The Marshal of Champagne, a noted Johannes Factotum accounted by many as the smartest man on the 4th Crusade. He considers himself a simple layman and soldier however, and of less stature than his peers among the leadership.
An aging, careworn knight with intelligent brown eyes, unbowed and proud in his bearing. His thinning hair is blonde, with streaks of silver are encroaching, and he wears a prominent moustache. He is armed with a finely crafted sword and dagger, and his device (a shield bearing a white lion reclining on a red field bearing a yellow moline cross on the left, and a blue field diagonally bisected by a silver band on the right) is worn prominently on his surcoat. A simple red cross is sewn onto the shoulder of his cloak.
Sir Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne, amateur historian and advisor to the Crusader Counts of the Fourth Crusade, is a man of many self-admitted faults. Intelligence and talent are not among them. Of comparatively low birth compared to the other leaders of the Crusade, he nonetheless has the respect of his peers, as well as the base soldiery and the clergy too. In addition to his interests in writing and war-craft, Sir Geoffrey speaks many languages and has a strong grasp of science, mathematics, medicine and politics.
Geoffrey is the son of Vilain de Villehardouin, a squire who earned his spurs bearing the standard of Count Walter II of Brienne against the Saracens during the Second Crusade. The lad, Geoffrey’s namesake, became renowned for his intelligence and loyalty, and soon found himself in the inner circle of Count Walter. After the disastrous Siege of Damascus, Sir Geoffrey earned the personal approbation of none other than the pious Louis VII, King of the Franks and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Although the Crusade as ultimately a failure, Geoffrey was made a Sire (lord), given a generous parcel of land, and managed a good marriage to Dameron, a cousin of Count Henry I of Champagne.
Geoffrey, born in AD 1160, was the second son of that valiant and resourceful knight. According to the laws of primogeniture, he stood to inherit little after his brother Jean. Luckily for him though, he was gifted with a quick mind and a love of learning, and at first considered a career in the clergy to be the natural choice for him. Sire Vilain spared little expense indulging his clever son’s education, and the boy’s prodigious talents grew into an exceptional command of the seven liberal arts. Unfortunately he was also cursed with an intemperate nature and a sense of mischief, and so found himself poorly suited to the pious life of a monk or priest. With his father’s leave, Geoffrey eventually entered into the service of his mother’s kin in Champagne.
As the son of a first generation lord, the clever young squire came up the hard way. Undaunted by his low birth and late start, he overcame numerous trials and hardships to earn his spurs during Count Henry’s ill-starred expedition to the Holy Land in AD 1179. By his 25th birthday, wide-spread recognition of his education, quick mind, sound judgement, loyalty and grasp of war-craft earned him the rank of Marshal of Champagne. Young Henry II looked up to Sir Geoffrey, and counted on his support to keep his baron’s in line and loyal to his younger brother and heir, Theobald, while the count was away on the Third Crusade.
After his kinsman Conrad of Montferrat was murdered by the dreaded Hashshashyn, Henry II married his cousin’s widow Isabella, and so became King of Jerusalem in her right. Thus, Sir Geoffrey became indispensable to his lord, effectively keeping the county together while Henry tried to gather support for a Fourth Crusade from his base at Acre. Sir Geoffrey’s liege would not return from the Holy Land, unfortunately, as Henry plunged to his death in a freak accident from his balcony. Theobald of Champagne became the Third Count of his name, and once more Sir Geoffrey, now aging himself, pledged his fealty and significant abilities to his new lord.
In AD 1198, the year after Henry II’s death, Pope Innocent III called the Fourth Crusade. There was little enthusiasm for the crusade at first, but on November 28, 1199 various nobles of France gathered at Theobald’s court for a tournament (in his Ecry-sur-Aisne’s castle), including the preacher Fulk of Neuilly. There, they “took the cross”, and elected Theobald their leader. The count had his marshal begin preparations, taking a census of available manpower, raising taxes (to bolster a treasury diminished by Henry II’s own Crusade), and begin correspondence with the various lord’s who had pledged their support. The preparations took years, but from his work, Sir Geoffrey was confident that the Crusade would be one of the largest ever, with some comprise 4,500 knights (as well as 4,500 horses), 9,000 squires, and 20,000 foot-soldiers.
Alas, Theobald also died in AD 1201. His widow, Blanche of Navarre, bade Sir Geoffrey continue his preparations in honour of her beloved. With her blessing, he pledged the support of Champagne to the new nominal leader of the Crusade, Marquis Boniface of Montferrat.
Sir Geoffrey was one of the six delegates sent by the leadership of the Crusade to Venice, Genoa and several other city states to negotiate passage. Only Venice expressed significant interest for the massive undertaking. There they were to negotiate with the Doge and the Great Council for passage. Some say that the negotiations were hopelessly rigged by the Venetians, others that Dandolo clearly out-witted Villehardouin and the rest of the doltish Crusade envoys, but not within earshot of the Marshal. Sir Geoffrey steadfastly defends the arithmetic of his calculations and the virtue of both sides of the negotiations. Instead, he blames those lords that pledged their aid and reneged, or else chose rival ports to Venice in which to take passage to Syria. Indeed his own nephew and namesake, Sir Geoffrey ler de Villhardouin, elected to do just that, and the two of them are known to have quarrelled over the matter.
While he is considered to be a noble and honest man, Sir Geoffrey is also pragmatic, logical and sensible to the end. He supported the attack on Zara (but not the condition with which the Venetians left it when the Crusade departed) so that the Venetians would extend the terms of the debt. Along the same line of thinking, he also supported the occupation of Corfu, as it would eject the Genoese privateers that plagued the mouth of the Adriatic. He works hard to reinvigorate the convictions of the men, and ward off father fragmentation and disaster as the months go by. The promises of Alexius Angelus give him hope that with one final delay, the logistical problems of the troubled Crusade will finally be solved.
On the island of Corfu, Sir Geoffrey and his friend, Matthew of Montmerency, were observed by Lotario to be shadowing Sir Raimbaut de Vaqueiras on his rounds of the taverns, alehouses and inns of the port. While he first thought that they meant him harm, they were revealed to be protecting the troubadour when Norman assassins in the employ of the slighted prince, Aglaia, tried to assassinate him. Sir Geoffrey showed himself to be a capable, brutal warrior in the fray.
In her mission that same night to slay the prisoners (in order to spare them further torture) Maude later observed the Marshal conferring with Matthew and Boniface of Montferrat regarding the Norman attack. The three of them demonstrated had a mutual respect for each others opinions (although Matthew was clearly a “junior partner”), and she overheard the Marshal’s suspicions that some heretofore secret faction was working at cross-purposes to the crusade.