Hugues de Champagne, from Count to Templar knight

Born around 1074, Hugues, the later Count of Champagne, was the third son of Thibaud I Count of Blois and Adèle of Valois. In 1089, his half-brother Etienne-Henri succeeded Thibaud as the head of the Counties of Blois and Meaux.

On 1 January 1093, Hugues inherited from his other brother Eudes (Odo) IV the Counties of Troyes, Vitry-le-François and Bar-sur-Aube. Only to abdicate in 1125 to become a Templar knight in the Holy Land.

How did his lifes develop from being a rich and important French nobleman to becoming a poor Templar?

In 1093, at the time a minor, his brother Etienne-Henri acted as his regent. In this way the three contiguous countships that formed the core of an emerging Champagne were united in the person of the young Hugues. Though he preferred the title Count of Troyes, the oldest of his lordships and site of the only bishopric in his domains, many contemporary documents call him the count of Champagne, the title preferred by his descendants.

In 1093 Hugues married Constance of France, Dame d'Attigny, daughter of King Philip I of France and Queen Berthe of Holland. Their only child, a son called Manasses, died young. Other sources mention that the marriage remained without child. After ten years Constance demanded an annulment of their marriage. She obtained a divorce at Soissons on 25 December 1104, under grounds of consanguinity. 

His first recorded act, a monastic gift in 1094, became the oldest document of the comital archive. 

In 1104, Hughes suffered an attack on his life which he bearely survived. The same year Hugues left for his first stay in Palestine, which lasted until 1107.

Back in Champagne in 1107, Hugues married in 1110 Isabelle de Bourgogne-Comté, Dame de Champlitte, daughter of Étienne Ier de Bourgogne and Béatrice of Lorraine.

In August 1114, Hugues de Champagne for the second time travelled overseas to Outremer. This time with his vassal Hugues, lord of Payns, later the first Master of the Templar Knights, to return to France in 1116.

In 1115 the act of Hugues that resonated longest in history was his grant of lands to the Cistercians in order to found Clairvaux Abbey, where Bernard was appointed abbot. Hughues' charter makes over to the new foundation Clairvaux and its dependencies, fields, meadows, vineyards, woods and water. If this dating is corrects, the Clairvaux estate was granted to the Cistercians when Hugues was still in the Holy Land for the second time.

In 1123, Hugues second wife Isabelle gave birth to a son named Eudes de Champlitte. The child was only two years old when Hughes took advantage of a quarrel with his wife to be declared incapable of child bearing by doctors. Considering himself now free of wedlock, he sent away Isabelle and Eudes. The Countess, however, sought the help of the Bishop of Chartres, Yves, who made the count understand that a husband can not be separated from his wife without the consent of her, not even to enter religion. This suggests that at the time, 1123, Hugues was already seriously considering entering a monastic Order, probably the Templars.

The bishop's appeal apparently had no effect. In 1125 Hugues abdicated as Count, selling his heritage to Thibaut IV of Blois who became Count of Champagne under the title of Thibaut II of Champagne. After that Hughes travelled to the Holy Land where he joined the Order of the Temple.

Usually Hugues' death is indicated Jun 14, 1126. But a charter of the Abbay of Notre-Dame at Josafat indicates that in September 1130 Hugues was still alive. At that time he witnessed, at the side of Guillaume Sénéchal of the Temple in the Holy Land, the donation of an oven and various tithes to the Josafat Abbey. This means that Hughes was still alive when the Templars received their first Rule at the Council of Troyes, France (January 13, 1129).

Initially based on a paper in French which was once published on the website of univ-paris1.fr. Now the link is broken. Much additional information was derived from English and French Wikipedia. The information on the 1130 events in the last paragraph come from Hugues de Payns - La naissance des Templiers by Thierry Leroy (2011). Illustration shows the seal of Hugues I, Comte de Champagne kept at the Archive of the Aube Department, France.

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