Eleanor of Provence, Queen of England

Born: c. 1223

Aix-en-Provence, France

Died: June 24, 1291

Amesbury, Wiltshire, England (Age c. 68)

Eleanor in History

It seems that being born into the family of Eleanor of Provence meant that one was destined to assume a powerful position in life. All three of Eleanor's sisters went on to become queens (of Germany, France and Sicily), and Eleanor herself became Queen of England (1236) at the young age of around thirteen when she married King Henry III. It was apparent from the beginning that Eleanor was a strong, ambitious and intelligent woman (this would explain those same qualities in her son, the future King Edward I, who was highly different then his passive father). Throughout her reign as queen consort, Eleanor possessed a significant amount of power and influence. She acted as regent when her husband campaigned in France (1253), and she severely opposed the reduction of royal power proposed by the people (1258). The queen also attracted many enemies amongst the English people, who were unhappy with the influence of her French relatives and the fact that they were being married into wealthy families in England's nobility. This, in addition to the disastrous scheme of putting her younger son Edmund on Sicily's throne (suggested by the pope), led to open rebellion in England (1263), and many of the queen's lands were ravaged.

To help subdue the rebellion, which was led by Simon de Montfort, a brother-in-law of Henry III, Eleanor personally requested aid from the French King Louis IX. Both Henry III and Prince Edward were taken captive by the rebels (1264), but luckily, with the help of the forces of the queen, the royal party was able to achieve a huge victory against the rebels at Evesham, with Monfort being killed in the action, effectively ending the rebellion. After Henry III's death in 1272, Eleanor remained a highly powerful figure in England's government under her son, King Edward I, and had also, by this point, accumulated a vast amount of wealth, putting her amongst the wealthiest of England's aristocracy. By 1286, the queen mother had entered a nunnery, where she would remain until her death in 1291. Though Eleanor of Provence may not be remembered as much as certain other queens in England's history, there is no doubt that she played a huge role in government and was twice the person that her weak, passive husband was. Luckily, those qualities would pass on to her son.

Eleanor in Peele

Appears in: Edward I

Within Edward I, Eleanor, the queen mother, appears in the opening scene when her son, the king, returns home from the Holy Land. She is so happy that she even faints. She is then seen attending her son's coronation ceremony, and the election of John Balliol as King of Scotland. Within the play, the two events occur at the same occasion, in reality, Edward I was anointed king in 1274, while Balliol was elected king in 1292, the year after Eleanor's death. The queen mother disappears from the play after the third scene, despite the fact that, historically, she was very much alive through the main action that occurs throughout the play, including David's execution (1283) at its end.


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