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Broom (Genista monopessulana)

It all started with Count Geoffrey 5th of Anjou, also known as ‘Le Bel’. Evidently he was quite handsome with red hair and he had taken to wearing flowers in his cap. You would have come unstuck if you did that when I went to school. You did your best to avoid wearing your cap at all and  putting flowers in it would have been really  asking for trouble. Anyway that was what he did, but it was not any old flower. He had a penchant for the yellow flowers of a shrub called broom which is fairly common in these parts. It flowers over a fairly long period of time so I suppose he had access to them for a good few months of the year.

There are many species of broom but they come from a family of plants known scientifically as Genista. The French word for broom is genet and so he had plants of genet in his cap,  Plants genet – Plantagenet.

Geoffrey was William the Conqueror’s grandson. He married the Empress Matilda who was the daughter of Henry I of England and also a granddaughter of William the Conqueror.  Sounds a bit incestuous but it was always thus.

When Henry 1st died there was a bit of a skirmish over who should succeed as he did not have a legitimate son.  Matilda did not find favour with either the English or the Normans and a cousin of hers got the job. He was called Stephen of Blois and evidently he was not a great King.   Meanwhile Matilda was given the succession in Anjou and she got married to Geoffrey, the one with the flowers in his cap. Despite a rather tempestuous marriage they did manage to make some babies. Geoffrey was the father of three by Matilda and others with other ladies! The legitimate ones were Henry, Geoffrey and William. Henry became Henry II of England and married Eleanor of Aquitaine after she had previously been married to and subsequently divorced from the King of France. This was not great for relationships in France and a lot of wars ensued but that’s another story.

Henry II and Eleanor also produced sons including Richard and John. Richard  later became Richard I of England/ Richard the Lionheart… not that he spent much time in England. Who can blame him. I prefer to spend my time here in France, though he also spent a lot of his time on crusades. Then there was John who succeeded Richard as King and this line of the Royal family is known as the Plantagenets – all because Geoffrey wore flowers in his cap!?

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