Blanche of Navarre, Queen of France

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Blanche of Navarre
Trojice Saint Denis.jpg
Blanche de Navarre and her daughter Joan in prayer in front of Saint Louis. Watercolor from a Stained glass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Évreux. Collection of François Roger de Gaignières, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 17th century.
Queen consort of France
Tenure29 January 1350 – 22 August 1350
Born1331
Died1398 (aged 66–67)
Neaufles-Saint-Martin, Normandy, France
Burial
Basilica of St Denis
Saint-Denis, France
Spouse
(m. 1350; died 1350)
IssueJoan of France
HouseÉvreux
FatherPhilip III of Navarre
MotherJoan II of Navarre
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Blanche of Navarre (French: Blanche d'Évreux; c. 1331 – 5 October 1398), was a French princess and Infanta of Navarre as a member of the House of Évreux (a cadet branch of the House of Capet) and by marriage Queen consort of France from 29 January until 22 August 1350.[1]

Blanche d'Évreux was originally supposed to marry John, Duke of Normandy and heir of the throne of France —whose first wife had just died of the Black Death—, but eventually married his father, King Philip VI of France. Only a few months after their wedding, the French monarch died prematurely and Blanche found herself a widow.

After giving birth in 1351 to a posthumous daughter, Blanche refused to remarry King Peter of Castile and retired to the large dower lands that were granted by her late husband. Despite her widowhood, she played an essential role in 1354 by attempting to reconcile her brother King Charles II of Navarre with King John II of France. In 1389 she organized the coronation of Isabeau of Bavaria, the wife of King Charles VI of France.

Life[edit]

Born around 1331,[2] Blanche was the fourth (but third surviving) child and third daughter of King Philip III and Queen Joan II of Navarre; by both sides of her paternal and maternal ancestry, she belonged to the House of Capet: her paternal grandparents were Louis, Count of Évreux (in turn the youngest son of King Philip III of France) and Margaret of Artois, and her maternal grandparents were King Louis X of France (also King of Navarre as Louis I) and his first wife Margaret of Burgundy.

Like her brothers and sisters, Blanche was used very early on in the marriage alliance policies undertaken by her parents. Thus, she was engaged on 19 August 1335 to Andrew, only son and heir of the Dauphin Humbert II of Viennois,[3] but the project was abandoned after the premature death of her fiancé two months later. Then, on 15 March 1340, was signed a marriage contract between Blanche and Louis of Male, only son and heir of Louis I, Count of Flanders, which provided for payment of a dowry of 50,000 livres for the Infanta of Navarre.[4] Once again, however, the project was nullified on 6 June 1347 by the marriage of Louis of Male to Margaret, daughter of John III, Duke of Brabant. Finally, on 1 July 1345, while still officially engaged with the heir of Flanders, was drawn up a marriage contract between Blanche and Peter, son and heir of King Alfonso XI of Castile,[5] which is nevertheless almost immediately abandoned by the Castilian court in favor of a marriage with Joan, daughter of King Edward III of England.[6]

Queenship[edit]

On 29 January 1350 at Brie-Comte-Robert, Blanche married King Philip VI of France, forty years her senior.[7] Initially, she was intended to marry John, Duke of Normandy and heir of the throne of France,[8] but, being considered as one of the most beautiful princesses of her time —which explains her nickname "Beautiful Wisdom" (French: Belle Sagesse)[9][10]— King Philip VI became captivated by her beauty and decided to marry her instead of his son, while the Duke of Normandy was marry with Blanche's first cousin Joan I, Countess of Auvergne.[11] As the chronicler Jean Le Bel recounts:

«...the father took the beautiful young damsel Blanche, whom his son had wanted as a wife. But the father would took such a liking for her for as she was so beautiful and gracious that marry her, and gave his son in marriage to the first cousin of damsel Blanche[11]

Due to the Black Death which spread throughout the kingdom, the new Queen consort of France was not crowned after the wedding ceremony. Blanche's union with King Philip VI only lasted six months, since he suddenly died on 22 August 1350, according to some chroniclers due of exhaustion from constantly fulfilling his conjugal duties. Pregnant by her late husband, Blanche gave birth nine months later, in May 1351, to a daughter named Joan.

Since the announcement of the death of King Philip VI, Pope Clement VI considering the remarriage of Blanche with her former fiance, King Peter of Castile, to strengthen the links between the Kingdoms of Castile and France. After discussing it with Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz, Archbishop of Toledo, and Pedro, Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, the Pope wrote on this subject on 5 October 1350 to Blanche's brother, King Charles II of Navarre, who had encouraged her marriage to Philip VI a few months before.[12] The marriage plan is temporarily put on hold due to Blanche's pregnancy, but the Pope insists after she gives birth. However, she refuses to consider a second marriage and is said to have even declared: "The Queens of France do not remarry" (French: Les reines de France ne se remarient point).[13] Tenacious, the pontiff wrote in March 1352 to Joan of ÉvreuxBlanche's paternal aunt and also Dowager Queen of France— in order to make her change her mind, but the widow of Philip VI resolutely rejects the papal proposal.[14]

King Charles II of Navarre is pardoned by King John II of France in 1354 thanks to the intercession of Dowager Queens Blanche of Navarre and Joan of Évreux. Miniature from the Grandes Chroniques de France, ca. 1375-1380.

