Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Berengaria of Navarre

Berengaria of Navarre
Queen of England

Berengaria was the Queen of Richard I of England. A Princess of Navarre, Berngaria was the daughter of Sancho VI of Navarre. She was said the have been very beautiful and well educated. It was said that Berengaria saw and fell in love with Richard when he was still a prince attending a tournament held by her father. It was as a result of this first "meeting" that she became affianced/betrothed to Richard, to whom she was devoted.

Richard's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine travelled to Navarre to escort Berengaria to Sicily to join Richard, who had already arrived with the Crusade. There Berengaria was left in care of Joanne/Joanna Plantaganet, widow of King William II of Sicily and Richard's sister. With Joanna, Berengaria travelled by ship toward the Holy Land - but fate stepped in, and the fleet that carried the two women was shipwrecked off the coast of Cyprus. Here they were treated with base discourtesy by the usuper Isaac Comnenus.

Richard arrived with the rest of the Crusader fleet and rescued the two women from certain dishonour. Richard and Berengaria were married in Limassol, Cyprus (1191). After the wedding, Berengaria followed Richard to Holy Land, and stayed in Acre with Joanna. After the failure of Third Crusade, Berengaria set sail, reaching Aquitaine (Poitou) ahead of Richard. It was from here that she learned of Richard's capture and imprisonment, and it was here that she remained during Richard's imprisonment (1192 - 1194), helping to raise the enormous ransom.

Berengaria never went to England - she is the only know Queen of England never to have actually stepped foot in England. When Richard was freed four years later and returned to England to be re-crowned, Berengaria remained in Aquitaine. There was said to have been some marital disharmony - she had to put up with the snide rumours of Richard's alleged homosexuality (though he did father a son). Berengaria was reconciled to Richard on Continent (1196), and from this point onwards they were never parted for long. There were no children from this marriage. When Richard died in France, Berengaria was present at his death (1198). So devoted to Richard, Berengaria never remarried. Instead she entered a convent, and from then-on devoted her life and (considerable) income to charitable works. Berengaria built the Abbey at L'Epau, where she was buried after her death.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 - Women of History)

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