December 1251 – Eleanor and Henry’s oldest daughter, Margaret, marries Alexander III of Scotland at York.  The bride is eleven years old and totally beloved of her parents.  Few state occasions during Henry III’s reign will equal this one in splendor.

December 1245 – A secret conclave at Cluny (attended by Pope Innocent IV and the French royals) arranges to bring Beatrice of Provence into the Capetian family.  Beatrice, who had inherited Provence upon the death of Count Raymond Berenger V, is a glittering matrimonial prize—with the balance of power in the Midi hinging upon her alliance.

The Monastery at Cluny

Louis IX is highly pleased to secure Beatrice as the bride for his younger brother, Charles de Anjou (thus drawing Provence into the sphere of influence of the French crown). Henry III of England, hearing of the conclave after the fact, is furious, feeling his interests have been betrayed by Eleanor’s Savoyard relations, including Boniface of Savoy whom he had named Archbishop of Canterbury.

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December 1240 – Eleanor’s uncle and most important political advisor, Peter of Savoy, arrives in England where Henry immediately both knights and fetes him. 

Peter, known for his valor, was sometimes called “le petit Charlemagne”  He quickly became a savvy player in English politics while amassing significant wealth and power (he was created Earl of Richmond and built the SavoyPalace in London).

November 27th1252:  Louis IX of France’s beloved mother, Blanche of Castile, dies.  On her deathbed she “takes the veil” wearing it over her crown. 

Blanche of Castile at her coronation

It will take months for the French King (who is on crusade and moving from place to place in the Holy Land) to hear of the Dowager Queen’s death.  Unlike Louis, Marguerite will not be saddened by the news.

November 25th 1254:  An older (and wiser) Eleanor of Provence gives birth to her last child—a daughter Katherine—while acting as regent of England.  Henry is in Gascony.

November 23rd 1535:  Young Eleanor of Provence takes a significant step on the road to becoming Queen of England when she exchanges verba de presenti with Henry of England’s representative, Robert de Mucegros, speaking on the King’s behalf.

Tomb of Isabella of Angouleme

In October of 1254 Henry III and Eleanor of Provence receive permission from Louis IX of France to travel through his kingdom while making their way back to England from Gascony.

King Henry is eager to visit the grave of his mother, Isabella of Angoulême,  at Fontevrault Abbey.  Eleanor is excited by the prospect of seeing her sister Marguerite (Queen of France) after nearly two decades of separation.  The stage is set for a family reunion between Provencal sisters and a meeting of their royal husbands during the Christmas season.

September 29th 1240 –King Henry III of England and his queen, Eleanor of Provence, celebrate the arrival of their second child, a daughter.  This new princess is named Margaret after Eleanor’s beloved sister Marguerite, Queen of France.

Mid September 1248 – The French crusaders land in the Kingdom of Cyprus where they will winter before continuing on to the Holy Land.  King Louis IX; his queen, Marguerite of Provence; his brothers Robert and Charles and their wives all arrive on the same ship.  Pulling into port they are greeted by an overwhelming and very reassuring sight—vast quantities of supplies for their crusade.  These stores are tangible proof of the efficacy of Louis’s hard work and planning in the years before they left France.

August 25th 1248 – Almost four years after taking the cross, Louis IX of France sets sail for the Holy Land from a royal port with the inauspicious name of Aigues-Mortes (dead waters).  The king takes with him a massive army of crusaders.  Marguerite of Provence is also among the crusading party.