First, I must apologise for how long it has taken to resume this series on the ancient pays de Rays (Le Retz). Though this might sound contradictory, it is in part a consequence of finding the research already done—by Rene Blanchard in Cartulaire des sires de Rays published in 1896 by la Société des archives historiques du Poitou and available on Gallica
René Blanchard 1846-1920
Archiviste. – Conservateur-adjoint à la bibliothèque de Nantes. – Fut vice-président de la Société archéologique de Nantes et secrétaire des bibliophiles bretons
However, French not being my first language, I had first to translate his work, and then to take notes. All time consuming. Then when I came to writing the posts I discovered my original intent to feature the key women of la maison de Rays to be impractical: it required me, first, to write of the men. And so these last four posts of this series will feature the family in its entirety, not only the women. But, of course, all this has required more work . . . hence I offer my apologies for the massive delay.
Because from C11th Machecoul was the capital of Le Retz, and because as I said in the introduction to the series Le Retz (le pays de Rays or de Rais) is an area much overlooked by English speaking historians, despite its central position in the Plantagenet empire. So this is to rectify.
Machecoul: a brief history
Today Machecoul sits some 35km (21 miles) from the sea, separated by the Marais breton—a major region for saliculture, its 45,000 hectares stretch from Moutiers-en-Retz in the north to Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the south (see map below). But this was not always Machecoul’s situation.
During the Roman period there existed close to ‘Portus Seco’ (Gulf of Machecoul) a small town for which we’ve no name. This is assumed to be the forerunner of Machecoul. As with many Roman settlements, it arose around a junction of important routes: north-west to the bay of Bourgneuf-en-Retz; north to Arthon-en-Retz; south to towards Varnes (a ville important in Roman times, now a village north of La Garnache).
With the fall of the Western Roman Empire Germanic tribes swarmed the area. The (East Germanic) Visigoths claimed the Machecoulaise region—until 507 when the (West Germanic) Franks under Clovis I (466-511) wrested control at the Battle of Vouillé. The region thereafter formed part of the kingdom of Neustria:
- 511-524 ruled by King Clodomir (494-524)
- 524-561 ruled by Clotaire I the Elder
(both were sons of Clovis I)
- 635 governed by Dagobert I
- 639 rules by Clovis II (635-657); from 656 as part of the reunited France
Situated close to a lake, it’s believed the future Machecoul, as yet wood-constructed, was raised on stilts.
Saint Philibert (c.616-684) and the foundation of Sancta Crux
Of a noble family from Aquitaine, Saint Philibert arrived in the area in 677 and proceeded to evangelise the machecoulaise. While the saint himself is credited with the foundation of the parish of Noirmoutier (island of Her previously mentioned in this series of posts), his disciples are credited with the foundation of several other parish priories dating from this time. Amongst these is the parish of Sancta Crux. Two chapels here are known from this period: the chapel of Saint-Jean (late C7th), and a chapel of the Virgin situated on the plain des Chaumes*.
* Google translates the ‘plain des Chaumes’. as ‘the field of stubble’. But since Chaumes translates today as ‘thatch’, and it was situated right against the marshes, ‘rush’ or ‘reed’ is probably the proper translation.
Sancta Crux would later be absorbed into medieval Machecoul.
By 814 when Charlemagne died the machecoulaise had been annexed by Poitou as part of the much larger region of Aquitaine.
Situated on the coast—and despite being defended by mudflats and marshes—Santa Crux (the future Machecoul) was particularly vulnerable to Viking attacks. Viking fleets invaded the harbour, plundered, destroyed and killed. The entire region became a battlefield with all piling in: the Vikings v. the Franks v. the soldiers of the Count of Nantes v. the Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou.
Then, as previously seen in this series, in 851 the machecoulaise, as part of Le Retz, was officially passed to the Breton king Nominoë with the Treaty of Angers.
As part of Le Retz, the machecoulaise remained for centuries a buffer zone suffering depredations of every military incursion. Yet it was also a ‘free zone’ for trade between France and Brittany, granted significant tax exemptions which remained in force until the Revolution.
Post Viking Period
Sainte-Croix being trashed by the Vikings, the first act was to rebuild it. This is credited to one ‘Gunterius’ (assumed to be legendary according to fr.wiki).
Be that as it may, it was one ‘Bego’ Count of Poitou who in 840 raised upon the main mound of Sainte-Croix the wooden castle and battlements from which Machecoul took its modern name.
- BEGO, son of — (killed in battle late 843, bur Durin).
- The Chronicle of Nantes records that Charles II “le Chauve” King of the West Franks appointed “Bego” as Duke of Aquitaine in 843, that he built “castrum Begonis” near Nantes aiming to expel Lambert Comte de Nantes and his supporters from the region, but was killed in battle and buried “apud Durenum”.
La chronique de Nantes (Paris) VIII, pp. 22 and 24 (Merlet, R. (ed.) 1896)
Quoted from FMG (Foundation of Medieval Genealogy)
Machecoul castle (as described by fr.wiki):—
- founded upon an artificial mound of earth
- a large wooden tower
- surrounded by a ditch filled with high fences
- and several rings of earthen ramparts
- all topped with fences and hedges
- everything finally surrounded by a wide moat.
At this time the oppidum Sancte Crucis, or the castle of Machecoul, was still situated close to the sea. And not exactly far across that sea was the Viking settlement on the island of Noirmoiter.
The name ‘Machecoul’ in various forms is attested from C11th:—
- Machecollum in 1083
- Machicol in 1100
l’abbé de La Chaume signed a charter for a donation as Glemarhocus abbas Sanctae Mariae Machicol [Glémarhocus, abbot of St. Marie Machecoul].
The word machecollis or machicollis refers to an overhanging gallery found at the top of fortifications whose floor has openings through which might be dropped stones and flaming projectiles and boiling oil on persons unwise enough to attack the castle or town. It means, literally, ‘neck-crusher’.
Taken from the illustration in fr.wiki
By C11th the oppidum Sancte Crucis had become ‘Machecoul’, the fortified seat of the first lords of Le Retz. Indeed, Gestin II de Retz talks about his castrum Machicol.
