Eleanor of Provence

Last updated

Eleanor of Provence
Eleonor Provence.jpg
Queen consort of England
Tenure14 January 1236 – 16 November 1272
Coronation 20 January 1236
Bornc. 1223
Aix-en-Provence, France
Died24/25 June 1291 (aged 67–68)
Amesbury, Wiltshire, England
(m. 1236;died 1272)
House Barcelona
Father Ramon Berenguer V, Count of Provence
Mother Beatrice of Savoy

Eleanor of Provence (c. 1223 – 24/25 June 1291) was a Provençal noblewoman who became Queen of England as the wife of King Henry III from 1236 until his death in 1272. She served as regent of England during the absence of her spouse in France in 1253.


Although she was completely devoted to her husband and staunchly defended him against the rebel Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, she was very much hated by the Londoners. This was because she had brought many relatives with her to England in her retinue; these were known as "the Savoyards", and they were given influential positions in the government and realm. On one occasion, Eleanor's barge was attacked by angry Londoners who pelted her with stones, mud, pieces of paving, rotten eggs and vegetables.

Eleanor had five children, including the future King Edward I of England. She also was renowned for her cleverness, skill at writing poetry, and as a leader of fashion.

Early life

Born in the city of Aix-en-Provence in southern France, she was the second daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence (1198–1245) and Beatrice of Savoy (1198–1267), the daughter of Thomas I of Savoy and his wife Margaret of Geneva. [1] She was well educated as a child and developed a strong love of reading, partly due to the influence of her tutor Romée de Villeneuve. Her three sisters also married kings. [2] After her elder sister Margaret married Louis IX of France, their uncle William corresponded with Henry III of England to persuade him to marry Eleanor. Henry sought a dowry of up to twenty thousand silver marks to help offset the dowry he had just paid for his sister Isabella, but Eleanor's father was able to negotiate this down to no dowry, just a promise to leave her ten thousand marks when he died.

Like her mother, grandmother, and sisters, Eleanor was renowned for her beauty. She was a dark-haired brunette with fine eyes. [3] Piers Langtoft speaks of her as "The erle's daughter, the fairest may of life". [4] On 22 June 1235, Eleanor was betrothed to King Henry III (1207–1272). Eleanor was probably born latest in 1223; Matthew Paris describes her as being "jamque duodennem" (already twelve) when she arrived in the Kingdom of England for her marriage.

Queen consort

The wedding of Eleanor and Henry III depicted by Matthew Paris in the 1250s, showing their age gap; he was 28, she was perhaps 12 or 13. Marriage of Henry III.jpg
The wedding of Eleanor and Henry III depicted by Matthew Paris in the 1250s, showing their age gap; he was 28, she was perhaps 12 or 13.

Eleanor was married to King Henry III of England on 14 January 1236. [5] At the time, she was either 12 or 13 years old, while he was 28. She had never seen Henry prior to the wedding at Canterbury Cathedral and had never set foot in his kingdom. [6] Edmund Rich, Archbishop of Canterbury, officiated. [6] She was dressed in a shimmering golden dress that fitted tightly at the waist and flared out to wide pleats at her feet. The sleeves were long and lined with ermine. [7] After riding to London the same day where a procession of citizens greeted the bridal pair, Eleanor was crowned queen consort of England in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey which was followed by a magnificent banquet with the entire nobility in full attendance. [8] Her love for her husband grew significantly from 1236 onward.


Eleanor was a loyal and faithful consort to Henry, but she brought in her retinue a large number of uncles and cousins, "the Savoyards", and her influence with the King and her unpopularity with the English barons created friction during Henry's reign. [9] Her uncle William of Savoy became a close advisor of her husband, displacing and displeasing English barons. [10]

Eleanor ('Regina') and Henry III ('Rex') returning from Gascony, by Matthew Paris Henry III and Eleanor returning by sea from Gascony, with Nicholas de Molis is in a small boat alongside.jpg
Eleanor ('Regina') and Henry III ('Rex') returning from Gascony, by Matthew Paris

Though Eleanor and Henry supported different factions at times, she was made regent of England when her husband left for Gascony in 1253. [11] (During this time she exercised the functions of Lord Chancellor, the only woman to do so until Liz Truss was appointed to the office in 2016.) [12] Eleanor was devoted to her husband's cause, stoutly contested Simon de Montfort, and raised troops in France for Henry.

