Berengaria was as royal as they come. Navarre might have been only a small principality but it was well regarded in the twelfth century. More importantly, she came from distinguished stock; her mother Sancha’s parents were Alfonso VII of León and Castille and Berengaria of Barcelona.
Berengaria’s father, Sancho VI of Navarre, was known as ‘the Wise’ and presided over cultured and enlightened courts in Pamplona and Olite. The royal pair had several children and all had equal treatment when it came to education, boys and girls alike receiving the best.
The right appointment
When Berengaria’s mother died in 1179, when the young princess was only about 14, the wisdom of Sancho the Wise showed its worth. The personable, educated, and beautiful maiden was able to step into the shoes of her mother as Princess Regent to King Sancho. This was a move which maintained stability within the kingdom. It also saved her father the bother of looking for a new queen.
But what of Berengaria’s emotions? How did she feel when one of the most powerful women in Christendom, Eleanor of Aquitaine, came calling to ask for her hand in marriage for her eldest son, Richard, King of England? Was it true that a chance meeting at a joust years earlier when Berengaria was only a young girl meant that she still carried a torch for Richard? Was there not a queue of prince bachelors treading a path to her door? Or were the demands of State and the security of her father’s realm the overriding passion for the twenty-year-old? Who knows?
A happy marriage?
We try to imagine, putting together the historical references and the story of what happened when Berengaria decided to accompany Eleanor in a chase across Western Europe as far as the Holy Land to catch up with her crusader husband-to-be. Was this a marriage made in heaven for the woman who had proven herself to have every right to ride alongside her formidable mother-in-law-to-be, Eleanor of Aquitaine? Or was the notion of a grand romantic match, like the crusaders’ ideals, sold out?
Berengaria is in edit and will be released later this year, 2020. Look out for more details.