Post-classical history

Rotrou II of the Perche (d. 1144)

Count of the Perche (1099-1144), who fought in the First Crusade (1096-1099) and in at least two campaigns against the Muslims in Spain.

Rotrou was born around 1075, the only son of Geoffrey, count of Mortagne (Orne), and Beatrix, daughter of Hilduin of Mondidier and Roucy. From the closing years of the eleventh century the family preferred to call themselves counts of the Perche.

Rotrou joined the 1096 expedition to Jerusalem, probably as a member of the entourage of Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy. He is known to have fought at the siege of Nicaea (mod. Iznik, Turkey) in 1097, while literary sources such as the Chanson d’Antioche suggest that he fought alongside Bohemund of Taranto at the battle of Dorylaion, so it is possible that he had separated himself from the Norman ducal forces. At the siege of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) he commanded one of the divisions that broke out of the city in June 1098. He presumably followed the expedition to its culmination at Jerusalem in July 1099, returning to western France in the next year to find that his father had died during his absence and that his mother had preserved his inheritance. The cartulary of the family foundation of Saint-Denis of Nogent-le-Rotrou describes Rotrou’s ceremonial return to its precincts and the reception of palm leaves that he brought from the Holy Land.

At some point in the 1100s Rotrou was invited by his cousin King Alfonso I of Aragon to join his campaigns against the Muslims. Rotrou probably remained in the Iberian Peninsula for only one campaigning season, but in the early 1120s he returned for a much longer period as governor of the recently reconquered town of Tudela in the Ebro Valley. He finally left this post at or shortly before the death of King Alfonso (1134), leaving his rights in the area to his niece, Margaret of L’Aigle, and her husband, Garcia Ramirez, who subsequently became king of Navarre. A letter from another niece, whose name is recorded only as “B,” was preserved among the archives of the abbey of St. Victor in Paris; in it she begged her uncle to return to his duties, since his absence might encourage his enemies against the Christians. Rotrou made a final visit to Tudela in January 1142, perhaps to commemorate the death of his niece Queen Margaret of Navarre in that year.

A late tradition preserved at the abbey of La Trappe, founded by Rotrou, suggests that he made further visits to the Holy Land. It asserts that the count presented La Trappe with relics that he had collected on his second pilgrimage shortly before he set off on a third pilgrimage. Nearly a century later Rotrou’s grandson Bishop William of Châlons-en- Champagne, the last count of the Perche of the house of Rotrou, was to refer proudly to his grandfather’s presence at the siege of Antioch in a family genealogy.

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