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count of Brittany Arthur

(1187—1203)


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B. 1187, s. of Geoffrey, count of Brittany, and Constance; d. Rouen, 3 Apr. 1203.

The posthumous son of John's elder brother, Arthur had a plausible claim to the English throne. He was named in honour of the legendary Breton hero, and succeeded in Brittany at a time when the duchy was attempting to maintain its autonomy against France and England. Richard I, at the beginning of his reign, may have done Arthur a disservice by naming him as his heir. He was then in the care of his mother Constance, but his cause was taken up by Philip ‘Augustus’ of France, who recognized him in 1199 as heir to all Richard's French possessions. After the death of his mother in 1201, Philip had Arthur betrothed to his young daughter, Marie. Open warfare with John resulted, and Arthur was captured at Mirebeau on 1 August 1202. He was then seventeen. He was removed to Rouen and there murdered; the evidence is largely circumstantial, but since John is known to have been there on the day of the murder, it is difficult to acquit him. In Shakespeare's play King John, Arthur is represented, for dramatic purposes, as a small boy.

Subjects: British History.


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