1. A Miraculous Recovery?
A Miraculous Recovery?

1146 AD. Duke Conan, third of that name, while visiting his beloved daughter the wise Bertha and his ailing son-in-law Alan the Black, dreamt of Our Lady Mary, Queen of Heaven. And said Christ’s mother to the lord duke: “Build a church and an abbey for me and great shall be your reward in my Son’s Kingdom”.
And when the lord duke saw his son-in-law was recovering, he said: “I shall build a church to the Queen of Heaven for she has healed my son and heir.” And this was how Saint Mary of Trégor Cathedral and the Abbey of Our Lady of Guenezan were built.

Chronicle of the Abbey of Our Lady and Saint Monegundis of Guenezan

September 1146. Alan the Black, Earl of Richmond and husband of Duke Conan’s daughter Bertha, fell ill. As he lay in God’s hands, Bertha and her father prayed the Holy Virgin and Saint Monegundis to heal him who had Brittany’s destiny between his hands. And their prayer was heard and Alan healed, for it was God’s will that Alan became King.
And to thank Saint Mary and Saint Monegundis, Conan decided a great church would be built in Tréguier and an abbey in Guenezan, where Alan had miraculously recovered from his illness.

Historia Regum Brittaniae Armoricanae

Contrary to what has been said or written by generations of clergymen and historians, the Abbey of Our Lady and Saint Monegundis of Guenezan was not founded to celebrate the miraculous recovery of King Alan V.
To understand the reason why the story of Alan’s “miraculous healing” was spread, it is necessary to consider the political situation of Brittany at the time when the Historia Regum Brittaniae Armoricanae (1228) was written.
In 1223, the duchy was inherited by a woman for the third time, which caused a stir of rebellion among some of the last king’s male relatives. The French king, after suffering several setbacks from the Bretons, seized the opportunity and questioned the legitimacy of the Breton kingdom itself. The monks of Guenezan began to write their History while the Second War of Succession was in its most violent phase. It was in their interest to describe Alan V’s recovery as miraculous and claim Saint Mary had intervened so Brittany would become a kingdom again.
However, the recently discovered manuscript of the Chronicle of Guenezan Abbey shows that Conan III and his daughter never invoked divine protection during Alan’s illness. The abbey itself was dedicated only to Saint Mary — hence its original name of Abbey of Our Lady of Guenezan — and Saint Monegundis’s relics were brought to the Abbey in 1213 only.
The monks of Guenezan successfully thwarted the French king’s plans and their History achieved Europe-wide fame. But it led subsequent chroniclers and historians astray.

Harold Robertson, The Western Coalition (2014)​
So here's a try at a TL I've been thinking about for quite a little time now: the restoration of the Kingdom of Brittany.
Pre-PoD chronology
So the PoD is Alan the Black, 1st Earl of Richmond, surviving in September 1146.

Here’s a short chronology of what happened before this but will have important consequences on the story:

1066: William the Bastard conquers England. Conan II of Brittany dies childless and is succeeded by his sister Hawise and her husband Hoel of Cornouaille, Count of Nantes. The House of Cornouaille rules Brittany but Conan and Hawise’s uncle Odo I of Penthièvre, rebels against them and claims the duchy as Conan’s closest male relative. The revolt fails but the Counts of Penthièvre still consider the Cornouaille rulers are usurpers.
1072: Duchess Hawise dies. Her son Alan IV succeeds her under his Hoel’s regency.
1084: Duke Hoel dies. Alan IV sole ruler.
1087: William I of England dies. William II Rufus King if England.
1098-1101: Alan IV takes part to the First Crusade. His wife Ermengarde of Anjou rules the duchy.
1100: William II of England dies. His brother Henry I Beauclerc succeeds him.
1112-11115: Alan IV is still Duke but his son Conan III becomes his co-ruler.
1113: Conan marries Henry I Beauclerc’s illegitimate daughter Maud FitzRoy.
1115: Alan IV's abdicate in facour of his son. Birth of Conan III’s only legitimate son Hoel.
1117: Birth of Conan III’s eldest legitimate daughter Bertha.
1110s and 1120s: In France, Louis VI struggles with his barons and with Henry I Beauclerc.
25 November 1120: The White Ship sinks. Henry’s only legitimate son William Adelin dies.
1128: Henry’s daughter and heiress Matilda marries Geoffrey V Plantagenet, Count of Anjou.
1 December 1135: Henry I Beauclerc dies. His nephew Stephen of Blois seizes the throne. Beginning of the Anarchy.
1136: Conan III decides to marry his daughter Bertha to their cousin Alan of Penthièvre, 1st Earl of Richmond, and make her his heiress to put an end to the rivalry between their families. Conan and Alan support King Stephen but Alan’s elder brother Geoffrey supports Matilda and her husband.
2. Warriors

In 1147, Empress Matilda’s hot-headed eldest son Henry crossed the Channel with an army of mercenaries and wreaked havoc in Wiltshire. Viscount Hervé II de Léon, the former Earl of Wiltshire and King Stephen’s son-in-law [1] was sent to England by Conan III. While there, he killed Salisbury who had been made Earl of Wiltshire by the Empress, and defeated Henry’s army all the more easily as the young prince was unable to pay his men. King Stephen allowed his cousin to go back to Normandy safely and returned Wiltshire to Hervé.

