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In 1230, Count Eudes de Nevers was born into a noble family in Burgundy, located in what is now central-western France. In October of 1265, at the age of 35, he departed for the Holy Land in the company of two lesser lords of the region, Erard of Valéry and Count Erard of Nanteuil. Together, these three noblemen led a contingent of fifty knights who referred to themselves as chevaliers pelerins, or knightly pilgrims. This large collection of knights was accompanied by an equally large host of retainers, support staff, and household servants who tended to the day-to-day needs of these illustrious travelers.
Eudes's crusade was ill-fated, however, for the count never made it back to Burgundy. Instead, he died on August 7, 1266 in Acre, the titular capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. We know the date of his death from a list of Eudes's crusader household items, a record which scholars are now calling an "account-inventory," since it combines both bookkeeping and the documentation of material goods in one long record. Compiled by members of Eudes’s own household, the account-inventory records the transactions carried out during the weeks and months after the count's death — that is, the "day he went from life to death" as the document states — by his closest and the most trusted household members. With this list, we see the material objects Eudes left behind, including items from his wardrobe, chapel, kitchen, stables, cellar, and armory.
It is primarily from the items listed in Eudes’s wardrobe and chapel that we get a real sense of the luxury of his household, of the great wealth on display for this count on crusade. This is seen perhaps most strikingly in Eudes’s lavish collection of clothing and in the chapel, his traveling place of worship. The richness of Eudes’s garments and personal accessories jumps off the page: tunics, overcoats, corsets, capes, and mantles made of silk, cendal, tiretaine (a kind of wool and linen blend), camel hair, and serge, in deep blue, scarlet, aquamarine, or iridescent red, trimmed or lined with furs of miniver, lynx, squirrel, or beaver. Among Eudes's accessories are belts adorned with silver and gold, sashes made of exotic fabrics, fur-lined gloves, several pairs of shoes, and fine linen underclothes.
Likewise, the objects from Eudes’s personal worship space, the chapel, place his opulence on display; a portable altar made of gold and encrusted with pearls and gemstones, along with pitchers, cups, chalices and containers of gold and silver; luxurious altar cloths adorned with golden embroideries, vestments, liturgical linens, cloth hangings and banners to decorate the count’s spiritual space. There were also books — a missal and a breviary — to celebrate the liturgy and a reliquary containing a piece of the True Cross. This was truly a household of great wealth.
Alongside this luxury, however, we see the inner workings of such display. A flock of 155 chickens were sold for 31 bezants, as well as a sheep and the donkey who was used to cart water, valued at 10 and 16 bezants respectively. Barrels of wine, measures of wheat and barley, sides of salted meat, measures of wood, copper and iron pots, frying pans, forks, grills, tripods for cooking over the fire, flasks, casks, and cauldrons are all found among the items that were sold or donated; household linens — towels, cushions, bedspreads, and tablecloths — also appeared on the list.
Items of particular interest come from what must have been the company’s first aid kit; here we find “serpent’s tongue,” that is, a spiky-leafed plant commonly used in poultices to relieve soreness and inflammation, as well as beaver testicles, which we might understand as a kind of medieval Viagra. In the stables we find palfreys, warhorses, mules, bridles, and saddles; from the armory, swords, arrows, knives, axes and several pieces of body armor. We also find items that were used during periods of leisure, including three books — a chansonnier and two romances — a chessboard, and chess pieces.
The items, and many more listed in the account-inventory, provide an unfiltered snapshot — a moment in time — in the life of a great count, who ate, drank, fought, prayed, played and listened to music and histories read aloud, all while on crusade.