It was the stronghold of heresy in southern France, however, which rightly gave rise to chief concern in Rome, and to this Innocent resolutely bent his energies. Raymond VI. of Toulouse, in the full vigor of mature manhood, at the age of thirty-eight, had, in January, 1195, succeeded his father in the possession of territories which rendered him the most powerful feudatory of the monarchy and almost an independent sovereign. Besides the county of Toulouse, the duchy of Narbonne conferred on him the dignity of first lay peer of France. He was likewise suzerain, with more or less direct authority, of the Marquisate of Provence, the Comtat Venaissin and the counties of St. Gilles, Foix, Comminges, and Rodez, and of the Albigeois, Vivarais, Gevaudan, Velai, Rouergue, Querci, and Agenois. Even in distant Italy he was known as the greatest count on earth, with fourteen counts as his vassals, and his troubadour flatterers assured him that he was the equal of emperors —
Car il val tan qu'en la soa valor
Auri' assatz ad un emperador.
Even after the sacrifice of a major part of the possessions of the house, his son, Raymond VII., at his splendid Christmas court of 1244, conferred the honor of knighthood on no less than two hundred nobles. So far as matrimonial alliances can have weight, Raymond VI. was strengthened with them on every side, for he was of close kindred to the royal houses of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, France, and England. His fourth wife was Joan of England, whom he married in 1196 in pursuance of a favorable treaty with her brother Richard, thus relieving him of the enmity of that redoubtable warrior, who, as Duke of Aquitaine, had pressed his father hard. Yet that treaty with Richard gave secret offence to Philip Augustus, destined to bear bitter fruit thereafter. Almost at the same time he was liberated from another formidable hereditary foe by the death of Alonso II. of Aragon, whose large possessions and still larger pretensions in southern France had at times almost threatened the extinction of the house of Toulouse. With his successor, Pedro II., Raymond's relations were most friendly, cemented in 1200 by his marriage with Pedro's sister Eleanor, and in 1205 by the engagement of his young son, Raymond VII., with Pedro's infant daughter. Though the distant