The Death of Eleanor of Provence
On this day in 1291, the mother of Edward I of England died at the convent in Amesbury while he was away in Scotland. She was buried at the convent in September 1291, with her sons Edward I and Edmund of Lancaster and Leicester present.
Eleanor of Provence was the Queen of Henry III of England. She married him when she was around 12 years old, in January 1236. She was crowned and anointed at Westminster Abbey shortly after the wedding, on January 20th. Eleanor had at least five children with Henry; the future Edward I, Edmund of Lancaster and Leicester, Beatrice, Margaret and Katherine. Katherine died as a child, which was heartbreaking for both the King and the Queen. Eleanor was devoted to her children, spending a lot of time at Windsor with them. She loved them all.
Eleanor of Provence was a loyal wife and Queen to Henry III. She supported him faithfully during the political struggles with his nobility and the Provisions of Oxford. The Provisions of Oxford reformed government in England and greatly restricted the power of the King. (I will do a detailed post on the Provisions at some point.) Eleanor never wavered in her support of Henry; during one rebellion against Henry she travelled to France to recruit him an army.
Even though she was a loyal Queen, she was hated by the Londoners. She was foreign and had brought her Savoyard uncles to England with her, who were promoted to positions of power. On June 13th 1263, during Simon de Montfort’s ill-fated rebellion, her royal barge was attacked by Londoners while she was travelling on the Thames. She was pelted with eggs, stones and rotten vegetables; her life was endangered. Simon de Montfort was killed at the battle of Evesham shortly after this attack on the Queen.
Eleanor was widowed in November 1272. She helped to raise several of her grandchildren at Windsor before entering a nunnery in Amesbury in July 1286. She lived out her last days there, with her granddaughters Eleanor (Beatrice’s daughter) and Mary (Edward I’s daughter). Though she had decided many years ago to be buried by her husband at Westminster Abbey, she must have changed her mind after going to live at Amesbury and was buried there instead. Her heart was taken and buried at the Franciscan church in London. Sadly, any monuments to the Queen were destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
She is described as clever, politically astute, beautiful, literate and learned by some. She read medieval romances such as the Tales of King Arthur, was shrewd and supportive of her husband during political crises, was fashionable and loved her children and grandchildren an awul lot. On the other hand, she was hated by her English contemporaries who disliked foreigners and is often called selfish; one of her selfish acts being the veiling of her granddaughters before she herself entered Amesbury.
The fact that Eleanor of Provence has positive and negative personality traits is what draws me to her. She was, after all, only human. I plan to do some more detailed posts about the life of Eleanor over the coming months. But, for now, this is a small tribute to her to commemorate her passing. Rest in peace, Eleanor of Provence.
‘Eleanor of Provence- Queenship in Thirteenth Century England’ by Margaret Howell
‘A Great and Terrible King’ by Marc Morris