Category: France

The greatest threat to Blanche of Castile during the minority of her son, Louis IX Capet King of France, was the young king’s male relatives. Philip of France, Robert of Dreux and Peter of Brittany were constant antagonists during Blanche’s regency. Despite the fact that one was an uncle from a disputed marriage and the other two were second cousins, they were the only remaining male line descendants of the House of Capet; and therefore in the line of succession for the throne, should Louis IX fail to produce an heir. This was a contributing factor was to why it was Blanche who was entrusted with the regency. The family tree below outlines the descent of Philip, Robert and Peter.

 The third daughter and sixth child of Henri II de Valois, King of France, and Catherine de Medici, Countess of Auvergne, Marguerite was born on 14th May 1553 at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines, France. Growing up at the French court, Marguerite fell in love with a local nobleman, Henri Baudemont, the future Duke of Guise; however her mother’s hatred for the entire Guise family prevented any such match from materialising. Being the daughter of the King of France, Marguerite had a number of suitors including Carlos Habsburg, the Prince of Asturias, and Sebastian I Avis, King of Portugal. Instead, as was common with princesses of her age, Marguerite’s marriage would be used to cement a political and religious alliance with a neighbouring kingdom. Whilst France was fiercely Catholic, neighbouring Navarre was Protestant and the marriage between its king, Henri III de Bourbon, and Marguerite was meant to ‘create harmony between Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots’.

Their marriage took place on 18th August 1572 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame; however because the groom was Protestant and not Catholic, he had to remain outside the cathedral for most of the ceremony. Paris was filled with Catholics and Protestants alike, attending the celebrations of the wedding and the hope of a time of religious peace between the two factions. Alas it was not to be as a widespread massacre of the visiting Protestants swept the city and continued out into the provinces in the following days. Historians differ on the death toll, but believe it was as low as 5,000 people or as high as 30,000. This lead to the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion between the Valois of France and the Baudemont of Guise against the Bourbons of Navarre. This was a precarious position to be in as until Margurite’s brother, Charles IX de Valois, managed to father a son, it was Henri of Navarre who was the heir of the throne of France. Having been captured during the riots, Henri was forced to convert to Catholicism before he was released, abelit under house arrest along with his wife. After three years of confinement, Henri managed to escape in 1576.

Neither Henri nor Marguerite was faithful during their marriage, in fact they were both notoriously known for their adultery. Alas they would never have any children, but neither would any of Marguerite’s brothers; therefore when her last brother, Henri III de Valois, King of France, died on 2nd August 1589, Marguerite became the Queen of France as her husband was now Henri IV de Bourbon, King of France. With his new throne came a desire for legitimate heirs. Marguerite and Henri divorced in 1599 after a marriage of 25 years, with Marguerite being allowed to keep her title of Queen. Henri IV remarried to Marie de Medici, another Florentine princess. Despite the failings of their marriage, Marguerite was allowed back at the French court where she established herself as a mentor of the arts and benefactress of the poor, helped plan events at court and nurtured the children of Henry IV and Marie. Marguerite died on 27th March 1615 and was buried in the St Denis Basilica.

Blanche de Anscarids was a Castilian princess who married a French prince as a consequence of an English peace treaty at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In her role as the crown princess and queen of France, Blanche would set a new benchmark of how a royal consort should behave and would become a prime example subsequent queens would hope to emulate. She was the fertile consort, giving birth to thirteen children; she was the non-political consort, never actively intervening in state affairs; and she was the supportive consort, encouraging her husband and his conquests when no other person would. This was how Blanche spent her married life, for twenty six years she devoted herself to her husband with his ambitions, setbacks and triumphs becoming hers. They grew up together, observing the court of Philip II of France, learning the art of statesmanship and they raised a large family which would include two kings and two Catholic saints.

