... into this kingdome" (AClon., under the year 1241), Walter died penniless. Elis life had been dogged by debt, and that indebtedness was also to burden the careers of his descendants.
As both his son (Gilbert, d. c. 1230) and his grandson (Walter, d. c. 1239) had pre-deceased him, Walter's granddaughters, Matilda and Margery, became his co-heiresses. Margery was married to John de Verdun and Matilda to Peter de Geneve, whose very names are a reminder of their Continental ancestry (CPR, 1232-47 429; Luard, Matthew Paris, v, 91; Madden iii, 66; Butler, Grace, 30-31). (16) Peter died in 1249, and in 1252 Matilda married Frenchman Geoffrey de Geneville (figure 4), who consequently landed himself with estates in England, Wales and Ireland, to add to those he already held in Champagne (Gilbert, Chartularies, ii, 315; Luard, Matthew Paris, v, 90-91; Madden iii, 66).
Geoffrey de Geneville
Geoffrey de Geneville, "a curial magnate of Savoyard origins" (Frame, The Political Development, 148), was knighted in England in 1247, but it appears that he spent the next few years back in Champagne, consolidating his possessions there. Lie returned to England in 1251 and spent time at the court of Henry III, where he was associated with an influential group of Savoyard barons. He was also closely allied with the heir to the throne, the future Edward I ("Longshanks") and accompanied him to Gascony in 1255 (Gibbs and Doubleday 629-30). He would later, in 1292, be described as Edward's "beloved and faithful Geoffrey de Joinville" (Sayles ii, no. 52, 125-35).
Not long after their wedding in 1252, Geoffrey and Matilda received a grant from Henry III, by which they were to enjoy the same liberties and customs as had been enjoyed by Walter de Lacy (Wood 330, deed xxviii; Mills and McEnery 7, 178; CDI, 1252-84 nos 69, 78; CR, 1251-3 363, 396; CChR, 1226-57 401; CDI, 1252-84 nos 195, 256). They did not inherit all of the territory that had been held by their predecessors, however, as half of the lands went to Matilda's sister and her husband, John de Verdun. The lands allocated to the de Verduns consisted primarily of most of the western half of the lordship, together with two substantial tracts of land in the eastern part. The rest of Meath, comprising the balance of the eastern half, centred at Trim, and a number of enclaves in the west, was held by Matilda and Geoffrey (figure 5). From this time, the de Geneville share of Meath became known as the liberty of Trim. Trim was highly profitable (Mills and McEnery 10-13; Otway-Ruthven, "Knight Service"), and this great income was of particular importance to the de Genevilles, as it enabled them to service the large debts they and the de Verduns had inherited from Walter de Lacy. (17)
Excavations at Trim Castle have revealed that much building activity took place there during Geoffrey's lifetime (Hayden; Sweetman). A new "Great Hall" was built, for instance, with enormous windows looking out over the Boyne and de Geneville's estates, and much money was spent on other renovations. Among the artefacts recovered at the castle are many sherds of Saintonge pottery imported from the Bordeaux region in France, where de Geneville sourced much of his wine.
Despite de Geneville's royal favor and his proven loyalty to the crown, over the next fifty years he had to devote a considerable amount of time and resources to defending the liberty of Trim against the king's ministers. Although the first few years of the de Geneville lordship witnessed a period of calm, the richness and importance of the area, its proximity to Dublin, and seemingly unnecessary privileges (according to royal officials, at least) soon combined to involve its lord and lady in a lengthy series of disputes with the Dublin authorities (Potterton, Medieval Trim 80-89).
It was not only the government from whom Geoffrey had to defend his liberty, but also from incursions by the native Irish, which threatened from almost all sides. In order to ensure that his tenants were armed appropriately, he issued an order by which property-holders of varying status were directed to be equipped with specified weapons and armor (Mills and McEnery 10, 182). Depending on the size of their holdings, tenants were to be furnished with a horse, a habergeon (a sleeveless chainmail jacket worn under armor), a headpiece, a lance and/or a bow and quiver of arrows. Farmers were to be armed according to the quantity of their goods, and merchants according to their merchandise.
