Blanche of Castile

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Blanche of Castile
Blancheofcastile.jpg
Queen consort of France
Tenure 14 July 1223 – November 1226
Coronation 6 August 1223
Spouse Louis VIII of France
Issue
Louis IX of France
Robert I, Count of Artois
Alphonse, Count of Toulouse and Poitiers
Saint Isabelle of France
Charles I of Sicily
House House of Burgundy
House of Capet
Father Alfonso VIII of Castile
Mother Eleanor of England
Born (1188-03-04)4 March 1188
Palencia, Castile
Died 27 November 1252(1252-11-27) (aged 64)
Paris, France
Burial Maubuisson Abbey
Religion Roman Catholicism

Blanche of Castile (Blanca de Castilla in Spanish; 4 March 1188 – 27 November 1252), was a Queen consort of France as the wife of Louis VIII. She acted as regent twice during the reign of her son, Louis IX. She was born in Palencia, Spain, 1188, the third daughter of Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, and Eleanor of England. Eleanor was a daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

In her youth, she visited the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, founded by her father, several times.[1] In consequence of the Treaty of Le Goulet between Philip Augustus and John of England, Blanche's sister, Urraca, was betrothed to Philip's son, Louis. Their grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine, upon getting acquainted with the two sisters, judged that Blanche's personality was more fit for a queen consort of France. In the spring of 1200 Eleanor crossed the Pyrenees with her and brought her to France instead.[1]

Marriage[edit]

On 22 May 1200 the treaty was finally signed, John ceding with his niece the fiefs of Issoudun and Graçay, together with those that André de Chauvigny, lord of Châteauroux, held in Berry, of the English crown. The marriage was celebrated the next day, at Port-Mort on the right bank of the Seine, in John's domains, as those of Philip lay under an interdict. The marriage was only consummated after a few years, and Blanche bore her first child in 1205.[1]

During the English barons' rebellion of 1215-16 against King John, it was Blanche's English ancestry as granddaughter to Henry II that led to Louis being offered the throne of England as Louis I. However, with the death of John in October 1216, the barons changed their allegiance to John's son, the nine-year-old Henry. Louis continued to claim the English crown in her right, only to find a united nation against him. Philip Augustus refused to help his son, and Blanche was his sole support. She established herself at Calais and organized two fleets, one of which was commanded by Eustace the Monk, and an army under Robert of Courtenay. With French forces defeated at Lincoln in May 1217 and then routed on their way back to their London stronghold, Louis desperately needed the reinforcements from France. On 24 August, the English fleet destroyed the French fleet carrying those reinforcements off Sandwich and Louis was forced to sue for peace.[citation needed]

Regency[edit]

Upon Louis' death in November 1226, he left Blanche, by then 38, regent and guardian of his children. Of her twelve or thirteen children, six had died, and Louis, the heir — afterwards the sainted Louis IX — was but twelve years old. She had him crowned within a month of his father's death in Reims and forced reluctant barons to swear allegiance to him. The situation was critical, since Louis VIII had died without having completely subdued his southern nobles. A minority made the Capetian domains even more vulnerable. To gain support, she released Ferdinand, Count of Flanders, who had been in captivity since the Battle of Bouvines. She ceded land and castles to Philip Hurepel, son of Philip II and his controversial wife Agnes of Merania.[2]

She had to break up a league of the barons in 1226. Helped by Theobald IV of Champagne and the papal legate to France, Romano Bonaventura, she organized an army. Its sudden appearance brought the nobles momentarily to a halt. Twice more did Blanche have to muster an army to protect Capetian interests against rebellious nobles and Henry III of England. One of the barons tried to kidnap Louis. He took refuge in a castle and the people of Paris rode to his rescue.[citation needed]

In 1229, she was responsible for the Treaty of Paris,[3] in which Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, submitted to Louis. By it his daughter and heir Joan was forced to marry Blanche's son, Alfonso. He gave up all the lands conquered by Simon de Montfort to the crown of France. It also meant the end of the Albigensian Crusade.[4]

At the cost of some of the crown's influence in Poitou, Blanche managed to keep the English Queen mother Isabelle, Countess of Angoulême and her second husband, Hugh X of Lusignan, from supporting the English side. [5]

Pierre Mauclerc did support the English and Brittany rebelled against the crown in 1230. Blanche organized a surprise attack in the winter. She accompanied the army herself and helped collect wood to keep the soldiers warm. The rebellion was put down, which added to the growing prestige of Blanche and Louis.[5]

St Louis owed his realm to his mother and remained under her influence for the duration of her life. There was also an end to the calumnies circulated against her, accusing her of having had sexual relations with Count Theobald IV of Champagne and Romano Bonaventura. These rumors were based on the poetical homage rendered her by the former and the prolonged stay in Paris of the latter.[citation needed]

Queen Mother[edit]

After Louis came of age, in 1234, aged 20, her influence upon him may still be traced. The same year, he was married, and Blanche became Queen mother. Louis married Margaret of Provence, who was the eldest of the four daughters of Ramon, count of Provence, and Beatrice of Savoy.