Blanche and Louis VIII were meant to rule France for decades, marry their children to worthy spouses that forged alliances throughout Europe and grow old together. It was never expected that Louis would die at the young age of thirty-nine, leaving his eldest son king at twelve; nor was it expected that Louis would designate Blanche as regent for their son’s minority. It is this role as the regent of France that earned Blanche a favourable and positive contemporary reputation which has continued throughout history in her numerous historical representations. Blanche was a consort who did not actively seek power during the reigns of Philip II or Louis VIII; only when circumstance coerced her into accepting the highly political position of regent did she officially enter politics. Once Blanche inhabited her new role, she was able to earn herself well deserved praise for her actions as the regent of France during the minority of her son, Louis IX, from 1226 to 1234 and also during the latter’s absence on crusade from 1248 to 1252. Despite having no previous formal training or experience in the workings of government, Blanche excelled as the queen regent of France and is a magnificent example of a queen consort with a ‘positive’ reputation.

Blanca was born in Palencia, Castile, Spain on 4th March 1188, the daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and his wife, Eleanor Plantagenet, Princess of England. As a young child, Blanche was considered a beautiful, accomplished young princess who possessed a pleasant combination of ‘temperament and talent’ and she was fortunate to grow up in a court which Marion Meade describes as a place ‘where troubadours gathered and poets still composed verse for a queen-patroness, who, like her mother, knew the value of beautiful words’, illustrating the cultured and educated influence of her mother.Blanca was taught her Castilian and religion, but Pernoud makes special mention of her being taught of the many queens in history; ‘queens long dead and others still alive; haughty queens and frivolous; queens imprisoned or sent into exile; well-beloved queens and detested ones; happy queens and lonely queens’.It could be argued that throughout the remainder of her life, Blanca remembered her childhood instruction and heeded the warnings given; though it must be noted that the majority of her education was completed after her marriage and alongside her husband, the Prince Louis.

During her youth in Castile, Steadham argues that Blanca was able to personally witness the strength of a female regent in her mother who cultivated the love of the people by ensuring the construction of public buildings such as hospitals, monasteries and universities. Such acts demonstrated Queen Eleanor’s love and devotion for her people by erecting these municipal places which allowed for the betterment of her people. She also established her courage and fortitude by accompanying her husband on the battlefields of Palencia and Burgos, showing that not only did she support her husband’s military endeavours, she was not afraid of the consequences and therefore her people should follow her example. These actions inspired confidence in and affection for the royal family which was crucial in maintaining a firm hold upon the common population; this also demonstrates that both Alfonso and Eleanor were keenly aware of the power of popular opinion and were eager to ensure it stayed in their favour. Although the philosophy of the divine right of kings was not thoroughly established at this time, many monarchs were aware that if they incurred the wrath of their people, they risked rebellion and possible deposition in favour of another royal candidate who would only be too happy to ascend the throne to placate the masses. It would be a valuable lesson that Blanca would later draw upon when the time arose.

After tensions between England and France had reignited over a succession dispute to the English crown, a new peace, the Treaty of Vernon (or le Goulet), was signed in May 1200 and it was to be sealed with a marriage between the Count of Artois, the eldest son of Philip II of France, and a niece of King John of England; the candidates were the princesses Urraca and Blanca of Castile. The girls’ grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, made the journey from England to Castile to not only choose between them, but also to escort the future bride to France herself. The Castilian court in which Eleanor of Aquitaine spent two months getting to know her Castilian grandchildren reminded her so much of not only her own native court at Poitiers, but also of her own influence over both the French and English courts. Initially negotiations had Urraca betrothed to the French prince, but Eleanor kept turning to the younger sister, Blanca who is said to have had ‘a streak of energy and ambition… [a vein of female strength’ similar to her visiting grandmother.

Soon Blanca found herself travelling to the court of France under the watchful guidance of her grandmother, Eleanor; the official reason for the switching of the bride was that Urraca was too harsh and Spanish sounding whereas Blanca turned very nicely into Blanche. The trip to Bordeaux would have taken several weeks during which Marion Meade argues, Eleanor would have delivered an oral history that ‘pass[ed] from one generation to the next, as well as the whole chronology of hatred between Plantagenet and Capet’.This was the most opportune time for Eleanor to impart her knowledge and wisdom from her own experiences in dealing with the French court in a number of different capacities. Firstly as the sovereign duchess of Aquitaine after the death of her father in April 1137; then as its crown princess, having married another Prince Louis in July 1137 and within the month, Eleanor was the queen of France and over the following fifteen years, Eleanor ruled over the French court and had ‘stood up to the Emperor, defied the Pope, wrested her son from prison and evaded all the snares laid for her’.