La Maison de Rays (de Rais, de Retz)
Unless otherwise stated, from herein I shall be drawing upon the work of Rene Blanchard, Cartulaire des sires de Rays (see above). And as with the previous series, where the documents are available online I have included a transcribed copy (see Charter Index though individual links are provided).
The First Seigneur
Fr.wiki assigns the ‘first seigneur de Saint Croix’, Gestin I de Retz, to circa 985. Blanchard is more circumspect.
As potential evidence he cites three charters: two from the cartulary Landévénec, the third from the cartulary of Saint-Florent, dated to c.952-988 (see Morice 345, Morice 345-346, and Morice 346-347). But, as he says, this ‘certain Gestin’ usually taken as the first seigneur de Rays, though titled as vicomte is given no qualifying domain. It is only in the copies left by the historian Travers (now to be found in Concilia provinceia Turonensis t.II, not available online) that that word vicecomes is followed by the qualifier Radesiarum. A late addition, says Blanchard, that more recent authors find acceptable. He does not.
Tthe name Gestin is found amongst the seigneurs de Rays from C11th onwards. But Blanchard considers this ‘acceptance on the grounds of a simple homonym’ to be rash. However, he does note of a charter dated to 1004—which apparently the Breton historians had overlooked (Monuments historiques, published by Jules Tardif, 1866, no 245, available on archive.org—see Monuments historiques 245)
Here Heroicus (aka Herveus), bishop of Nantes, with count Budic, son and heir
of Judicaël, former bishop and count of Nantes, makes various donations to the abbey of Déols, amongst which is a salt-works called Savigne which belongs to ‘Attonis and Gestin, children of Ascuit’—« quae fuit Attonis et Gestin filii Sascuit ».
Gestin, Ascuit and Atton are names found amongst the later seigneurs de Rays, three of whom bore the name Harscoët of which Ascuit is a variant; at least two were named Gestin; and Atton is evidenced as Haton. It was a common practice in the Middle Ages to name a first son for his paternal grandfather, and later sons for various uncles. Thus a core of names remained in the family for successive generations. In this practice the sires de Rays were no exception.
But for Blanchard this is insufficient proof to assign vicomte Gestin as the first seigneur de Rays. To do so would equate Ascuit, father of Gestin and Atton, from the charter of 1004, with Harscoët I sire de Rays—and that would push his existence back to around 975.
However, the source for fr.wiki’s Liste des seigneurs de Machecoul does exactly this.
Before moving on, and while delving for truth amongst the errors prolific in wikipedia (fr., en., or any others) there is the matter of the family’s geographical origins. Here the author of fr.wiki article may not have it quite right.
Quote (in translation):
The origin of the first lords of the Sainte-Croix is unknown. Tradition has it that they would have come from Brittany: this is proved by the Harscoët name, sounding Breton. Yet we find Germanic names within the same family: the wife of Harscoët I de Retz was named Ulgarde, her sons are called Gestin, Urwoit, Hilaire and Aldroin; and Harscoët would be a distortion of Harscoïde, which suggests that the first lords of Sainte-Croix then Retz were initially actually Franks and probably noble Carolingian.
But the name of Harscoët is definitely Breton, as is its ‘distortion’, Harscoïde. So too are the names of Urwoit and Aldroin. But if Gestin is taken as a variant of Justin then he, like his brother Hilaire, was named for a Roman saint. As to Ulgarde, though it could be a Frankish name it could equally be Burgundian—and that seems more likely in the light of another frequently used family name, Garsire. The name Garsire was prevalent in Aquitaine and Gascony at this period, being Basque in origin.
On the variants of Harscoët:
C’est encore lui qui, à notre avis, est mentionné sans aucune épithète sous les formes Asscutius, Ascutus et Ascodius dans un titre du prieuré de Corsept, membre de Saint-Aubin d’Angers, et dans trois autres de Ronceray ; l’un de ces derniers est limité par les synchronismes entre 1039 et 1041.
Cartulaire des sires de Rays, R. Blanchard p.lv.
“This is him again who, in our opinion, is mentioned without epithet in the forms Asscutius, Ascutus and Ascodius in a title of the priory of Corsept, a member of Saint-Aubin d’Angers, and in three others of [the abbey of] Ronceray; one of these latter is limited by the synchronisms to between 1039 and 1041.”
Gestin I (seigneur de Rays— ?)
Leaving aside the charter of 1004 (above) with its query regarding family connections, the name of Gestin I is known from only one source: the 1055 foundation charter of l’abbaye de la Chaume wherein Gestin is given as the son of Harscoët I, its founder (see Redon CCCXII).
While there is no doubt that Harscoët was enfieffed of the pays de Rays—there are several acts to prove it—was the same true, also, of his father Gestin I? For Gestin could not be seigneur de Rays before such a fief existed and its existence cannot be argued from the ‘la Chaume’ charter wherein Gestin receives but a incidental mention.
vers 1030-vers 1070
There are several extant documents for Harscoët I, son of Gestin I, but only one dated precisely: that is the aforementioned foundation, made 6 July 1055, of the abbey of la Chaume, situate near Harscoët’s castle of Sainte-Croix (see Redon CCCXII ). Here he is qualified simply as « nobilissimus vir ». Though in a charter of the same foundation quoted by Du Paz in his Histoire Genealogique published 1619 (available on Google Books), Harscoët is titled « Opidi Sanctæ Crucis dominus. » (See Du Paz 204-206)
Blanchard is of the opinion that this second document was produced with the help of the first more than a century later to a purpose we can only guess at. As he says, it is invested by interpolations and anachronisms.
However, there is another document that gives him the title of seigneur de Sainte-Croix. « Harscoit de Sanctæ Crucis » was witness to a charter of Redon (see Redon CCCIV) dated no later than 1035-1041 by
- the mention of Catwallon, abbot of Redon whose abbacy began circa 1026 (Cartulaire de Redon, no 296)
- the inclusion of an account of harassments by Count Budic against the abbey: Budic comte de Nantes (1005-1041)
- the inclusion of Duke Alain III (1008-1040)
- the inclusion of Gautier, bishop of Nantes (1005-1041)
This is probably the earliest text to feature Harscoët as seigneur.