She did not have a good relationship with her daughter-in-law Margaret of Provence, perhaps due to the strong relationship she had with her son. Jean de Joinville tells of the time when Queen Margaret was giving birth and Blanche entered the room telling her son to leave saying "Come ye hence, ye do naught here". Queen Margaret then allegedly fainted out of distress. One contemporary biographer notes that when Queen Blanche was present in the royal household, she did not like Margaret and Louis to be together "except when he went to lie with her".[6]

In 1239, Blanche insisted on a fair hearing for the Jews, who were under threat by increasing Antisemitism in France. She presided over a formal disputation in the king's court. Louis insisted on the burning of the Talmud and other Jewish books, but Blanche promised Rabbi Rehiel of Paris, who spoke for the Jews, that he and his goods were under her protection.[7]

Second Regency and Death[edit]

In 1248, Blanche again became regent, during Louis IX's absence on the Crusade, a project which she had strongly opposed. In the disasters which followed she maintained peace, while draining the land of men and money to aid her son in the East. She fell ill at Melun in November 1252, and taken to Paris, but lived only a few days. She was buried at Maubuisson Abbey, which she had founded herself.[8] Louis heard of her death in the following spring and reportedly did not speak to anyone for two days afterwards.[9]

Patronage and Learning[edit]

Blanche was a patron of the arts and owned a variety of books, both in French and in Latin. Some of these were meant as teaching tools for her son. Le Miroir de l'Ame was dedicated to Blanche. It instructs queens to rigorously practice Christian virtues in daily life. She oversaw the education of her children, all of whom studied Latin. She also insisted on lessons in Christian morals for all of them. Both Louis and Isabelle, her only surviving daughter, were canonized.[10]

Issue[edit]

  1. Blanche (1205–1205).
  2. Agnes (1207–1207).
  3. Philip (9 September 1209 – before July 1218), betrothed in July 1215 to Agnes of Donzy.
  4. Alphonse (b. and d. Lorrez-le-Bocage, 26 January 1213), twin of John.
  5. John (b. and d. Lorrez-le-Bocage, 26 January 1213), twin of Alphonse.
  6. Louis IX (Poissy, 25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270, Tunis), King of France as successor to his father.
  7. Robert (25 September 1216 – 9 February 1250, killed in battle, Manssurah, Egypt)
  8. Philip (20 February 1218–1234).
  9. John Tristan (21 July 1219–1232), Count of Anjou and Maine.
  10. Alphonse (Poissy, 11 November 1220 – 21 August 1271, Corneto), Count of Poitou and Auvergne, and by marriage, of Toulouse.
  11. Philippe Dagobert (20 February 1222–1232).
  12. Isabelle (14 April 1225 – 23 February 1269).
  13. Charles (21 March 1226 – 7 January 1285), Count of Anjou and Maine, by marriage Count of Provence and Folcalquier, and King of Sicily.

Literature[edit]

Blanche de Castille is mentioned in François Villon's 15th century poem Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis (Ballad of Ladies of Times Past), together with other famous women of history and mythology.

Aside from the works of Joinville and William of Nangis, see Élie Berger, "Histoire de Blanche de Castille, reine de France", in Bibliothèque des Ecoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome, vol. lxx. (Paris, 1895); Le Nain de Tillemont, "Vie de Saint Louis", ed. by J. de Gaulle for the Société de l'histoire de France (6 vols., 1847–1851); and Paulin Paris, "Nouvelles recherches sur les mœurs de la reine Blanche et de Thibaud", in Cabinet historique (1858).[citation needed]

Blanche and Isabella of Angoulême are the main characters in Jean Plaidy's novel The Battle of the Queens.[citation needed]

Blanche de Castille is briefly mentioned in Marcel Proust's Swann's Way.[citation needed]

Blanche is a key character in the novel "Four Sisters, All Queens", by Sherry Jones.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

An image of Blanche of Castille has been used on the home kit of French Rugby Union team Stade Français since the 2008 season.[11]

During the 1950s French restaurateur Noël Corbu claimed that Blanche of Castile had deposited a treasure in Rennes-le-Château that was later discovered by Bérenger Saunière during the late 19th century. This was later utilised by Pierre Plantard in his development of the Priory of Sion mythology.[12]

Ancestry[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Wheeler, B. and Parsons, J. (2002). Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 192–193. 
  2. ^ Weiler; Burton; Schofield; Stöber (2007). Thirteenth century England: Proceedings of the Gregynog Conference. The Boydell Press. p. 53. 
  3. ^ Jackson, Guida, M. (1999). Women rulers throughout the ages: an illustrated guide. ABC-CLIO, Inc. p. 64. 
  4. ^ Goldstone, Nancy (2009). Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe. Phoenix Paperbacks, London, UK. p. 25. 
  5. ^ a b Abulafia, David. The New Cambridge Medieval History: c. 1198-c. 1300, 1999, pp. 286-287
  6. ^ Jean de Joinville, The History of Saint Louis trans. J.Evans 1938: p 184 (New York Press)
  7. ^ Labarge, Margaret W. A medieval miscellany Publisher: Carleton University Press, Canada (1997), p. 193
  8. ^ Klaniczay, Gábor (2002). Holy rulers and blessed princesses: dynastic cults in medieval central Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 236. 
  9. ^ Bradbury, Jim (2007). The Capetians: Kings of France, 987-1328. Continuum Books. p. 213. 
  10. ^ Nolan, Kathleen D. Capetian Women (2003), pp. 181-182, 212
  11. ^ Hannah Wright (16 October 2008). "French rugby fans blanche at multi-coloured shirt". The Independent. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  12. ^ Bill Putnam, John Edwin Wood, The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château: A Mystery Solved (Sutton Publishing, revised edition, 2005); ISBN 0-7509-4216-9

External links[edit]

French royalty
Preceded by
Ingeborg of Denmark
Queen consort of France
1223–1226
Succeeded by
Margaret of Provence