Thursday, January 3, 2008

Geoffrey V of Anjou

Founder of the House of "Plantagenet"

This surname comes from the Latin, "planta genista." Dynasty founder Geoffrey V, count of Anjou [1113-1151], had, according to tradition, the habit of wearing a broom sprig in his helmet, whence the French variant, Plantegenet, arose. Later traditions, equally unverifiable, claim that Geoffrey, in penitence for some unknown sin, scourged himself with branches from a broom plant. His descendants inherited the crown of England through his wife, Matilda, daughter of Henry I.

Geoffrey died suddenly on September 7, 1151. According to John of Marmoutier, Geoffrey was returning from a royal council when he was stricken with fever. He arrived at Château-du-Loir, collapsed on a couch, made bequests of gifts and charities, and died. He was buried at St. Julien's Cathedral in Le Mans France.

The useage of "Plantegenet" as a surname is not credited to any of Geoffrey's direct descendants until circa 1448, when Richard, duke of York, assumed it [The Complete Peerage, XII/2:905, note g].

Geoffrey's funerary plaque, 25''×13'', is made of enamel on gilt copper (see image above). The technique, known as Limoges enamel, originated around 1100 near Limoges, and consists of a copper plaque into which compartments have been gouged out and filled with ground glass of various colors, which is then heated to fuse the glass into enamel, and finally polished. Located in the Tessé museum in Le Mans, the plaque comes originally from the cathedral of Saint-Julien. It is not certain where the plaque was placed in the monument, the best guess is that it was hung on a wall above the tomb itself. The plaque, on stylistic grounds, can be dated to the period of the tomb, ca 1150-55.

Pastoureau, Michel: 'The use of heraldry in Limousin enamels," in John P. O'Neill et al. (eds.), Enamels of Limoges, 1100-1350. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.

See also Geoffrey H. White's article, "The Plantagenet enamel at Le Mans," found in The Complete Peerage, vol. XI, appendix G, pps. 133-142.

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