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Stephen I (1133-1190), first Count of Sancerre (1151-1190) and third son of Count Theobald II of Champagne, inherited the county of Sancerre on his father's death, when his eldest brother Henry received Champagne and his elder brother Theobald Blois and Chartres. His holdings were the smallest amongst the brothers (though William received none and entered the church, becoming archbishop of Rheims) and he was originally a vassal, along with Theobald, of Henry.

Like many members of his family, he was prominent in the Crusades and, in 1169, he was offered the hand in marriage of Amalric I of Jerusalem's daughter Sibylla by a diplomatic delegation led by Frederick de la Roche, archbishop of Tyre. He accepted and travelled east with Hugh III of Burgundy and a gift of money from Louis VII of France in 1171.

It was anticipated that he may some day be king in right of his wife, the rightful heir of Amalric being the leprous Baldwin. In light of this, the Haute Cour invited him to decide the case of the division of the sonless Henry the Buffalo's estate among his three daughters. Stephen divied it up equally, but ordered the younger two to do homage to the eldest. However, the marriage never took place. For reasons unknown, Stephen refused to marry Sibylla and returned home.

In Sancerre, Stephen built a six-towered castle on the local hill and strengthened the fortifications of the town of Sancerre itself. In 1153, he married the daughter of Godfrey of Donzy, named Adelaide, Alice, or Matilda. In 1155, he granted the Customs of Lorris to the merchants of the town and probably seven others. He was the de facto leader among a group of powerful baronial rebels against King Philip Augustus between 1181 and 1185. In 1184, he and a band of Brabançon mercenaries were defeated by the king and his Confrères de la Paix, an organisation of warriors formed in 1182 in Le Puy dedicated to curbing feudal warfare. In 1190, he commenced the abolition of serfdom in his domains, a trend in his family it seems, for his nephew Louis I of Blois did the same in 1196.

Stephen and his brothers went to the Orient (his second time) on the Third Crusade in 1190. He died before 21 October 1190 at the Siege of Acre, and Theobald died there a few months later in January 1191. His son by Alice-Matilda, William, succeeded him.

Sources

  • Bernard Hamilton. The Leper King and his Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Peter W. Edbury. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade. Ashgate, 1998.

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