Geoffrey also had to contend with the church. He came into conflict with the Cistercians of Mellifont, for instance, for illegally extorting fees from them (CD/, 1252-84 nos 336, 634-35; Shirley ii, no. 817, 135-36). It was alleged that his bailiffs perpetuated "the bad practices of Walter de Lacy and his brothers, who for their own benefit pillaged the monastery of its goods and granges. No prince or prelate could check their violence." Later, de Geneville was excommunicated by the archbishop of Cashel for, among other things, building a royal prison on church lands at Cashel (Hartland, "Vaucouleurs, Ludlow and Trim" 463).
Not all churchmen were against Geoffrey, however, and the monks of the chapter of Roscommon in the west of Ireland described him as "a man of great condition and discretion" (although this character assessment may have been influenced by a large bequest he made to them) (Otwxy-Ruthven, Medieval Ireland 202). Despite his confrontations with the church, Geoffrey prepared to join the Eighth Crusade, to the Holy Land, in 1270. In advance of the journey, he donated money and lands to various churches in France, England, Wales and Ireland. He founded a college at Vaucouleurs by passing substantial property to the church in 1266 and 1270 (Delaborde 342, 350-51). He also founded a Dominican friary just outside the walls of Trim, around the time at which the Dominicans in the Sligo and Roscommon area at least were actively preaching in favor of the Crusade (Potterton, Medieval Trim 318-31). The de Genevilles had a history of establishing religious houses and churches: Geoffrey's great-grandfather, for instance, is said to have been the founder of four houses in Champagne, as well as a church, dedicated to St Laurence, in the castle at Joinville (de Wailly 544-47; Michel and Didot lxxv-lxxviii).
In 1270, Geoffrey went to Tunis, where St Louis hadjust died. From there, he and another brother joined the crusade to the Holy Land. This crusade was particularly important in terms of the relationships it forged between its participants and the future King Edward. The trust ancJ faith that Edward had in de Geneville was clearly demonstrated in the summer of 1273 when Geoffrey was appointed justiciar (the king's chief minister) of Ireland (figure 2).
Once appointed, Geoffrey began his attempts to calm the growing chaos in Ireland. He received large sums of money--in the region of 2,500 [pounds sterling] per year--but this and other income was completely absorbed by Geoffrey's efforts to stabilize the lordship. The records of the Irish exchequer for the period of de Geneville's justiciarship list considerable expenditure on works carried out under his orders at Roscommon Castle and Rindoon Castle on the River Shannon (Connolly, esp. 8-10). In addition to craftsmen and building materials, oats, corn, furs, cloth, drugs (appotekariis), horses (including rounceys and palfreys), saddles, crossbows and other weapons, garrisons at Roscommon and Rindoon received large quantities of wine. Even long after he had stepped down as justiciar, de Geneville was involved in shipping victuals to the king's castles west of the Shannon. (18)
Strengthening castles and fortifying walls was one thing, but affirmative action and negotiation were also required if de Geneville's term as justiciar was to be a success. He inspected the troubled earldom of Ulster in person and seems to have restored some semblance of order there; but he was less successful in the pacification of other hostile areas. Despite his experience in battle in Europe and on the Crusades, de Geneville was singularly unsuccessful in his attempts to restore order closer to Dublin, especially in the Wicklow Mountains to the south of Dublin. Most of this area was held by the archbishop of Dublin, but it was in the king's hand during a vacancy for most of the 1270s. Royal manors and others in the south of County Dublin were continually raided and pillaged by the local Irish descending from the mountains, and the proximity of this area to Dublin and the seat of the exchequer and the courts made this a particular concern for the justiciar (Foley, passim). De Geneville and forces from Dublin, Meath and Connacht conducted operations in the area in 1274, 1275 and 1276, but they were outmaneuvered in the hostile terrain and suffered defeat, with heavy losses and casualties (Lydon, "Land of War" 257-58; O'Byrne 60-61). Indeed, the last of these defeats may have acted as a catalyst for de Geneville's decision to step down as justiciar in 1276.
