The family of Saint-Gilles was one of the most powerful in Europe. As The Counts of Toulouse they held a huge area of land in the early Middle Ages. Before the Cathar Crusade they enjoyed great prestige, even within the Roman Church. They were much more than the title of Count might suggest to modern ears. They were also Dukes of Narbonne, Marquises of Provence and suzerain lords of other territories, with some fifteen other, more conventional, counts as their vassals.
They were regarded as the equal of most kings and were related to the leading families of Europe, notably the Kings of England, France and Aragon. Their Courts were indistinguishable from royal courts.
The distinction between names and titles was not well developed in the middle ages, so the family may be called de St-Gilles or de Toulouse interchangeably. They came originally from the town of Saint-Gilles, an important centre where two pilgrimage routes to Compostella (the voie d'Arles and the voie Regordane) converged. In medieval times, Saint-Gilles was a major commercial centre and in its own right and the fourth most important pilgrimage site in Europe.
One of the counts, Ramon IV, had been the most prestigious leader of the First Crusade, founding the County of Tripoli in the Holy Land and becoming Count Raymond I of Tripoli, with territories at both ends of the Mediterranean Sea. He declined the crown of the new Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. His great grandson, Count Raymond III of Tripoli, was present at the momentous battle at the Horns of Hattin, where Saladin's victory signaled the beginning of the end of Catholic states in the east.
At the time of the outbreak of the Crusade against the Cathars of the Languedoc, the ruler was Count Raymond VI. One of his wives was Jeanne of England, which made Raymond son-in-law of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and brother-in-law to King Richard I (the Lionheart) and King John of England. He was also related to the King of France, and to the King of Aragon. Raymond VI died in 1222 at a period when his lands looked safe. The wars continued into another generation, Raymond VII (son of Raimond VI) fighting against Amoury de Montfort, son of his Raymond VI's enemy, Simon de Montfort.
Many of the Counts were named Ramon, an Occitan name which is the same in modern Spanish, more familiar as Raymond in English and Raimond in French. Later members of the dynasty are often refered to in French literature as the Raimondines.
The Raimondines were arguably the most enlightened rulers in Europe until the advent of modern secular states. Somthing is known about the allies and the nobles of the counts, and also their relationships with their people, with the Jews and with Religious Dissidents. The price they paid at the hands of the Roman Church and the French Crusaders was public flogging, dispossession and ultimately the extinction of their noble House. Despite the best efforts of the Roman Church to demonise their memory and of successive French governments to efface all vestiges of their rule, there are still powerful links in the Languedoc to a clearly remembered golden age, before the territories of the Counts of Toulouse were annexed to France.
Click on the following link for more on individual The Counts of Toulouse
Click on the following link for more on The Cross of Toulouse, the heraldic device of the Counts of Toulouse
Click on the following link for more on Occitan the language spoken in the lands of the Counts of Toulouse
Click on the following link for more on the Troubadours, who made Occitan the first literary language of modern Europe
Click on the following link for more on Occitania, "the country that never was"
Click on the following link for more on the lineage of the Counts of Toulouse
Click on the following link for more on the genealogy of the Counts of Toulouse
Or click on any of the options on the menu below