Sunday, April 18, 2010

Four Queens

Thirteenth-century Count Raymond Berenger V of Provence had four beautiful daughters: Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia and Beatrice. Royal marriages at the time were formed for political and financial advantage, but even though Provence had little strategic importance and its count was always in debt (frequently taking out loans and pledging the same castles over and over as security), all four sisters married into royalty, and all were crowned as queens. Marguerite was Queen of France and Eleanor Queen of England. Sanchia and Beatrice married their sisters' younger brothers-in-law, Richard of Cornwall and Charles of Anjou; Richard was the richest man in England, and bought enough electors of Germany to be crowned King of the Romans, while Charles was offered the kingdom of Sicily by the pope.
Nancy Goldstone's book about the sisters, Four Queens, is subtitled The Proven├žal Sisters who Ruled Europe, and the author ably demonstrates that not all medieval women were the helpless ornaments that we now sometimes assume they were. The queens' mother and their mothers-in-law were all capable women with a strong influence on European politics as well. Great stuff.

Originally posted at MySpace 3/1/08

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