The Devil's Brood is one of the names used to collectively refer to the children of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II - more specifically the boys, who were given to rebelling against their father with their mother's (rightful) encouragement. But more on that story in a minute. First, a word from our sponsors.
First Line Friday is a fun little weekly event that has grown drastically in recent months, and is now hosted by Hoarding Books. Check out the blog and visit other participants to see what lines they have found of interest.
My line this week comes from a volume that I was psyched to get my hands on because it is specifically about one of Eleanor's children NOT named Richard or John.
"In early June 1183, Henry III, king of England, lay dying in the little town of Martel in the Quercy."
1. Do not be confused by the author referring to Henry the Young King as Henry III. Technically this is true because when Henry was getting antsy for power, his father had him crowned so he would be known as 'the Young King'. True to Henry II's nature though, the title gave his son zero power. So, had Henry the Young King outlived his father he would have been Henry III. This did not happen, and so John's son Henry was the actual Henry III.
2. There is a story that, while in her continued captivity for aiding their sons in rebellion against Henry II, word arrived that Henry the Young King had died. Eleanor supposedly stopped the messengers from giving her the news because she already knew her oldest surviving son was dead (Henry was their second child. Their first son William died near the age of three).
Now, to quickly follow up on this Devil's Brood business. Here's the story according to Gerald of Wales (a royal clerk to Henry II who sometimes liked to play it fast and loose with a lot of facts, even in stories far more plausible than this one). According to ol' Gerald, the counts of Anjou were descendants of the devil. He stated that at some point, a count of Anjou had married a beautiful woman named Melusine. As time went by, the count noticed his wife did not attend Mass. According to Gerald, it was years. (I'm a bit confused as to how it took years for the dude to notice she always skipped out on Mass. It was kind of a big deal.) So, the count forced her to remain in church during the Eucharist. The stories I have read vary from this point, some saying she grabbed two of her children and flew screaming out the window, others saying she alone did so. Either way, her demonic nature and origin were revealed in the fact that she could not withstand the holy ceremony taking place and got right on up out of there via the window. Screaming the whole way. Lovely.
This legend was used to explain why the sons were so often involved in violent disputes, even with one another and also their father. There was no time between childhood and adulthood, this thing we refer to as teenage and young adult years. You were a child until age 13, when you could legally be married as dictated by the Church. As a result, three young men (John was the baby of the family, so Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey were primarily the combatants for several years), very much products of their age, inherited both the best and worst traits of their strong-willed parents. It should come as no surprise that the boys were always ready to turn on one another if they felt their own inheritance threatened (such as when Henry II attempted to force Richard to give Aquitaine to John. Yeah, right, like that was EVER going to happen. And it didn't.) It says a lot that, even in an age we consider so bloody and violent, the first Plantagenets and their behavior was somehow considered unnatural and had to be explained away from a legend such as this.