For Blanche to have such a wealth of knowledge at her disposal for even a short time was invaluable. Upon her marriage in May 1200, Blanche was now the crown princess of France, wife to the heir of the throne and future queen; her life now belonged to France itself and with her life, she would serve its interests above all others. For now, Blanche’s time was divided between education and leisure activates such as horse riding, surrounded by a number of noble children which included Arthur and Eleanor of Brittany, Theobald of Champagne and Margaret of Flanders. The continuation of her education included literature, music, geometry, astronomy, scripture, Latin, law and poetry at which Blanche appeared to excel at whilst her young husband worked at his sword fighting and horse riding skills.Here Blanche would have specific instruction on what would be expected of her as the wife of the future king of France and the mother of the royal children and the next generation of Europe’s monarchs. Pernoud accurately sums up the task ahead of Blanche; she ‘was to be a Queen and at that time being a queen was no mere decorative function. It meant a lifelong dedication to an exacting task. It meant assuming an important part of the government of the country, sometimes the entire responsibility.’

Blanche spent the majority of her marriage politically in the background with her time taken up with the birthing and rearing of children, which was her main duty as the wife of the crown prince of France. Her absence in official court documentation and proclamations seem to support this theory; however it must be noted that her father-in-law was in good health for the majority of his reign and therefore did not require any assistance.If by chance, Philip II had fallen ill, it would have been his son, Louis, who would have been called in to assist; so during this time, Blanche was not even required to be political which allowed her the time and space to fulfil her main duty. In a time where childbirth was difficult and dangerous, Blanche gave birth to thirteen children over a space of twenty one years, including ten sons and three daughters. In this respect, it made Blanche a very successful wife and her good fortune in this area earned her affection and respect from both her husband and father-in-law; in fact, Blanche’s birthing record is more successful than any Capet queen before her.Shadis argues that Blanche saw motherhood as a ‘means to an end’ in regards to consolidating her position and laying the ground work for her official entrance into politics as the wife of the king, once her husband succeeded. Therefore Blanche was content enough to remain in the background during her father-in-law and husband’s reigns. It is interesting to note that Blanche’s singular role as a mother ended when her husband died, her son succeeded and Blanche took on the political role of regent. Upon becoming regent, Blanche does not cease to be a mother, indeed at the time of Louis VIII’s death, their youngest child was a mere five months old. But with her husband’s death, Blanche was now free from the constraint of producing children; pregnancy and birthing, activities which consumed a majority of her time. The political landscape had also changed and now, as the widow of the old king and mother of the new, Blanche was required to step into the political arena as regent for her young son, a position that was conferred upon her and not one that she sought out herself.

Blanche’s lack of political involvement during these years does not accurately reflect the consideration Louis had for his wife. It was not due to any misgivings between them; they were in fact devoted to each other and it must be mentioned that on 6th August 1223 in Rheims Cathedral, both of them were crowned king and queen of France respectively, standing in front of the same altar at which they were married twenty three years earlier. Pernoud outlines the contemporary expectations of this golden couple: ‘Louis and Blanche were full of high hopes as they came to the throne. They were thirty five, the age of sober and fruitful enterprises, the age of maturity. The power they held in their hands, which they could use to do great things, was more than any of their forebears had possessed. Everything argued a splendid reign for Louis’.It was not meant to be for Louis VIII died on 8th November 1226, a mere three years upon the throne. Blanche was devastated and France was in shock; how could a most promising king be cut down in his prime when a great and stable king upon the throne means a great and stable time for the kingdom. Now the crown passed to the hands of a twelve year old boy, not old enough to rule on his own; a regent was required, but whom?

