BLOIS    Blésois or Blaisois (pays).

English: A 28 segment (2 x 14) panoramic view ...

English: A 28 segment (2 x 14) panoramic view of Blois as viewed from the south-east on the far side of the Loire River. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Medieval County in northwestern France;  named after the town on the River Loire below Orléans and above Tours.

In the later 9th and 10th centuries Blois belonged to the great March of Neustria, which was held by the Robertians, the ancestors of the Capetian Kings, and which was so extensive and important, bordering as it did on Brittany and Aquitaine, that the Vicomtes, the deputies for the Marquis, were themselves men of great power.  After the death in 956 of Hugh the Great, Duke of Francia and Marquis of Neustria, whose son was still in his early teens, the Vicomte of Blois, Thibaud the Trickster, was able to expand his territories northwards to include lands around Chateaudun and Chartres, so that he had control of a substantial principality to the southwest of Paris.

Original coat of arms of the county of Blois.

Original coat of arms of the county of Blois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He assumed the title of Count, either at that time or earlier.  He also gained control of Touraine to the west, though the Counts of Anjou were persistent rivals and in 1044 finally succeeded in wresting it from Blois.

Thibaud married a daughter of Herbert II, Count of Vermandois, and through her gained the County of Omois in the Brie region, well to the east of his Blois lands.   This began the Blois acquisition of Champagne.  It was Thibaud’s grandson, Eudes II (Count 1004-37), who added the Counties of Troyes and Meaux after the death of a cousin in the early 1020s.  His wider ambitions – he was through his mother a nephew of the childless King Rudolf III of Burgundy, who died in 1032 – were  frustrated by the opposition of the Emperor and the King of France.

On his death in battle in Lorraine in 1037,  Blois went to his elder son, Thibaut III, who reunited Blois with Champagne in 1063 until his own death in 1089, when the lands were again divided, the eldest son, Stephen, once more taking Blois.  His son, Thibaut IV, reunited Blois and Champagne in 1125;  Thibaut’s younger brother, Stephen, first gained a crown for the House of Blois – that of England in 1135.

When Thibaut IV died in 1152, his great principality, which lay either side of the royal domain and thus constituted a threat to the Kings of France, was for the last time divided, only this time the elder son took Champagne, with its growing wealth from trade and commerce, leaving Blois to his younger brother.  The Count of Champagne remained overlord over his kinsmen of Blois until he needed royal support to pursue his claims to the Kingdom of Navarre after 1234, when he surrendered his rights to the Crown.

The County of Blois never recovered its earlier importance after 1152.  The last Count of the original line died in 1218, and was succeeded in Blois by his aunt, whose daughter and heiress brought the County to the family of Châtillon in 1230.  Chartres had passed in 1218 to a cousin of the last Count, further diminishing the importance of Blois, and though it was recovered in 1256, it was sold in 1286 to the King of France.

In 1391 the last Châtillon Count, whose son had died, sold his rights to Louis, Duke of Orléans, the brother of the French King.  Blois became part of Louis’s great appanage, and eventually passed to the Crown in 1498 when the Duke of Orléans became King Louis XII;  its château was a favourite residence of the last Valois Kings of France.

Blois remained linked to Orléans in the Ancien Régime in the gouvernement of Orléanais and the généralité of Orléans.   In 1697 Blois became the seat of a Bishop in the province of Paris at the expense of Chartres.   The town has been the capital of the Department of Loir-et-Cher since 1790.

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