It's difficult to state with any certainty exactly how many children Edward I (born 1239, died 1307) and Eleanor of Castile (born c. 1241, died 1290) had. They had about ten or twelve daughters, of whom only five survived into adulthood, and I'll look at two of them today. The daughters who didn't survive childhood are Katherine, Joan, Berengaria, and two or three daughters whose names are unknown . The ones who did survive are Eleanor, Joan of Acre, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth.
Not many people realise that Edward II was the fourth son of his parents. His three elder brothers were:
John (July 1266 - August 1271). Very little is known about this boy who died at the age of five, in the lifetime of his grandfather Henry III, and was thus never heir to the throne. He died at the castle of Wallingford in the care of Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III.
Henry (May 1268 - October 1274). Henry is a bit less obscure, as some of the records of his household are still extant. He lived together with his sister Eleanor, born 1269 (see below) and their cousin John of Brittany, later earl of Richmond, born 1266. (John's mother Beatrice was the sister of Edward I). Always a sickly boy, it was probably no great surprise when Henry died in Guildford at the age of six.
The household accounts are quite fascinating for the details they reveal about him and medieval life in general. On Pentecost Eve, a gallon of wine was added to his bath, to strengthen him; he and Eleanor were given two partridges for their dinner, for a special treat; and he was bought a dozen gilded buttons for the saddle of his horse.
Alphonso (November 1273 - August 1284). Alphonso (named after his mother's brother, Alfonso X of Castile) was born in Bayonne and became heir to the throne of the death of his brother Henry, when he was eleven months old. Apparently it was a great shock when he died, at Windsor, at the age of ten. I think it's tragic that this death deprived England of its King Alphonso I.
Edward II was born in April 1284, so he was four months old when Alphonso died and he became heir to the throne. In contrast with his brothers, Edward was a healthy, sturdy child, who only once suffered a childhood illness, when he was nine (at least, as far as we know from the records). Edward was six years old when his mother Queen Eleanor died in 1290 (his sisters were twenty-one, eighteen, fifteen, eleven and eight) and he inherited her county of Ponthieu, as her only surviving son. I've often wondered how the knowledge of his three elder brothers affected him.
Today I'll look at the two eldest sisters of Edward II, and write a follow-up post about the other three shortly.
Eleanor (June 1269 - August 1298) was the eldest surviving daughter, a full fifteen years older than her brother Edward. She didn't marry until she was twenty-four, more than three years after the next two sisters in line were married and about ten years later than you'd expect of a noble woman in this period. (Edward I's granddaughters were married at about thirteen).
Eleanor was long betrothed to Alfonso III of Aragon, but for political reasons the marriage didn't take place, and he died in June 1291 in his mid-twenties. Finally, in September 1293, Eleanor married Henri III, count of Bar. They had two children: Edouard, count of Bar, born 1294/5, and Jeanne de Bar (or Joan of Bar), countess of Surrey, born 1295/6.
Eleanor died in August 1298. I don't know what she died of, but childbirth seems fairly likely, given that she was only twenty-nine. Count Henri died in 1302 and was succeeded by Edouard. Edward I brought his orphaned granddaughter Jeanne to live in England, and in May 1306 she was married to John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, although she was only ten or eleven at the time. (The marriage was disastrous.)
Joan of Acre (spring 1272 - April 1307). Twelve years older than her brother. Joan was born while her parents were on Crusade in the Holy Land, and was known as 'Joan of Acre' after her birthplace of Akko (Acre) to distinguish her from an earlier daughter of Edward I and Eleanor, also called Joan. She spent the first few years of her life in France with her maternal grandmother Jeanne de Dammartin, dowager queen of Castile and countess of Ponthieu in her own right. Joan went to England when Jeanne died in 1279.
Joan was betrothed to Hartman, the second son of Rudolph, king of Germany. Unfortunately, he drowned in 1281. She was married in April 1290, around her eighteenth birthday - also quite old for the time - to Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295) an important Marcher lord almost three decades her senior. They had four children in quick succession - I've covered their son Gilbert (1291-1314) in a previous post on the English earls, and I'll write about their three daughters in a future post. Joan's son Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I.
Gilbert died in December 1295. Some time after this, Joan secretly married Ralph de Monthermer, a knight in her household. Her father, who had hoped to marry her to the count of Savoy, was furious. Ralph was imprisoned for a while, but Edward I had to accept the inevitable and released him, even allowing him to hold the title of earl of Gloucester as long as Joan lived. Joan bore another four children to Ralph, and died in April 1307, I think giving birth to her ninth child. She was Edward II's favourite sister, and given the age difference, might have played a maternal role in his life.
There is a novel about Joan and Ralph, by Vanessa Alexander - a pseudonym of Paul Doherty.