The fact that Du Paz makes of this Harscoët, sire de Sainte-Croix, who founded la Chaume in 1055, the second by that name (i.e. son of Harscoët I) and sandwiches his son Gestin between the two has set up an error to muddle the charts.
There is yet another charter that features Harscoët I (see Redon Appendix LXIII). Although dated by M. de Courson, editor of the Cartulaire de Redon, to between 1092 and 1102, it can only be fixed without argument to after 1062 when Almodius, the featured abbot of Redon, began his abbacy. The donations to which « Harscuido majore nostro » and « Bernardo filio Harscuidi » are witness concern Prigny, « in territorio Pruniacensi », in the pays de Rays.
An undated charter of Saint-Serge d’Angers also relates to Harscoët I—« Arscutus, senior provincie Radesii pagi »—complete with Ulgarde, his wife, and Gestin, his son (see Morice 409 ). This is the first time we find the qualifier ‘de Rais’ applied to the family; after Harscoët I the title of ‘seigneur de Sainte-Croix’ no longer appears.
Harscoët I is again mentioned though without epithet in the forms of Asscutius, Ascutus and Ascodius in an entitlement charter of the priory of Corsept, a member of Saint-Aubin d’Angers, and in three others of Ronceray (Cartulaire de l’Abbaye Notre Dame du Ronceray, 422, 428, & 430, as far as I know, not available online); of these one is dated by synchronisms to between 1039 and 1041.
Then there are three charters dated to 1083 to 1092 where Harscoët I is mentioned as the father of Gestin II. One of these is the foundation charter for Saint-Philbert de Machecoul. But I’ve been unable to find these online too.
Finally, Harscoët I married Ulgarde, who is named in the charter of 1055 for the foundation of la Chaume, and in those of Saint-Serge, with their son Gestin in the charter for the foundation of Sainte-Philbert de Machecoul. Harscoët I and Ulgarde had three other sons: Urwoit, Halarius and Aldroin, as seen in the abovementioned foundation charter for la Chaume. (See Redon CCCXII and Morice 409)
vers 1070-vers 1093
Eldest son of Harscoët I and Ulgarde, Gestin II’s name appears alongside his father’s in several documents : foundation of la Chaume in 1055; charter for Saint-Serge (already cited) and No. 428 of Ronceray (not found). But mention of Gestin is not only found in these monastic archives.
The most important extant document is that for the priory of Chémeré, a member of Saint-Serge dated at 1083 (see Morice 457). This is rich in details of genealogy plus information on the topography of the pays de Rays. Here for the first time is found the modern name of Machecoul—« Oppido meo Machecollo »—in a docket of ship cargoes loaded at Pornic
« Dimidiam decimam cunctorum ridituum littorus oppidi mei Persniti, id est dimidiam decimam de omnibus navalibus mercimoniis ».
This is the oldest act remaining that shows Gestin as the sire de pays de Rays, a position he had clearly held for some time as seen in the allusion he makes to his ‘many fisheries’, as well as the presence of his two sons Garsire and Raoul, and his nephew Harscoët.
Another text, dated by the editor of the Redon cartulary (M. de Courson) to 1081-1083, qualifies Gestin as ‘de seigneur de Rays’
« Justino Radesii dominatum jure paterno obtinente » and « Justinus, dominus ipsius terre » (see Morice 456)
The charter is a death-bed donation by one « Renaldus de Mortuo estero ». This same Renaud appears as witness in the title-deed of Chémeré 1083, therefore this donation charter must by necessity be the later. Yet it cannot be later than April 1084 when Hoël, Duke of Brittany, whose name heads this deed, died.
In a deed dated 1091 at Nantes, whereby Mathias, count of the city, gave an island in the Loire to the monastery of Quimperlé (see Quimperle LXXVIII),« Jestin filius Harscoidi » is found in the second rank of witnesses between Gaudin de Clisson and Gaifier of Prigny. Though not qualified as sire de Rays, Gestin would not be in such a prominent position amongst the witnesses were he not so. Plus, the date together with his qualifier, ‘son of Harscoët’, tends to establish it.
These are the only three documents featuring Gestin which also provide a means of dating, if only approximately. Of the following, they can be assigned only to within the dates of Gestin’s seigneur-ship:—
The most important of these is that in which « Gestinus, Machicolensis dominus » gives, from his « castrum Machicol, » to Pierre, abbe de Tournus (1066-1105), land to found there an obedience [a cell?]. (see Tournus 322)
This was the foundation of the priory of Saint-Philbert de Machecoul, since called Saint-Blaise; it is many times mentioned in the Cartulaire des sires de Rays. The Tournus charter names the father and the mother of Gestin, his three sons, Garsire, Raoul and Josselin, and his daughter Agnes.
Other documents concerning Gestin:…
- Gestin is witness to a donation made by Jarnegodius to the priory of Saint-Martin at Machecoul (Bibl. nat., ms. fr. 22322, p.114)
- A concession of Main, son of Gualon, to the priory of Saint-Opportune-en-Rays made « apud Machicollom ante dominum Gestinum, qui terre illius capitalis dominus habebatur » (see Morice 430b)
- A donation charter by Bonina to the priory of Corsept, was made « in curia domini Gestini, ipso vidente et filio ejus Garsilio » (see Morice 430a)
- « Gestinus de Raisio » approved the generous gifts made to the same priory (of Corsept) by Audren when he became a monk. (Bibl. nat., ms. fr. 22329, p.469)
- Lastly, a charter of Harscoët III recalls the award made by his ancestor Gestin II, father of Garsire I, of a bourg situated near to the castle of Pornic (Titre du prieure de Pornic, membre de Saint-Serge d’Angers, Bibl. nat., ms. lat. 5446, p.221, & ms.fr.22329, p.571)
Gestin II is also mentioned in several of the acts of Garsire I where Garsire is given as ‘son of Gestin’.
