16 January 2015

Today's Princess: Eleanor of England

via Wikimedia Commons
Two crowns were dangled in front of Edward I's eldest surviving daughter, Eleanor of England. For a brief time in her teens, it looked as if the throne of England might one day be hers. With several sons already dead, her father certainly took the precaution of drawing up a document that said the crown would pass to her if his newborn son Edward did not survive or he didn't have other sons. It was a bit of an unusual decision for 13th century England; other kings would have chosen their male-line nephews instead of a daughter. Alas, baby Edward eventually became Edward II.

The far more likely crown for Eleanor was as consort of the King of Aragon, but religion and politics kept this one just out of reach, too. As a young child, she was engaged to the heir of Aragon, but his family's ambitions caused the Pope to place an interdict on Aragon. King Edward would not send Eleanor under those circumstances. He kept delaying her departure. When she was 13, he said she was too young to go. This was an odd statement in an age when royal women certainly married younger and sometimes had their first pregnancy at 13. Even odder, she still wasn't sent when she was 15, 17 or even 20. Her fiance died when she was 22, and the option of an Aragonese marriage was no longer available.

Eleanor's youth was very different than today's girls. Her parents left on Crusade when she was still an infant, and didn't return until she was five. She didn't even meet some of her 15 full siblings because they died before her or were born in another country and never made it to England. She didn't meet her famous sister Joan of Acre until that child was seven. Early on, Eleanor was probably closest to her brother Henry, who was just a year older than she. The two of them were being raised in the court of their paternal grandmother, Eleanor of Provence, queen of Henry III. Eleanor had three half-siblings whom she also didn't meet because they were born after she herself died at the age of 31.

Once she no longer was the future Queen of Aragon, her father did seek another husband for her, settling on a French lord, the Count of Bar. It was a far less lofty position, but at age 24, there were not that many prospects for her. Together, they had a son and a daughter, both of whom were still very young when their mother died.

For more about Eleanor, Countess of Bar:
Sisters of Edward II: Eleanor on the Edward II blog

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