[1] Hervé de Léon had married Stephen illegitimate daughter Sibyl. He was made Earl of Wiltshire in 1139 but was declared forfeit in 1141 after he lost Devizes Castle while Stephen was imprisoned.
Andrew A. Holmes, The Earldom of Wiltshire (1954)​

List of the Earls of Wiltshire
First Creation (1139)
Hervé II de Léon, aka Hervé Brito (forfeit 1141)
Creation by Empress Matilda
Patrick of Salisbury, 1st Earl of Salisbury (c.1145-1147)
Second Creation (1147)
Hervé II de Léon, 1st Earl of Wiltshire (1147-1169)
Guyomar IV de Léon, 2nd Earl of Wiltshire (1169-1179)
Hervé de Léon, 3rd Earl of Wiltshire (1179-1214)
Universal Encyclopedia

On October 31, 1147 Robert FitzRoy, Earl of Gloucester, the Empress’s half-brother died from a fever. His death was a great blow to the Empress’s party and she left England soon after. But for her son Henry, the Angevin party might well have lost the war this year. But Henry had inherited his parents’ fiery temperament and was decided to get the kingdom his mother had been deprived of.
Geoffrey H. Ford, English, Normans and Angevins in the Anarchy (1994)​
3. A Disputed Succession
A Disputed Succession

In September 1148, Conan III, Duke of Brittany, died leaving three legitimate children: Hoel, Bertha and Constance. Hoel should normally have succeeded his father but Conan had long decided to make Bertha his heiress: for almost 80 years, Conan’s family had had to deal with the Counts of Penthièvre who contested their legitimacy. In order to solve this recurring problem, Conan III decided to disinherit his only son Hoel and name Bertha and Alan his heirs. This was a first in Breton history — indeed in European history — and it had serious consequences in the following years.
Wembrit Le Quellec, “Family Rivalries: Penthièvre and Cornouaille” (1985)​

Female succession was not the norm in the Middle Ages. Brittany was one of the first Medieval states to allow female succession, even when male heirs lived. In 1066, Hawise had succeeded her brother Conan II. This had not gone smoothly, as her uncle Odo claimed the duchy for himself, arguing that an uncle’s claim was superior to that of a sister in the line of succession. Hawise is not known to have played an important role in the duchy’s politics. She had a husband to fight for her rights and seems to have been content to let him rule in her name.
Bertha was different, though. She fought tooth and nail alongside her husband in the First War of the Breton Succession and was rewarded when the old Kingdom of Brittany was revived more than two centuries after it had disappeared in the Viking invasions.
Judith Cachard, Medieval Women: the Breton Case (2007)​

Alan and Bertha were slightly discredited by fighting against Matilda and supporting Stephen. Bertha had succeeded her father instead of her brother Hoel, who was viewed by some as the legitimate heir, yet she and her husband refused to acknowledge Henry I’s daughter as the rightful heiress of England and Normandy. It is true that to do so would have been against their interests: an alliance of England, Normandy and Anjou would have threatened the Second Kingdom, which was still in its infancy.
Gráinne Mhic Mhathúna, The Second Kingdom of Brittany (2019)​
4. King and Queen
King and Queen

The year 1137 had been full of promises: in July Louis, eldest surviving son and heir of King Louis VI the Fat, had married Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right.
And yet 1137 was also a sombre year: Eleanor’s father William X of Aquitaine had been dead for three months when she married, and Louis VI himself died of dysentery a week after his son’s wedding. The newlywed couple were now King and Queen of the Franks.
However, Eleanor and Louis were too different for their marriage to be a blissful one. Eleanor was a strong-willed girl brought up in the splendour of the Aquitaine court; Louis, on the contrary, was a pious young man who would have made a fine churchman but not a good husband.
Within ten years of marriage, only one girl was born, Marie — a cruel disappointment for the King. Eleanor had made enemies at the French court and her incapacity at giving a son to her husband didn’t help.