The children of Gestin
Although the wife of Gestin II isn’t named in these documents, they do provide the names of at least three sons and a daughter: Garsire I, Raoul, Josselin, and Agnes. Two nephews are also cited—Harscoët and Geoffroy—though without mention of parentage; in this respect it needs be noted that Latin nepos can also be translated as grandchild or indeed any descendant.
Vers 1093-vers 1141
Garsire I is named in several of the documents with father:
- the 1083 charter for Chémeré
- the foundation charter for the priory of St. Philbert de Machecoul
- the donations made to Saint-Martin of Machecoul
- and to Corsept by Jarnegodius and Bonins.
As overlord or suzerain he used variously the titles « Garsire de Rays », « Garsire seigneur de Rays », and « Garsire seigneur de Machecoul ».
In a charter of Saint-Aubin d’Angers for the priory of Saint-Brevin he features amongst the witnesses as « Guarzilius, dominus de Razais » (see Morice 389).
M. de la Borderie dates this document to between 1082 and 1106, set by the abbacy of Girard of Saint-Aubin. The inclusion of Robert and Rivallon, two archdeacons of Nantes, amongst the subscribers allows this date to be further narrowed to 1104. A charter for Saint-Florent de Saumur (see Morice 507) issued on 1st March 1104 by Benoit, bishop of Nantes, names the archdeacon Robert. He features on various documents between 1092 and 1104. Since the archdeacon Rivallon is known to be active 1104-1119, it is only in 1104 that Robert and Rivallon could be found together. It follows that the charter of Saint-Brevin underwritten by Garsire de Rays was issued that same year: 1104.
Garsire de rays goes to Spain
To this point we’ve seen the sires de Rays only through their involvement with religious foundations. But with Garsire this changes. There is one long document that shows Garsire in his feudatory role (see Lobineau 241-243). The events recounted in this document can be placed between 1070 and 1104.
It begins with a soldier—« Miles soldearius nomine Taingui »—who makes a donation of the land of Vitreria (Saint-Viaud) to the priory of Donges. The monks enjoy this land for some time « multis annis » ; but then comes a war that desolates the country—« Guerra illa que in Razezio exillium induxit insurgente ». As Blanchard remarks, it must have been a local affair for this war is mentioned nowhere else! The chronicles are silent on it. The account tells how a certain Judicaël Petit, resident of the area, seized first the uncultivated lands, then the cultivated land, and remained there as possessor « multis annis ».
These events are said to be in the time of Fredor, vicomte de Donges, and his son Rouaud, and so can be dated to before 1092 when Fredor, having died, was succeeded by Rouaud’s brother Geoffroy.
Meanwhile, Garsire I, sire de Rays, had gone to Spain—« Sed eo tempore quo Garsias, Gestini filius, in Hispaniam pergebat eum exercitu christuanorum ». The monks, left to deal with the matter of their illegally-seized land, petitioned Judicaël Petit for justice. Represented by Martin, prior of Donges, they addressed Grafion and Guégon, seigneurs of the disputed fief.
Though the judgement gained was favourable to the monks, later the brother of Taingus, the original donor, claimed the land for himself. By then Garsire had returned from his campaign in Spain, and so resort was made to him as their suzerain. He was in Saint-Viaud when he was informed of the facts—« Long postea contigit ut domnus Garsias ad Sanctum Vitalem venit ». By his intervention the ‘ordeal of hot iron’ that should have taken place in Pornic—« apud castrum Porsniti »—was avoided.
All very well, but Blanchard queries the date assigned to Garsire’s expedition to Spain. At the time of his writing the date of this expedition had only recently been fixed to 1087. Although he cites a passage from the chronicle of Maillesais or Saint-Maixent—MLXXXVII. « Ipso anno, Hildefonsus mandavit per omnes partes Franciae ut sibi et suis adjuvarent. Qua de caua multi perrexerunt in Hispaniam » (Chroniques des eglises d’Anjou, Marchegay & Mabille) ; and mentions de Fourmont’s L’Ouest aux croisades, (t.1, p57) published 1864 , and Nicollière’s Gerard Chabot, sire de Rays, in Revue de Bretagne et Vendee, (p.383, n.1) published 1879, he disagrees with their agreed date. As he says, if Garsire went to Spain in 1087 it was not as ‘sire de Rays’ for his father was still alive, even in 1091. And, indeed, where Garsire is mentioned at the beginning of the Taingus-Donges charter (see Lobineau 241-243) it is as « Garsias Gestini filius », with no qualifiers. But neither does this satisfy Blanchard; he offers a different suggestion.
The text places the expedition to Spain and the first petitions of the prior Martin in the same time-frame. Yet Martin wasn’t prior at Donges until 1092. Therefore perhaps that date of departure ought to be brought forward, from 1087, to post 1092. This wouldn’t conflict with the Spanish crusades, for the fight there continued long between Christians and Muslims. (See en.wiki’s article Reconquista)
Blanchard attributes the concluding events in the Taingus-Donges charter to 1104. Martin would still have been head of the priory at Donges while by 1107 he would be replaced by Lambert (see Morice 523-524).
Besides fighting in Spain, there’s the question of whether Garsire also took part in the First Crusade to the Holy Land. We have the names of several of the seigneurs des pays who accompanied Alain Fergant, duke of Brittany,* contained in various charters and historians’ lists.
* In 1098 Alan went on the First Crusade, leaving Ermengarde as his regent, and returned in 1101(en.wiki Alain IV Duke of Brittany).
Blanchard, however, suggests the long list of names produced by some authors should be treated with caution. He cites de Fourmont, L’Ouest aux croisades, 1864, t.1, p.82 & t.II, p.51 (not found online):
Il suffira de dire que cette liste, empruntée à un document où figurent Bertrand de Guesclin et nombre de ses contemporains, est de la deuxième moitié du XIC siècle et n’a aucun rapport avec les croisades.
