A Queen in Name Only

Sanchia of Provence was the third daughter of Raymond Berengar V, count of Provence and Beatrice of Savoy. Her elder sisters Marguerite and Eleanor made noteworthy marriages to Louis IX of France and Henry III of England respectively, opening the door for Sanchia to make an equally advantageous match herself.

Sanchia of Provence’s seal.

Although not a king, she was married to the powerful Richard Earl of Cornwall in 1243. This was Richard’s second marriage, his first wife Isabel Marshal* having died in 1240. The marriage of Sanchia and Richard was a political boon for Eleanor, tying her brother-in-law further to her cause despite his potential animosity towards the Savoyard faction. However, the marriage did not have quite have the desired effect. Sanchia and Richard did not develop a close relationship, and Sanchia had difficulty balancing the wishes of both Richard and Eleanor who wanted her to persuade the other to their point of view. Richard was offered the kingdom of Sicily (if he was willing to battle to obtain and keep it) and wisely refused. However, another crown soon came knocking – that of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire was an elective monarchy at this time, and comprised much of modern-day Germany, with the capital being Aachen. Richard was officially announced as the next King of the Romans in December 1256, making Sanchia Queen of the Romans.

The couple travelled to Aachen for their coronation which took place in May 1257 at Aachen Cathedral. We’re incredibly lucky that a letter survives from Sanchia to the Prior of Wallingford, where in her own words she describes the momentous occasion:

Sanchia, by the grace of God queen of the Romans and countess of Cornwall, sends perpetual greeting in the Lord to her beloved in Christ the lord prior of Wallingford. Since I[we] wish for your goodwill to share in my[our] joy and honor, I[we] wish briefly to tell you about my[our] position and deeds. You should know that my[our] lord king and I and Edmund and all of our family, following a favorable breeze, landed safe and sound without any trouble or fear in the territory of the count of Holland, at a convenient and welcoming/desired port, where we were honorably received by the magnates of that area.

 After a few days, we crossed the lands of many magnates who received us quite kindly. Arriving in the days of Rogation at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), the citizens of that city cheerfully received us with highest joy and honor just as the magnates did. And on Ascension Day, the lord king and I[we], with all goodwill, were distinguished by a royal diadem by the superior prelates, and after a few days there the lord king decided to travel towards Cologne. Given at Aachen on the day after the day of Blessed ______ in the first year of the reign of our lord king Richard.”

Aachen Cathedral courtesy of CEphoto, Uwe Aranas under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

So Sanchia and her husband, following a campaign of bribes and political sway, gained a crown. However, this crown was very ceremonial and lacking in real governorship, so Sanchia never ruled and had power the way her elder sisters did. Despite its ceremonial nature, it probably pleased her to have a title to match her sisters. Sadly, she only had a few years to enjoy it, dying in her 30s of an unknown illness.

What do you think of Sanchia of Provence? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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*Daughter of William Marshal ‘the great knight’.

Sources

Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters. Sanchia of Provence: https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/woman/70.html

Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters. A letter from Sanchia of Provence (1257, May): https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/897.html

Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone.

Wikipedia: Sanchia of Provence, Richard Earl of Cornwall, Holy Roman Empire.

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