Of Spanish and English origin, Blanche of Castile marries Prince Louis, son of King Philippe Auguste of France, as part of a peace treaty between France and England. She became a widow when the heir to the throne, the future Saint Louis, was only twelve years old. For nearly ten years, the Queen would serve as regent and spare no effort to maintain the integrity and stability of the kingdom, ruling with authority and suppressing several revolts. The regency of Blanche of Castile saved the Capetian work in many areas.
Blanche, Princess of Castile and England
Born in Palencia, Spain, Blanche is the third daughter of the King of Castile Alfonso VIII and, by her mother, granddaughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was married to the future Louis VIII of France following the Treaty of Goulet signed between her maternal uncle Jean sans Terre and King Philippe Auguste (May 22, 1200).
Blanche de Castille brought a large part of Berry as a dowry, mainly the seigneuries of Issoudun, Graçay and Châteauroux. The marriage was celebrated in Normandy on May 23, 1200.
Blanche of Castile quickly proved to be a courageous wife and actively supported her husband when he tried, moreover in vain, to settle in England (1216). She will be crowned Queen of France in Reims at the same time as her husband on August 6, 1223.
Regent of France
When her husband died in November 1226, her son, Louis IX, was only twelve years old. She became regent of the kingdom (1226/34). The Queen of France, complying with the last wishes of the deceased, who appreciated his energy and dedication, therefore took over the government of the kingdom until the king came of age. So she acted immediately with great skill by having her son consecrated without delay in Reims (the cathedral was then under construction). Most of the great vassals of the crown attended the ceremony. On this occasion, the Count of Flanders, Ferrand, one of the vanquished of Bouvines, was even released from royal prisons on January 6, 1227.
Shortly after, Blanche de Castille concluded with the Count of Toulouse the Treaty of Meaux-Paris (1229), very advantageous for the Capetian dynasty. The count ceded to the crown the eastern part of Languedoc (Beaucaire, Nîmes, Béziers, Carcassonne) and married his daughter and only heir to the younger brother of Saint Louis, Alphonse de Poitiers, stipulating that if the latter had no child (what happened), the rest of Languedoc would revert to the king. These acquisitions already made it possible to settle, for the first time, the Capetian dynasty on the Mediterranean.
Guardian of the Kingdom
Blanche then put down a revolt of possessing lords around the royal domain, who sought in the sovereign's minority an opportunity for disorder to regain some of their lost independence. At the head of the rebellion was Count Thibaut IV of Champagne, a restless and inconsistent character, a talented poet but poor politics, and, more or less, more or less in love with the queen. Blanche had little difficulty in defeating him and making him an ally and no longer an enemy. In the west, the task was more difficult against Pierre de Dreux, dit Mauclerc, widower of Countess Alix of Brittany, feudal constantly in a state of revolt, and against Count de la Marche Hugues de Lusignan. Both enjoyed the diplomatic support of the King of England Henry III.
The latter even landed in Saint-Malo on May 3, 1230, to regain his heritage. Pierre Mauclerc did not hesitate to transfer his tribute to him. Here again, Blanche came to the end of several uprisings. From October 1230, Henry III had to return to England and his new vassal to treat in Paris in November 1234 with the queen mother, who kept him the government of Brittany until the majority of his son, Count Jean le Roux, in 1237. Thus the regency, unlike those experienced in France in later centuries, helped to strengthen the crown instead of weakening it.
Blanche of Castile, mother of the future Saint Louis
Very pious, Blanche de Castille watches over the education of her children, and especially that of the future Louis IX; she is even credited with abusive educational comments: in fact, she allegedly told her son that she would rather see him dead than stained with mortal sin. In 1234, she negotiated the marriage of the young king with Marguerite de Provence, daughter of Raymond Bérenger V of Provence, in order to extend French influence in the Rhône valley. This alliance was reinforced in 1246 by the union of his youngest son, Charles I of Anjou, with Béatrice de Provence, heir to the county.
Very authoritarian, the queen mother gave Saint Louis a strict Christian education and she always retained a political influence and a great ascendancy over the king. The latter will govern alone only from 1244. When he left for the 7th crusade, she again took over the regency (1249-1252) and had to face the revolt of the Shepherds, bands of young people who had took the cross to finally indulge in looting on their way. She passed away on November 27, 1252 and was buried in the Abbey of Maubuisson, leaving her son a peaceful kingdom.
- Blanche of Castile. Regent of France, mother of Saint Louis, of Marcel Brion. Text, 2014.
- Blanche de Castille, by Georges Minois. Perrin, 2018.
- La Reine Blanche, by Régine Pernoud. Albin Michel, 1972.