Marriage between equals

On this day of 14 January in 1236, Henry III and Eleanor of Provence were married in Canterbury. She was 12 to his 28, hence her almost boyish stature in the image from Matthew Paris’s chronicle. Henry delighted in his young bride and lavished gifts on her. He took her on a tour of England, including a stop in Glastonbury because Eleanor was enthralled by Arthurian romances.
 
It was a mostly successful marriage. Neither strayed, they were close to each other and their children, and queenship under Eleanor of Provence flourished in England for the first time since the Norman conquest. When Henry went abroad, he named her regent, and it was in that capacity that she summoned the first parliament with a democratic mandate.
 
Like any marriage, the rockiest issue between them was their in-laws, and that division contributed to the rise of the violence against foreigners later exploited by Simon de Montfort and the insurrectionist clergy. Eleanor remained steadfastly loyal to her husband through the troubles ahead. Unlike the two previous queens – Henry’s mother Isabella of Angouleme and grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine – she cherished her husband’s memory after his death.
 
Although Eleanor of Provence was vilified by chroniclers for being too much a woman of power and influence, and a foreigner – she was personally attacked by the mob during the riots in London in 1263 – she spent the 19 years of her widowhood in England. Her grave at Amesbury was lost during the destruction of the abbey there under Henry VIII. The effort undertaken to find Richard III’s burial site has not been repeated for her. No explanation necessary.

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