The Last Will of Henry V & the Inheritance of an Empire

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Henry V was not supposed to die on August 31, 1422. Not when he was only his 30s, not when his son was than a year old, and not when England was establishing a dual empire inclusive of France. The death itself was a national tragedy, one which would have had a huge impact on the health and viability of his successor’s reign regardless, but it was it was his final will and last-minute codicils that first drew the battle lines against which England found itself fighting for the next 60+ years.

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When Eleanor of Aquitaine Was Queen of France

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Eleanor of Aquitaine is now known as a Medieval heroine thanks to the independent holding of her  inheritance and her actions during the last years of her husband’s and sons’ reigns. For me, I’m mostly impressed that she’s the only woman in  history to have been queen of both France and England – throw a 12th century divorce into the mix, a stint of imprisonment and a few goes at regency and it makes for such a notable life that it’s not surprising she’s still relatively well-known today. We’ve covered already Eleanor’s divorce from Louis VII of France and the first several years of her marriage to Henry II of England, but today we’re going to go back a bit further to her tenure as queen of France.

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A Highly Convenient Match: Thomas of Clarence & Margaret Holland

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On March 16, 1410, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset passed away at the Hospital of St Katherine’s near the Tower of London. Half-brother to King Henry IV, he was the eldest son born from the union of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his third wife, Katherine Swynford. He left behind a widow, Margaret Holland, Countess of Somerset, and six children who spanned the ages (roughly) of nine to infancy. His parents already deceased, the protection of John’s heirs and the success of the Beaufort name fell to his two younger brothers, Henry and Thomas Beaufort, who had already forged successful careers in the Church and military, respectively, and were deeply enmeshed in the King’s government.

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Charles & Camilla Tour Nice & Lyon

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I do love a good royal tour and thank God for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, because we’re not going to get another joint trip out of the Cambridges this year thanks to the arrival of Prince Louis. Just one month after a visit to Australia, the couple are in the middle of five-day trek to France and Greece. In fact, they’re kicking off the second leg today, but before we cover that later this week I want to capture their last couple days in Nice and Lyon.

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When Marguerite of Anjou Arrived in England

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Marguerite of Anjou is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting queen consorts in England’s history. Her marriage, however, started as a glorified insurance policy for her uncle, Charles VII, and resulted in one of the most controversial and dramatic public careers a woman in 15th century Europe ever held. We’ve covered Marguerite on this site a few times, from rumors of her infidelity to her political maneuvers when her husband “went mad” to her mysterious childhood prior to joining French court as a teenager, to name but a few. Today we’re going to get into how it was that she became Henry VI’s wife and the very direct way in which that led to the later civil war that toppled them from their thrones.

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The Early Years of Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine

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Eleanor of Aquitaine stands as one of the most recognizable names from the Middle Ages. For those who know a bit about her, her status as an heiress in her own right might come to mind, as might her rather shocking divorce from the king of France. In fact, the period of time that truly solidified Eleanor’s reputation for the better came much later in life, after the death of her husband, Henry II, and while her son, Richard I, sat on the throne. Her efficient administration and tireless survey of his estates, combined with her famous beauty and colorful past, helped cement her status as a woman worth knowing. Yet, a significant chunk of time in-between, the period of her second marriage and when she was in fact the queen of England, was altogether quieter in its early years.

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The Much-Detested Eleanor of Provence

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Eleanor of Provence came in the middle of a string of unpopular queen consorts. Her mother-in-law, Isabelle of Angouleme, deserted her English children after King John’s death and married her daughter’s betrothed, Hugh X of Lusignan. Her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Castile, married the future Edward I as a young teenager but never bothered to learn English and despised interacting with her husband’s subjects. Back a generation further and you have Eleanor of Aquitaine who never believed the English were as sophisticated or interesting as the French, and a generation down you have Isabelle of France who staged a coup against Edward II with her lover.

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The Child Queen, Isabelle of Valois

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Isabelle of Valois was born on November 9, 1389 to Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria. Though she would eventually become the eldest of her parents’ children to reach adulthood, at the time of her birth she joined an older sister, Jeanne, and followed a son, Charles, who died as an infant. Jeanne died in 1390 and was followed by another Jeanne in 1391, Charles in 1392, Marie in 1393 and Michelle in 1395. These would make up the siblings that Isabelle grew up with before her first marriage.

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The Orleans at the Palais Royal

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A few weeks ago we covered the 1644 flight of Henrietta Maria of France from England to France in the middle of the Civil War. Her departure came on the heels of giving birth to her ninth and final child, a daughter she named Henrietta Anne (“Minette”). The Princess remained in England under the care of guardians for two years until she was spirited out of the country in the summer of 1646 to join her mother in France.

Her escape was like something from an adventure novel – the trusted noblewoman put in charge of her, Lady Dalkeith, disguised herself as a hunchbacked French peasant and passed off Minette as a boy named Pierre. Aided by servants who waited three days to sound the alarm that they were gone, the two managed to leave the country unscathed despite Minette’s insistence on telling everyone they encountered that her name wasn’t Pierre, but “Princess,” and her real clothes were much nicer. A girl after my own heart.

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