“Suffice it to say that this list, borrowed from a document that included Bertrand de Guesclin and a number of his contemporaries, is from the second half of C14th and has no connection with the Crusades.”
A charter that Morice indexed under the year 1106 (see Morice 512-513) names « Garsirius de Radesio » among those barons who attended the confirmation of the priory of Sainte-Croix de Nantes as a member of Marmoutier, made by the duchess Ermengarde and her son Conan. Amongst the witnesses is found Maurice d’Ancenis, and the abbots of Noyers, of Saint-Nicolas d’Angers, and of Marmoutier. The inclusion of this latter, Willelm, helps date the charter, since he was only elected in 1104/1105.
The charter contains this brief but interesting report:
« Conanus rediens a sorore sua quam nuptui tradiderat comiti Flandriae »
Conan had shortly returned from delivering his sister Agnes (Hawise) to be wife to the son of the count of Flanders—she married Baldwin VII* who at this time would have been a child.
* Born 1092/92, Orderic Vitalis says that he was “still a boy” when he succeeded his father in 1111 as Baudouin VII Count of Flanders. Although he married Hawise/Agnes, daughter of Alain IV Fergant, they were separated by Pope Pascal II on grounds of consanguinity in 1110.
Flandria Generosa 25, MGH SS IX, p. 323, which traces the relationship between the couple back to Guillaume II “le Libérateur” Comte de Provence.
(see fmg: foundation for medieval genealogy)
Anselme fixed the date of this union to the year 1105 (Hist. geneal., II,719, et III, 49)
The relevance of all this is that Conan would have been travelling with his companions, and it would have been those same companions who undersigned his and his mother confirmation charter.
Blanchard believes a second charter was made that same day: a confirmation by Maurice d’Ancenis to the monks of Marmoutier for relief of tolls which had already been granted them (see Morice 508). Garsire de Rays was also present for this. Indeed, the witnesses are mostly the same as those who signed for the count. Eight of these are known to be Count Conan’s barons.
However, I have to disagree with Blanchard that the two charters were made the same day, though they were made the same week—« Mauricio de Ancenisio & Guihenoco filio ejus »… who confirmed the gift his father made us … in the same week—« in eadem septimana » (see Morice 508).
Garsire I is mentioned in several documents, either as witness or benefactor of the religious houses. A donation charter for ‘Chevesche’—today, Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, Loire-Inf.—can be dated between 1102 and 1113 by the abbacy of Walter of Saint-Serge d’Angers (see Morice 458a). While the following charters can be placed between 1100 and 1120:
- a concession by Garsire of a meadow near to Pornic, ceded to the abbey of Saint-Sergius by Barbotin Rays (see Morice 458b)
- a donation to the same monastery of the tithe of three ovens situated in Pornic (Arch. Loire-Inf., H 206, nos 23 & 28)
- donation of Sept-Faux to the abbey of Tiron (Merlet, Cartulaire de Tiron, no.286)
- remission of customs on the Loire and the sea grated to Fontevraud (Bibl. nat., ms.fr.223239, p.664)
- grant of one plough-land to the ‘religious fontevristes’ of Lande de Beauchene (Bibl.nat., ms.fr.223239, p.663)
Goscelin and Harscoët, brother and son of Garsire I, are also named in some of these charters.
- 23 October 1127 Garsire and his son Harscoët attended the abbey of Redon for what Blanchard describes as a ‘reconciliation’. The document (see Redon CCCXLVII 1127) reads like a who’s who of the lords throughout the land. secular and religious.
- a notice dated to around 1130 (Cartulaire de Coudrie, no 1, in Archiv.hist. du Poitou, t.II, p.154) shows « Garsirius de Macheco » and « Arcot, filius ejus » setting up an income or pension from lands in Pornic and Bouin for the Knights Templars* which they bequeathed in addition to horses and weapons. Beatrix , wife of Garsire, made a few donations to those of her husband.
* Founded in the Holy Land, when they first brought their religious cause to the West in 1127 they were known as the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. It wasn’t until 13th January 1129 that the Council of Troyes convened by Pope Honorius II recognised and confirmed the Order of the Knights Templars, as they’ve since been known (see en.wiki Knights Templars & fr.wiki Ordre du Temple)
See also infobretagne’s article for background to Knights Templar in Le Retz
- On 6th December 1138 « Garsilius Dominus de Macecho & frater ejus Goscelinus » witness a concession made by Duke Conan III to the priory of Sainte-Croix de Nantes (see Morice 576-577)
- Garsire I with Harscoët and two more of his children, Raoul and Garsire—mentioned here for the first time—ratified the gift of ‘la Jaunaie*’ made to the Order of Fontevraud (Cartulaire de Libaud, no 2, in Archiv. hist. du Poitou, t.I, p.57) This is dated to after 1st August 1137 (accession of King Louis VII) but before the end of 1140 (marked by the death of Guillaume Aleelme, bishop of Poitiers).
* I have tried to find la Jaunaie on today’s maps. My best result is la Jaunais, 20 minutes drive south of Nantes on D137, more or less same latitude as Clisson.
- « Garsilius, dominus de Machecol », again with his brother Goscelin, are amongst the witnesses to a charter by Duke Conan III wherein the duke relieves the priory of Saint-Martin de Machecoul of its usual dues. M. de la Borderie was unable to date the charter closer than 1112-1148 (the governing years of Duke Conan III). However, Blanchard feels confident in narrowing that to between 1135 and 1141 in consideration of the numerous other witnesses—these include Gestin d’Auray and Roland de Lire who appear in a document dated 17 November 1132 (see Morice 565) as well as appearing in the above charter of 6 Dec 1138 (Morice 576-577), and Main de Guerande and Daguenet who are named in two other charters issued by Conan, one being for the Templars of Nantes, dated 1141 (Geslin et de Barthelemy, Anciens eveches de Bretagne, VI, 123), the other for the abbey de Tiron which has a potential date range of 1132-1146 (Merlet, Cartul. de Tiron, no 216, & de la Borderie, Actes inedits no. XXXV).