Then came the time of the Second Crusade. Eleanor insisted upon going with Louis. They left France, Louis having appointed his advisor Suger as regent. The Crusade was a disaster, and many blamed it upon Eleanor. It is true her behaviour with both her husband and her uncle Raymind of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, was somewhat questionable. Was she Raymond’s lover, as it was suggested by her detractors? This statement is subject to caution. It is more probable that Eleanor was very fond of her uncle, nothing more, and that they had much more in common than she and Louis had.
The Second Crusade being a failure didn’t improve Louis and Eleanor’s relationship. They eventually left the Holy Land, sailing from Acre in April 1149. Less than three months later, Eleanor’s uncle Raymond was killed by Shirkuh (Asad ad-Dīn Shīrkūh bin Shādhī) whose nephew Saladin was to become one of the major figure in late 12th century Levant.
Amaury de Bois-Fontaine, History of the Kingdom of the Franks, vol 10: Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Dark Queen (1978)​
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Enter the unforgettable Eleanor. One just can't write a 12th-century TL that doesn't feature her, unless she's butterflied away of course🙃.
5. The Battle of Rouen
5. The Battle of Rouen

The Battle of Rouen occurred on 10 February 1150 between King Stephen I and Empress Matilda’s forces. Matilda’s husband Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou and their eldest son Henry FitzEmpress were killed, resulting in Stephen’s victory.

Forces in presence:​

Blois and allies
Anjou and allies
Stephen I, King of England
Matilda of Bloulogne
William of Ypres
Alan V, King of Brittany
Hoel of Brittany, pretender to the Breton throne
Harvey II of Léon, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Theobald II, Count of Blois
Empress Matilda
Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Henry FitzEmpress
David I of Scotland
Miles of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford
Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk
Geoffrey II Boterel, Count of Penthièvre
Brian FitzCount

King Stephen’s army had been besieging the town for several weeks when Hoel of Brittany, who had been a staunch supporter of Empress Matilda throughout the war until then, hoping to overthrow his sister and brother-in-law and seize Brittany, suddenly changed sides and betrayed his allies. The town was caught and the Count of Anjou and his eldest son were killed in the ensuing battle.
It has been claimed by some chroniclers that Geoffrey had been slain by Stephen himself, and by other that it was Hoel who gave him the deathblow.
Matilda and Geoffrey’s younger sons Geoffrey and William were taken prisoners and sent to England where they were kept in custody for fear of an Angevin uprising.


Queen Matilda refusing her former rival Empress Matilda's plea to see her imprisoned sons (anonymous engraving c. 1880)​

The rest of Normandy soon returned under Blesist allegiance, while Hoel took over the County of Anjou. It soon became clear that he had betrayed the Angevins after being promised Anjou, as deep down he knew he had very little chance to get Brittany when Alan was so popular a leader.
Louis VII and particularly Eleanor of Aquitaine have been credited with bribing Hoel from the Angevin side, as Hoel had been present in Paris a few months before, trying to persuade the French king to support his claim to Brittany, and Louis readily acknowledged him Count of Anjou a few weeks only after Geoffrey’s death.
For his part, Hoel formally renounced all claims to Brittany for himself and all his descendants, much to Bertha and Alan's satisfaction.

Geoffrey H. Ford, English, Normans and Angevins in the Anarchy (1994)​
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6. A Queen’s choice
A Queen’s choice
The Battle of Rouen had marked the end of the War of the English Succession and the return to peace. Little did people suspect that its immediate outcome would cause another war a few years later.

Hoel had gone to Paris a few months before the Battle of Rouen. There he had met Louis VII and his queen to try and persuade them to support his claim to the Kingdom of Brittany, and probably betrayed his allies Geoffrey Plantagenet and Empress Matilda. It is possible that Hoel and Eleanor became lovers around this time and it has even been argued that Alix of France, who was born in the summer of 1150, really was Hoel’s daughter.

In Paris, the royal couple seemed to have reconciled. Eleanor of Aquitaine had announced her second pregnancy and Louis fervently hoped the baby would be a boy. It was a great disappointment to him when the child was born a girl. After thirteen years of marriage, only two children had been born to them and no son had blessed their union.
Alix’s birth sounded the death knell of Louis and Eleanor’s marriage. On 11 March 1152, the Archbishops of Sens, Bordeaux, Rouen and Reims met with Louis and Eleanor at the castle of Beaugency to dissolve the marriage. Ten days, later, the marriage was annulled on ground of consanguinity, Eleanor and Louis sharing a common ancestor, King Robert II of France. Louis got custody of their daughters, who were declared legitimate, while Eleanor’s lands were restored to her.

