Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Medieval Queens in the Family Tree - Eleanor of Provence

Eleanor of Provence (1223-1291)

Eleanor of Provence was the wife of King Henry III.

Born in the city of Aix-en-Provence in southern France, Eleanor (or Alienor) was the second daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence (1198–1245) and Beatrice of Savoy (1198–1267). After her elder sister Margaret married Louis IX of France, their uncle William of Savoy persuaded Henry III of England to marry Eleanor. 

Eleanor and Henry were married at Canterbury Cathedral on 14 January 1236. This was the first time that Eleanor had met Henry. They then travelled to London where Eleanor was crowned Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey.

Eleanor and Henry had five children - Edward I of England, Margaret who married Alexander III of Scotland, Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine. 

In 1253 Eleanor was regent of England when Henry III when Henry was in France. On a number of other occasions she travelled back to France with him.

During Henry's reign, Eleanor remained loyal to her husband but she was not popular with many of the English people as Eleanor had brought people from Provence to England to serve her, some being given positions of power in England. In 1263 there was a dispute in London when Eleanor demanded the back payment of queen gold - a ten percent tax on fines in London which was to be paid to the queen. She had to be rescued by the Mayor of London.

When King Henry died in 1272, Henry and Eleanor's eldest son became King Edward I. Eleanor remained in England as Queen Dowager and raised several of her grandchildren.

In 1286 Eleanor retired to Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire, eight miles north of Salisbury. Two of her granddaughters – Mary of Woodstock and Eleanor of Brittany – were already nuns there, each having entered the priory when they were seven years old. Eleanor died at the priory in June 1291 and was buried there.

Eleanor was known for her learning, cleverness, and skill at writing poetry, as well as her beauty. She loved the songs of the troubadours. She enjoyed reading  romantic and historical books that included stories from ancient times to thirteenth century contemporary romances.

Eleanor was also known as a leader of fashion, especially clothes imported from France. Her favourite clothes were made from red silk damask and she often wore parti-coloured  tunics, gold or silver girdles and gilt decorations on her clothes. She favoured jaunty pillbox caps worn with a wimple. 

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