On 13 July 1263, she was sailing down the Thames when her barge was attacked by citizens of London. [13] Eleanor stoutly hated the Londoners, who returned her hatred; in revenge for their dislike, Eleanor had demanded from the city all the back payments due on the monetary tribute known as queen-gold, by which she received a tenth of all fines which came to the Crown. In addition to the queen-gold, other such fines were levied on the citizens by the Queen on the thinnest of pretexts. [14] In fear for her life as she was pelted with stones, loose pieces of paving, dried mud, rotten eggs and vegetables, Eleanor was rescued by Thomas Fitzthomas, the Mayor of London, and took refuge at the bishop of London's home.

Queen dowager and death

Expulsion of the Jews from Dower lands

Eleanor was noted for her hostility to Jews and Judaism. On 16 January 1275, she received permission from Edward I to expel the Jews from all of her lands. [15] Jews were expelled from Marlborough, Gloucester, Worcester and Cambridge. The Jews of Cambridge were instructed to flee to Norwich, and those of Marlborough to Devizes. The Jews of Gloucester were ordered to move to Bristol, but were worried because of anti-Jewish violence that had occurred there, and instead mostly chose to move to Hereford along with those forced to leave nearby Worcester. [16]

Last years and death

In 1272, Henry died, and her son Edward, who was 33 years old, became king of England. She remained in England as queen dowager and raised several of her grandchildren: Two of Edward's children, Henry and Eleanor, as well as Beatrice's son John of Brittany. When her grandson Henry died in her care in 1274, Eleanor went into mourning and gave orders for his heart to be buried at the priory at Guildford, which she founded in his memory. Eleanor's two remaining daughters died in 1275, Margaret on 26 February and Beatrice on 24 March.

She retired in 1286 to Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire, eight miles north of Salisbury, where she was visited by her son, King Edward. Two of her granddaughters – Mary of Woodstock (daughter of Edward) and Eleanor of Brittany – were already nuns there, each having entered the priory on reaching the age of seven. [17]

Eleanor died on 24/25 June 1291 at the priory and was buried there. [17] The site of her grave is unknown, making her the only English queen without a marked grave. Her heart was taken to London where it was buried at the Franciscan priory of Greyfriars. [18]

Cultural legacy

Eleanor was renowned for her learning, cleverness, and skill at writing poetry, [19] as well as her beauty; she was also known as a leader of fashion, continually importing clothes from France. [4] She favoured red silk damask and often wore parti-coloured cottes (a type of tunic), gold or silver girdles into which a dagger was casually thrust, and decorations of gilt quatrefoil. To cover her dark hair, she wore jaunty pillbox caps. Eleanor introduced a new type of wimple to England, which was high, "into which the head receded until the face seemed like a flower in an enveloping spathe". [4]

She had developed a love for the songs of the troubadours as a child and continued this interest into adulthood. She bought many romantic and historical books that included stories from ancient times to contemporary romances written in the period (13th century). [lower-alpha 1]

Eleanor is the protagonist of The Queen From Provence, a historical romance by British novelist Jean Plaidy which was published in 1979. Eleanor is a main character in the novel Four Sisters, All Queens by author Sherry Jones, as well as the novels The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot, Falls The Shadow by Sharon Kay Penman, and "My Fair Lady: A Story of Henry III's Lost Queen" by J. P. Reedman. She is also the subject of Norwegian Symphonic metal band Leave's Eyes in their song "Eleonore De Provence" from their album Symphonies of the Night.


