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genet in part of Britanny, offered such occupation to a gallant and enterprising spirit as might prevent the Count of Nantes, embarrassed as he was likely to be in a war with Conan, from disturbing Henry in the possession of Anjou and Maine. He therefore consented readily to his brother's acceptance of the coronet, left him in the enjoyment of his pension, and, we are told, held out to him a promise of support in case he should be attacked. The knowledge that his rival would be thus powerfully assisted, probably withheld Conan from any vigorous efforts against the Count of Nantes ; but still Henry kept a watchful eye upon the province during the years 1157 and the beginning of 1158, while he himself was engaged in the struggle with the Welsh, in all probability looking forward to the future for an union of that Duchy with the other immense continental possessions of the Crown of England. In the year 1158, however, he received intelligence of the decease of his brother, which took place in the month of July; and about the same time came the news that Conan had made himself master of the town of Nantes, immediately after Geoffrey's death.
What right or title Henry had to claim that city as a part of the succession of his brother has never very clearly appeared. Lord Lyttleton supposes that some testamentary gift of the County was made by Geoffrey to his brother Henry, with the consent and authorization of
the people of Nantes : but I can discover by no means any proof that such was the case. It seems to me probable that the King himself manufactured the claim, rather than that he possessed it by any right ; for the history of his whole life shows frequent instances of the same grasping at every advantage. He now however proceeded to take measures for obtaining Nantes, and at the same time he carried on a negociation with the King of France, having for its object the recovery of the Norman Vexin, which had been ceded to the French crown by his father Geoffrey.
With these views, he went over to Normandy as soon after the death of his brother as the state of England would permit, and held a conference with the French King upon the frontiers of the Duchy, in regard to a marriage between his son named Henry—who now, in consequence of his elder brother's death, was heir apparent to the crown of England, and Margaret, daughter of Louis, the French king, by Constance of Castile, whom that monarch had married after his divorce from Eleanor. The dower demanded with the Princess was the Norman Vexin; and, as Constance and her husband had no male issue, they were extremely glad to grant the territories required, in order to secure for their daughter a seat upon the throne of England. The youth of the two principal parties however, left much to futurity; for the Prince was but seven years old, and the Princess but three. Henry, however,
skilfully turned the apparent obstacle to his own advantage; and, sending his famous minister Becket to the court of France, he exacted and obtained the following extraordinary conditions : that the Princess should be confided to his care, and sent into Normandy to be educated as a wife for his son; and that the castles of the Norman Vexin should be placed in the custody of three Knights Templars, to be held by them, till such time as the marriage could be consummated, when they were to be given up to England. He thus stipulated, in fact, that he should hold the daughter of the French king as a hostage, and secured the neutrality of three important castles upon his Norman frontier.
All this however, was not sufficient. Becket having completely won the favour of the King of France, Henry was invited to Paris in order to receive the Princess from the hands of her parents, and to conduct her into Normandy. At the French court the monarch aided by his minister proceeded so artfully, as to obtain permission from the King of France to march into Britanny, and in the quality of Grand Seneschal of France, which he held as Count of Anjou, to decide between the young Duke Conan and his old rival Eudes, who had escaped from prison some time before, had served the King of France, and whose claim to the Duchy of Britanny was now resumed.
Monstrous as was the weakness of Louis in a political point of view, it was scarcely less so in
a moral light, if we consider that the person into whose hands he gave the judgment of so important a dispute, was himself a claimant of part of the territory in question. He was, moreover, an interested party in consequence of an old claimapparently a just one-of the Dukes of Normandy to hold Britanny as a fief. Notwithstanding Henry's quality of Grand Seneschal, the natural resort of the claimants to Britanny was to the King's court of Peers so long as the claims of the Norman Dukes was not allowed; and thither, had Louis been politic or just, he would have brought the cause for decision. Such, however, was not the plan which he pursued; and the determination of the whole was left to Henry, who had previously issued a summons for all his Norman vassals to meet him in arms at the town of Avranches on Michaelmas-day 1158.
The young Duke of Britanny hastened to avert the storm that was now gathering over him. Everything indeed seemed to indicate that it would crush him : Eudes had established, by services in the field, great claims upon the King of France, and was now making use of them in order to deprive his stepson of his patrimony: Henry of England was offended by Conan's seizure of Nantes, and the King of France left the decision of the whole dispute to that monarch; while Henry, gathering his soldiers in Normandy, was preparing to enter Britanny in the two incompatible offices of enemy and judge.
In mollifying him, then, lay Conan's only hope, and
he consequently hastened in person to Avranches, immediately ceded the town of Nantes to Henry, and gave up to him also the territory then called Pays de la Mie, that is to say, everything between the Loire and the Vilaine. Such an important argument immediately gained the decision of the judge, who pronounced a sentence favourable to Conan, fixed him in the Duchy, and took possession of the acquired territory, with a force which seemed more than proportioned to the undertaking. It might be intended to overawe any partisan of Eudes; but Henry employed it, immediately after, to punish the revolt of one of the nobles of Poitou, which probably might have ended in a more general insurrection, had it not been promptly quelled. About the same period, he induced the Count of Blois to cede Amboise and another fortress, which he held upon the frontiers of his dominions, and recovered various places that had been dismembered from Normandy, during the contentions between Matilda and Stephen.
Henry was now beyond all doubt the most powerful monarch in Europe: he possessed, in right of his descent from Matilda, and the approbation of his vassals, all Normandy and England. The Princes of Wales had been reduced to do homage and to promise peace. Anjou, Maine, and Touraine descended to him from his father; Aquitaine was his, in right of his wife. His subjects were obedient and contented; his vassals, brave, warlike, and experienced; his revenues vast and increasing; his