Eleanor of England

Eleanor of England

Eleanor of England (also called Eleanor Plantagenet1 and Eleanor of Leicester) (* 1215 in Gloucester; † 13. April 1275 at Montargis Abbey, France) was the youngest child of King John of England and Isabelle of Angouleme.

Early life

At the time of Eleanor's birth, King John's London was conquered and Queen Isabella was in shame. He had been forced to sign the Magna Carta. Eleanor would never meet her father, as he died at Newark Castle when she was barely a year old. The French, led by Philip II of France, were marching through the south. The only lands loyal to her brother, Henry III, were in the middle and southwest. The barons ruled the north, but they united with the royalists under William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, who protected the young king, and Philip was defeated.

William Marshal died in 1219 and Eleanor was promised to his son, also named William. They were married on April 23,1224 at New Temple Church in London. The younger William was 34 and Eleanor only nine. He died in London on April 6, 1231, days before their 7th anniversary. There were no children of this marriage. The widowed Eleanor swore a holy oath of chastity in the presence of Edmund Rich, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Simon de Montfort

Seven years later, she met Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. According to Matthew Paris, Simon was attracted to Eleanor's beauty and elegance as well as her wealth and high birth. They fell in love and married secretly on January 7, 1238 at the King's chapel at Westminster Palace. Her brother King Henry later alleged that he only allowed the marriage because Simon had seduced Eleanor. The marriage was controversial because of the oath Eleanor had sworn several years before to remain chaste. Because of this, Simon made a pilgrimage to Rome seeking papal approval for their union. Simon and Eleanor would have seven children:
#Henry de Montfort (November 1238-1265)
#Simon the younger de Montfort (April 1240-1271)
#Amaury de Montfort, Canon of York (1242/1243-1300)
#Guy de Montfort, Count of Nola (1244-1288)
#A daughter, born and died in Bordeaux between 1248 and 1251.
#Richard de Montfort (1252-1266)
#Eleanor de Montfort (1258-1282)

Simon de Montfort had the real power behind the throne, but when he tried to take the throne, he was defeated with his son at the Battle of Evesham on August 4,1265. Eleanor fled to exile in France where she became a nun at Montargis Abbey, a nunnery founded by her deceased husband's sister Amicia. She died and was buried there on April 13, 1275. Elizabeth Woodville, Queen -Consort of King Edward IV was her direct descendant.


*Maddicott, J.R. "Simon de Montfort", 1996


Eleanor appears as a major character in Sharon Kay Penman's novel "Falls the Shadow", where she is called Nell.

Eleanor is also the main character in Virginia Henley's "The Dragon and the Jewel," which tells of her life from just before her marriage to William Marshal to right before the Battle of Lewes in 1264. Her romance and marriage to Simon de Montford are very much romanticized in this novel, especially since Simon is killed the following year yet, in the book, Eleanor and Simon have only just had their first two children.

Eleanor makes a second appearance in Virginia Henley's historical romance, "The Marriage Prize." Her role in the book is that of the legal guardian to a young Marshall niece, Rosamond Marshall, who was left an orphan and lived with Simon and Eleanor de Montford until her marriage to a wealthy noble knight, Rodger de Leyburn.


*1The surname "Plantagenet" has been retrospectively applied to the male-line descendants of Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou and Empress Matilda without historical justification: it is simply a convenient, if deceptive, method of referring to people who had, in fact, no surname. The first descendant of Geoffrey to use the surname was Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York (father of both Edward IV of England and Richard III of England) who apparently assumed it about 1448.

Other women sometimes called Eleanor of England include the daughter of King Edward I of England, wife of Alfonso III of Aragon.


* Margaret Wade Labarge, N. E. Griffiths: "A Medieval Miscellany". McGill-Queen's Press 1997, ISBN 0886292905, P. 48 ( [http://books.google.de/books?id=t_Y96cWwTp4C&pg=PA48&dq=Eleanor+Countess+of+Leicester&lr=&as_brr=3&sig=ACfU3U3oqR4Sa6wQfZQPddsY1QkT2By4GQ limited online version (google books)] )
*John Fines: "Who's Who in the Middle Ages". Barnes & Nobles Publishing 1995, ISBN 1566197163 ( [http://books.google.de/books?id=WaMN7GsOqhQC&pg=PA164&dq=Eleanor+Countess+of+Leicester&lr=&as_brr=3&sig=ACfU3U28Y3Pg5Icq_jX-NujFDJkHWuykaQ limited online version(google books)] )

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