Born in about 1241 in Castile, Spain, she married Edward I of England in 1254. He became king in 1272 and was crowned in 1274. She died in 1294 after giving birth to fourteen to sixteen children.
She and Edward also liked to play exciting little bedroom games. That’s a fact!
Let’s look at genealogical tables to see how she fits in royal families.
Dan Jones’s book the Plantagenets, for an overview.
Edward I is near top, on the left.
John Parson’s genealogical tables about Eleanor.
Here are Prestwich’s tables in his biography Edward I:
Two genealogical tables about the Capetians, from Medieval France: An Encyclopedia:
Louis VII has his own post: Louis VII.
See Philip II’s own post: Philip II Augustus.
Yes, the Capetians descend from Charlemagne. For the primary documents proving the link, click on Herbert I, Count of Vermandois, and scroll down to the Addendum.
EDWARD AND ELEANOR’S CHILDREN
If you would like the basics of Edward’s and Eleanor’s children, please click on Edward’s own post at this website:
BASIC FACTS AND STORIES
- By the time Edward arrived on the scene as an adult, the Plantagenets arranged marriages with eligible persons in the southwest and south of France or even in Spain, with the hopes that they could recover some of their territories through alliances.
- A marriage was arranged with Edward, and he and Eleanor got married in the Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas in Castile, Spain, on 18 Oct 1254, long before he became king. He was six-feet, two inches tall. He towered above other Medieval people.
- Alphonso X, King of Castile and Leon, knighted Edward and turned over his Gascon heritage to him. Edward got to this duchy in late November and ruled it for a year, to learn statecraft.
- In Oct 1255, Edward and Eleanor arrived at Dover, England. Her father-in-law King Henry III wanted her to go through London on Oct 13, the feast of St. Edward the Confessor, but her wardrobe (household) was in disarray, so the king had to send 100 marks to buy what was needed. She entered London on 17 Oct.
- Eleanor was a stranger in a strange land. She did not speak English, and when she did learn it in part, she still didn’t speak it to her subjects. Foreigner.
- Her half-brother Henry arrived in England in the summer of 1256, and he was a deadbeat. He lived off the good graces of Eleanor’s sister, and this caused something of s stir internationally. Foreigner. What would he claim as his? Eleanor ensured that he leave.
- Her father-in-law Henry II lost the battle of Lewes in May 1264, and the rebels told her to leave Windsor and join Henry with her infant daughter Katherine (who died in Sep 1264). Her daughter Joan was born in Jan 1265, so she and Edward must have had relations just before his captivity.
- Her husband, by then called lord Edward, was held captive as a hostage so that the rebels could be sure he behaved himself. She lived in terrible isolation. Before 15 Apr 1265, she had to borrow £40 from Hugh the Dispenser, the justiciar appointed by the barons, who were in revolt against the king.
- Good news! Edward managed to escape. The rebel barons and their leader Simon de Montfort were defeated on 4 Aug 1265.
- Their son John was born on the night of 13-14 July 1266.
- Her dower was promised in 1254 at £1000 (a huge amount), but this is an educated guess. When she became queen, a normal year’s expense amounted to an average of £6200, mainly of her household’s expenses, and her largesse (she gave things away). This was huge, but it is based on a queen’s royal prerogative.
- Henry was born in May 1268, and daughter Eleanor in June 1269.
- They went on Crusade in 1270-1272. He left the three children in the care of his uncle Richard of Cornwall. They left England in Aug 1270.
- Her activities at Acre were not well recorded. Joan was born there, and so was another (first) daughter, who did not survive.
- Edward was almost assassinated at Acre on 17 June 1272. A Muslim messenger won the trust of the royal entourage, which let him in to see Edward. The messenger took out a knight and caught lord Edward on the arm. It was poisoned. But Edward was tall and strong, and he fought off and subdued the assassin. The wound had to be removed. Eleanor was led away weeping and lamenting. Legend says, inaccurately, that she sucked out the poison.
- On their return from the Holy Land in the third week of Sep 1272, they travelled through Italy, and their progress caused a stir.
- His father Henry III died 16 Nov 1272, so Edward was now king, though not yet crowned.
- After visiting Edward’s cousins of Savoy (his mother’s nephews and nieces), he traveled through Burgundy. He reached Paris on 26 or 27 July 1273, but Eleanor was not with him. Why not? Probably she wanted to avoid travel during pregnancy, so she went to Aquitaine. Her half-brother Alphonso visited her in Bayonne, where he witnessed the baptism of his nephew in Nov. He was given the name Alphonso—distinctive name for the son of an English king.