While de Geneville's capabilities as a military commander have been called into question (Lydon, "Land of War" 257-58; O'Byrne 60-61), his skills as a diplomat and negotiator have not. In April 1265, he secured a notable reconciliation between powerful feuding families in Ireland. In 1267, he took part in negotiations with the Welsh (Gibbs and Doubleday 630); in 1272, he was one of the milites banerii of the king of Navarre (count of Champagne), summoned by the king of France against the count of Foix (630); and in 1280 he was one of the commissioners sent by Edward I to Paris to treat concerning peace between France and Castile (Champollion-Figeac i, no. 273; Rymer i, pt 2, 583). In 1290, he went to the papal curia to discuss matters concerning the Floly Land (Bliss 527; Gibbs and Doubleday 630), and in 1294 he was again on crown service in Wales. He spent much of the period from 1297 to 1300 taking part in Anglo-French peace negotiations and carrying out King Edward's business in Rome (Cuttino nos 311, 314, 315, 318, 322, 324; CCR, 1296-1302 109, 116, 256, 393; Riley 173; Gibbs and Doubleday 630-31). In 1299, he represented the crown at the Treaty of Montreuil (Gibbs and Doubleday 631; Rymer i, pt 2, 906). Having served as assistant marshal in 1282, he was appointed marshal of the king's army for the Flanders campaign of 1297, when he was already over seventy years of age.
All of this traveling and negotiating meant that de Geneville was away from Ireland a great deal and, of course, that he was no longer justiciar. Flis tenure as justiciar had been one of the few periods during which Trim seemed secure from the king's ministers (Camden 800; Gilbert, Chartularies, ii, 317, 318; Smith, under the year 1273; Brewer and Bullen 170; Butler, Grace 36-37; Moody, Martin and Byrne 471; Otway-Ruthven, Medieval Ireland 198-202; Gilbert, Viceroys 108; Lydon, The Lordship 125-26). (19) Once he had retired from this role, the king's ministers in Ireland made every attempt to seize the liberty of Trim, especially when Geoffrey was out of the country. (20) Thanks to de Geneville's skills, ability and connections, however, these attempts were only rarely successful, and even when they were, it was only a matter of time before he succeeded in reclaiming his estates.
Geoffrey's wife, Matilda, died on 11 April 1304, and the liberty of Trim passed to her husband for his lifetime (TCD MS 583 fos lOv-llr; Camden 805; Gilbert, Chartularies, ii, 330,332; Butler, Grace 46-47,48-49; Brewer and Bullen 126; Wood 317; Watson 5; Prestwich). The following year, just shy of his eightieth birthday, Geoffrey requested not to be sent on any more arduous diplomatic journeys, on account of his great age. In fact, so old was he that he had outlived every one of his (ten or) eleven children. On Christmas Eve 1307, the king gave license to Geoffrey to hand over all his lands in Ireland to his fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Joan, and her new husband, the fourteen-year-old Roger Mortimer, a member of one of the most powerful families in England (figure 4) (Wood 328, deed vii; CPR, 1307-13 33). At the end of September 1308, having entrusted his properties to the Mortimers, Geoffrey retired to spend the rest of his days at the Dominican friary he had founded at Trim (TCD MS 583 fo. 13r; Luard, Wigornia 560; Camden 807; Gilbert, Chartularies, ii, 281, 293, 337-38; Brewer and Bullen 170; Butler, Grace 54-55). (21)
De Geneville had founded this friary in 1263 (TCD MS 579/2 fos 343, 345; also Rawlinson B484, fo. 36; Burke 262-65; Coleman, Dominican Foundations, 32; Fenning; Callary 400; Cogan i, 305; "Proceedings" 368), and funded its maintenance and expansion (Coleman, "Athenry," 214). With thirty hectares (72 acres) on-site, the Dominican estates at Trim were the third largest in Ireland (Flynn 30-31). The 1.6 hectares (4 acres) enclosed by the conventual precinct constituted a larger area than was enclosed at any other Dominican foundation in the country (for which records survive) (Flynn 27). There was a church, a belfry, a chapter house, a dormitory, a hall, three chambers, a kitchen, a pantry and a stable, as well as an orchard and at least three houses or cottages, each with a garden (White 308). With its impressive array of lands and buildings, it is perhaps surprising that substantial portions of Trim's Dominican house do not survive. The site of the friary is a green field of about two hectares, surrounded on all sides by houses and commercial premises. Six small mounds of masonry are all that remain above ground of the original structure. Recently, however, a team of archaeologists and a field school have been investigating the site, uncovering the ground plan of the buildings and piecing together information about the friary and its community. The initial geophysical survey has allowed them to identify the rough outline of de Geneville's very large church and cloister, as well as the domestic range and chapter house. Among the finds from the church excavation are fragments of imported pottery, painted plasterwork, stained glass and window lead (O'Carroll).
