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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Berengaria of Navarre - Queen of England

Berengaria of Navarre might be a medieval queen that you have never heard of. I had heard the name mentioned before but knew very little of her. There is a reason for that though, very little is actually known about her.

Berengaria was one of the daughters of the King of Navarre. She likely met Richard when he came to Navarre when she was a young girl and he was traveling around. They didn’t meet again until Queen Eleanor decided that this girl would be a good match for her son, now King Richard I, the Lionheart. As Richard had set out on Crusade already, Eleanor brought Berengaria to him. Historians are skeptical that this was a love match because it seems that Richard kept trying to put off the wedding. His excuse was that it was Lent and would not be prudent to host a wedding party. It is also questioned as to whether the marriage was consummated or not – the couple never did have any children during their marriage.

As this leg of the Crusade drew to a close, Richard sent his wife and his sister back ahead of him to France. As we know, Richard was captured and held hostage on his way back. After he was released, Richard headed back to England – leaving his queen in France. He tried setting things straight in England after his long absence, but didn’t seem in a hurry to recall his wife. Finally the Pope stepped in and ordered him to reunite with his wife. So he headed to get her.

Sometime after that, Richard was struck with a poisoned arrow and while on his deathbed and later at his funeral – Berengaria was not called for – and she was less than a day’s ride away. Following his death, Berengaria fought with King John for her pension and he would not give it to her. Finally after his death, his son granted her the pension. The rest of her days not much is known about. She was buried at the abbey at Le Mans, which she helped fund.

Berengaria is most known for being the only English queen to never set foot on England’s soil. It doesn’t sound to me like she had a love match, although it doesn’t sound half as bad as some other royal marriages. The marriage of Richard and Berengaria is fictionalized in the novel The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes – and she makes it sound a little more like a love match – but you definitely get to know Berengaria!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Great post! I became acquainted with Berengaria some time ago while reading Jean Plaidy's Plantagenet Saga. I felt compassion for her and anger for Richard. I think he was fond of her, but he never loved her as a wife. It must have been hard for Berengaria. Thanks for pointing out this novel! I would so like to read more about their marriage. And it would be interesting to read about some affection between them.

  2. For another fictional take on Berengaria's story, there is a book by Rachel Bard called Queen Without a Country. I have it but haven't read it yet. I think she will also factor into Sharon Kay Penman's upcoming book on Richard.

  3. What a life -- to have to have the Pope order your husband to get you? (Although maybe she preferred living without him?) Lovely post -- thanks for sharing!

  4. I had not heard of this queen. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Irena - I have the first half of the Plaidy series, but I haven't gotten to read them yet. Thanks for reminding me.

    Daphne - thanks for the recommendations - I am excited for the new Penman book.

    Audra - She might have?!

    Michelle - I think she was so interesting to read about.

  6. The Passionate Brood is the first time I had seen this alluded to as a love match, rather than a political marriage. I can't wait to read SKP's take on Richard and Berengaria.

  7. Thanks for an interesting post. I had not heard of her and realized even though I had certainly heard of King Richard I, I don't remember ever hearing anything about his having a wife or queen. How sad for her to be so much on the sidelines and evidently not accepted.

  8. LibraryPat - I was in a similar situation - I had heard of her name, but I didn't know anything about her either.

  9. Richard the Lion Heart was more interested in war than women. Some have argued that he was playing for the other team. Perhaps, but that didn't stop James I (VI of Scotland) from treating Anne of Denmark well.

    Berengaria, it is better to be estranged from an uncaring husband than live with him. You had a much better life for it!

  10. Theresa - I have heard that arguement too, and it could totally be possible. At a time when everything rested on producing male heirs you would think they would show their wives a little bit of attention and could at least treat them well, even if they have another lover. Just my opinion, lol.


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