18 July, 2010

Marguerite Of France (1)

The first part of a post about Edward II's stepmother, Marguerite of France, second wife of Edward I and the queen of England - albeit uncrowned - from September 1299 to July 1307. Edward II was the first king of England since before the Norman Conquest to have a stepmother; the next would be his great-great-grandson Henry V, as Henry IV's second wife Joan of Navarre outlived him by twenty-four years.

Marguerite was the daughter of King Philippe III of France and his second wife Marie of Brabant. Philippe was born in 1245 as the fourth child and eldest surviving son of Louis IX and Marguerite of Provence, and succeeded his father as king in 1270; Marie was born between about 1254 and 1260 as the daughter of Duke Hendrik III of Brabant and Adelaide, daughter of Duke Hugues IV of Burgundy, and was the aunt of Edward II's brother-in-law Duke Jan II of Brabant. Philippe III and Queen Marie married on 21 August 1274, two and a half years after the death of his first wife Isabel of Aragon, mother of Philippe IV and Charles, count of Valois (ancestor of the Valois dynasty), and had three children: Marguerite, Blanche and Louis, count of Évreux. Only Louis of Évreux's date of birth is known, 3 May 1276. Marguerite is said by the Liber de antiquis legibis [1] to have been twenty when she married Edward I on 10 September 1299, which would mean that she was born sometime between 11 September 1278 and 10 September 1279; her date of birth is often given in books and online as 1282, but there is no evidence for this. Blanche is likely to have been the youngest of the three siblings, as between 1291 and 1294 she was betrothed to the future Edward II, who was born in April 1284. There is a story, repeated as fact on Marguerite's Wikipedia page but completely without foundation, that Edward I wanted to marry Blanche because she was very beautiful but was tricked by Philippe IV into marrying Marguerite instead: perhaps the confusion arose from Blanche's betrothal to Edward of Caernarfon. Blanche ultimately married Rudolf, duke of Austria and (after Blanche's death) king of Bohemia and Poland, and died childless in 1305. Their brother Louis of Évreux, who died in 1319 and was a friend and correspondent of Edward II before his accession, married Marguerite of Artois and had five children, including Jeanne, queen of France, who married her first cousin Charles IV.

Marguerite of France's father Philippe III died in October 1285 when she was probably six, and her seventeen-year-old half-brother acceded as Philippe IV. Her mother Marie of Brabant outlived Philippe III by thirty-six years (Queen Marie in fact outlived all her three children and her stepson Philippe IV). Inevitably, almost nothing is known of Marguerite's childhood or of her relations with her siblings and half-siblings, and the first significant reference to her comes in 1294, when she was about fifteen. To cut a very long story short, it was first proposed that year, by her mother Queen Marie, Edward I's brother Edmund of Lancaster and Edmund's stepdaughter Jeanne, queen of France and Navarre (Philippe IV's wife), that Marguerite should marry Edward I in order to prevent a war between Edward and Philippe over Gascony; sadly the situation soon deteriorated and war did in fact break out. The betrothal of Edward's ten-year-old son to Marguerite's sister Blanche was terminated and little Edward betrothed instead to the count of Flanders' daughter Philippa, while Edward I's own marriage to Marguerite was cancelled. By 1299, however, diplomacy had won out: it was decided that Edward and Marguerite's marriage would go ahead after all, while his son, now fifteen, would marry the only surviving of Philippe IV's three daughters, Isabella. As she was only three or four in 1299, however, this marriage was of necessity postponed for a few years; but Marguerite's wedding to Edward I went ahead immediately.

