Henry’s three sisters

Henry III had three younger sisters. They had exceptionally close relationships, and the two sisters that had children, Isabella and Eleanor, named their eldest sons after him (as did their brother Richard, giving Henry three nephews named Henry). The most famous and long-lived of the sisters was the youngest Eleanor, who the king went out on a limb for by allowing her to marry Simon de Montfort even though she had taken a vow of chastity. Was Henry ever to rue that day. He saw Isabella for the last time in 1235 when she left to marry the Holy Roman Emperor  Frederick II. Says Roger Wendover: ‘It was not without weeping that brother and sister, the king and empress, parted.’ After she died in childbirth in 1241, Henry had a 100,000 paupers fed in her memory. Henry’s eldest sister Joan was taken to Poitou when she was 4 to secure an alliance with the count of La Marche. It was her mother Isabella of Angoulȇme who eventually married the count, and Joan was married instead to Alexander II of Scotland in June 1221. She was about 11 or at ‘a very tender age’, says the Lanercost chronicler, who also noted that she grew up to be a beauty. Her inability to have children with Alexander led to her isolation in the north. In 1235, she came south on a pilgrimage to Canterbury and spent Christmas with her brother and the court at Westminster, leading Matthew Paris to acidly suggest that she should go home to her husband. She seems to have been in no hurry to see Alexander again and didn’t. She took ill and died on this day (late) of 4 March in 1238, in the arms of her two brothers. Henry had splendid tomb built for her and honored her memory thereafter. Alexander immediately started looking for a new wife.

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