Eleanor of Provence,
wife of King Henry III
ca. 1223, daughter of Raymond-Berengar V Count of Provence and Beatrice of Savoy
14 January 1236 Henry III, at Canterbury Cathedral
20 January 1236 at Westminster Abbey, London
24 June 1291 at Amesbury Priory, Wiltshire
Amesbury Priory (body); Greyfriars Priory, London (heart)
he four daughters of the cosmopolitan court of Provence all married well; Eleanor’s brothers-in-law included Louis IX of France; Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily; and Richard of Cornwall, King of the Romans.
When she married Henry III, Eleanor was only 13 to his 27, but she was always the stronger personality. Unsympathetic to any concerns but her own, she was never popular or admired.
The grasping avarice of Eleanor’s Savoyard uncles and their clash with the equally mercenary foreign-born half-brothers of Henry, brought both king and queen into disfavor, and dangerously divided the court. The situation already volatile, Eleanor encouraged Henry in a foolish scheme to gain the crown of Sicily for their second son, Edmund. The resulting extortionate taxation tipped England into rebellion. The queen, seen as an enemy of reform, was pelted with stones and verbally abused by a London mob.
She fled to France and successfully enlisted her brother-in-law, Louis IX’s, support for Henry’s return to power. Henry, temperamentally unfit to rule, again lost control. It was Eleanor’s oldest son, Edward, who ended the civil war by force of arms.
Eleanor and Henry had nine children. Only four (Edward, Margaret, Beatrice and Edmund) lived to adulthood. As a mother, Eleanor was attentive, protective and ambitious. Her children married into the royal houses of Castile, Scotland, Brittany and France.
After Henry’s death, Eleanor could no longer influence decisions. She desperately wanted Henry to be canonized (brother-in-law Louis was, after all, well on HIS way to sainthood!). Her effort was unsuccessful. Her son, Edward, would have nothing to do with it.
Eleanor took the veil at Amesbury. On Edward’s instructions, she was buried there and not with Henry at Westminster Abbey. Her heart, however, was brought to London and buried at Greyfriars.
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