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William IX (Guilhèm de Peitieus)
(10711127)

William IX (Guilhèm de Peitieus)(10711127)

William IX (Guilhèm de Peitieus), called the Troubador, was the Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony and Count of Poitou (as William VII) between 1086 and his death. He was also one of the leaders of the Crusade of 1101 and the first troubadour, that is, vernacular lyric poet in the Occitan language.

William was the son of William VIII of Aquitaine by his third wife, Hildegarde of Burgundy. His birth was a cause of great celebration at the Aquitanian court, but the Church at first considered him illegitimate because of his father's earlier divorces and his parents' consanguinity. This obliged his father to make a pilgrimage to Rome soon after his birth to seek Papal approval of his third marriage and the young William's legitimacy.

William inherited the duchy at the age of fifteen upon the death of his father. In 1088, at the age of only sixteen, William married his first wife, Ermengarde, the daughter of Fulk IV of Anjou. She was reputedly beautiful and well-educated, but also suffered from severe mood-swings, vacillating between vivacity and sullenness. She was considered a nag, and had a habit of retiring in bad temper to a cloister after an argument, cutting off all contact with the outside world until suddenly making a reappearance at court as if her absence had never occurred. Such behaviour, coupled with her failure to conceive a child, led William to send her back to her father and have the marriage dissolved (1091).

In 1094 he remarried to Philippa, the daughter and heiress of William IV of Toulouse. By Philippa, William had two sons and five daughters, including his eventual successor, William X. His second son, Raymond, eventually became the Prince of Antioch in the Holy Land, and his daughter Agnes married firstly Aimery V of Thouars and then Ramiro II of Aragon, establishing dynastic ties with that ruling house.

William invited Pope Urban II to spend the Christmas of 1095 at his court. The pope urged him to "take the cross" (i.e. the First Crusade) and leave for the Holy Land, but William was more interested in exploiting the absence on Crusade of Raymond IV of Toulouse, his wife's uncle, to press a claim to Toulouse. He and Philippa did capture Toulouse in 1098, an act for which they were threatened with excommunication. Partly out of a desire to regain favor with the religious authorities and partly out of a wish to see the world, William joined the Crusade of 1101, an expedition inspired by the success of the First Crusade in 1099. To finance it, he had to mortgage Toulouse back to Bertrand, the son of Raymond IV.

William arrived in the Holy Land in 1101 and stayed there until the following year. His record as a military leader is not very impressive. He fought mostly skirmishes in Anatolia and was frequently defeated. His recklessness led to his being ambushed on several occasions, with great losses to his own forces. In September 1101 his entire army was destroyed by the Seljuk Turks at Heraclea; William himself barely escaped and, according to Orderic Vitalis, he reached Antioch with only six surviving companions.

William, like his father and many magnates of the time, had a rocky relationship with the Church. He was excommunicated twice, the first time in 1114 for an alleged infringement of the Church's tax privileges. His response to this was to demand absolution from Peter, Bishop of Poitiers. As the bishop was at the point of pronouncing the anathema, the duke threatened him with a sword, swearing to kill him if he did pronounce absolution. Bishop Peter, surprised, pretended to comply, but when the duke, satisfied, released him, the bishop calmly completed reading the anathema, before calmly presenting his neck and inviting the duke to strike. According to contemporaries, William hesitated a moment before sheathing his sword and replying, "I don't love you enough to send you to paradise."

William was excommunicated a second time for "abducting" the Viscountess Dangereuse (Dangerosa), the wife of his vassal Aimery I de Rochefoucauld, Viscount of Châtellerault. The lady, however, appears to have been a willing party in the matter. He installed her in the Maubergeonne tower of his castle in Poitiers (leading to her nickname La Maubergeonne), and, as related by William of Malmesbury, even painted a picture of her on his shield.

Upon returning to Poitiers from Toulouse, Philippa was enraged to discover a rival woman living in her palace. She appealed to her friends at court and to the Church; however, no noble could assist her since William was their feudal overlord, and whilst the Papal legate Giraud (who was bald) complained to William and told him to return Dangereuse to her husband, William's only response was, "Curls will grow on your pate before I part with the Viscountess." Humiliated, Philippa chose in 1116 to retire to the Abbey of Fontevrault, where she was befriended, ironically, by Ermengarde of Anjou, William's first wife. Philippa did not remain there long, however: the abbey records state that she died on the 28 November 1118.

Relations between the Duke and his elder son William also became strainedalthough it is unlikely that he ever embarked upon a seven-year revolt in order to avenge his mother's mistreatment, as Ralph of Diceto claimed. only to be captured by his father. Other records flatly contradict such a thing. Ralph claimed that the revolt began in 1113, at which point the young William was only thirteen his father's liaison with Dangereuse had not yet begun. Father and son improved their relationship after the marriage of the younger William to Aenor of Châtellerault, Dangereuse's daughter by her husband, in 1121.

William was readmitted to the Church around 1120, after making concessions to it. However, he was after 1118 faced with the return of his first wife, Ermengarde, who had, upon the death of Philippa, stormed down from Fontevrault to the Poitevin court, demanding to be reinstated as the Duchess of Aquitainepresumably in an attempt to avenge the mistreated Philippa. In October 1119, she suddenly appeared at the Council of Reims being held by Pope Calixtus II and demanded that the Pope excommunicate William (again), oust Dangereuse from the ducal palace, and restore herself to her rightful place. The Pope "declined to accommodate her"; however, she continued to trouble William for several years afterwards, thereby encouraging him to join the Reconquista efforts underway in Spain.

Between 1120 and 1123 William joined forces with the Kingdoms of Castile and León. Aquitanian troops fought side by side with Castilians in an effort to take Cordoba. During his sojourn in Spain, William was given a rock crystal vase by a Muslim ally that he later bequeathed to his granddaughter Eleanor. The vase probably originated in Sassanid Persia in the seventh century.

In 1122, William lost control Toulouse, Philippa's dower land, to Alfonso Jordan, the son and heir of Raymond IV, who had taken Toulouse after the death of William IV. He did not trouble to reclaim it. He died on 10 February 1126, aged 55, after suffering a short illness.

William's greatest legacy to history was not as a warrior but as a poet. He was the first known troubadour, or lyric poet employing the Romance vernacular called Provençal or Occitan. Eleven of his songs survive (Merwin, 2002). They are attributed to him under his title as Count of Poitou (lo coms de Peitieus). The topics vary, treating sex, love, women, his own sexual prowess, and feudal politics. His frankness, wit and vivacity caused scandal and won admiration at the same time. He is among the first Romance vernacular poets of the Middle Ages, one of the founders of a tradition that would culminate in Dante, Petrarch, and Villon.

William was a man who loved scandal and no doubt enjoyed shocking his audiences. He also composed a song about founding a convent in his lands, where the nuns would be picked from among the most beautiful women in the region, or from the best whores, depending on the translation. While this confirms William's lusty persona, it also makes a joke about the penitentiary convents for prostitutes founded by the charismatic preacher Robert of Arbrissel. (Bond, xlix) In fact, William granted large donations to the church, perhaps to regain the pope's favour. He also added to the palace of the counts of Poitou (which had stood since the Merovingian era), later added to by his granddaughter Eleanor of Aquitaine and surviving in Poitiers as the Palace of Justice to this day.


Micronesia, 1999, Death of Duke Guilheim IX

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