Wife and Children of Garsire I
As noted above, Garsire’s wife was Beatrix, named in the Coudrie charter, c.1130 as well as a charter for Buzay dated July 1152 (see Raoul I, below).
Garsire had three sons—Harscoët II, Raoul I and Garsire II, each of whom succeeded him—plus two daughters: Agnes, who is titled ‘vicomtess’ in both the charters mentioning her (Buzay, July 1152, & one found in Arch. Loire-Inf., H 135, no. 4); and Beatrix (in a charter of 1153, Arch. Loire-Inf., H 135, no.3)
The confusion of houses de Rays/Rais and de Rieux
Blanchard inserts here of an error commonly made by historians and genealogists, modern and ancient, to confuse these two Breton houses de Rays and de Rieux. Since he has reason to draw the readers’ attention I shall echo his words:
These names—de Rays/Rais and de Rieux—are recorded in various forms, some barely indistinguishable one house from the other; thus attention is needed.
Blanchard provides an example:…
- the historian Du Paz in his Histoire Genealogique (pp.206-207, available on Google Books) offers two ‘Roland de Rays’, one with floruit 1112, the other floruit 1143. Though later, in his ‘Additions and Corrections’, p.825 he amends this it is only to remove the first. He leaves the second standing.
One « Rollandus de Resis » alias « Rollandus de Reis » is witness to two charters of Conan III dated 1146 and 1148 by which the duke conceded lands with rights of usage in the forest of Rennes to the abbeys of Saint-Florent Saumur and Savigny. In a note to one of these acts, the editor (Dom. Morice) claims this « Rollandus de Resis » belongs to the maison de Rays. Blanchard disagrees.
In his ‘Table des noms propres’ (Pr.I) Dom. Morice makes of Rollandus de Resis a seigneur de Rezé. In this he is following M. de la Nicollière (Anciens sires de Rezay, in Bul. de la Soc. Archeol. de Nantes, 1892, p.92).
The identification might be plausible if the cited act of 1149 was as the author claimed: i.e. that Roland de Rezé was witness to the foundation of les Couëts by Hoël, count of Nantes. But the alleged text (see Morice 603) carries the name of K. de Rezaio which, Blanchard says, hardly resembles Rollandus de Resis of 1146, much less Rollandus de Reis de 1148.
Here I have to point out, this is probably an error in reading: it is easy to mistake R for K in the hand of the day.
However Blanchard goes on to remark that there is nothing in these two charters to suggest the involvement of a sire de Rays. Besides which, Roland is not a name used by the sires de Rays, not even by the younger, cadet family, while it is used by the sires de Rieux. (On that I’ll agree)
« Haculfus of Radiis » [de Rays], « Bernardus de Machequol » and « Rollandus de Reux »[Rieux] are on the same list of Breton chevaliers who c.1207 gave military service to the king of France. (Historiens de France, XXIII, 684.)
In 1225, « Garsinus de Raies » and « Rollandus de Reus » together ratified the privileges of Saint-Aubun-du-Cormier (Arch. Loire-Inf., E 157)
Thus, as Blanchard maintains, the witness of the 1146 and 1148 charters should be Roland de Rieux, not Roland de Rays as has been erroneously attributed by several historians:
- Le Baud, Hist. de Bretagne, p.182, & Chroniques de Vitre, p.23
- d’Argentre, Hist. de Bretagne, edit. de 1668, p.155
- Du Paz, Hist. geneal., p.207 & 54
- Lobineau, Hist. de Bretagne, I, 135
- de la Borderie, Vitre et ses premiers barons, in Revue de Bretagne et Vendee, 2nd se,.1865, p.441)
It would also be Roland de Rieux who on 15 October 1119 attended the funeral rites of Duke Alain Fergent at Redon (Dom Lobineau Histoire de Bretagne. I, 128; Dom Morice Histoire. Pr. I, 90)
Harscoët II, eldest son of Garsire I, succeeded his father yet nowhere is he described as ‘sire de Rays’, and there are no extant acts issued by him. What few documents relating to him are either dated after his death or are those issued during his father’s lifetime.
The oldest of these is the donation of ‘Chevesche’, dated to before 1113:
« Non post multum vero tempus, domino Garsilio defuncto, atque paulo post Arscoido filio sui, pro ut dictavit jus hereditarium, successit Radulfus in patrimonium » (see Morice 458a).
Here Harscoët appears as Garsire’s only named child. He also appears in:
- the donation of Sept-Faux to Tiron, 1100-1120 (Merlet, Cartulaire de Tiron, no.286)
- the reconciliation document of Redon dated 23 October 1127 (see Redon CCCXLVII 1127)
- and the Templars’ legacy circa 1130 (Cartulaire de Coudrie, no 1, in Archiv. hist. du Poitou, t.II, p.154) .
In the concession of la Jaunaie de Fontevraud, 1137-1140, (Cartulaire de Libaud, no 2, in Archiv. hist. du Poitou, t.I, p.57) his name precedes those of his two younger brothers, Garsire and Raoul.
Despite this lack of his own acts it has been established that Harscoët II was, for a time, seigneur de Rays. The proof lies in a charter issued in July 1153 (Arch. Loire-Inf., H 135, no.3) which allowed the priory of Saint-Martin de Machecoul to retain, in perpetuity, the tolls they charged on travelling vendors/peddlers (colporteurs) crossing the Machecoul bridge on the road to La Garnache, the priory* having helped to construct said bridge (see further under Raoul I below). This was later confirmed by Harscoët’s brother Raoul. Harscoët was the eldest, he would have succeeded his father. It is therefore concluded that Harscoët II** died without issue.
* This is not how M. de la Borderi (Bul. de la Soc. arch. de Nantes, 1867, p.126) analysing the charter sees it. He seems to think the peddlers were exempt tolls because they had helped in construction. But then why would the charter be issued in favour of the priory of Saint-Martin de Machecoul unless the priory was to gain from it?
** Du Paz makes this Harscoët II, called by him Harscoët III, the father of Roland and then numbers the next Harscoët IV.
