Blanche of Navarre

Miniature from Grandes Chroniques de France (1375-1380). Image Credit: BnF.

By Louise Gay

Born c. 1331, Blanche was the daughter of queen Jeanne (or Juana) II of Navarre, the first woman who could have inherited the kingdom of France through her father Louis X but was discarded in 1316 by her uncle Philippe V.

After the Valois accession in 1328, Blanche’s parents had made an agreement, renouncing their claim on the French throne in exchange for the Navarrese one.

Twenty years later, to reinforce Valois legitimacy and alliances in the light of the beginnings of the Hundred Years War with England, an old Philippe VI took the young Blanche as his second wife in early 1350. Because of the ongoing plague, she was neither crowned nor anointed.

Just months after, the king’s death left the 19 years old as dowager queen of France for the next four decades. However, the events of the 1350s and 1360s propelled Blanche in front of the political stage. Indeed, her brother Charles I of Navarre went to war against the Valois.

Caught between the competing interests of her birth lineage and her marital family, Blanche initially acted as an intermediary between the two parties by interceding for peace in 1354-55 and 1357-1358.

Yet, with more discretion, she took her brother’s side in the following years. The strategic location of her dowry made her a significant actress in the conflict, as she let the Navarrese used her lands to their advantage.

Sanctioned by the Valois royal power for her collaboration, Blanche finally signed a treaty of neutrality in 1364 and again interceded for peace the following year. Returning to favor with the French king, she was appointed godmother to his first child Jeanne.

She also obtained large sums to guard her castles against the English invaders. Blanche continued to visit the court and the royal family sporadically, even organising the Joyous Entry of queen Isabelle of Bavaria into Paris before her coronation.

In 1398, the dowager queen, nicknamed « Belle Sagesse », died in her castle at Neaufles-Saint-Martin. Not forgotten, her memory was maintained by the famous woman author Christine de Pizan.

Recommended Reading

André Lesort, “La reine Blanche dans le Vexin et le pays de Bray (1359-1398),” Mémoires de la Société historique et archéologique de l’arrondissement de Pontoise et du Vexin 54 (1948): 35–67, and 55 (1954): 9–88

Marie-Laure Summonier-Surjet, Les “ennemis du roi” : parenté et politique chez les Evreux-Navarre (1298-1425), PhD thesis (2010, Paris-10)

Philippe Charon, Princes et principautés au Moyen Âge. L’exemple de la principauté d’Evreux 1298-1412, PhD thesis (2006, Paris-1 Sorbonne).

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