Eleanor of Provence (1223-1291)

These bones include some from a porpoise, a royal food. Any caught are the property of the Crown. We do not know if Eleanor of Provence, wife of English king Henry III, ever ate porpoise but had she done so it would have been roasted for hours and served with a sauce.  

Eleanor of Provence was the wife of Henry III. She gave him five children, including Edward 1, who seems to have been her favourite. Both Henry and Edward fought at the Battle of Lewes.

Married to Henry at the age of 12, Eleanor was born in Aix-in-Provence. She was strong-willed and clever and wielded a great deal of influence over the king. Eleanor was always loyal to Henry but she brought with her from France a large number of her own family known as The Savoyards. This made her unpopular.

Knowing Henry and Simon were set on a path which could only lead to war, Eleanor went to France to hire mercenaries. She also tried to raise money, even pawning the king’s jewels. After the battle, she became the leader of the Royalists and, still seeking money, sold three bishoprics and requisitioned English merchant ships to move troops.

When Henry died, in 1272, Eleanor became Queen Dowager. She did not retire from public life until 1286, when she entered a nunnery.

Factfile

  • Two of Eleanor’s sisters also married kings. One of them was Louis IX, “Saint Louis” of France.
  • Eleanor was so hated by the Londoners that they pelted her barge with rubbish and threatened to drown her as a witch. Years later, she refused to repair London Bridge as revenge.
  • Eleanor set up the rules for a hospital in London and bequeathed its control to all future queen consorts. It is currently known as the Royal Foundation of St Katherine.