Mother-by-law and Daughter-by-Law
The story of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Berengaria of Navarre is one with many layers. You can read more about it in Berengaria’s upcoming books. Until then, below is a little more info to tide you over.
When Richard, the Angevin king of the House of Plantagenet left for Marseilles to join the 3rd Crusade in 1190, he told his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, that he would not marry his betrothed, Alys. They had been betrothed as youngsters by agreement between Henry II and Louis VII of France. Alys went to live in the Plantagenet court when she was just 8 years old. Unfortunately, when she was old enough, she also joined her Father-by-Law to be Henry II in his bed.
As you can expect this did not please Eleanor very much. But she had been put in protective custody in England by Henry for fomenting rebellion by his sons. As a result, she could do nothing about it. She would remain in custody for 16 years, only gaining her release with the death of Henry and Richard becoming king.
Who will inherit?
Richard’s repudiation of Alys left Eleanor with a problem; where was she to get a son and heir to succeed Richard?
Very conveniently her eye fell upon a princess in the kingdom of Navarre (Navarra).
The princess in question was Berengaria. She was in her twenties and unmarried because, as a teenager, she had taken on the duties of her Father’s court in her mother’s place when she died.
Her father, King Sancho VI, ruled one of the most progressive courts in Europe. As a result, all of his children, male and female alike, had the same standard of education within a court renowned for its music and culture.
All in all Berengaria was a very desirable prospect for a king, especially one who was in need of an heir.
There was another, long term advantage for Eleanor with this union; Navarre was a Basque nation spread across the Pyrenees on the southern border of Aquitaine (see the map above). Both nations had similar problems with the avaricious gaze of their neighbours, Castille and Leon, and to a lesser extent, Aragon. The union would provide an alliance and secure the border.
What better partner for an alliance?
What better partner for a king?
When Richard set off for Marseilles, Eleanor left for Navarre. After her visit, she set off for France to try and catch up with her son. She brought his new bride-to-be with her.
Was Berengaria’s availability a lucky perchance or had the lady Eleanor executed a well thought through plan for the benefit of her own dynasty?
You can read the full story in the forthcoming story of Berengaria, due for publication in 2021 and available from Amazon.
More information is also available on our website.