Eleanor and Henry had five children together. Eleanor seems to have been especially devoted to her eldest son, Edward; when he was deathly ill in 1246, she stayed with him at the abbey at Beaulieu in Hampshire for three weeks, long past the time allowed by monastic rules. [20] She personally supervised Edward's upbringing and education. [21] It was because of her influence that King Henry granted the duchy of Gascony to Edward in 1249.[ citation needed ] Her youngest child, Katherine, seems to have had a degenerative disease that rendered her deaf. When the little girl died at the age of three, both her royal parents suffered overwhelming grief. [22] Eleanor possibly had four other sons who also died in childhood, but their existence is in doubt as there is no contemporary record of them. [lower-alpha 2]

  1. Edward I (1239–1307), married Eleanor of Castile (1241–1290) in 1254, by whom he had issue, including his heir [23] Edward II. His second wife was Margaret of France, by whom he had issue. [23]
  2. Margaret (1240–1275), married King Alexander III of Scotland, by whom she had issue. [23]
  3. Beatrice (1242–1275), married John II, Duke of Brittany, by whom she had issue. [23]
  4. Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster (1245–1296), [28] married Aveline de Forz in 1269, who died four years later without issue; married Blanche of Artois in 1276, by whom he had issue.
  5. Katherine (25 November 1253 – 3 May 1257) [23]


  1. Prestwich states she owned romances written in French. [20]
  2. Until the late 20th century, historians also accepted the existence of four other children, Richard (d. 29 August 1250), John (b. 1250 – d. 31 August 1252), William (d. c. 1256) and Henry (b. May 1260 – d. 10 October 1260). [23] Subsequent historical analysis has shown that it is improbable that these children existed, and historians such as Huw Ridgeway and Margaret Howell conclude that Henry and Eleanor had only five children. [24] These five—Edward, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine—are well documented in multiple chronicler and financial accounts from Henry's reign. [25] The only record for Richard, John, William and Henry is in the Flores Historiarum manuscript, but the details appear to have been added to the original 13th document in the next century, albeit possibly in good faith. [26] It is impossible to completely rule out the possibility that the children existed but that the other evidence of their existence was suppressed, perhaps because they were handicapped, or they were miscarriages or still births. [27] [24]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward I of England</span> King of England from 1272 to 1307

Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Concurrently, he was Lord of Ireland, and from 1254 to 1306 he ruled Gascony as Duke of Aquitaine in his capacity as a vassal of the French king. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as the Lord Edward. The eldest son of Henry III, Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father's reign. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was held hostage by the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and defeated the baronial leader Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Within two years, the rebellion was extinguished and, with England pacified, Edward left to join the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land in 1270. He was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed of his father's death. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry III of England</span> King of England from 1216 to 1272

Henry III, also known as Henry of Winchester, was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death in 1272. The son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême, Henry assumed the throne when he was only nine in the middle of the First Barons' War. Cardinal Guala Bicchieri declared the war against the rebel barons to be a religious crusade and Henry's forces, led by William Marshal, defeated the rebels at the battles of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217. Henry promised to abide by Great Charter of 1225, a later version of the 1215 Magna Carta, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons. His early rule was dominated first by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, the King attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle. A revolt led by William Marshal's son Richard broke out in 1232, ending in a peace settlement negotiated by the Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester</span> 13th-century Anglo-French nobleman and rebel

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, later sometimes referred to as Simon V de Montfort to distinguish him from his namesake relatives, was an English nobleman of French origin and a member of the English peerage, who led the baronial opposition to the rule of King Henry III of England, culminating in the Second Barons' War. Following his initial victories over royal forces, he became de facto ruler of the country, and played a major role in the constitutional development of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isabella of Angoulême</span> Queen of England from 1200 to 1216

Isabella was Queen of England from 1200 to 1216 as the second wife of King John, Countess of Angoulême in her own right from 1202 until her death in 1246, and Countess of La Marche from 1220 to 1246 as the wife of Count Hugh.

Peter II, called the Little Charlemagne, was Count of Savoy from 1263 until his death in 1268. He was also holder of the Honour of Richmond, Yorkshire, England, the Honour of the Eagle also known as the Honour of Pevensey and the Honour of Eu also known as the Honour of Hastings. His significant land holdings in Sussex were also marked by his holding of the wardship of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey which brought with it lands centred upon Lewes castle. Briefly, from 1241 until 1242, castellan of Dover Castle and Keeper of the Coast. In 1243 he was granted land by the Thames in London where he later built the Savoy Palace.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joan of Acre</span> 13th and 14th-century English princess and noblewoman

Joan of Acre was an English princess, a daughter of Edward I of England and Eleanor of Castile. The name "Acre" derives from her birthplace in the Holy Land while her parents were on a crusade.