In the same year as the friary at Trim was founded, 1263, Geoffrey's brother, Jean, founded a chapel in Joinville Castle, where he was buried on his death in 1317 (Michel and Didot lxxv). When Geoffrey died on 12 November 1314, he was buried in the friary church at Trim (TCD MS 583 fo. 15r; TCD MS 579/2 fo. 376; Gilbert, Chartularies, ii, 343-44; Camden 810; Brewer and Bullen 131). In a curious parallel, then, the two brothers, Geoffrey and Jean, each founded a church at the centre of his lordship in 1263, and each was buried there on his death, over fifty years later, in 1314 and 1317 respectively.
During works in Joinville Castle in 1629, a mensal tomb cover was found, and it is beyond any reasonable doubt that of Jean de Joinville (figure 6) (Michel and Didot lxxv-lxxix). One would expect something at least as elaborate to have been erected for his brother Geoffrey in Trim. No evidence for his tomb has yet been found, but an interesting discovery was made in Lincolnshire in England--the pointed oval brass seal of the Trim friary (figure 7). (22) It shows the Blessed Virgin, crowned and attired in the Dominican habit, standing on the branches of a tree, and presenting floral chaplets to (probably) the founder and his wife (Conwell 390-91; Dodd 4). At the lower point of the seal is the de Geneville coat of arms: "azure, three barnacles in pale or, on a chief ermine a demi-lion rampant issuant gules" (Conwell 391; Aveling 248). The coat of arms at the base of the seal is the same as the one on Jean de Joinville's tomb in Joinville.
De Geneville's arms were also present elsewhere in the town of Trim. A collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscript material in the library at Trinity College Dublin, gathered together in 1629, contains folios depicting a series of heraldic shields once present in St Patrick's Church, Trim (in ecclesia de Trim) (figures 8, 9) (TCD MS 807 fo. 380; Potterton, Medieval Trim, 409-10, pi. 24). These may have been flags or wall paintings, or painted or carved onto wood or stone--it is impossible to be sure--but they are no longer visible anywhere in the church. At least two of the shields include the de Geneville arms. Geoffrey de Geneville's coat of arms was well known in the Middle Ages, and it appears in many rolls of arms (armorials) compiled during his lifetime and later. (23) The "barnacles or brays" that feature in the de Geneville arms were a tool used for restraining horses and also as an instrument of torture, and, like the de Genevilles themselves, they were associated with the Crusades (London no. 19, 84-87; de Vaivre).
Geoffrey's Interest in Ireland
Geoffrey de Geneville was a widely traveled, highly experienced diplomat and nobleman. He had extensive lands in several countries, as well as titles and estates in the rich region of Champagne. Consequently, one might be forgiven for asking why he chose to devote much of his energy, masses of money, and all of his latter years to Meath, and why he chose Trim as his home and as his final resting place. There are several likely reasons. Despite his family connections, for instance, Geoffrey would never have enjoyed in Vaucouleurs the privileges he had in Meath, and in any case, Champagne had become a province of France, de facto, in 1285 (Hartland, "Vaucouleurs, Ludlow and Trim," 468). Moreover, Champagne's change of status meant that he would have been subject to considerable French taxation in 1291. Consequently, although he used it as his base on the Continent and stayed there sometimes when on business, Geoffrey followed family tradition and passed Vaucouleurs to his second son, Walter, in 1294 (468, 477).
His experience with Meath must have demonstrated clearly to Geoffrey that rights and lands were better protected by a resident lord than by lieutenants and attorneys. He was almost incessantly engaged in the defense ot his estates in Ireland and could not easily manage lands in England, Wales and France as well, especially since he was frequently required to travel overseas on royal commissions. And so, despite the wide-ranging jurisdiction and rights he enjoyed in the Welsh Marches, in advance of an important marriage alliance, he passed his English and Welsh lands to his eldest son Peter (d. 1292) in October 1283 (Hartland, "Vaucouleurs, Ludlow and Trim," 468, 470).
