Blanche of Castile

Blanche of Castile – The Morgan Library & Museum, MS m. 240, fol. 8. Image Credit: The Morgan Library & Museum.

By Louise Gay

Daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Leonor of Plantagenet, Blanche married the future Louis VIII of France in 1200 as part of a peace treaty concluded between the kings John “Lackland” of England and Philip “August” of France.

As princess then Capetian queen consort she supported the military operations of her husband, especially the invasion of England (1216-1217) justified through her alleged rights as a granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

After the death of Louis VIII in 1226, she assumed the first female regency of the realm and successfully fought against the great vassals of the kingdom to support the rights of her son Louis IX but also to defend her own position.

As dowager queen, she managed to establish a form of co-rulership with her son for whom she acted as a main diplomat and advisor, using her kinship and information networks, before being appointed regent for the second time during the Seventh crusade until her death in 1252.

These political and military successes earned her an ambiguous yet particularly lasting reputation in both medieval and modern accounts, making her one of the most well-known medieval French queens.

Portrayed as a virtuous virago and celebrated for her motherhood by royal partisans throughout centuries, Blanche has been simultaneously presented on the contrary as a wicked foreign woman trying to supplant men by many of her contemporary opponents and their successors.

Indeed, the hostile pamphleteer campaign launched against her first regency is considered to be one of the first known manifestations of public opinion in France.

The following post may be of interest: Book Review: Blanche of Castile by Lindy Grant.

Recommended Reading

Elie Berger, Histoire de Blanche de Castille : reine de France (Paris, 1895)

Gérard Sivéry, Blanche de Castille (Paris: Fayard, 1990)

Lindy Grant, Blanche of Castile, Queen of France (London: Yale University Press, 2017)

Ursula Vones-Liebenstein, “Une femme gardienne du royaume ? Régentes en temps de guerre (France-Castille, XIIIe siècle),” in La guerre, la violence et les gens au Moyen Âge, vol. 2: La violence et les gens, eds., Philippe Contamine and Olivier Guyotjeannin (Amiens: CTH Editions, 1996), 9-22.

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