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Blanche of Castile

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Dates: March 4, 1188 - November 12, 1252

Occupation:

  • Queen of France, 1223-1226; Queen Mother 1226-1252
  • regent of France 1226-1234 and 1248-1252
  • queen consort of King Louis VIII of France
  • mother of King Louis IX of France (St. Louis)

Also known as: Blanche De Castille, Blanca De Castilla

About Blanche of Castile:

In 1200, the French and English kings, Philip Augustus and John, signed a treaty which gave a daughter of John's sister, Eleanor, Queen of Castile, as bride to Philip's heir, Louis.

John's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, traveled to Spain to look over her two granddaughters, daughters of Eleanor of England and King Alfonso VIII. She decided that the younger, Blanche, was more suited for the marriage than the year-older Urraca. Eleanor of Aquitaine returned with the 12-year-old Blanche, who was married to the 13-year-old Louis.

Blanche as Queen:

Accounts of the time indicate that Blanche loved her husband. She delivered twelve children, five of whom lived to adulthood.

In 1223, Philip died, and Louis and Blanche were crowned. Louis went to southern France as part of the first Albigensian crusade, to suppress the Cathari, a heretical sect that had become popular in that area. Louis died of dysentery which he contracted on the trip back. His last order was to appoint Blanche of Castile as the guardian of Louis IX, their remaining children, and "the kingdom."

Mother of the King:

Blanche had her oldest surviving son crowned as Louis IX on November 29, 1226. She put down a revolt, reconciling (in a story with chivalric tones) with Count Thibault, one of the rebels. Henry III supported the rebelling barons, and Blanche's leadership, with the help of Count Thibault, put down that revolt as well. She also took action against ecclesiastical authorities and a group of rioting university students.

Blanche of Castile continued in a strong role even after Louis' 1234 marriage, taking an active role in selecting his bride, Marguerite of Provence. Granted dower lands in Artois as part of the original treaty that brought her to her marriage, Blanche was able to trade those lands for ones closer to Louis' court in Paris. Blanche used some of her dower income to pay dowries for poor girls, and to fund religious houses.

Regent:

When Louis and his three brothers all went on crusade to the Holy Land, Louis selected his mother, at age 60, to be regent. The crusade went badly: Robert of Artois was killed, King Louis captured, and his very pregnant Queen Marguerite and, then, her child, had to seek safety in Damietta and Acre. Louis raised his own ransom, and decided to send his surviving two brothers home while remaining in the Holy Land.

Blanche, during her regency, backed an ill-fated shepherd's crusade, and had to order the destruction of the resulting movement.

Death of Blanche:

Blanche of Castile died in November, 1252, with Louis and Marguerite still in the Holy Land, not to return until 1254. Louis never accepted Marguerite as the strong advisor his mother had been, despite Marguerite's efforts in that direction.

Blanche's daughter, Isabel (1225-1270) was later recognized as Saint Isabel of France. She founded the Abbey of Longchamp, connected with the Franciscans and Poor Clares.

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Louis VIII of France (married 1200)
  • children who survived to adulthood (of 12):
    1. 1214: Louis IX, fifth child, first to survive
    2. 1216: Robert, Count of Artois
    3. Alphonse of Poitiers
    4. Saint Isabel of France
    5. Charles of Anjou (Charles I of Sicily)

Ancestors:

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