Raoul, second son of Garsire I and Beatrix, finds mention for the first time in the gift of la Jaunaie to Fontevraud, 1137-1140, (see above) alongside his father and his brothers. He succeeded his brother Harscoët II.
On 2 July 1152 Raoul, seigneur de Rays, passed an act at Machecoul in the house of his mother to free the monks of Buzay of the customary dues on all their lands and a grange situated in his fief « in honore suo » (see Morice 612) Among the witnesses are listed Raoul’s mother Beatrix, his brother Garsire and sister Agnes the viscountess. The charter was issued the same year as Raoul was created a knight— «Anno… Radulfi militie promo ». Assuming, as was usual, this occurred at aged twenty-one, it would place his birth in 1130-1131—so clearly he’s the second son. Also in this charter Raoul is given as ‘seigneur de Rays’ while in later acts he is given only as ‘seigneur de Machecoul’.
Moving to the following July (1153) and the charter mentioned above under Harscoët II for the priory of Saint-Martin de Machecoul (Arch. Loire-Inf., H 135, no 3): this proves important for the genealogy of the seigneurs for it relates that Garsire I, « Garsilius de Machecollo, » with the consent of his children Harscoët, Raoul, Garsire and Beatrix, exempted in perpetuity the tolls collected from the colporteurs etc. When Raoul in turn became seigneur he confirmed that exemption:
« Non post multum vero tempus, domino Garsilio defuncto, atque paulo post Arscoido filio sui, pro ut dictavit jus hereditarium, successit Radulfus in patrimonium ».
On 9 August 1161 Raoul de Machecoul, now seigneur, remitted to the monks of Breuil-Herbaud all the rights he has possessed on their land. (It was by this concession that, on 4 June 1275, Girard II Chabot, sire de Rays, aimed to ratify the largesse made to Breuil-Herbaud by Raoul and by his other predecessors . See Cartulaire de Rays CCLIII)
The charters of 1152, 1153 and 1161 are the only ones of Raoul that can be securely dated. But of importance is the charter where Raoul de Machecoul and Guillaume Talevate together witness for “le droit d’hesmage sur la Loire” by Barnard, bishop of Nantes (1147-1163) on behalf of Abbess Adelaide and the nuns of Saint-Georges de Rennes (see Saint-Georges de Rennes pp181-182).
The editor of Cartulaire de Saint-Georges de Rennes, Paul de la Bigne-Villeneuve (1813-1899), dates this charter to 1169, taking the abbess to be Adélaïde de Vitre (1169-1189). Blanchard, however, sees this as too late and would date it to before 24 September 1158 when Duke Conan conferred the same right to the same convent (see Saint-Georges de Rennes pp182-183). By placing Bishop Bernard’s charter before Duke Conan’s the amended date must fall between 1153 (the abbacy of Adélaïde de Mathefelon, 1153-1164) and 1159.
But whatever its date, the relevance of Bishop Bernard’s charter lies in the inclusion as witnesses of Raoul de Machecoul and Guillaume Talevat. Raoul and Guillaume were brothers-in-law, Raoul having married Guillaume’s sister Marie (see more on this below).
Two acts —Cartulaires du Bas-Poitou p.165 ‘de la Roche-sur-Yon’, and p.240 ‘l’abbaye du Bois-Grolland’ (see Marchegay 165 & Marchegay 240)—dated by their editor, M. Marchegay, to around 1190 mention Raoul de Machecoul and Guillaume Talevat as co-seigneurs of La Roche-sur-Yon. Blanchard disagrees with this date saying they predate 1182 as evidenced:
- by the fact that by 1190 Raoul had been succeeded by his son Bernard
- and from elements contained within them:
In the first charter, (Marchegay 165) for the priory of la Roche-sur-Yon, there is amongst the witnesses one Pierre Limousin—« Petro Lemovicinensi »— a monk whom Blanchard believes to be the same as became prior of Aizenay in 1166 (Cartulaires du Bas-Poitou p.163)
In the second charter, (Marchegay 240) for the abbey of Bois-Grolland, the name « G… abbe » appears. This is Abbe Giraud whose dates are known: 1161-1166.
Though I’m listing the following charters, note they have no defining dates :
- remission of the right of ‘repas’ by « Radulfus, Machecolli dominus » in favour of the priory of Saint-Martin de Machecoul : consented by Garsire and Agnes, brother and sister of Raoul (Arch. Loire-Inf., H 135 no 4)
- dated to the time of Bernard, bishop of Nantes, and Abbot Adam, a concession by Daniel « Soveigni » to the monastery of Buzay underwritten by « Radulfus de Machicollo » (see Morice 637)
- Raoul was called to judge a dispute—« In curia domini Radulfi de Machico » (Arch. Loire-Inf., H 206, no 2, f. de Chémeré)—between the prior of Chémeré and several notables; he referred the case to the court of the Bishop Bernard
- donation of a meadow or pasture by « Radulphus, Machicolli dominus » in favour of Jeanne, prioress of Moutiers , his wife’s sister—(« Johanna priorissa, soror uxoris mee » Cartulaire du Ronceray, no 443)
- the land named ‘la Lande-Roinard’ granted by Raoul to the Abbe de Nieuil-sur -l’Autize (« Radulfus, dominus de Macheco » Cartulaire du Ronceray, no 441)
The Marriage of Raoul to Maria Tavevat
The alliance of Raoul and Maria Talevat is established by three charters of Geneston abbey to whom the sires of Machecoul were benefactors:
- Bernard de Machecoul recounts a gift by his parents: « Pater meus et Maria mater mea et Willelmus Talevaz avunculus meus dederunt … » (Bibl. nat., ms. lat. 17092, p.43; et ms.fr.22319, p.243)
- dated February 1270, Olivier de Machecoul cites the same donation as Bernard, and « Guillelmus Thalevaz, avunculus ejusdem Bernardi » (Ibid.)
