“Six Degrees” from Eleanor of Aquitaine: Anne of Bohemia

“Six Degrees” from Eleanor of Aquitaine: Anne of Bohemia

Everything begins with Eleanor of Aquitaine! She is fascinating both for her life and her “life after life.” Eleanor had a bevy of children – two daughters with Louis VII of France, and three daughters and five sons with Henry II of England. Of those ten children, six had children of their own. Through these grandchildren, Eleanor became the ancestor to the expected (the monarchs of England) and the unexpected!

Our featured “Eleanor descendant” is Anne of Bohemia, the wife and queen of England’s King Richard II. Several of England’s Plantagenet and Tudor queens are descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine through both of her marriages (to Louis of France and to Henry of England). Anne of Bohemia’s genealogical status, however, is unique. She is the only queen who WAS a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but who was NOT a descendant of Henry II of England. Anne of Bohemia’s connection to Eleanor was pure French.

Eleanor’s oldest daughter with Louis VII, Marie, married Henry I of Champagne. Eleanor had nothing to say about the match, having (of necessity) lost any “parental influence” when her marriage to Louis ended. Eleanor was, however, acquainted with the bridegroom. Henry of Champagne had accompanied Louis and Eleanor when they headed east on the ill-fated Second Crusade. He obviously made a very favorable impression! Marie was 18 years younger than her husband, a not unusual age gap.

After fifteen years of marriage, and four children, Henry once again set out towards Palestine, this time on pilgrimage. Marie served as regent of Champagne in his absence.

Marie and Henry’s daughter, another Marie, married Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault (in the Low Countries). In 1202, Baldwin joined the Fourth Crusade. Marie, who was pregnant with the couple’s daughter Margaret, remained behind. The Crusade was diverted to Constantinople, then under Greek rule. The Crusaders captured the city – and installed Baldwin as Emperor of Constantinople. Marie set sail but died en route in 1204.

The infant Margaret had remained in France. At the age of 10 (!), an obviously precocious Margaret eloped with Burchard of Avesnes. Burchard was excommunicated (by two popes) and the marriage declared void. Margaret remained with Burchard long enough for two sons to be born; both were declared illegitimate. In 1225, Margaret made another marriage – this time, a sanctioned and sanctified union – with William II of Dampierre (in north-central France). Three more sons, and a daughter, were born.

Arms Dampierre Netherlands

The arms of Dampierre. Courtesy of the National Library of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Collection.

Margaret and William of Dampierre’s son, Guy, struggled for years with his older Avesnes half-brothers for control of Flanders. France and England were drawn into the conflict. Guy eventually died in a French prison, but not before he had married twice and had sixteen children. The Dampierre children married into the noble houses of Germany, France, Flanders, Scotland and the Low Countries. Daughter Margaret of Flanders married John I of Brabant (in the Low Countries). Their daughter, Margaret of Brabant, married Henry VII of Luxembourg. Henry was elected King of the Romans, the title given to the heir of the Holy Roman Emperor. Margaret became his “Queen Consort” but died a year before Henry was named Holy Roman Emperor.

Their son, John, was Count of Luxembourg by inheritance and King of Bohemia through marriage to Elizabeth of Bohemia. During the Hundred Years War between France and England, John allied with Philip VI of France. At the Battle of Crecy in 1346, John (who had been blind for some ten years), controlled the French advance guard. He asked his men to guide his horse into battle, where he was killed.

Battle of Crecy Commons

John “the Blind,” King of Bohemia, was killed at the Battle of Crecy.

The star of the day, Edward the Black Prince, teenage son of England’s Edward III, so admired John’s chivalric gesture that, the story goes, he adopted John’s feather crest and his motto – Ich dien (“I serve”). They still remain part of the badge of the Prince of Wales.

Prince of Wales Feather

The feather crest of John of Bohemia was adopted by England’s Prince as his own. Courtesy of the British Library Illuminated Manuscripts Collection.

On John’s death, his oldest son became King Charles V of Bohemia. He became Holy Roman Emperor in 1355. Charles married four times, and had thirteen children. Anne was the oldest daughter of his fourth marriage, to Elizabeth of Pomerania.

Anne of Bohemia may have been a “scrap of humanity,” as an English chronicler said, but she had an impressive kinship network! Through her seven surviving siblings, she was connected to the royal houses of Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Bavaria, Germany, Moravia, Luxembourg and Nuremburg. She was the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor and granddaughter of the heroic John “the Blind,” King of Bohemia, killed at the Battle of Crecy.

Edward, the “Black Prince,” England’s Prince of Wales, the hero of the Battle of Crecy, died in 1366. His small son Richard, now heir to his elderly grandfather Edward III, was immediately invested as Prince of Wales. The badge Richard used, a feather with the motto “Ich Dien,” was the badge that had belonged to his future wife’s grandfather.