A true marriage means
Supporting your husband with
His bullshit crusades.
Today’s installment of French Queens Week is pretty much a continuation of yesterday’s, so it might be a good idea to read up on Blanche of Castile before you proceed. But you do you.
Margaret was born in 1221 to Ramon Berenguer IV (count of Provence) and Beatrice of Savoy, the first of four daughters. As it so happens, her parents were really good at punching above their weight class so far as marrying off their daughters were concerned – all of them wound up as queens by the end of their lives. Lucky Margaret was picked out for Louis IX, on account of her grace, beauty, and piety, and the two got hitched when they were 13 and 20 respectively.
They did not get off to a good start. It’s not that they didn’t like each other – they did, very much. It’s just that her new mother-in-law, Blanche, liked being in charge and knew that the bigger the influence Margaret had on Louis, the less in charge she’d be. She put their rooms on different floors in an attempt to keep them apart; they thwarted her through sympathetic servants who would warn them of her approach. Eleven kids happened despite the odds, the first arriving in 1240.
Then we have the Seventh Crusade in 1249. Louis, by nurture and nature, was religious to an annoying degree (to the point where he was later made a saint), so off he went. And off Margaret went too! (Blanche stayed behind to mind the shop. She wasn’t happy about all this at all, telling her boy that she was probably going to die before he came back.) Unfortunately, this crusade was an unmitigated disaster. The crusaders managed to capture Damietta, sure, but that doesn’t mean much when you have to give it up again when the Egyptians kick your ass, killing 15-30,000 of your number, including the king’s brother, in one battle, and taking goddamned King Louis himself prisoner.
Guess who had to raise the moolah to spring him from captivity. While making sure all those who didn’t get captured were fed and sheltered. Go on. Guess. Just after giving birth, no less. She named the kid John Tristan – ‘Tristan’ meaning ‘sadness’ – because Margaret wasn’t super good at being subtle.
Louis obviously didn’t get the hint, because once he was a free man again, he proceeded to crusade for another three years. Margaret and the kids were sent back home and forgotten about until he meandered back to Paris. His mother Blanche, true to her prediction, died in the 1252, never laying eyes on him again. Schmuck.
Rubbing salt into the wound, Louis proceeded to put a stop to any attempt on Margaret’s part to gain more influence or secure her position as regent in case he dropped dead. This might be because Margaret’s diplomacy skills had mixed reviews, but I’m not inclined to give King Schmuck the benefit of the doubt.
(Yes, yes, he did a lot of good things, but.)
Oh hey, guess who decided to go crusading again in 1270, because he got sick and got better? Saint Louis!
Louis: “God healed me, so he wants me to go on crusade again. Obviously.”
Margaret: “No. God wants you to stay in France and do your fucking job.”
He went, he died of dysentery. So did John Tristan.
The widowed Margaret held some influence with her son, Philip III, in the years after, but she mostly concerned herself with defending her inheritance rights in Provence and founding the occasional nunnery and monastery. She died in 1295 in Paris.