- Finally, the king and queen reached Dover on 2 Aug 1274.
- Edward was crowned 19 Aug.
- At first the main modern biographer (Parsons) implied that Eleanor was not crowned, for the kings of Castile rarely were, and women never. She lived in obscurity for the first few years of her life as queen. Then the biographer says she was anointed around the same time as her husband, without giving an exact date. The holy oil touched only her head and breast. Liturgical references were made to Queen Esther in the Bible, as well as the fecundity of Sarah, Leah, Rebecca, Rachel and the Blessed Mary. Her investiture, however, was limited to a ring in token of faith; a crown for glory; a scepter, symbol of power to command, all of which were handed to her in silence.
- Then to show her submission to the king, she bowed to Edward before she took her seat on her throne to his left—not his right, the place of power. She did not swear an oath that formalized the relationship between queen and kingdom. She did not receive promises of fidelity from vassals.
- Her confinement in 1278, cost Edward £30, a sizable sum, but easily payable.
- Her confinement began at Woodstock in 1279. Mary was born on 11 or 12 Mar, and five days later Eleanor was made countess of Ponthieu, when her mother died. Now the complex administration and diplomacy begins.
- Early court life: Very few ranking English nobles among her, but neither did she dare risk too many Castilians. She dare not arrange marriages between wealthy English heiresses and her cousins, as her mother-in-law did to the men of Savoy, causing resentment among the English. But she did arrange modest marriages between her female relatives and lower-level English cadets. Maybe even these marriages could help the Plantagenets recover old lands on the Continent, in France.
- Eleanor rarely saw her children when they were young, for they were farmed out to Windsor, Woodstock, and Langley, until they were old enough to travel.
- Edward and Eleanor traveled around England often. Sometimes the manor house was so small that it could not contain all the stuff that the retinue had to bring with them.
Hope castle burned in Aug 1283, and Edward barely escaped. Fire was a constant menace.
- Bedroom game: Each year on Easter Monday, the king and queen liked to play a little game. Seven of the queen’s women “trapped” Edward in his bed, until he paid them a token ransom of £2 apiece (a large amount for most people). Then he got up and joined his wife for conjugal bliss after abstinence during Lent.
- She understood her husband’s mood swings. In July 1290 he injured a squire at his daughter Margaret’s wedding. Their daughter Elizabeth married the count of Holland in 1297. He threw her coronet in the fire. He did not attend the earl marshal’s wedding in June 1290 at Havering. Eleanor had to hire minstrels to play for him as he sat apart.
- Possessions and personal wealth: She purchased knives with jasper handles; enamels and other ornaments were added to other knives. Her mirrors were of glass and metal, with ivory mirror cases. Silver and gold plates. A cup, a gift from the king, was made of 238 gold florins. Foreign object abounded from Venice (vases) and other things from Tripoli and Damascus; jewels from French, Italian and English craftsmen, so her generosity could be extended to her friends.
- Eleanor loved lavish gardens, and many palaces were planted and replanted with a variety of vines and roses; fishponds were built. She obtained French apple cuttings. She knew of Islamic pleasure gardens in Spain, so she had similar gardens built. She also acquired swans, Sicilian parrots, and nightingales.
- She imported exotic fruits, supplied by Castilian ships, like pomegranates, figs, raisins, dates, lemons and oranges; she got brie cheese from Edward’s bother Edmund, whose wife was the dowager countess of Champagne and Brie.
- Her pastimes: Embroidery and weaving; fools and minstrels; backgammon, chess and “the game of four kings” (a four hand chess variation). Edward preferred falconry and not so much hunting with dogs, while she was all in for hunting with dogs. So she had good “horeswomanship”!
- Books: Theology, ancestral accomplishments of Charlemagne, Arthur, and Edward the Confessor. She and Edward patronized the universities at Oxford and Cambridge. Her wardrope keeper, Mr. Geoffrey de Aspale (d. 1287) provided her with commentaries on most of Aristotle’s scientific works.
- Religion: She was observant and during their travels she visited churches and religious houses. Edward especially venerated Edward the Confessor, St. Edmund, and Becket. The cult of St. George was deepened at court. She contributed gold for the images of St. Edward and St. George. She supported the Franciscans, on which the Benedictines and Dominicans looked askance. She owned books of hours and rosaries.
