The Yearlong Queen

As the youngest of the Provence sisters, Beatrice observed her elder sisters Marguerite, Eleanor and Sanchia make glittering dynastic matches. They were a close-knit family, and despite the political stage on which they all walked, their family loyalty was notable.

When their father Ramon Berenguer IV died in August 1245, the still unwed Beatrice was in her late teens* and became the Countess of Provence according to the terms of Ramon’s will. Being a young, unwed heiress put Beatrice in a dangerous position. It wasn’t unheard of for such women to be kidnapped and forced into marriages against their will. Many powerful men pushed forth their suites, or that of their sons. To ensure no one he disliked gained power in Provence, the Pope asked Beatrice’s brother-in-law Louis IX of France to look into the matter. Louis suggested his younger brother Charles of Anjou and the couple were married, with her mother Beatrice of Savoy’s permission, on the 31st January 1246.

Beatrice of Provence and Charles of Anjou.

The will of Raymond would cause friction within the family that only grew as the years passed on. Marguerite was incensed about her youngest sister’s inheritance, saying she was owed parts of the land. Eleanor and Sanchia also voiced their disapproval and a faction grew. Their mother Beatrice of Savoy had been given many rights and responsibilities in Raymond’s will, but her new son-in-law Charles had other ideas. He iced out his mother-in-law and made many unpopular decisions in the area. Beatrice was furious, and began plotting against him, likely regretting allowing a marriage between him and her youngest daughter. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, Beatrice and Charles formed a strong team. They were both youngest siblings and, perhaps jealous of their elder sibling’s power and position, formed a connection based on shared experiences. There was always an undertone of tension regarding the Provençal inheritance – but Charles and Beatrice never backed down.

In Christmas 1259, things came to a bit of a head. At a banquet following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Marguerite insulted Beatrice by not letting her sit on the table with her and their other sisters because she was not a queen. It was a public snub, and likely one that seriously rankled. Yet just over six years later, Beatrice would find herself crowned Queen of Sicily, so take that Marguerite!

Charles was granted the Kingdom of Sicily by the Pope, if he could defeat King Manfred (which spoiler: he did). Sadly, like her sister Sanchia, Beatrice was not blessed with a long life. Just over a year into her queenship she died of illness in her late 30s. She was survived by her husband and six children. After Beatrice’s death, Marguerite continued to fight for her claims to Provence. She sent more than one letter to her nephew Edward I of England asking for his support, “we have special trust in you to advance our cause”. Marguerite** did finally let go of her preoccupation with the Provençal inheritance after the death of her son Philip III in 1285.

What do you think of yearlong queen? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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*I’ve seen sources say her age was 13, 16 and 19 – so honestly who knows!

**Marguerite’s direct descendants include Philip IV of France who you can read about here.

Sources

Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone

Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters. Marguerite of Provence: https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/woman/73.html

Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters. Letter from Marguerite of Provence to Edward I: https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/536.html

Dawn of a Dynasty: The Life and Times of Infante Manuel of Castile by Richard P. Kinkade

Wikipedia: Beatrice of Provence, Charles of Anjou and Ramon Berenguer IV of Provence

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