Aside from Blanche, there were a few of other candidates for the position; the late king’s younger brother, Philip of Boulogne; or the king’s cousins, Robert of Dreux and Peter of Brittany. Unfortunately for them, Louis did not trust a single one. Philip’s parentage was never without scrutiny and this made him prone to rash acts, trying to prove his worth as a prince of France; such rashness made him unsuitable. Robert and Peter were the count of Dreux and the duke of Brittany respectively which constituted a large portion of western France and therefore in control of a large number of soldiers, castles and vassals. On top of this, Peter was only the duke of Brittany through his marriage and a second son at that. Apart from his marriage, there was no inheritance awaiting him, thus he had ambitions to amass an estate that did not rest upon his matrimony; such aspirations made Peter unworthy as well and to put his brother in the same position would only invite the same sort of trouble. To Louis, there was only one choice; that of his wife, Blanche.

It could be argued that Louis saw Blanche as the perfect consort who was able to bear his children and manage his affairs on his behalf in his absence; Blanche would be rewarded in turn both in the public and private sphere. In the private sphere, it was not uncommon for kings and princes to have mistresses, but with Louis there are no such insinuations that he ever loved anyone else than Blanche; faithfulness in a royal husband was never expected and must have been extra comforting to Blanche that her husband did not have such inclinations. The fact that Blanche continued to bear children right up until the death of her husband demonstrates that Louis never neglected Blanche for long, if he ever did; in fact, when Louis died, Blanche was nursing a five month old son. Now in the public sphere, Louis honoured and recognised Blanche by naming her regent. However Blanche may have had other plans, for as early as 1223 she had been given permission by Pope Honorius III to enter a Cistercian monastery; ‘dearest daughter of Christ, inclined to your honourable requests which we willing favour in their faithful and devout purpose to enter once in your life with ten honourable women into a Cistercian monastery at the time of a general chapter’, but a specific entry date was not mentioned. Did Blanche mean to use this privilege upon the death of her husband if he had been much older and their son capable of governing on his own? It would appear so and if this was her intention, it may have also meant she never wanted to become an official political power in the capacity of regent; Blanche surely would have offered advice when asked of her husband or son, but it would seem that she never took an active step towards such an ambition. It is interesting to note that Matthew Paris’ Chronica Majora mentions this privilege during the year 1244 of his chronology and therefore illustrates that others knew of the existence of this letter during Blanche’s life.Nevertheless, the age of her son at his succession commanded her presence and her capabilities as the new regent of France. Louis had trusted no other to the task and since her husband had given her this task, Blanche would have seen it as her duty to accept it. No other individual would have protected Louis IX’s interests in the same fashion that a mother would, for she would have no other agenda than that of her son’s and therefore, France’s.

However not all historians agree that Louis actually conferred the regency upon Blanche and they argue that she took measures to ensure the regency for herself. Le Goff highlights discrepancies in the legality of the documents that confirmed Blanche as regent. The first was the date signed upon his will; the year was 1226 but there was no mention of a month or a day.The lack of a specific date is curious, for if there was nothing to hide surely a full and correct date would have been attached to the king’s will; but what if the date of the will was after the death of the king and therefore not of his hand. It may have meant that Louis VIII did not give Blanche the regency and that she forged the will with the complicity of the archbishop of Sens and the bishops of Chartres and Beauvais. Le Goff also argues that Louis VIII ‘never indicated in his testament or in his solemn declaration made before the group of powerful figures assembled around him on November 3, 1226, whom he designated to rule or at least wished to exercise what we would now call regency’. The last discrepancy lies with the naming of only three of the bishops present at his deathbed than the full five as witnesses to the king’s death.The Archbishop of Sens and the Bishops of Chartres and Beauvais were named in the will, but there were two others also present. It may have been that these two unnamed bishops refused to be complicit in Blanche’s plans for the regency and this was the reasoning behind their absence in the official document. Bush goes even further to state that Louis VIII did not give Blanche the regency and that she ‘assembled all the most powerful barons who were attached to her’ and in front of those barons had the bishops ‘attested upon oath that in dying he had invested her with that dignity, and pronounced her the guardian of his children’.Once the regency was safely in Blanche’s hands, she knew that her would need to be crowned and quickly; this she managed to do within twenty-one days of Louis VIII’s death.