- Geneston’s orbituary marks 14 April as the anniversary of « Radulphus pater Bernardi de Machecolio, » and 13 April as that of « Maria mater Bernard de Machecolui » (Bibl. nat., ms. lat. 17092, p.38)
These testimonies establish a point that seemed to escape M. Marchegay in his Anciens seigneurs de la Roche-sur-Yon (Revue des provinces de l’Ouest, t.1st 2nd partie, p.255). Raoul de Machecoul and Guillaume Talevat together qualified as successors of Hugues de la Roche-sur-Yon—yet how could that be when there was no parental relationship between the co-heirs, nor between the co-heirs and their predecessor?
The answer: Raoul de Machecoul held his rights to la Roche-sur-Yon through Marie Talevat. And it seems Guillaume Talevat had no other heir for the title then passed through Raoul’s line only.
Marie Talevat, wife of Raoul I
Marie, has caused confusion, too. Indeed, I’d say the author of the fr.wiki article, List des seigneurs de Machecoul veers into fantasy land. To quote:
Raoul I de Retz dit « Raoul I de Machecoul » (vers 1106-vers 1162)
seigneur de Machecoul, frère du précédent
x Marie Talvas « de Montgomery » (vers 1101-????)
dame de Montgomery et de Bellêmen. [fn.2]
And that footnote?
Fille de Robert Talvas de Bellême (1056-08/05/1131)
comte de Montgomery, de Bellême et de Shrewsbury
et d’Agnès de Ponthieu (????-1116)
But for Raoul’s wife to be Marie Talvas, daughter of Robert Talvas de Montgomery ‘de Bellême’ etc etc, she must have a brother named Guillaume. And, indeed Robert Talvas de Montgomery ‘de Bellême’ etc etc did have a son named Guillaume (see fmg Comtes de Ponthieu (Bellême – Montgommery). But Guillaume Talvas, Comte de Ponthieu (who in 1129 resigned his title & position in favour of his son Guy) died in 1171. But Guillaume Talevat was co-seigneur of La Roche-sur-Yon in 1190! Though, true, that date is in dispute it doesn’t change the fact that Guillaume Talevat and Guillaume Talvas were not the same person.
Seigneur de Rays : Seigneur de Machecoul
As already said, the only time in a contemporary act that Raoul is qualified as seigneur de Rays is that of July 1152. Elsewhere he is always named as « Raoul de Machecoul » or « Raoul seigneur de Machecoul ».
But what of it? Garsire I took both titles, too; apparently indiscriminately. Moreover, despite the restricted title Raoul seems to have retained dominion over the whole county of Rays (hence he was judge in the dispute concerning the priory of Chémeré and in making a donation to that of Moutiers). It can be assumed, too, that he was also lord of Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu, his son Bernard having that title.
Yet if, as Blanchard suggests, Raoul embodied the main power in the pays de Rays then how come his younger brother Garsire II bore the title of seigneur de Rays—and that during Raoul’s own lifetime (i.e. in 1160)?
And why was that title then passed through Garsire’s descendants—from his son Harscoët III onwards? Why did it not come to Bernard, son of Raoul?
How could Harscoët III have suzerainty over the pays de Rays and yet leave Machecoul, the family’s patrimony, to the direct successors of Raoul and Bernard?
Then, again, what of the lands of lesser importance? Which of the brothers inherited them to pass down their line?
As Blanchard concludes, here is an apparent anomaly, and the shortage of documents does not permit sufficient clarity. (Il y a là une anomalie apparent que la pénurie des documents ne permet point d’éclaireir suffisamment.)
However, it appears this anomaly doesn’t exist for those of Blanchard’s colleagues who have studied the history of the early sires de Rays. He cites, as an example, M. de la Nicollière who had published a genealogical table claimed as the summary of unpublished work by M. A. de la Borderie on the first maison de Rays (L’Abbaye de la Chaume, in Bul. de la Soc. archeol. de Nantes, xviii, 1879, p.58).
Here, the three son of Garsire I are in the same order Blanchard assigns them: Harscoët II, Raoul I and Garsire. Only later things go adrift when Nicollière lists Harscoët III, Gestin de Prigny and Bernard de Machecoul as sons of Raoul I. Amongst the progeny of Harscoët III he then adds another (and erroneous) Gestin. And though M. de la Nicollière assigns Bernard to Raoul I as son, it’s as a younger son.
So how does he explain how Bernard, the younger, inherited that greater share from his father when Gestin de Prigny is supposedly the elder? By the rules of primogeniture, Harscoët III (the elder) would normally inherit the greater part of his father’s domain—as he did, being named sire de Rays. Yet ‘little last-born’ Bernard becomes ‘only’ seigneur de Machecoul. Odd.
M. de la Nicollière’s version is at odds with the texts. These show only one child of Raoul, and that is Bernard. Moreover, they show Harscoët—and consequently his brother Gestin—as sons of Garsire. This is seen in the oldest charter in the Cartulaire de Rays (11 October 1160 see Marchegay 253) whereby Harscoët son of Garsire, seigneur de Rays, ratifies a donation by his father. Another text, dated to between 1172 and 1184, describes the concession of a wine-press in Prigny, ceded in favour of the priory of Chémeré by « Harchodius, Garsirii filius » (see Morice 668b). It is thus clearly shown that Harscoët III was not the elder son of Raoul I, but his nephew.
Raoul died sometime between 1161 and 1182; the latter date when his son Bernard appears in a document bearing his father’s former title. Blanchard puts the death around 1170—also the opinion of M. de la Borderie (Inventaire de Marmoutier, in Bul. de la Soc. archeol. de Nantes, VII, 1867, p.127) In 1172 Harscoët III had already replaced his uncle in his possession of Chémeré which had been Raoul’s in his lifetime.
Hereafter, the descendants of Raoul I were no longer sires de Rays; instead they became seigneurs de Machecoul.
At this point there we’re faced with a choice of which line to follow: la maison de Machecoul, or that of the sires of Rays? Blanchard opts for the holders of the principal fief, and I shall do the same. But I shall return to Machecoul in due time.
Next post: La Maison de Rays covering the ‘Chabot’ years.