Henry was the son of King John (of Magna Carta and losing the crown jewels in the Wash fame) and he became king in a time of strife. The clash between throne and barons was not over by a long shot and overseas threats added to Henry’s woes. He wasn’t really equipped to handle the problems that came. He was only nine years old when he took the throne and was guided by ministers until he was twenty one.
Henry was pious and gentle, generous, and a lover of pomp and ceremony, ambitious but ineffective, not possessed of a strong will. That was more than made up for by his wife who was determined and a tiger when it came to protecting her children’s heritage.
Eleanor was born in 1223 in sunny Provence, one of four daughters who all married kings. She was only twelve when sent to London to marry a man whom she had never met. He was her senior by fourteen years. By all accounts, Eleanor was a beauty, skilled at poetry, clever, and fashionable, and she grew into a determined, strong-willed woman. She would have made a stronger ruler than her husband, but remained his devoted helpmeet and loyal supporter. While he was away in Normandy she raised troops from her native France to beat back a rebellion by Simon de Montfort.
An account of her wedding attire says that she wore a shimmering gold gown with ermine lined sleeves. Her dress was pulled in at the waist and fell to the floor in large pleats. She was attended by many of her relatives who remained in England with her, granted large estates and positions of power. This was naturally resented by the barons and the beginning of Londoners’ hatred of her. She detested them back.
Henry’s lack of popularity didn’t affect his longevity as ruler. He was king for 56 years. When he died in 1272 he was succeeded by his son Edward I. Eleanor remained Dowager Queen for twelve years before deciding to retire to a convent.
Eleanor died in 1291 and was buried near Salisbury. Her heart was taken to the Franciscan priory and buried there. The exact location of Eleanor’s burial is unknown and she is the only English queen to lie in an unmarked grave.