Usually when we think of Edward I’s queen we think of Eleanor of Castile. However the grief-stricken widower married again. Initially he planned to marry Philip III’s daughter Blanche but she was married elsewhere to the Duke of Austria in fact. In her place, Philip IV offered the king his young half-sister Marguerite. Edward was so disgruntled about the loss of his potential bride that he went to war, or so the story goes. Five years later, following negotiations the sixty year old king married Marguerite. It’s more likely that the protracted negotiations had to do with who would hold Gascony. It was all that remained of the Angevin empire and Edward wished to keep hold of it but the French had other ideas.
However, the couple finally tied the knot in 1299. There was a forty-year age difference. They were married in Canterbury and then Edward hurried back to Scotland to pursue his military campaign but not before Marguerite became pregnant. Her first child, Thomas, was born a year after her marriage in Brotherton in Yorkshire.
Marguerite – presumably fed up of being deserted in London by her groom- hastened north to join the king. It was the start of a mutually loving relationship. When her sister Blanche died, Edward tried to lighten her distress by having the whole court go into mourning. There are also letters which show his concern for his young wife’s health. They had three children, one of whom was called Eleanor after Edward’s first queen which just goes to show how understanding Marguerite must have been. She even attended masses and memorial services for Edward’s first wife. She also became friends with her step-children and interceded with the king on more than one occasion on behalf of folk who’d irritated him. She even managed to soothe Edward’s anger against the man who hid the crown used by Robert Bruce. No wonder her English subjects called her ‘The Pearl of France.”
Her desire to be loved and liked may have had some negative side effects though. The king gave her wardships worth £4000 so that she could pay her debts, a quarter of which seems to have been with an Italian cloth merchant….so a well-dressed lady. Whatever her methods she and her husband had a genuinely loving relationship and she steered a delicate course across the treacherous waters of Anglo-French relations which remained difficult during this period.
When Edward died, Marguerite proclaimed “When Edward died, all men died for me.” She retreated to Marlborough Castle after the coronation of her step-son which was unfortunate. Her niece Isabella – to be known in history as the ‘she-wolf of France’ arrived in England as Edward III’s new bride and at that time the barely adolescent Isabella could have done with a bit of loving help from her diplomatic and much-loved aunt.
Marguerite died just ten years after her king.