Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ladies, God's gift to you has arrived.


I've been trying to get a feel for the personalities of some of the important personages of 12th century England.  The guy above, Geoffrey of Anjou, is the husband of Empress Matilda, one of the claimants to the throne during the Anarchy.  Note that he is not Emperor Geoffrey; he is a mere count.  Matilda holds the title of Empress from her first marriage.  She's the widow of a Holy Roman Emperor, though I can't remember his name at the moment.  Matilda is also Queen of the Romans in her own right. Geoffrey's family is wealthy and powerful, but he obviously married up socially.

Another interesting fact about Geoffrey of Anjou is that he is considerably younger than his imperial spouse.  As the campaign opens he is 26 and she is 37, suggesting perhaps that Geoffrey is perhaps a bit of a trophy husband along the lines of the Ashton Kutcher/Demi Moore relationship.

Additionally, Geoffrey could be interpreted as a bit of a fashion plate.  See that shield he's carrying with the lions?  That's the earliest extant coat of arms in England.  His uncle, King Henry I, gave him that shield upon his knighting.  Books on the subject of heraldry always assume that shield devices arose out of the practical need to identify friends and foes on the field of battle.  What if they're wrong?  What if heraldry just started out as a silly fashion trend?  Suppose young Geoffrey wears that shield every he goes.  Everyone knows the king gave him that shield (if they don't know, he'll certainly tell them).  Soon his no-good hangers-on, the kind of toadies that latch on to any powerful man, are carrying fancy painted shields as well. Then Geoffrey marries the Empress.  Soon all of Europe hops onto the painted shield craze!  But not everyone can pull off wearing a Phrygian cap emblazoned with their device quite as dapperly as Geoffrey here.

So this is my take on Geoffrey of Anjou, one of the major players of the period: he's an empty-headed clotheshorse.  The Paris Hilton of his age.  Famous for being famous.  His only assets are prettyboy looks, the ability to accessorize hat/shield combos and the luck to marry well.