Henry’s younger sisters

Henry III had an incredible 24 siblings, of which 10 were his father’s illegitimate offspring and 9 were the children of his mother’s second marriage. Of the 5 children begot by his parents together, the two oldest were boys, Henry and Richard, followed by three girls: Joan, Isabella, and Eleanor. Henry was exceptionally close to his sisters and today is a good day to remember them.
Joan was born in 1210. As the eldest daughter, the early part of her life was dominated by her future marriage to the count of La Marche. It was called off when her recently widowed mother married the count instead. Joan then wed the king of Scotland, but their failure to produce an heir led to Joan’s isolation and unhappiness in the north. Henry helped by giving her property in England and encouraging friendship between her and his new bride, Eleanor of Provence. The two queens went on a pilgrimage together and Joan was still in England when she died on March 4th, 1238, held in the arms of her brothers Henry and Richard.
Isabella was born in 1214. She was often paired with Henry in marriage negotiations designed to create a continental alliance against France. In 1230, she accompanied her brother on his Breton expedition, but took sick while at sea. Henry ordered part of the fleet to divert to the Isle of Jersey until his sister got better. Isabella was 20 years old when the Holy Roman Emperor chose her to be his third wife. Her brothers accompanied her to the coast for a final, tearful farewell. In 1241, Richard visited her in Sicily on his return from crusade. She was pregnant with her third child but did not survive the birth on December 1st of that year. Heartbroken, Henry had 100,000 paupers fed in her memory.
Eleanor was born in 1215 or 1216. She was married around the age of 9 to William Marshall II but did not share a household with him until she was 14. They were childless when he died suddenly in 1231. Only 16 at the time, Eleanor took a vow of celibacy, which she broke when smooth-talking Frenchman Simon de Montfort entered her life. Henry allowed them to get married, infuriating Richard and other nobles, but Simon betrayed the king’s trust and their friendship never recovered. Eleanor and her sister-in-law Queen Eleanor did their best to reconcile their husbands, but by 1261 Simon was in open rebellion. After his defeat and death, Eleanor and their five surviving children lived in exile. No word passed between her or her brothers, even after her sons brutally murdered Richard’s son in Italy. She died on April 13th, 1275.

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