GeographyThe Trencavel Inheritance is bounded approximately by four rivers; la Garonne, La Lot, L’Arriage and the La Rhone. The other boundary is the north western shore of the Golfe Du Lion at the north western edge of the Mediterranean.
The inheritance is in two quite distinct segments; the inheritance from the Trencavels, Vicomptes of Beziers, Carcassonne, Albi and Razes, and the inheritance from the St Gilles,Comptes of Toulouse, recieving fealty from a dozen other Viscomtes including the Trencavels themselves.The ownership of the lands below the Loire and west of the Rhone was less well defined than anywhere else in Europe. Couple that fact with the prevalence of support for the Cathar faith in this area meant that there was always the potential for war.This is by no means the whole of Occitan.There is a much larger area, bounded by even better natural boundaries for which the native tongue is Langue d’Oc and the culture is Occitaine.
SeptimaniaThere is a close correlation between the combined Trencavel /St Gilles inheritance (blue) and the Roman province of Septimania. (Yellow) This area has a very significant history. When the rest of Aquitaine was taken over by the Franks in 507 this are was not. It is not even clear wether Septimania was considered part of Acquitaine. It remained under Visigothic control. Importantly it became the bridge between ostrogothic Italy and Visigothic Spain. the traffic between the two generated sufficient trading revenue to make it rich and for a period it was the Visigothic capital.
Because of it’s wealth there was no reason to trade with Franks and there was no trade. The Franks were isolated from the mediterranean and forced to pay a premium to the Genoese and Venetians to access the spices, silks and gold from the east. Later it was the first area to be taken over by the Moors and the last to be given up by the Moors. When Pepin the short did finally eject the moors in 760, he only achieved it by offering a degree of autonomy to its peoples. Intent on creating the valuable trading link across the Mediterranean he specifically invited eastern Jews to the area and again allowed them to create an independent state in the vicinity of Beliers. The area only fell under the influence of the St Gilles and Trencavels because of the inevitable intermarriage. It then became subject to the feudal constraints but until 988 was firmly part of Aquitaine, and therefore part of an independent kingdom.
Hugh CapetFragmented relationshipsThe ascent of Hugh Capet to the throne of the Franks, considered in the south as a usurper, presented three options. Independence from the Franks as part of Aquitaine( eventually Plantagenet England), independence from the Franks as part of Barcelona (eventually Aragon) or to swear allegiance to the northern Franks. The Trencavels adopted a policy of being part of Aquitaine by swearing fealty to Toulouse and therefore to Aquitaine.
Before the Albigensian crusade much of of this area fell under the control under of Aragon, but the control was fragmented. with Toulousaine, Aragonais and even English territories intermingled. What was particularly important was that the Trencavel lands themselves were subdivided. For the Viscomptes of Albi,and Beziers they owed allegiance to the Compte of Toulouse.
However for the Viscompte of Carcassonne and the Viscompte of Razes, the Trencavels owed allegiance to Aragon. The deal which switched the Trevencal allegiance from Toulouse to Aragon was brokered by the famous Richard, Coeur de Lion, King of England.
Richard the LionheartEnglish ( Ramnulfid) influenceThe reason for Richard’s involvement is that his mother’s family,the Ramnulfids, Dukes of Aquitaine had control of an even bigger part of Occitan and also had a claim over the Compte de Toulouse. The Comptes de Toulouse (the St Gilles family) who were intermarried with both the Ramnulfid’s and the Trencavels then decided to swear allegience to the King of the Franks to avoid swearing allegiance to the Ramnulfids. The Comptes de Toulouse themselves wanted independance. By swearing allegiance to the Francs, whose power base was far away in the North they believed that they had far more freedom than if they swore allegiance to the Ramnulfids, near neighbors along the Garonne valley. By arranging for the Trevcavels to switch their allegiance to Aragon Richard hoped to weaken the st Gilles position and put pressure on them to swear allegiance to himself. What occured was nothing short of horrific. The Compte of Toulouse was “persuaded” ( by the threat of excommunication reinforced by a public whipping) to stand to one side whilst the Crusaders attacked the Trencavel lands. Brutality was used as a deliberate weapon to intimidate the populace and discredit their rulers.Like many of the Richard’s initiatives this plan was a disastrous failure. The Kings of the Franks accepted the allegiance of Toulouse and this meant that the Trencavel’s then also owed allegiance to the Franks, something they had never intended.
The Franks then saw the ceding of Carcassonne to the Aragonise as rebellion and when discussions for allegiance for Beziers to and Albi to be shifted to Aragon they decided to take action.
Without doubt the target was Trencavel lands, and the declaration by the Pope that the invasion was a crusade against Cathars was initially just a convenience. However the crusading invasion then fell under control of the Church of Rome, with the result that the invasion became a genocidal bloodbath.
MuretFinally the lords of Occitan, as one swore allegiance to Pedro of Aragon and put together a substantial albeit inexperience army. They trapped the Crusaders at Muret. Muret was one of the most significant battles ever fought. Incredibly the crusaders won, although hopelessly outnumbered. If the crusaders had been defeated in this battle it would have redrawn the map and the religious establishment of Western Europe. It would have meant more than the defeat of the crusaders, it would have meant the confirmation of Occitan as an independant state in an Aragonese empire. Having dispossessed the Trencavels, and in the process killed the viscomte and thousands of his citizens,the crusaders then turned against Raimond of Toulouse, using his support of “heretics” as an excuse. At this point Raimond also tried to switch his allegiance to Aragon but in september 1213, the combined Toulousaine/Aragonese forces suffered a humiliating defeat. Pedro of Aragon was killed. If the Southerners had defeated the crusaders at the battle of Muret the history of Europe and the established religion of Europe would have been entirely different. This battle is certainly one of the most important ever fought, but outside of Occitan it rarely rates a mention. It was expected that the English, under King John, Richard’s younger brother, would support the southerners at the battle of Muret but they never arrived.
John, the villan of the Robin Hood saga, had managed to alienate most of his subjects by a sequence of bad decisions. He forced himself on Isabelle d’Angoulene, against her own and her (very) extended families wishes, murdered his brother, starved rebels to death, quarrelled with the pope and suffered a major revolt in the north of England. He was probably distracted by all this and significantly made is peace with the pope, ensuring the church’s support against his disenchanted barons only months before the battle of Muret.