Throughout his career, Geoffrey consolidated his position in Meath and divested himself of commitments elsewhere. Meath was probably the most profitable of all his properties, and there can be little doubt that financial considerations played a role in Geoffrey's decision to focus his attentions on his Irish estates. But he seems ultimately to have enjoyed the challenge of Ireland, of Meath, of Trim. He never shirked the call to negotiate, to debate and to fight when necessary. He struggled and campaigned, against the odds at times, and despite setbacks, to retain and strengthen his position in Ireland--and he prevailed. Robert Bartlett's "aristocratic diaspora" coincided with the great age of the Crusades, and although these were certainly an impetus for the movement of people to Palestine, the same cannot be said of Ireland. For various other reasons, however, Ireland was an attractive proposition for several key Continental property magnates. While the story of Geoffrey de Geneville in Ireland may be unusual, it is not unique. As Beth Hartland has pointed out, what is remarkable about de Geneville is not that he held land in Ireland, but that he actually chose to make it his base ("Vaucoulers, Ludlow and Trim" 458). As we have seen, being resident in Ireland for much of the time enabled him to protect his interests there more successfully. Perhaps it also allowed him to get away from the constant business and requirements of his other wide-ranging commitments.
Looking out, in his old age, across the river from the windows of his new great hall at Trim Castle, de Geneville could not have known about the Breton connections of the megalithic passage tombs of the Boyne Valley just 30 km away and within his estates, and he would never have been aware of the Merovingian coin lost seven centuries earlier within a stone's throw of his final resting place. And yet, he was just the latest in a very long line of Fran co-Irish connections, of "French across borders." When he died in 1314, the average life expectancy for men was about 35. Geoffrey was 88.
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(1) Aversion of this essay was presented at the "French across Borders, 1300-1600" conference at East Carolina University, 26 March, 2012,The author would like to thank the editors for the invitation to contribute to this volume, and for their comments on an earlier draft of this essay. The suggestions made by two anonymous readers and Michael Ann Bevivino were also very helpful.
(2) See, for example, Polo 88-91 (commerce), 138-40 (crusades), 198-200 (pilgrimage); Adelson.
(3) The expansion of Norman influence is well documented: see, for example, Rowley, The Normans', Douglas; Cassady; Chibnall.
(4) See also Bartlett, "Colonial aristocracies."
(5) See also Frame, "Aristocracies" (reprinted in Frame, Ireland and Britain).
(6) In c. 1283, Geoffrey de Lusignan's niece, Jeanne, married Peter (Piers) de Geneville, son of Geoffrey de Geneville (figure 2).
(7) See also Flanders.
(8) For further biographical details on Geoffrey de Geneville, see Mackay; Prestwich; Hartland, "Vaucouleurs, Ludlow and Trim"; Altschul 191-92; Dodd; Gibbs and Doubleday; Watson; Delaborde. In 1292, de Geneville was described as "the king's [Edward I] beloved and faithful Geoffrey de Joinville" (Sayles ii, no. 52,125-35).
(9) In terms of medieval French perceptions of Ireland and the Irish as evidenced in French literature in the time of de Geneville and later, see O Ciosain.
(10) The origin of megalithic tombs is still unclear, but it is likely that they were first built in Brittany, from where the practice spread over land and over sea, to Ireland, among other places. Ireland was becoming increasingly interconnected with the rest of Europe, and there is growing evidence for long-distance trade. To take just one example a series of magnificent translucent green jadeite axe-heads have been found in different parts of Ireland. The stone for these axes was quarried and roughly shaped in the Alps, and then meticulously polished--possibly in northwest France--before coming to Ireland. By the dawn of the Bronze Age, the construction of massive stone tombs was largely out of fashion, but the Bronze Age people of Ireland persisted with one last type of megalithic monument--known generally as the wedge tomb. The closest Continental parallel to the Irish wedge tomb is to be found in the west of France. There is evidence for strengthening links between Ireland and France in the Bronze Age, and these connections became even more apparent with the expansion from Central Europe of the Iron Age Celts. The Ballyshannon sword hilt is a cast-bronze anthropoid handle that was dredged from the seabed off the coast of northwest Ireland in 1916. It is widely thought to have been made in south-western France in the first century BC before being imported to Ireland. For more detail on the prehistory of Ireland, see Waddell and the relevant essays in O Croinin.