Edmund, 1st Earl of Lancaster, also known by his epithet Edmund Crouchback, was a member of the royal Plantagenet Dynasty and the founder of the first House of Lancaster. He was Earl of Leicester (1265–1296), Lancaster (1267–1296) and Derby (1269–1296) in England, and Count Palatine of Champagne (1276–1284) in France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret of Provence</span> Queen of France, 1234–1270

Margaret of Provence was Queen of France by marriage to King Louis IX.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edict of Expulsion</span> 1290 anti-Jewish decree by Edward I of England

The Edict of Expulsion was a royal decree issued by Edward I on 18 July 1290 expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England, the first time a European state is known to have permanently banned their presence. The date was most likely chosen as it was a Jewish holy day, the ninth of Ab, commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem and other disasters that the Jewish people have experienced. Edward told the sheriffs of all counties that he wanted all Jews expelled before All Saints' Day that year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the Jews in England (1066–1290)</span>

The first Jews in England arrived after the Norman Conquest of the country by William the Conqueror in 1066, and the first written record of Jewish settlement in England dates from 1070. Jews suffered massacres in 1189–90, and after a period of rising persecution, all Jews were expelled from England after the Edict of Expulsion in 1290.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eleanor of Castile</span> Queen of England from 1272 to 1290

Eleanor of Castile was Queen of England as the first wife of Edward I. She was educated at the Castilian court. She also ruled as Countess of Ponthieu in her own right from 1279. After intense diplomatic manoeuvres to secure her marriage to affirm English sovereignty over Gascony, she was married to Prince Edward at the monastery of Las Huelgas, Burgos, on 1 November 1254, at 13. She is believed to have had a child not long after.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ramon Berenguer V, Count of Provence</span> Count of Provence and Forcalquier

Ramon Berenguer V was a member of the House of Barcelona who ruled as count of Provence and Forcalquier. He was the first count of Provence to live in the county in more than one hundred years. During the minority of a previous count, the regency was exercised by Ramon Berenguer IV de Barcelona, who is sometimes counted among the counts of Provence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beatrice of England</span> 13th century English princess and duchess of Brittany

Beatrice of England was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the daughter of Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret of England</span> 13th-century English princess; Queen of Scots

Margaret of England was Queen of Scots by marriage to King Alexander III.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sanchia of Provence</span> Queen of the Romans (1225–1261)

Sanchia of Provence was Queen of the Romans from 1257 until her death in 1261 as the wife of King Richard.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beatrice of Savoy</span> Countess consort of Provence (c.1198–c.1267)

Beatrice of Savoy was Countess consort of Provence by her marriage to Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence. She served as regent of her birth country Savoy during the absence of her brother in 1264.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret of England, Duchess of Brabant</span> 14th-century English princess and French noblewoman

Margaret of England was the tenth child and seventh daughter of King Edward I of England and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile. Her husband was John II, Duke of Brabant, whom she married in 1290, the year of her mother's death. Margaret and John had one child, John III, Duke of Brabant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beatrice of Provence</span> Countess of Provence and Forcalquier (c.1229–1267)

Beatrice of Provence, was ruling Countess of Provence and Forcalquier from 1245 until her death, as well as Countess of Anjou and Maine, Queen of Sicily and Naples by marriage to Charles I of Naples.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joan, Countess of Ponthieu</span> Queen consort of Castile and León

Joan of Dammartin was Queen of Castile and León by marriage to Ferdinand III of Castile. She also ruled as Countess of Ponthieu (1251–1279) and Aumale (1237–1279). Her daughter, the English queen Eleanor of Castile, was her successor in Ponthieu. Ferdinand II, Count of Aumale, her son and co-ruler in Aumale, predeceased her, thus she was succeeded by her grandson John I, Count of Aumale.

