Berengaria of Navarre,
wife of King Richard I
1165, daughter of Sancho VI of Navarre and Beatrice of Castile, at Pamplona
12 May 1191 Richard I, at Limassol, Cyprus
12 May 1191 (at marriage) at Limassol, Cyprus, by John Bishop of Evreux
1230 at L’Epau Abbey near LeMans, France
erengaria’s marriage was a political alliance. Her father and brother agreed to protect Aquitaine’s southern borders while Richard was in Palestine on crusade. Richard sent his mother, Eleanor, to Navarre to accompany Berengaria across the Pyrenees, over the Alps, and down to Naples, and then by ship to Sicily to meet him. Since she arrived in Lent, when marriages could not be celebrated, they married two months later in Cyprus.
Berengaria then accompanied Richard to Palestine. At the end of the crusade, they sailed separately. Berengaria arrived safely in France. Richard was captured and imprisoned for over a year in Austria and then Germany. After Richard’s release, the couple spent little time together. Berengaria was not called to his deathbed.
There is little indication of Berengaria’s personality until her widowhood. Then, a strong streak of persistence emerges. A number of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s properties were meant to revert to Berengaria on Eleanor’s death. This did not happen. Berengaria began petitioning King John in 1213 for her rights. When no property or money was forthcoming, Berengaria involved the Pope. Even with papal pressure, it was not until the reign of John’s son, Henry III that an agreement was made to settle the debt. She began receiving regular payments from the English exchequer in the 1220s (more than twenty years after Richard’s death).
Berengaria had, meanwhile, turned to Philip of France for support, relinquishing some dower rights in exchange for the rights to LeMans. She lived there quietly, funding charitable and building projects. In 1220, Louis IX of France granted her land near Le Mans to establish a Cistercian house there. The first monks arrived at L’Epau in 1230, the year of Berengaria’s death. She was buried in the choir of the abbey church. Her effigy survives.
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