Showing Edmund

On 7 January 1238 Henry III set off a firestorm by marrying his sister Eleanor to faithful councilor Simon de Montfort in the chapel next to his private quarters at Westminster, the fabled Painted Chamber. Eleanor had been married to William Marshal II in 1224, when she was nine years old, but he suddenly died in 1231. Three years later she took a vow of chastity before the archbishop of Canterbury Edmund of Abingdon, both out of piety and as a means of ending the insurrection caused by William’s brother Richard. His gripes were many, including owing Eleanor her dower as William’s widow. Richard was killed in Ireland as peace was finally within reach under Edmund’s stern hand and his brother Gilbert was worried about that dower too, that Eleanor could take it with her to a second marriage. So she became nun, sort of. Simon meanwhile had been rebuffed in his search for a wealthy widow on the continent, no doubt at Henry’s instigation so he could shore up his alliances on the continent against Louis IX of France. Eleanor chafed under her widowhood and Simon deserved a reward, so Henry blessed them with marriage, in secret of course because everyone would disapprove, certainly Edmund. But that was the point. Edmund had humiliated Henry in the peace process by implicating him in the “murder” of Richard Marshal and Henry never forgot. It was part of a string of disappointments inflicted on the archbishop meant to show him who was king.

The Painted Chamber
The Painted Chamber

2 thoughts on “Showing Edmund”

    1. It was a watercolor made around 1800, a generation removed from the fire of 1834 that destroyed the entire medieval palace.

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