Amesbury Priory was a Benedictine monastery at Amesbury in Wiltshire, England, belonging to the Order of Fontevraud. It was founded in 1177 to replace the earlier Amesbury Abbey, a Saxon foundation established about the year 979. The Anglo-Norman Amesbury Priory was disbanded at the Dissolution of the monasteries and ceased to exist as a monastic house in 1539.


  1. Howell 1997, p. xiv.
  2. Cox 1974, p. 463.
  3. Costain 1959, pp. 125–126.
  4. 1 2 3 Costain 1959, p. 140.
  5. Sadler 2008, p. 32.
  6. 1 2 Howell 1997, p. 1.
  7. Costain 1959, p. 129.
  8. Costain 1959, pp. 129–130.
  9. Costain 1959, pp. 130–140.
  10. Cox 1974, p. 50.
  11. Carpenter 2020, p. 570.
  12. Thomas 2016.
  13. Costain 1959, pp. 253–254.
  14. Costain 1959, pp. 206–207.
  15. Hillaby 1990 , pp. 112–3, Taylor 1999 , p. 82
  16. Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 141–43.
  17. 1 2 Pugh & Crittall 1956, pp. 242–259.
  18. Howell 2004.
  19. Costain 1959, p. 127.
  20. 1 2 Prestwich 1988, p. 6.
  21. Ridgeway 1986, p. 91.
  22. Costain 1959, p. 167.
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Howell 1992, p. 57
  24. 1 2 Howell 2004, p. 45.
  25. Howell 1992, pp. 58, 65.
  26. Howell 1992, pp. 59–60.
  27. Howell 1992, pp. 70–72.
  28. Carpenter 2020, p. xxii.


  • Carpenter, David (2020). Henry III: The Rise to Power and Personal Rule, 1207-1258. Vol. 1. Yale University Press.
  • Costain, Thomas B. (1959). The Magnificent Century. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company.
  • Cox, Eugene L. (1974). The Eagles of Savoy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN   0691052166.
  • Hillaby, Joe (1990). "The Worcester Jewry 1158-1290". Transactions of the Worcester Archaeological Society. 12: 73–122.
  • Hillaby, Joe; Hillaby, Caroline (2013). The Palgrave Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN   9780230278165. OL   28086241M.
  • Howell, Margaret (1992). "The Children of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence". In Coss, Peter R.; Lloyd, Simon D. (eds.). Thirteenth Century England: Proceedings of the Newcastle upon Tyne Conference, 1991. Vol. 4. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. pp. 57–72. ISBN   0-85115-325-9.
  • Howell, Margaret (1997). Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-century England. Blackwell Publishers.
  • Howell, Margaret (2004). "Eleanor (Eleanor of Provence) (c.1223–1291), queen of England". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8620 . Retrieved 14 December 2010.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Prestwich, Michael (1988). Edward I. Yale University Press.
  • Pugh, R.B.; Crittall, Elizabeth, eds. (1956). "Houses of Benedictine nuns: Abbey, later priory, of Amesbury". A History of the County of Wiltshire, Volume 3. Victoria County History. University of London. pp. 242–259. Retrieved 8 June 2021 via British History Online.
  • Ridgeway, Huw (1986). "The Lord Edward and the Provisions of Oxford (1258): a Study in Faction". In Coss, P.R.; Lloyd, S.D. (eds.). Proceedings of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Conference, 1985. The Boydell Press. pp. 89–99.
  • Sadler, John (2008). The Second Barons' War: Simon de Montfort and the Battles of Lewes and Evesham. Casemate Publishers. ISBN   978-1-84415-831-7.
  • Thomas, John (21 July 2016). "Swearing In of the Lord Chancellor" (PDF). The Right Hon. The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Retrieved 18 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  • Taylor, Alison (1999). Cambridge, the hidden history. Tempus. ISBN   0752414364.
Eleanor of Provence
Cadet branch of the Bellonids
Born: c. 1223 Died: 24/25 June 1291
English royalty
Title last held by
Isabella of Angoulême
Queen consort of England
14 January 1236 – 16 November 1272
Title next held by
Eleanor of Castile
Political offices
Preceded by Keeper of the Great Seal
1253 – 1254
Succeeded by