Those nobles who attended the coronation would be faithful vassals, ready to serve the crown; those who did not were nobles that harboured rebellious intentions. Sure enough, there were three lords who made such excuses, Peter of Brittany, Hugh of Lusignan and Theobald of Champagne. Their main gripe was the fact that Blanche, as a woman and a foreigner, had been awarded the regency and not a feudal lord of France. These three magnates did not like and/or trust Blanche, suspecting her of siphoning resources and money to her Castilian parents; however this particular argument would appear to be flawed as Blanche’s parents had been deceased for well over ten years, having died in 1214. With Blanche in the position of regent, the barons had expected she would be ‘obliged to lean heavily on the support of the young king’s relatives and the great barons of France’. As it became clear that Blanche would not be requiring such help, the barons felt that they had been slighted; therefore if they not could be given that they felt was owed, they would take it by force or be sufficiently compensated. With such numbers behind them, it would have been possible to convince Blanche to abandon the regency and place her son in the hands of the barons who did not ‘want to imprison or harm him, and they had no intention to dethrone him, but they wanted to separate him from his mother and his advisors, to take him hostage in order to govern in his name and claim power, land and wealth for themselves’. Blanche would have preferred to placate the barons without having to go to war, but if her hand was forced, she was more than willing to lead the royal army against the treacherous lords. Theobald of Champagne and Henry of Bar lead the first round of negotiations; however their partners, Peter of Brittany and Hugh of Lusignan, believed that the parley was proceeding far too well in Blanche’s favour. They planned to teach their former allies a lesson in loyalty; however Theobald and Henry caught wind of their plots and convinced them to merely switch sides to Blanche, thus weakening their own position. After months of having the location for the second round of negotiations changed on numerous occasions, Blanche issued a final ultimatum to Peter and Hugh; submit or face the royal army in battle.46

Hugh and Peter saw the wisdom in submitting and at Vendome on 16th March 1227 the rebellion ended with a number of betrothals; ‘Peter Marclerc’s daughter Yolande was now to wed a scion of France, Prince John, who was to inherit Maine and Anjou. His younger brother Alphonse would marry Isabella, daughter of Isabella of Angouleme and Count Hugh of Lusignan. Another Isabella, Blanche’s only daughter, would marry another Hugh, the son of Count Hugh. Thus three royal children were betrothed to three of the rebel barons’ children’.Blanche therefore was able to suppress the rebellion, achieve peace and secure the loyalty of the rebels through future marriages without spilling blood; few could have escaped such a predicament so unscathed. This was a mere glimpse of the political potential Blanche had at her command as regent, a position she would retain until the marriage of Louis IX to Marguerite of Provence on 27th May 1234. During this time Blanche’s actions earned her the love, trust and respect of the common people. When a plot was uncovered to kidnap the young king from her and was unable to summon any loyal vassals to her aid, Blanche appealed directly to the people of Paris and pleaded for their help. Their response made a great impression on all who witnessed it; ‘all the way from Montlhery to Paris, the road was thronged with people, armed and unarmed, all loudly praying Christ to give him [Louis IX] health and long life, and to defend and keep him from his enemies.’Blanche and Louis never forgot this gracious act and would later reward the city of Paris for its great public show of loyalty.

When Peter of Brittany refused the summons of his king during the Christmas of 1228, Blanche and Louis personally led a siege upon Peter’s lands; as the army fell upon Belleme, Blanche was wise enough to order the surrounding forests be cut down and burned in large fires, keeping the soldiers warm and less restless. This earned Blanche the respect and love of her soldiers, who knowing that their queen cared for each and every one of them, were more than happy to march for weeks and months on end and fight for her cause; in this case, the army led Blanche to another victory over Peter of Brittany. Taking advantage of Henry’s yearning to recapture the lands taken from the English, namely Normandy, Anjou and Maine, Peter went to England and invited Henry III to invade along with the support of the Counts of Burgundy, Bar, Boulogne and Nevers. The king of England landed at St Malo at Easter 1230, but found the majority of Peter’s allies had defected to Blanche’s side and quickly retreated back across the Channel.50  Blanche was able to win the support of the Catholic Church by putting an end to the Albigensian Crusade which had lasted close to twenty years. Raymond of Toulouse had earned the ire of Blanche during the battle of Castel-Sarazin by cutting off the hands of vanquished French soldiers, thus denying them entrance into Heaven according to Catholic dogmatic law.