(11) On the early church at Trim, see Potterton, Medieval Trim, 34-66; Potterton, "Introduction," 35-38; Kieran.
(12) See the various essays in Picard, ed., Aquitaine, esp. Picard, "Aquitaine et Irlande"; O'Brien, "Commercial Relations"; Herity, "The Chi-rho." See also Picard Ireland and France-, Henry 49,50-51; Roe, "An Interpretation"; Roe, "The Orans"; Doherty 76-85; James; Mytum; Bourke 178-80; O'Sullivan 517; Laing passim.
(13) See also Hurst 236-37; O'Brien.
(14) For more information on Hugh de Lacy, see Beresford; Flanagan See also Synnott.
(15) The year given for de Lacy's death in this source is 1230, but this may be a confusion with Walter's son, Gilbert, who possibly died in that year (CR, 1227-31 464-65).
(16) For further information on this family, see Hagger.
(17) In 1261-62, the de Genevilles and de Verduns owed 830 [pounds sterling] 4s. 8d. and 1133 [pounds sterling] 12s. 91/2d. respectively (RDKPRI xxxv, app. 40). The same sums were still outstanding when the accounts were done the following year (RDKPRI xxxv, app. 42-43), but by 1267 the de Geneville share was down to 716 [pounds sterling] 17s. (716 [pounds sterling] 18s. in 1275-76 [RDKPRI xxxvi app. 33]), while the de Verduns still owed 333 [pounds sterling] 12s. Wid. (RDKPRI xxxv, app. 48). By 1275-76 the de Verduns' debt was down to 229 [pounds sterling] 2s. 6V2d. (RDKPRI xxxvi app 34) and it was cleared in 1278-79 (RDKPRI xxxvi, app. 45). The de Genevilles' debt had been cut to 600 [pounds sterling] 4s. 8d. by 1280, when they paid a further 100 marks and were left owing 533 [pounds sterling] 11s. 4d. (RDKIPRI xxxvi, app. 46). Further payments were made by the de Genevilles between 1286 and 1294 (RDKPRI xxxvii, app. 54-55).
(18) See, for example, Connolly 38, 44, 45, 129.
(19) His accounts as justiciar are given in RDKPRI xxxvi, app., 40, 41; Geoffrey de Genevdle also served as justiciar for a time in 1264 (Otway-Ruthven, "Chief Governors " 173; Moody, Martin and Byrne 471).
(20) Hand goes so far as to suggest an element of personal feud between de Geneville and Richard de Barford, treasurer (130).
(21) Marleburrough gives the year that "Lord Jeffery Genvill became a fryer at Trym, of the order of the preachers" as 1309 (ii, 4).
(22) cFer]ning sugges" that the seal might have been brought to Lincolnshire by Edward Staples, sometime bishop of Meath, around the time of the Suppression (16). Staples bought the priory buildings in 1540 and may have acquired the seal along with the other convent chattels, which were sold at the time (White 308). John Pole had been transferred from Trim to Lincolnshire in 1397, and it also possible that he brought the seal with him [Fenning 18, referring to Monumenta Ordinis Praedicatorum historica (1966) xviii, 195].
(23) Among the medieval armorials in which de Geneville's coat of arms appears are: Glover's Roll (c. 1253; Cooke's version); Armorial Wijnbergen (1265-70); Walford's Roll (c. 1275); Heralds' Roll (c. 1279); Dering Roll (c. 1280); Camden Roll (c. 1280); St George's Roll (c. 1285); Charles' Roll (c. 1285); Lord Marshal's Roll (c. 1295); Guillim's Roll (c. 1295-1305); Collins' Roll (c. 1296); Smallpece's Roll (c. 1298-1306); Thomas Jenyn's Book (c. 1410). His arms are also incorporated into the stained-glass heraldic window depicting the arms of the knights of Edward I after the Siege of Caverlock (1300) in the abbey of SS Peter and Paul in Dorchester, Oxfordshire.
Michael Potterton, PhD, is editor at Four Courts Press and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. His primary research interests are medieval settlement and society. He is the author, co-author or co-editor of ten books including Medieval Trim (2005), Ireland in the Renaissance (ed. with Thomas Herron, 2007) and The Dublin Region in the Middle Ages (with Margaret Murphy, 2010)
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|Publication:||Explorations in Renaissance Culture|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2013|
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