King John’s First Marriage

King John of England (From the Historia Anglorum, Chronica majora). Artist: Paris, Matthew (c. 1200-1259)

Fun fact: Henry VIII was not the first English monarch to divorce his wife. That dubious honor goes to King John of Magna Carta fame, though it should be noted that the “divorce” was in fact an annulment and, as I’ve noted before, it was a bit of a reverse-Katherine of Aragon situation. In John’s case, he left his English wife for a brilliant foreign match and not the other way around. His motivation for doing this was, however, a situation Henry would have found familiar – he was a younger son not originally intended for the throne.

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Lionheart’s Wife: Berengaria of Navarre

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Berengaria of Navarre, wife of Richard I, is perhaps the least-known and easiest to forget queen consort in English history. Indeed, for the entirety of her husband’s reign she never once set foot in his country and without any children to anchor her to the Plantagenet dynasty, his death untethered her and easily removed her fingerprints from history. Nevertheless, her husband is one of England best-known monarchs thanks to his military prowess, his role in the Crusades and a rather catchy nickname – “the Lionheart” – that keeps his memory alive. For nearly eight years, Berengaria was his wife.

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Edward IV’s Marriage to Elizabeth Woodville in Context

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Lately I have been reading John Ashdown-Hill’s “The Private Life of Edward IV.” I’m not too far into it yet, but so far it’s been enjoyable and it’s certainly a fresh look at the King’s reign, which is usually examined through the lens of the civil war of which he reigned in the middle. Broadly, it argues that perhaps Edward IV was not quite the ladies’ man for which his reputation has given him credit.

Ashdown-Hill has gained some notoriety of late for his theory that Edward IV did, in fact, marry before his queen consort, Elizabeth Woodville, and that their children’s legitimacy was undermined. It’s an interesting argument, one that would add some nuance to Richard III’s usurpation of the throne from his nephew, Edward V. However, this post is not about the veracity of that argument or even, really, about Edward’s relationship with Elizabeth.

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Joan Plantagenet, the English Queen of Sicily

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It’s safe to say that Eleanor of Aquitaine’s five daughters have pretty much been over-shadowed by their legendary mother, but her youngest, Joan, gave her a solid run for her money. At the time of her October 1165 birth at Angers Castle in Anjou, the marriage of Eleanor and her second husband, King Henry II of England was on its last legs. Within a year, her father had begun what would become a flagrant and notorious affair with his mistress, Rosamund Clifford, and within two, her parents had seemingly agreed to separate, Eleanor packing up her belongings and leaving for Poitiers.

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