Stephen du Perche (died 1205)

Stephen du Perche (died 14 April 1205) was a Norman nobleman and crusader. He was a partisan of the Plantagenets in their conflict with the French crown and held fiefs from them. He governed the County of Perche on behalf of his father and brother during their absence on crusade.

Early life

Born before 1173, Stephen was the second of five sons of Count Rotrou IV of Perche and his wife Matilda, daughter of Theobald, count of Blois and Chartres. He was named after his uncle, Stephen, archbishop of Palermo.[1] His younger brothers entered the church.[2]

His father and older brother, Geoffrey III, joined the Third Crusade in 1189.[3] During their absence, Stephen shared the administration of the county with the seneschal Warin of Lonray.[4] After Geoffrey's return in 1192 or 1193, Stephen accompanied him to England.[2] It has sometimes been thought that Stephen and Geoffrey divided the Perche between themselves, but this is based on a misreading of a document of 1202.[5]

Royal service

By the early 1190s, Stephen held rights to a portion of the comital revenues of the manors at Rivray, Montlandon and Nonvilliers, the mills at La Poterie and the salt works at Nogent-le-Rotrou. By 1195, he had entered the service of King Richard I of England, who was also Duke of Normandy. He was receiving arrears of payments from the Exchequer of Normandy as late as 1200. At some point prior to 1198, Stephen was granted temporary control of the lands of Fulk of Aunou in the Hiémois.[6] In August 1198, Stephen was with Richard at Orival.[7] A little later in 1198, Richard granted Stephen a money fief and Stephen fought for Richard in the war with France that year.[2]

In July 1200, King John of England, Richard's successor, appointed Stephen castellan of Châteauneuf-sur-Sarthe in the County of Anjou. Stephen, however, had to give up the royal grant of lands he had received at Chambois. These lands were passed on to William Marshal. In the autumn of 1201, when King John returned to Anjou after a circuit of the Duchy of Aquitaine, Stephen stood as a guarantor of the settlement reached between John and one of his most powerful Angevin vassals, Juhel III of Mayenne, who had supported John's rival for the throne, Arthur of Brittany, in 1199.[8]

Fourth Crusade

In 1200, Stephen's brother Geoffrey joined the Fourth Crusade. He spent much of the next two years preparing, but he died just before Easter 1202. Stephen had committed to the crusade by January 1202, when he mortgaged his properties at Langeais to cover his expenses.[9] Geoffrey, on his deathbed at Le Theil, entrusted command of the Percheron contingent to Stephen.[10] In May 1202, King John stood as surety for a loan to Stephen from the Templars and Hospitallers.[11] During the interval between his brother's death and his departure, Stephen seems to have governed the county of Perche again.[12] After his departure, Geoffrey's widow Matilda took over the regency for her minor son, Thomas.[10]

In June, Stephen and the Percheron contingent joined the main French force massing at Chartres.[11] He made several religious bequests before departing.[13] He probably travelled in the company of his cousin Count Louis I of Blois.[10]

Stephen made the rendezvous at Venice in October 1202, but he was physically incapable of leaving with the army. His ship, the Violet, sank shortly after sailing and it is unclear if Stephen was injured in the wreck or if he had not even been aboard due to illness. He avoided therefore the controversial siege of Zara in November. In March 1203 he decided not to rejoin the main army and went to southern Italy with Rotrou of Montfort and Yves of La Jaille.[14] There they sailed directly to the Holy Land, possibly in the same flotilla or ship as Simon of Montfort.[15]

Only after the sack of Constantinople did Stephen rejoin the army to help defend the conquests. He returned from the Holy Land with Renaud of Montmirail.[14] In 1204, after the partition of the Byzantine Empire by the crusaders, the new emperor Baldwin I granted Stephen the duchy of Philadelphia in Asia Minor as an imperial fief.[16] Stephen distributed fiefs to his own vassals within his duchy. The grant of a large and autonomous fief, as connoted by the term "duchy" in the sources, is an indication that Stephen was considered among the first rank of crusaders.[17] He was one of twelve barons who sat on the council that advised the emperor.[18]

Stephen was killed at the Battle of Adrianople along with Louis of Blois and Renaud of Montmirail. Stephen's participation in the crusade is narrated in Geoffrey of Villehardouin's chronicle and the Devastatio Constantinopolitana.[14]


  1. Thompson 1995, p. 26.
  2. Thompson 1995, p. 80.
  3. Thompson 2002, p. 115.
  4. Thompson 2002, p. 116.
  5. Thompson 1995, p. 143, n7.
  6. Thompson 2002, p. 119.
  7. Thompson 1995, p. 136.
  8. Thompson 2002, pp. 139–141.
  9. Thompson 2002, p. 143.
  10. Thompson 1995, p. 143.
  11. Thompson 2002, p. 146.
  12. Thompson 1995, p. 84.
  13. For an annotated list of all Stephen's surviving acts, see Thompson 1995, pp. 203–204.
  14. Queller, Compton & Campbell 1974, p. 449.
  15. Queller, Compton & Campbell 1974, p. 453, n61.
  16. Wolff 1969, p. 192.
  17. Van Tricht 2011, p. 109.
  18. Van Tricht 2011, p. 254.


  • Longnon, Jean (1978). Les compagnons de Villehardouin: Recherches sur les croisés de la quatrième croisade. Geneva: Librairie Droz.
  • Queller, D. E.; Compton, T. K.; Campbell, D. A. (1974). "The Fourth Crusade: The Neglected Majority". Speculum. 49 (3): 441–465. doi:10.2307/2851751.
  • Thompson, Kathleen H. (1995). The Counts of the Perche, c.1066–1217 (PDF) (PhD diss.). University of Sheffield.
  • Thompson, Kathleen H. (2002). Power and Border Lordship in Medieval France: The County of the Perche, 1000–1226. Boydell Press.
  • Wolff, Robert L. (1969). "The Latin Empire of Constantinople, 1204–1261". In R. L. Wolff; H. W. Hazard (eds.). History of the Crusades, Vol. 2: The Later Crusades, 1189–1311. University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 186–233.
  • Van Tricht, Filip (2011). The Latin Renovatio of Byzantium: The Empire of Constantinople (1204–1228). Brill.
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