Eleanor left the French court soon after. Once back in Aquitaine, she met Hoel, now Count of Anjou, and a few weeks later, the two married on 18 May 1152. Louis felt reassured, as he himself had acknowledged Hoel as Count of Anjou and he had every reason to believe the latter would be a faithful vassal.
Eleanor and her second husband were not of the same mind. A few months their marriage, Hoel claimed the Kingdom of Brittany again. This time he had a powerful duchess as an ally.
S. C. Pembroke, Famous Women of the Middle Ages (2010)​

Eleanor of Aquitaine soon after the annulment of her first marriage​
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Oh it's alive all right.
I'll try to have a few updates posted regularly enough, although I have a rather busy schedule these days.
7. Warring Siblings
Warring Siblings
Bertha looked up from the manuscript she had been reading.
“What is it, Oreguen?” she asked her maid.
“A messenger has just ridden into the courtyard. He says he has important news from the King.”
“From Alan?” Bertha’s arched eyebrows shot up in surprise. Her husband had been away for a week only, gone to the County of Nantes to quench a rebellion among the lords. Nantes had always been difficult to manage, ever since her father had granted it to Hoel.
“Let him in,” she said, pushing the book aside.
The messenger was ushered into the solar. He bowed before Bertha, saying:
“Your Highness, Nantes has risen. They have pledged allegiance to the Duke of Aquitaine.”

Miranda Powys, Warring Siblings (2004)​

The Uprising in Nantes (July 1152) was the result of the secret negotiations between the lords of the County of Nantes and Hoel and Eleanor. It resulted in the lords’ swearing fealty to Hoel as the “rightful King of all of Brittany” and rebelling against Alan and Bertha. The latter thought at first this was a mere dispute between the lords themselves, and he decided to go and put an end to it in person.
There however, he found that what he had thought a mere petty quarrel between his vassals was actually a rebellion against the Kingdom. Alan at once sent for Bertha, who raised an army to go to her husband’s aid and dispatched messengers to their ally, the King of England.

While Alan had been away in Nantes, King Alan’s brother Geoffrey II Boterel, Count of Penthièvre, met with Norman and Angevin [1] lords who were hoping to free Empress Matilda’s sons Geoffrey and William. Together they launched simultaneous attacks on Normandy and Brittany. Boterel, of course, had engaged in double dealing, pretending to be Hoel’s ally but really hoping to depose Alan and Bertha and restore the Angevin dynasty.

King Stephen and his son and heir Eustace immediately allied with Bertha to fight this new threat. And although the war cost Prince Eustace his life at Boterel’s hands (July 21, 1152), Hoel’s attempt miserably failed. The Count of Anjou ended up the laughing stock of his contemporaries: the only son of a duke, he could have succeeded his father but was supplanted by his own sister, married a woman wealthier than him who ruled him as she ruled her own duchy, naively believed Geoffrey Boterel’s alliance would allow him to retrieve his lost inheritance, and eventually had to accept he would never be king or duke in his own right.

This war took place under the French king’s wary eye. Louis did not try to support one side more than the other: the newly-restored Kingdom of Brittany might become a threat but he could not choose to support Hoel, whose marriage to Eleanor would have made him even more dangerous had he defeated his rivals. Supporting Geoffrey Boterel, who was trying to put the Angevin heirs on the English throne, was out of the question. And he could not offer to help Stephen when the latter was fighting on the Breton side.

[1] Although Hoel had been granted Anjou after the death of Count Geoffrey IV the Fair, a few lords still nursed the hope of putting their deceased count’s son and namesake Geoffrey Plantagenet FitzEmpress in his place.

Harold Robertson, The Western Coalition (2014)​

Would Prince Eustace have made a good king? This is debated. He was not liked by the Church and is often described as a violent, irascible man. But he seems to have been popular enough among his men and when he died, he was “greatly mourned” by those who had known him.
As we will see, Eustace was, to quote a famous tragedy, an “unfortunate prince”: in 1148, he tried to persuade his father to have him crowned King of England, but Stephen refused, considering his dynasty was secure since the Empress’s three sons were all dead or imprisoned and he himself had two healthy sons to succeed him. There was no need for him to imitate the Capetians and crown his eldest son in his lifetime.
When war broke out between the King of Brittany and the Count of Anjou, Eustace was the one who gallantly led the Anglo-Norman contingent in his ageing father’s name. His valour was praised by contemporary poets and he died gallantly, killed by Geoffrey Boterel while trying to prevent him from releasing Geoffrey and William Plantagenet FitzEmpress.
After his death, his cousin Henry I of Champagne killed Boterel, while the Empress’s sons mysteriously disappeared. Sources mentioning what happened to them are scarce but it is usually believed that they were killed at Stephen’s order on July 24, 1152.

Rudyard Kipling, “The Man Who Would Be King” (1888)​
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The thread is not dead! My apologies for taking so long to post the next instalment. The pandemics has a lot to answer for but I should have posted this sooner.