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Geoffroy of Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne. His Life and Memoirs of the Fourth Crusade

Theodore Evergates

EVERGATES Theodore, Geoffroy of Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne. His Life and Memoirs of the Fourth Crusade, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2024.

ISBN : 9781501773495.

Geoffroy of Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne by Theodore Evergates traces the remarkable life of Geoffroy of Villehardouin (c. 1148–c. 1217) from his earliest years in Champagne through his last years in Greece after the crusade.

The fourth son of a knight, Geoffroy became marshal of Champagne, principal negotiator in organizing the Fourth Crusade, chief of staff of the expedition to and conquest of Constantinople, garrison commander of Constantinople and, in his late fifties, field commander defending the Latin settlement in the Byzantine empire against invading Bulgarian armies and revolting Greek cities. Known for his diplomatic skills and rectitude, he served as the chief military advisor to Count Thibaut III of Champagne and later to Emperor Henry of Constantinople.

Geoffroy is remarkable as well for dictating the earliest war memoir in medieval Europe, which is also the earliest prose narrative in Old French. Addressed to a home audience in Champagne, he described what he did, what he saw, and what he heard during his eight years on crusade and especially during the fraught period after the conquest of Constantinople. His memoir, The Book of the Conquest of Constantinople, furnishes a commander’s retrospective account of the main events and inner workings of the crusade—the innumerable meetings and speeches, the conduct (not always commendable) of the barons, and the persistent discontent within the army—as well as a celebration of his own deeds as a diplomat and a military commander.

Theodore Evergates is the editor or author of ten books on medieval France, including The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100–1300 ; Henry the Liberal ; and Marie of France.