Marguerite of France
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Many people have heard of Eleanor of Castile, Edward I's famous Spanish bride, a great-great-granddaughter of Alienor of Aquitaine, but less have heard about Marguerite of France. Find out about the incredible life of Edward's second bride and her what she did for two English Kings...
Marguerite was a daughter of Philip III of France and his second queen, Marie of Brabant. After the death of her father when she was three, Marguerite was brought up in the court of her brother, Philip IV, under the guidance of her mother and Jeanne of Navarre (Philip IV's wife and queen). At the treaty of Montreuil in 1299, the marriage contract between seventeen-year-old Marguerite and sixty-year-old Edward I was ratified, and they travelled to Canterbury for the wedding. Since Edward, unlike his predecessors wasn't intent on crushing the French, also at the treaty of Montreuil, the betrothal of Isabella and Edward of Caernarfon occurred, trying to keep the peace between the kingdoms. Marguerite almost immediately became pregnant after the wedding, and soon gave birth to a son named Thomas. A second child named Edmund was born the following year, and a daughter named Eleanor who died young. So in that sense, the marriage was a complete success, having been made to secure the succession (Eleanor of Castile had had at least sixteen children, but Edward was the only surviving son). Edward I appears to have cared for Marguerite, despite their age difference, and Marguerite had a good relationship with his children by Eleanor of Castile, particularly Edward, who corresponded with her constantly in 1305, mainly asking her to intervene with his father.
Marguerite appears to have been a lively character, enjoying hunting and riding even while she was in later stages of pregnancy. She seems to have been happy in her reign as Queen Consort of England (although she never got crowned due to financial issues), until 1307 when Edward I became so ill that he couldn't rise from his bed, and on 7th July he died at Burgh-on-Sands. Almost as soon as Edward I died, there was turmoil, as the new king summoned the infamous Piers Gaveston from exile and gave him the royal earldom of Cornwall, a position that Marguerite was expecting to go to one of her sons. Edward II then married the favourite to his niece, Margret de Clare, daughter of his sister Joan and Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. Edward also failed to conduct his fathers funeral as had been requested, showing that he was not inclined to respect his fathers memory or honour it.
At the time of Edward's death, Marguerite was only twenty-five (or twenty-six depending on the source), and of a perfectly eligible age to remarry, yet she chose to stay in England, to support her twelve-year-old niece, Isabella who she was now allied with. This also shows perhaps a need for her to protect her interests, and a genuine love for her deceased elderly husband. In January 1308, Isabella and Edward were married at Our Lady of Boulogne, which Marguerite attended, as well as her brother, Philip IV and mother Marie, in a ceremony that lasted for nine days. When the new couple were back in England, Edward refused to declare his terms about the lands that Isabella would receive, as Marguerite was still in possession of the Queen's dower lands so Edward was supposed to make a separate provision. After the coronation (which was a disaster after being organised by Gaveston) Marguerite went to her castle in Marlborough, which could be seen as abandoning her young, lonely niece, but trying to appear neutral on a complex stage.
However, Marguerite did play a part in the following chapter of history, as she was involved in trying to exile Gaveston with the help of the earls of Lincoln and Pembroke, and her brother Philip who was shocked with the treatment of his sister Isabella. This succeeded and Gaveston was exiled, although Edward made him Lieutenant of Ireland, where he siphoned off funds for himself until he was allowed back a year later. In August 1311, Edward was presented with a list of forty-one injunctions in Westminster, one of them forcing Gaveston into exile again (in November). By Christmas, Gaveston was back in Westminster. One 19 June 1312, Gaveston was executed on Blacklow Hill, ending that chapter for Marguerite, Isabella and Edward. There was a lot that I could've written about Gaveston, between Christmas and his execution, but I have decided not to, as this is about Marguerite.
Marguerite spent some of Isabella's only pregnancy with her, and on November 13, she assisted Isabella in the birth of her son, Prince Edward. For the rest of her life, Marguerite lived in Marlborough, and died in retirement in 1318, aged only around thirty-eight.
She was a woman who seemed to be content with her lot in life, marrying a man who was over forty years older than her and being happy in the marriage. Her part in the beginning of Edward's reign was important, she helped when she was needed and supported the country that she had come to in marriage, and not retiring to her place of birth to re-marry instead.
A short one following Last Weeks long and depressing one. I hope you still enjoyed it though!
Queen Consort by Lisa Hilton
A Great and Terrible King by Marc Morris
Images courtesy of Wikipedia