At the death of Thibaut IV de Blois, Count of Blois, Champagne and Brie in 1152, Sancerre became the inheritance for Thibaut's third son Etienne, who in turn became count of a rather small territory carved from the de Blois lands in the province of Berry. As brother of two of the most powerful barons of the realm -- Thibaut V de Blois and Henri II de Champagne -- Etienne became a key figure in the politics of both feudal France and the Holy Land. In the Histoire de Berry, Gaspard Thaumas de La Thaumassière calls Thibaut IV de Blois: "le Grand, le Liberal, le Pere du Conseil, le Tuteur des Pauvres & des Orfelines, grand Justicier, Comte Palatin de Champagne & de Brie..." Etienne's rule as count was in the same vein as his father's, and was marked by social and economic development, a stable and strong monetary system -- visible from the quality of the billon and craftsmanship of the coins and by the standard kept in both flan size and weight -- the construction of a grand chateau to defend the capital city of Sancerre and many acts of charity and piety towards the local churches and abbeys, the craftsmen, the peasants, the traders (the 1155 privilege charter) and the people in need, many of them mentioned in the Histoire de Berry (pp. 417-419). The territories in yellow show the fiefs of the sons of Thibaut IV de Blois: Blois to Thibaut V, Champagne to Henri II and Sancerre to Etienne I. In 1169-1170, Etienne was invited to Jerusalem by a party of Holy Land prelates and knights in the name of King Amalric of Jerusalem, in a tentative by the Holy Land interests to have him marry Sibylla, the king's daughter, and become the heir to the throne of Jerusalem by jus uxoris. The tentative failed, but Etienne would remain a close ally to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. When the call of Philip II and Richard Plantagenet for the Third Crusade under both Angevin and Capetian patronage arrived, Etienne froze his old conflict with the King of France and joined the crusader army. Before leaving for the Holy Land again at the beginning of 1190, Etienne I abolished serfdom throughout his whole county and offered generous donations to the Church and the families of his retinue of old Brabancons -- his soldiers -- and knights. He then joined his brothers Henri and Thibaut to the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Acre in the summer of the same year, where he found his death that autumn either in battle or by the plague that had started in the Christian camp and would end up killing so many knights and Queen Sybilla. His brother Thibaut would soon follow him, dying from the plague in early 1191. They were buried as knights. The coinage of Sancerre between cca. 1150s and the 1250s is rather stable and steady, and is characterized by an interesting iconography: the obverse shows a head wearing a mithra or sometimes a crown and a dedication to Julius Caesar. The anonymous issues minted starting from the 1170s under the rule of Etienne and his heirs have dedications to Caesar on both obverse and reverse. The reason for this interesting and unique reference is probably due to the fact that the hill where Etienne had his chateau built was known in the area as the place of an ancient temple dedicated to the cult of Caesar. The coinage minted under the name of Etienne is exemplified here: and was probably minted before 1170 and or after 1180. These were around 19-20mm in diameter and around 1g in weight. Legends are: OBV: + IVLIVS CESAR; head wearing mithra to right, star behind it; REV: + STEPHANVS COME (in different type of ligatures, this one here has TE of STEPHANVS and ME of COME in ligature); Cross cantonnee with pellets in two of its quarters. Duplessy has these coins at #640 and Poey d'Avant notes something similar at #2001. The coin minted under the rule of Etienne but anonymously is exemplified here: and was probably minted around 1170 while and or after his first trip to the Holy Land. They are similar in billon, size and style to the previous issues and their legends are: OBV: + IVLIVS CESAR; head facing wearing mithra between 2 stars; REV: + SACRVM CESARI; Cross cantonnee, with S in first quadrant and C in forth quadrant (standing for Sancerre? or Stephanus Comes?) They are in Duplessy at #644 and in Poey d'Avant at #2009. At the news of the death of Etienne, the county was inherited by his son Guillaume as Guillaume I de Blois, Count of Sancerre, Seigneur de Saint-Brisson et La Ferté-Loupière. He followed the de Blois tradition for social and economic progress and liberal rule, which helped the city of Sancerre expand and diversify. By early 1200s Ville de Sancerre was an important civic and ecclesiastic center, guarded by the stronghold of the chateau which towered the surrounding area. After the death of his cousin Louis I de Blois at Adrianople in 1205, Guillaume became more inclined to support the effort to sustain the Holy Land and the newly acquired Latin Empire of Constantinople. Having close family connections to the House of Courtenai, Guillaume added his retinue and himself to the knights that journeyed alongside Pierre de Courtenai to Constantinople after his election as Latin Emperor in 1216. The journey was ill fated and in 1217 the party was captured by the Epirotes and sent as prisoners to Nicaea. By 1219 both Guillaume and Pierre were probably already dead. There are not many notes about the exploits of his son and heir Louis I de Sancerre, who ruled for 50 years as Count of Sancerre between 1217 and 1267. The coinage of the heirs of Etienne is anonymous and shows strong similarities to the coinage of the first count. These anonymous coins were probably minted between the 1190s and the 1230s in the same tradition and similar billon and craftsmanship as those of Etienne. They are exemplified here: and are rather scarce. The legends read: OBV: + IVLIVS CESAR (or similar); head wearing mithra to left, between a crescent in front and a star behind; REV: + SACRVM CESARIS; Cross cantonnée with stars in second and third quadrant. Duplessy has them at #647 and Boudeau at #305. They are not described by Poey d'Avant. Some more reading about the period and in general about the history of Berry one might find in de La Thaumassière's Histoire de Berry. About the circumstances and the context of the death of Etienne I, further reading with a bibliography can be found in my article about Guy de Lusignan and the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Acre, here. About the outcome for Constantinople of the capture of Pierre de Courtenai and his entourage (of which Guillaume de Sancerre was part) in 1217 from a numismatic point of view, I wrote and provided a bibliography here. Hope you enjoyed this little popularisation post, if the format is successful I'll try to expand on it to add some more insights into European middle ages. FUN FACT: The chateau built by Etienne had a beacon placed on top of its Saint Georges Tower, which in times of turmoil, war or plague would burn each night, and which could be seen for a distance of around 40 kilometers. It's probably one of the influences for Tolkien's Beacons of Gondor. PS: Coins are from different auctions held by iNummis.