Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Margaret of Provence and Her Sisters

Margaret of Provence, queen of France (died 21 December 1295)


Margaret of Provence, 
from a fifteenth-century
manuscript
Margaret of Provence was one of the four daughters of Berengar, count of Provence, and his wife, Beatrice of Savoy--born around the year 1221, Margaret was the oldest of the sisters, followed by Eleanor of Provence, born c. 1223; Sanchia of Provence, born c. 1228; and Beatrice of Provence, born c. 1231.

While Berengar was himself related to the kings and queens of Aragon and Castile, Beatrice of Savoy was noted as a skilled diplomat and as a skillful ruler in her own right. These were skills that her daughters learned and used well.

Notably, all four of Berengar and Beatrice's daughters became queens: 

Margaret of Provence was married to Louis IX of France in 1234. As queen of France, Margaret was the daughter-in-law of a woman we have already met this year, Blanche of Castile.

Two years later, in 1236, Eleanor of Provence (died 1291) was married to King Henry III of England, thus becoming queen of England.

This head, in the Muniment Room of
Westerminster Abbey, is believed to
represent Eleanor of Provence,
c. 1250s
Sanchia of Provence (died 1261) was married in 1243 to Richard, earl of Cornwall. Although he was an English prince (the second son of King John), Richard was elected as king of the Germans in 1256 and, a year later, as king of the Romans (though he made only four trips to Germany before he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1271).

Beatrice (died 1267), who inherited Provence from her father, was married to Charles I of Anjou (Louis IX's brother) in 1246. According to one story, when she and her husband were in Paris for a Christmas gathering in 1254, when all four sisters and their spouses were together, the elder sister, Queen Margaret, refused to seat Beatrice with the sisters who were queens--because Beatrice was not a queen. Charles promised to make Beatrice a queen--he kept his promise by invading and conquering Sicily. He became king of Sicily in 1266, making Beatrice the queen of Sicily on 12 February of that year. She enjoyed her title only briefly, dying in September 1267.

Beatrice of Provence,
from the fourteenth-century
Bible of Naples
Since Margaret is the nominal subject of today's post, here are a few highlights of her biography--her relationship with her mother-in-law, Blanche of Castile, was reportedly marred by jealousy and resentment; she gave birth to eleven children; she accompanied her husband on Crusade in 1248 (now numbered the Seventh Crusade, dated from 1248 to 125v4), and after he was captured, ruled as regent briefly and raised Louis' ransom (though her "rule" was brief, she is sometimes said to have been the only woman who led a Crusader army); her attempts to play a role in politics after the debacle in the Holy Land were dismissed or repudiated; when Louis left on a second Crusade, Margaret (wisely) decided to stay home (Louis died while in the Holy Land).

For a wonderful biography of all four sisters, see Nancy Goldstone's Four Queens: The Proven├žal Sisters Who Ruled Europe

There is an excellent selection of letters from and to Margaret of Provence at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters; for access, click here. For Eleanor of Provence's letters, click here. Only one letter from Sanchia survives, though several letters to her survive; click here. (There are no letters to or from Sanchia among those on Epistolae.)

Margaret Howell's scholarly biography of Eleanor of Provence, queen of England, is also available: Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth Century England.

Sanchia of Provence,
a nineteenth-century drawing
of her seal