29 March 2020

Margaret of Provence: The Life of a Great Medieval Queen

Real Crusades History #133. And don't forget the Real Crusades History website!

Margaret of Provence (1221 – 20 December 1295) was Queen of France as by marriage to King St Louis IX. Excerpts from Joinville used in this podcast: “The King was once by his wife’s side, at a time when she was in great danger of dying on account of the injuries she had suffered in giving birth to a child. Queen Blanche came to her room, and taking the King by the hand, said to him: ‘Come away, you’re doing no good here.’ Queen Margaret, seeing that the Queen Mother was taking the King away, cried out: ‘Alas! Whether I live or die, you will not let me see my husband!’ Then she fainted, and they all thought she was dead. The King, convinced that she was dying, turned back, and with great difficulty they brought her round.” –Joinville, 316. “Now you have already heard of the great suffering the King and all the rest of us endured. The Queen (who was then in Damietta) did not, as I am about to tell you, escape from tribulations herself. Three days before she gave birth to a child news came to her that the King was taken prisoner. This frightened her so much that every time she slept in her bed it seemed to her that the room was full of Saracens, and she would cry out. So that the child she was bearing should not die, she made an old knight lie down beside her bed and hold her by the hand. Every time she cried out, he would say to her: ‘Don’t be afraid, my lady, I am here.’
“Just before the child was born she ordered everyone except the knight to leave her room. Then she knelt down before the old man and begged him to do her a service; he consented and swore to do as she asked. So she said to him: ‘I ask you, on the oath you have sworn to me, that if the Saracens take this city, you will cut off my head before they can also take me.’ The knight replied: ‘Rest assured that I will do so without hesitation, for I already had it in mind to kill you before they took us all.’” –Joinville, 262-63. “The Queen gave birth to a son who was named Jean. Her people called him Tristam, because of the great sorrow that had attended his birth. On the very day on which she was confined she was told that the men of Pisa, Genoa, and the other free cities were intending to flee Damietta. The next day she had them all summoned to her bedside, so that the room was quite full, and said to them: ‘Gentlemen, for God’s sake, do not leave this city, for it must be plain to you that if we lose it the King and all those who have been taken captive with him would be lost as well. If this plea does not move you, at least take pity on the poor weak creature lying here, and wait until I am recovered.’
“They answered: ‘My lady, what can we do? We’re dying of hunger in this city.’ The Queen told them that they need not leave for fear of starvation. ‘For,’ said she, ‘I will order all the food in this city to be bought in my name, and from now on will keep you all at the King’s expense.’ After talking the matter over among themselves, they came back to the queen and told her they would willingly remain. Then the Queen – may God grant her grace! – had all the food in the city bought at a cost of more than three hundred and sixty thousand livres.” –Joinville, 263. “The Count of Tripoli – may God grant him grace! – entertained us nobly and paid us all the honor he could. He would have given me and my knights most valuable presents, if we had been willing to accept them. But we refused to take anything except a few relics, some of which I took to the King, together with the camlet I had bought for him.
“I also sent four pieces of camlet to Her Majesty the Queen. The knight who came to present them carried them wrapped up in a piece of white linen. When the Queen saw him enter her room she knelt before him, while he in his turn knelt before her. The Queen said to him: ‘Rise up, my good knight, it is not fitting for you to kneel when you are the bearer of relics.’ ‘My lady,’ replied the knight, ‘these are not relics, but pieces of camlet sent to you by my lord.’ On hearing this, the Queen and her ladies began to laugh. ‘Tell your lord I wish him the worst of luck,’ said the Queen to my knight, ‘since he has made me kneel before his camlet!’” –Joinville 314-15.

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