|Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition||Public Domain via Project Gutenberg|
a town of north-eastern France, in the department of Aube, 1 m. from the right bank of the Aube and 26 m. N.E. of Troyes on the Eastern railway. Pop. (1906) 1761. The château, which overlooks the town, is an imposing building of the latter half of the 18th century, built by the cardinal de Brienne (see below). It possesses an important collection of pictures, many of them historical portraits of the 17th and 18th centuries. The church dates from the 16th century and contains good stained glass. A statue of Napoleon commemorates his sojourn at Brienne from 1779 to 1784, when he was studying at the military school suppressed in 1790. In 1814 Brienne was the scene of fighting between Napoleon and the Allies (see Napoleonic Campaigns). Brewing is carried on in the town. Brienne-la-Vieille, a village 1½ m. south of Brienne-le-Château, has a church of the 12th and 16th centuries with fine stained windows. The portal once belonged to the ancient abbey of Bassefontaine, the ruins of which are situated near the village.
Counts of Brienne.—Under the Carolingian dynasty Brienne-le-Château was the capital town of a French countship. In the 10th century it was captured by two adventurers named Engelbert and Gobert, and from the first of these sprang the noble house of Brienne. In 1210 John of Brienne (1148-1237) became king of Jerusalem, through his marriage with Mary of Montsserrat, heiress of the kingdom of Jerusalem. He led a crusade in Egypt which had no lasting success; and when in 1229 he was elected emperor of the East, for the period of Baldwin II.'s minority, he fought and conquered the Greek emperor John III. (Batatzes or Vatatzes). Walter V., count of Brienne and of Lecce (Apulia) and duke of Athens, fought against the Greeks and at first drove them from Thessaly, but was eventually defeated and killed near Lake Copais in 1311. His son, Walter VI., after having vainly attempted to reconquer Athens in 1331, served under Philip of Valois against the English. Having defended Florence against the Pisans he succeeded in obtaining dictatorial powers for himself in the republic; but his tyrannical conduct brought about his expulsion. He was appointed constable of France by John the Good, and was killed at the battle of Poitiers in 1356. His sister and heiress Isabelle married Walter of Enghien, and so brought Brienne to the house of Enghien, and, by his marriage with Margaret of Enghien, John of Luxemburg-St Pol (d. about 1397) became count of Brienne. The house of Luxemburg retained the countship until Margaret Charlotte of Luxemburg sold it to a certain Marpon, who ceded it to Henri Auguste de Loménie (whose wife, Louise de Béon, descended from the house of Luxemburg-Brienne) in 1640. The Limousin house of Loménie (the genealogies which trace this family to the 15th century are untrustworthy) produced many well-known statesmen, among others the celebrated cardinal Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794), minister of Louis XV.; and the last lords of Brienne were members of this family.