Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Dangerous Love

“In truth, he bore nothing of the name Christian; he was, as everyone knows, an ardent lover of women, and therefore unstable in all his actions.” — a Limousin monk, early 12th century

That was what they wrote about William IX of Aquitaine (1071 – 1126), “the first troubador.” If he had spent more time concentrating on his military endeavors (the First Crusade) he might have been a more successful campaigner in the army of God, so it was said. He certainly spent a good deal of time writing songs about love:

William IX of Aquitaine watch those hands!

William IX of Aquitaine
watch those hands!

Great the joy that I take in love,

A joy where I can take my ease,

And then in joy turn as I please,

Once more with the best I move,

For I am honored, she’s above

The best that man can hear or see.

Woman. She will only get you into trouble. Particularly if her name is Dangerous.

Dangereuse de l’Isle Bouchard (1079 – 1151), also known as “Dangerosa” or “The Difficult” was the Viscountess of Chatellerault. She was married to Viscount Aimery and had borne him several children, of whom two daughters survived. William was travelling through the country, as troubadours are want to do, and the fateful meeting between “ram and ewe” occurred:

For she is whiter than ivory,

So there can be no other for me.

If there’s no help for this, and swiftly,

And my fine lady love me, goddamn,

I’ll die, by the head of Saint Gregory,

If she’ll not kiss me, wherever I am!

He knew he shouldn’t have her. He was married and so was she. Open adultery was being more vigorously prosecuted under Gregorian reforms. He ought not to risk the church’s wrath. 

"La Dangereuse" rendered the picture of Victorian innocence

“La Dangereuse” as imagined by some Victorian romantic


For her I shiver and tremble,

Since with her I so in love am;

Never did any her resemble,

In beauty, since Eve knew Adam.

Thanks to the enthusiastic writings of medieval church chroniclers, we learn that William threw caution (and damnation) to the wind, giving in to his desire. He “abducted” Dangereuse, carrying her away from her husband. Not to some hidden lover’s bower, mind you. No, he installed her in plain view, in his castle in Poitiers. An entire tower, the Marborgeonne, was given over to her use. He even had the likeness of Dangereuse put on his shield, William of Malmsbury recorded in disgust.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

William of Malmsbury goes on to relate, this time in satisfaction, that the Duke of Aquitaine was excommunicated by none other than the papal legate himself. The duke’s response went something like this: “you’ll need a comb for your bald head before I repudiate my viscountess.” The church tried again to make the besotted lover see some sense, sending his own bishop of Poitiers to reconfirm the punishment. William drew his sword on the bishop, who responded by challenging his duke to strike him down.

William put away his sword with a quip: “If you are bound for heaven, expect no help from me.”

Ah, love.

Later, William’s legitimate son married Dangereuse’s legitimate daughter. Their granddaughter inherited the whole–Eleanor of Aquitaine.

“For the love of God, can’t we love each other just a little! That’s where peace begins.” — Lion in Winter


Susanna Niiranen’s excellent article “I know how to be a whore and a thief,” as printed in Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age (2012)

“The wives of the ‘first troubadour’, Duke William IX of Aquitaine”. Journal of Medieval History, Volume 19, Issue 4, 1993,pp. 307-325 by Ruth Harvey, professor at Royal Holloway, University of London (a wonderful place for the undergraduate study of English history).