This was an insult taken deeply by Blanche, but she did not resort to waging another battle, instead turned to more diplomatic avenues. The terms favoured the Capet dynasty heavily; Raymond’s only daughter, Jeanne, was betrothed to Blanche’s younger son, Alphonse, with their children inheriting, but should they fail to produce an heir, Toulouse would revert back to the French crown; Raymond was required to do public penance, being whipped on the steps of Notre Dame in front of the Queen, along with his solemn oath to seek out all Cathar heretics in his dominion and ‘dispose of them’. Blanche chose to diffuse her opponents through more diplomatic channels by binding them to her own family by marriage and oaths of fealty, instead of confiscating their lands, titles and privileges; she knew it was better to purchase their friendship than antagonise them further and risk a larger revolt. During her time as regent, Blanche had managed to please the common masses, the Catholic Church and placate the troublesome barons; it was a feat few had managed to do with so little bloodshed. Nevertheless Blanche still has her detractors in both her contemporary and our historical literature. Zoe Oldenbourg argues that Blanche had ‘more luck than ability’ because Blanche, as a woman, was able to ‘flaunt the conventions of chivalry whereas her opponents could not’.

Oldenbourg accuses Blanche of taking advantage of her sex, for as a woman how was she expected to know the rules of chivalry when she was never supposed to be in a position of power; Blanche could claim ignorance and use her feminine charms to induce forgiveness. Annie Forbes Bush accuses Blanche of being ungrateful towards Theobald of Champagne in the matter of the succession dispute with his niece, Alice queen of Cyprus.This dispute to the Champagne succession arose after Theobald had betrayed Blanche a number of times and whilst Bush calls this ‘ingratitude’, it was possible that Blanche was merely teaching her inconstant ally a lesson in loyalty; if he wanted his rights to be upheld, he would have to pay dearly for it. It was also possible that if Theobald’s loyalty threatened to waiver on a later date, he would stand to lose Champagne to his niece; or Blanche was ensuring that Theobald was kept close, but unable to raise another opposing force by taxing him out of his resources.

The Capgrave Chronicles of England mentions Blanche only in passing, describing the actions of her husband in his attempt to conquer England on behalf of Blanche’s claim during the demise of her uncle, King John, in 1216.56 The Life of St Hugh of Lincoln deals directly with Blanche, but only on one occasion immediately after her wedding in 1200 when a melancholy had overcome her; Prince Louis appeal to the Bishop of Lincoln personally and was rewarded with a visit that cheered up the young princess.Only the Memoirs of the Lord of Joinville feature Blanche heavily; the chronicle was by a Champagne nobleman, Jean de Joinville, the seneschal of Theobald of Champagne and the lifelong friend of Louis IX. The work was commissioned around 1305 by Jeanne de Blois (1273-1305), the queen regnant of Navarre, queen consort of France and Louis IX’s great-granddaughter; Joinville had personally witnessed Louis’ activities during the Eighth Crusade and had even testified for the papal inquiry into the canonisation of the French king. However considering the closeness of Joinville to the king himself and having been commissioned by Louis’ descendant who also happened to be the queen of France, there was little possibility that the work would reflect Louis’ life in a negative way; it was in Joinville’s interest and perhaps his personal wish to glorify the saintly king. Unfortunately for Queen Jeanne, she died four years before the work was completed in 1309 and Joinville dedicated his labour of love to the late queen’s son, Louis X (1289-1316), the new king of Navarre, Count of Champagne and Joinville’s liege lord.

