The Counts of Louvain and the Anglo-Norman World (c. 1100 – c. 1215)

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In his 2012 monograph, Eljas Oksanen explored the interactions and exchanges between the county of Flanders and the Anglo-Norman world from the battle of Hastings to the end of King John's troubled reign. His book has convincingly demonstrated how complex and vigorous cross-Channel relations were in the High Middle Ages. The question of the interactions between the Isles and the Continent investigated by Oksanen has fascinated British, French and Belgian historians for decades. Most of the works devoted to this topic have focused logically on the powerful county of Flanders, which was located a stone's throw from the heart of the Anglo-Norman world. However, the Flemish aristocracy never had a monopoly on the exchanges with England. Strong ties also existed between the Anglo-Norman realm and the other principalities of the Low Countries, especially the county of Louvain.

In the High Middle Ages the county of Louvain was an important principality located at the heart of Lower Lotharingia, at the western border of the German Empire (see Map 1). The counts of Louvain were the descendants of the Regniers of Hainault, one of the most turbulent lineages in Lotharingia in the tenth and the eleventh centuries (Figs 1 and 2). The towns of Louvain, Brussels and Antwerp were at the centre of their power. Due to the lack of sources, the history of the counts of Louvain is poorly known from the death of Lambert I in 1015 until the end of the eleventh century. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that they were key players in the area between France and the Empire towards 1100. Along with the counts of Flanders and the counts of Hainault, they were the most powerful princes in the Low Countries. In 1106 King Henry V gave the prestigious title of duke of Lotharingia to Count Godfrey I of Louvain (1095–1139), who had inherited the county from his elder brother the preceding year. Except between the years 1128 and 1140, the title remained in the hands of the comital family. The status of the duke of Lotharingia evolved after the Diet of Schwäbisch-Hall (1190), which limited the authority of the dukes to their own county and their imperial fiefs.
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)135-154
Number of pages20
JournalAnglo-Norman Studies
Early online dateOct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 2020

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