- Household management: As noted, she got a dower amount of about £1000 per year early in her marriage, but by the late thirteenth century, she depended on her husband to pay her expenses. As noted again, the normal yearly household outlay was £6200, a huge amount. She had to have her own seals and chancellors (the guys who ran the business side of royalty).
- Jews: As usual they got shafted, though at times they got rich, dealing with the aristocracy that did not know how to manage their own affairs. “On 20 April 1283 Edward granted Eleanor all issues of concealed goods and chattels of condemned Jews and from all transgressions of coin” (Parsons, p. 78).
- Apparently, according to Parsons, she had liberal views on doing business with the Jewish community. “As a child in Castile, Eleanor must have become accustomed to meeting with Jews on a regular, even familiar, basis. More numerous than the English Jews and less culturally distinct from the Christian neighbors, Castilian Jews offered that monarch a learned and cosmopolitan labor pool whose member had important positions in royal financial administration and diplomacy, and whose members were helpful in resettling uninhabited areas following the thirteenth-century reconquest” (from the Islamic invasion centuries earlier (pp. 138-39).
- About those Islamic conquests, please see The Truth about Islamic Jihad and Imperialism: A Timeline; and A Brief History of War in the Earliest Caliphates.
- She could get angry. Bishop Giffard got her support in Mar 1290, but by June she was prosecuting him for money.
- Her health began to decline after the birth of her last child in Apr 1284. In Gascony she caught a low fever, rarely fatal in itself. She was gravely ill from 20 Nov 1290.
- She died eight days later on 28 Nov 1290, near Lincoln.
- Her body was eviscerated, embalmed, and stuffed with barley and wrapped in linen. The viscera were buried at Lincoln on 3 Dec in the cathedral.
- The cortege left Lincoln on 3 Dec. Magnates, the chancellor and Eleanor’s household went alongside. Her chaplain rode near the bier, a cross propped up on his saddle. Edward followed from a distance, for the attention must be on the queen.
- On her way to London, they stopped at Dunstable, where the king’s chancellor and nobles designated a fitting place to halt for the night. The prior sprinkled holy water. The king erected a monumental cross.
- When the body neared St. Albans, all the convent vested in albs an copes, went out to meet it at the church of St. Michael at the edge of town. It was taken to the presbytery before the high altar. The king erected another cross to the praise of the Crucified and in the queen’s memory, so her soul could be prayed for by passerby.
- The bier reached London on 14 Dec and stopped for the night at Holy Trinity, Aldgate. Followed by the king, bishops, and magnates, the body was carried to the Friars Minors for mass and then to St. Paul’s for the night.
- Several masses were offered on 16 Dec and the body rested in a hermitage at Charing.
- On 17 Dec the queen was buried in Westminster Abbey, amid splendor. She was interred with royal vestments, crown, scepter, dust on forehead and breast in the form of the cross, and a wax candle, with certain writings.
- Two days later her heart was deposited in the Dominicans’ London church with those of her son Alphonso and her friend John de Vescy.
- To sum up, Eleanor was a foreigner who never gave her heart completely to her English subjects. She was blamed for Edward’s exacting rule. She surrounded herself with rich display as an instrument of queenship. She spoke the language of wealth and patronage. It was her royal prerogative. Upon her death and cortege procession, Edward certainly honored her with “crosses.” And many Englishmen did honor her in death.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (duchess of Aquitaine, queen, and Henry II’s wife)
Eleanor of Provence (wife of Henry III and mother of Edward I)
Eleanor of Castile (married Edward I and mother of Edward II)
Matilda, Empress (Henry II’s mother). The post has links to her Norman ancestors!
William Clopton and Our Royal Heritage (Our royal gateway ancestor)
Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).
Stephen Church, Henry III: A Simple and God-Fearing King, Penguin Books, (UK: Penguin Random House and Allen Lane, 2017).
Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (New York: Metro Books, 2006).
Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-Century England (Blackwell, 1998, 2001).
Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (New York: 2014).
Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).
John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (St. Martin’s, 1995, 1998).
Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).
The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).
Michael Prestwich, Edward I, Yale English Monarchs (Yale UP, 1997, 1998).
Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols. (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).
Desmond Seward, The Demon’s Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty (Pegasus, 2014).