Matthew Paris’ Chronica Majora contains several references to Blanche in allowing the safe and protected passage of other royals through France, her arranged privilege of entering a Cistercian order and in negotiations securing peace in France, but Paris still mainly identifies her as Louis VIII’s wife and/or Louis IX’s mother. This continual linking to the male members of her family in some ways detracts from Blanche’s efforts as the regent of France, but it also reinforced her right to the position in the first place; it would appear to be a double edged sword for although her efforts would be remembered it would only be due to who her husband and son were and little more than that. However Blanche appears to have earned the respect of Matthew Paris, for on Blanche’s death in 1252, he praised her abilities as a regent and ruler, despite the limitations of her gender, describing her ‘a woman in sex, but a man in counsels, one worthy to be compared with Semiramis’.Paris references Blanche’s piety on several occasions throughout his Chronicle describing her as ‘that venerable and well-beloved servant of the Lord’60 and labelling her as ‘a memorable example of humility for all ages to all nobles and especially to women’.

Matthew Paris was in fact an English monk from the St Albans Abbey who became the ‘official recorder of events’ filling the vacancy left by Roger of Wendover. Vaughan states that from the time he took his religious habit in 1217 to the beginnings of his Chronicle in 1247, it is known that he was present at the marriage of Henry III to Eleanor of Provence in 1236 and was at Westminster in late 1247 where it was noted that the king was aware of Paris’ recordings. Vaughan has compiled a list of ‘known friends and informants’ which includes Henry III, his wife Queen Eleanor and his brother Richard of Cornwall, amongst many other ecclesiastical, courtier and lay individuals; neither Blanche nor Louis IX appear on that list.Whilst Paris does make an official voyage to Haakon IV of Norway with correspondence from Louis IX of France, trying to persuade the Scandinavian king take the cross64, there does not appear to be any other contact, by sight or letter, between Paris and the French royal family.

However Vaughan states that throughout the Chronica Majora, Paris displays ‘much praise and sympathy for Hubert de Burgh; and he admired, among others, Edmund Rich and John Blund; Richard Fishacre and Robert Bacon; and Blanche, queen of France’; of all the kings, nobles and prelates who could have been on that list, Blanche is included as the only woman, the only queen and the only regent. It is worth noting that Vaughan places Henry III of England on Paris’ disliked list; which would indicate that although Paris was English, he would appear that he did not let any potential allegiance to his native culture have any influence his official recordings. Paris appears to give credit when credit was due, basing his opinions on their actions and not taking into account whether they were local or foreign, man or woman.

I am currently halfway through my dissertation for my masters. My topic is looking at the differences between contemporary reputation and historical representation in regards to Blanche of Castile, queen of France; and Margaret of Anjou, queen of England. Both of these women were married as the result of peace treaties between France and England, both were regents of their new country and both were fierce defenders of their son’s inheritance.

I am analysing the bias in contemporary sources like chronicles of respective countries; who the chronicle was written by, why was the chronicle written, what was the contemporary attitude towards females in positions of power in their respective countries. I am also analysing how the changes in attitudes towards females in positions of power have been reflected in subsequent historical publications regarding both Blanche and Margaret.

For those who are not familiar with Blanche of Castile, she was born in Palancia, Castile, Spain in March 1188 as the daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Princess Eleanor of England. She married Prince Louis Capet of France in May 1200 and later became the queen of France in 1223 for three years. She became regent upon the death of her husband, Louis VIII, in 1226 for her son, Louis IX, who was 12 at the time.  During her time as regent, Blanche put down rebellions, religious crusades and nobles. Her son, Louis VIII, and her daughter, Isabella, both became saints of the Catholic Church.

For those who are not familiar with Margaret of Anjou, she was born in Lorraine, France in March 1429 as the daughter of Rene I of Anjou and Isabella I of Lorraine. She married Henry VI of England in April 1445, immediately becoming the queen of England. She tried to become regent when her husband retreated into a vegetative state for a number of months. As the mother of the prince of Wales, Margaret believed she was the right person to assume such a position; unfortunately the English nobles thought otherwise. Their squabbling led to civil war throughout England. In the end, her husband was captured and deposed, her son was killed in battle and Margaret herself was ransomed to the French.