Marguerite married Edward, who had been a widower for nine years since the death of Eleanor of Castile in November 1290, in Canterbury Cathedral on 10 September 1299; she was (apparently) twenty and he sixty, born in June 1239. They were first cousins once removed, Edward's mother Eleanor of Provence being the sister of Marguerite's grandmother, Louis IX's queen Marguerite. Edward's eldest surviving child Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester, born in 1272, was about seven years older than her new stepmother, and his youngest child Edward of Caernarfon about five years younger. As far as one can tell, the marriage proved a happy one despite the age difference of four decades, although Edward never had Marguerite crowned queen. Their eldest child Thomas, later earl of Norfolk, was born on 1 June 1300 - nine days short of nine months after the wedding - at Brotherton in Yorkshire, one of the archbishop of York's manors. Sixteen-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, whose three brothers, none of whom he had ever known, had all died young, seems to have been delighted at the birth of his half-brother: he gave twenty pounds to the messenger who brought him the news, and generous gifts to the baby's nurses. [2]

Marguerite's second son, Edmund, later earl of Kent and destined to die on the scaffold in March 1330 for his support of his half-brother Edward II, was born fourteen months after his brother, on 5 August 1301 at the royal manor of Woodstock. Marguerite and Edward I also had a daughter, Eleanor, born on 4 May 1306 when the king was a few weeks shy of his sixty-seventh birthday. (There is some debate as to when Edward I's eldest child was born, but it was most probably in the early 1260s, meaning there was around forty-five years between the births of his eldest and youngest children. Edward I's eldest grandchild Gilbert de Clare, born in 1291, was fifteen years older than his little half-aunt; his eldest great-grandchild Hugh, Lord Despenser, son of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare, was only two or three years younger than little Eleanor, his great-aunt.) Marguerite's Wikipedia page says that her allowing her daughter to be named after her husband's first wife Eleanor of Castile is evidence of her "unjealous nature," though one wonders how much choice she really had; besides, her Wikipedia page is astonishingly inaccurate even by Wikipedia standards. Little Eleanor was betrothed at a mere four days old to Robert of Burgundy, born in 1300 as the son and heir of Othon IV, count of Burgundy and Mahaut, countess of Artois. Sadly, the little girl died at the age of five in the autumn of 1311; her half-brother Edward II paid £113 "for the expenses and preparations made for the burial of the body of the Lady Eleanor, the king’s sister" at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire. (Her fiancé Robert died unmarried in 1315; his eldest sister Jeanne inherited their parents' lands and became queen of France in 1316 by marriage to Philippe V.) [3]

In the next post, I'll look at Marguerite of France's relations with her stepson Edward II, before his accession and afterwards - there is much evidence of closeness before 1307, but her opposition to Piers Gaveston, as you'd expect, did not go down well with the king - and at other aspects of her life.

Sources

1) John Carmi Parsons, 'Margaret of France (1279?-1318)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
2) Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307, p. 46.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1301-1307, pp. 431, 460; Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer: Being A Collection of Payments Made Out of His Majesty’s Revenue from King Henry III to King Henry VI Inclusive, p. 124.

11 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

Nine days short of nine months ... that must have been an instant hit in the wedding night. Looks like Marguerite was beautiful enough for Edward's taste. :)

Kathryn said...

Good point, Gabriele... :) Thomas evidently arrived rather unexpectedly, and early, as he was born in Brotherton - which did, however, put the place on the map. ;)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Fascinating, looking forward to the next installment!

Anerje said...

Hmm, that age gap - there's a wonder no novelist has written about 'poor Marguerite having to marry such an old man' - obviously her 'plight' isn't as sad as Isa's :> I'm looking forard to part 2!

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Susan and Anerje! Haha, so true - apparently marrying a man old enough to be your grandfather who'd already fathered at least fourteen children isn't tragic at all...;-)

Satima Flavell said...

Another fascinating and informative post, Katherine. Many thanks!

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Satima! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Carla said...

Gabriele beat me to it :-) Evidently the marriage was a success in at least one respect. Eleanor was such a popular name at the time that it may not necessarily have been seen as naming after Edward's first wife; could it not equally well have been seen as naming the baby after Edward's mother Eleanor of Provence?

Kathryn said...

Carla, it may well have been, and I've also wondered if little Eleanor was named in honour of her half-sister, Edward I's eldest surviving child Eleanor, countess of Bar, who died in 1298. It's just so irritating to me that a webpage can talk about Marguerite's "unjealous nature" (is 'unjealous' even a word anyway?) as though it's fact.

Anonymous said...

Are there any contemporary descriptions of what Marguerite looked like?

Kathryn Warner said...

Unfortunately not, no. There almost never are in this time period :/