Retirement[edit]

Once widowed, Blanche retired to the residence of Neaufles-Saint-Martin, located near Gisors and which her husband had granted her as her dower land. She devoted herself to the education of her daughter Joan, whose marriage contract with Infante John, Duke of Girona, son and heir of King Peter IV of Aragon was signed on 16 July 1370; unfortunately, the princess died on 16 September 1371 in Béziers in her way to Perpignan to celebrate her wedding.[15] Blanche's retirement does not prevent her from temporarily returning to the court of King John II, whom she tries to bring closer to her brother King Charles II of Navarre. Thus, after the assassination of Charles de la Cerda on 8 January 1354, she persuaded the French monarch to sign the Treaty of Mantes with the King of Navarre on 22 February of the same year.[14][16]

The presence of Blanche was influential under the reign of King Charles VI of France. On 2 October 1380 she attended the proclamation of the end of the regency of the young sovereign at the Palais de la Cité,[17] and on 18 July 1385 she welcomed his new wife Isabeau of Bavaria at Creil, and was charged with teaching the new Queen the traditions and etiquette of the French court.[18] On 22 August 1389, she organized the Joyous Entry of Queen Isabeau in Paris,[19] which preceded her coronation the next day. During the coronation ceremony in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, Blanche lends company to Charles VI with her cousin Princess Blanche of France, Duchess of Orleans, youngest daughter of King Charles IV of France and Joan of Évreux.[20] After this ceremony, Blanche withdraws to Neaufles-Saint-Martin and dies on 5 October 1398 aged 67. She was buried in the royal necropolis at the Basilica of Saint-Denis next to her daughter. Her tomb, like many other royal ones, was desecrated on 17 October 1793 by the revolutionaries.

In Literature[edit]

Blanche de Navarre is a minor character in the historical series "The Accursed Kings" (French: Les Rois maudits) by Maurice Druon. She appears in the seventh and final volume, titled When a King loses France. The author describes it as follows:

«Then there is Madame Blanche, the sister of Charles of Navarre, the second wife of Philip VI, who was only queen six months, barely enough time to get used to wearing a crown. She has the reputation of being the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. I saw it recently, and I gladly ratify this judgment. She is twenty-four now, and for six years now she has wondered what use the whiteness of her skin, her enamel eyes and her perfect body. Nature would have given her a less splendid appearance, she would be queen now, since she was destined for King John!...The late king only took her for himself because he was stabbed by her beauty. After she had, in half a year, made her husband pass from the bed to the tomb, she was proposed in marriage by the King of Castile, Don Pedro, whom his subjects nicknamed the Cruel. She sent for answers, perhaps a little quickly: "A queen of France does not remarry." She was greatly praised for this greatness. But now she wonders if it is not a very heavy sacrifice that she made for her past magnificence. The domain of Melun is her dower. She makes great embellishments there, but she can change the rugs and hangings that make up her room at Christmas and Easter; it is always alone that she sleeps there.»

— Maurice Druon, When a King loses France.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Patrick Van Kerrebrouck (2000). Les Capetiens 987-1328 (in French). Villeneuve d'Ascq. p. 184. ISBN 978-2-950-15094-3.
  2. ^ Keane 2016, p. 42.
  3. ^ Cazelles 1958, pp. 117–118.
  4. ^ Surget 2008, pp. 37–38.
  5. ^ Surget 2008, pp. 39–40.
  6. ^ Daumet 1898, pp. 16–17.
  7. ^ Keane 2016, pp. 43–44.
  8. ^ Surget 2008, pp. 44–45.
  9. ^ Narbona Cárceles 2001, p. 77.
  10. ^ Brigitte Buettner (2004). "Le système des objets dans le testament de Blanche de Navarre". Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire (in French). 19 (19). doi:10.4000/clio.644. ISSN 1777-5299.
  11. ^ a b Narbona Cárceles 2001, p. 78.
  12. ^ Mollat 1959, pp. 378–379.
  13. ^ Bearne 1898, p. 176.
  14. ^ a b Mollat 1959, p. 380.
  15. ^ Keane 2016, pp. 2–3.
  16. ^ Jean-Marc Cazilhac (2011). Jeanne d'Évreux, Blanche de Navarre – Deux reines de France, deux douairières durant la Guerre de Cent ans (in French). Paris: Éditions L'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-296-13190-3.
  17. ^ Autrand 1986, p. 19.
  18. ^ Autrand 1986, p. 158.
  19. ^ Autrand 1986, p. 231.
  20. ^ Autrand 1986, pp. 236–237.

Bibliography[edit]

General[edit]

Biographical studies[edit]

Testament patronage and material culture[edit]

External links[edit]

Blanche of Navarre, Queen of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: c. 1331 Died: 1398
French royalty
Preceded by
Queen consort of France
1350
Succeeded by