Over the course of the twelfth century, the county of Champagne grew into one of the wealthiest and most important of French principalities, home to a large and established aristocracy, the site of international trade fairs, and a center for artistic, literary, and intellectual production. It had not always been this way, notes Theodore Evergates, who charts the ascent of Champagne under the rule of Count Henry the Liberal. Tutored in the liberal arts and mentored in the practice of lordship from an early age, Henry commanded the barons and knights of Champagne on the Second Crusade at twenty and succeeded as count of Champagne at twenty-five. Over the next three decades Henry immersed himself in the details of governance, most often in his newly built capital in Troyes, where he resolved disputes, confirmed nonlitigious transactions, and monitored the disposition of his fiefs. He was a powerful presence beyond the county as well, serving in King Louis VII's military ventures and on diplomatic missions to the papacy and the monarchs of England and Germany.
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It is located southeast of Paris and directly south of Reims. The town was the historical capital of Champagne. Under the Roman emperor Augustus , it became the capital of the Gallic tribe known as the Tricasses hence its name. Converted to Christianity in the 3rd century, the town was threatened by the Huns in the 5th century and was defended against them by its bishop, St. Sacked by the Normans in , it soon came under the authority of the counts of Champagne, who founded a number of churches and almshouses there and established the great fairs which gained an international reputation and brought Troyes exceptional prosperity. The city also gave its name to the troy weight. The end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th were periods of prosperity, but in a fire destroyed 1, houses in Troyes.
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In this engaging biography, Theodore Evergates offers a more rounded view of Marie as a successful ruler of one of the wealthiest and most vibrant principalities in medieval France. From the age of thirty-four until her death, Marie ruled almost continuously, initially for her husband, Henry the Liberal, during his journey to Jerusalem, then for her underage son, Henry II, and after his majority, during his absence on the Third Crusade and extended residence in the Levant. Presiding at the High Court of Champagne and attending to the many practical duties of governance, Marie acted with the advice of her court officers but without limitation by either the king or a regency council. If Henry the Liberal created the county of Champagne as a dynamic and prosperous state, it was Marie who expertly preserved and sustained it.