Sure, you might have a brother who is captain of the football team. Or even a sister who thinks she’s the next Adele. But how about having not one, not two, but THREE sisters who were all queens? Not prom queens. Not dancing queens. I mean crown wearing, butt kicking, cloak and dagger queens.
Meet Beatrice, fourth daughter of the Count and Countess of Provençe.
Beatrice was a lovely girl. Just like her other sisters she was well-educated. Because of her status as youngest, she was also spoiled and had been trained to rule her future inheritance, Provence. You see, even in the 1200s, the south of France was quite forward thinking. Women could actually inherit and administer their properties. GASP!
Her eldest sister, Marguerite, was considered patient and intelligent. Due to some political wheeling and dealing, she was wed to 19-year-old Louis IX, King of France. The day after the ceremony, she was crowned.
(A little advice from me to you) Welcome to your new life, sweetheart. Are you familiar with your mother-in-law, Blanche, the White Queen? Let’s just say she likes to be involved. Just like any decent stage mother.
Hope you didn’t plan to spend a lot of time with that new husband. Maman is going to keep him so close to her that you won’t have a shot at having that royal heir you require until a decade has passed. That’s okay. It’ll give you plenty of time to think of excuses to NOT go on that second crusade with Louis. The one that ended all French crusades.
So, everything was great. Except, Marguerite wanted Beatrice’s inheritance.
Eleanor was the second oldest. She was bold. She was competitive. She knew what she wanted and was determined to get it, come hell or high water! What she got was the King of England, Henry III. They wed when he was 28. She was 13. Henry doted on his child Queen, and she delivered a son, Edward, two years later. Life was good, except for that competitive thing, which kept her pretty busy hustling behind the scenes. And the fact they were a bit strapped for cash led to even more hustling behind the scenes.
Eleanor, I suppose no one mentioned that your husband doesn’t really get along with his vassals? Yeah, you might want to prepare for a lot of rebellion, civil war, lies and general craftiness. At least you’re up to the task.
The woman was more tenacious than a bloodhound. Plus, she wanted Beatrice’s inheritance too.
The third sister, Sanchia, was considered the most beautiful. Sanchia was a shy, patient creature. Thirty-one year old Richard of Cornwall, on his way to the crusade, fell in love with 13-year-old Sanchia and married her when he returned 4 years later. Did I mention she was patient?
Wait! No crown? Not yet, sweetie! But in just 13 short years, Sanchia, your hubby will be elected king of Germany. Viel gluck with that. Sure Marguerite and Eleanor will let you sit at the fast kids table on the dais now, but you were built for comfort, not speed. Your husband, restless for power, is going to wag his sword at people and leave you behind, not even returning for your funeral. Oh, plus he’s going to start giving your stuff away before you’re even actually dead. The good news? You lived to be 33. And a queen.
And that brings us back to Beatrice. Spoiled, sought-after Beatrice. Her sisters weren’t the only ones who wanted her inheritance. Certain gentlemen around the world thought Provence as desirable as the young lady. So desirable, there were attempts to steal Beatrice away and claim her, uhm, hand. Or land. Whichever.
Luckily, her brother-in-law, the King of France, sent help in the form of his unwed 19-year-old brother. Charles of Anjou rescued Beatrice from a castle siege. How could they NOT fall in love? A real knight in shining armor rides in and saves you? Fall in love and don’t ask questions.
Now Beatrice was the only sister not allowed at the “Queens’” table. Not only do the elder sisters want her children’s inheritance, they’re mean. Bea is angry. She’s insulted. She’s going to stomp her little silk clad foot and pout winningly. That’s when Charles lets her in on a little secret. “I will soon make you a greater queen than them.”
That’s right. With just a WEE bit of political manoeuvring and an acting role that should have won him an Oscar, Charles of Anjou agreed to do the Pope a solid and become King of Sicily, IF he could defeat the usurper, Manfred. “Well, if it means that much to you,” Charles sighed outwardly while inside, he shook his groove thang.
No sweat. Except, Beatrice needed to sell some or all of her jewellery to raise money for an army. Then she turned on the charm to raise the ACTUAL army. She must have been REALLY charming because not only her vassals, but many swooning Frenchmen joined the ranks. Then she led them to meet Charles in Rome. This was no joy ride. This was a death defying trip with the soldiers through the alpine passes in autumn. For 6 weeks.
But once there…
Oh, joy! OH, rapture! A crown! No more snark from older sisters. Now, Beatrice is queen in her own right. Can’t you see her standing on the ramparts? Her hair blows in the soft, Sicilian breeze as she raises a hand and shouts in the general direction of France and England. “Suck it! Ha!”
And thus did Beatrice enjoy her queen-hood for 18 months, right up until she died at the age of 35, the mother of 5 children.
What about Provence? It stayed in the family of Beatrice and Charles. WIN. In truth, through Marguerite and Eleanor, the Treaty of Paris was signed, creating long lasting peace between the French and English. Not much happened in the day that these women and their families didn’t influence. Apparently, if you can harness the energy behind sibling rivalry, you can rule the world. Or much of it.