Global Folio Search
uses Google technology and indexes only and selectively internet - libraries having books with free public access



Rachel Bard
Queen without a Country
page 2

A Reluctant Bridegroom

Eleanor and Berengaria's travels took them across the Alps, through Italy, and by sea from Brindisi to the Caders' camp at Messina, where they arrived on March 30, 1191. (The Chroniclers, who assiduously documented Richard's life, begin to help us now with dates and places). Philip Augustus of France, Richard's co-Cader, had just left Messina for the Holy Land. Eleanor expected the wedding to take place at once, so she could return to her multitudinous duties. The chronicler Ambroise reported on Richard's joy at his fiancĐše's arrival: "Most dear the King did love her and revere." Nevertheless, Richard now gave the first sign that he lacked enthusiasm for the union. He argued for postponement because Lent was about to begin, and festivities would be unseemly. Eleanor departed, leaving Berengaria in the care of Richard's sister Joanna, the recently widowed queen of Sicily, who had just joined the entourage. Richard tarried a few more days, then at last gave the order to sail. More than 200 vessels bravely set out toward the eastern Mediterranean. But a mighty gale arose and Berengaria and Joanna's ship lost contact with the others. Eventually they arrived off the coast of Cyp and took shelter at Limassol harbor. Here they waited, uncertain about the whereabouts of Richard and the rest of the fleet. To add to their worries, they were suspicious of the self-styled emperor of Cyp, Isaac Comnenus. He sent boats out and tried to lure them ashore with promises of fine food and Cypriot wine--probably hoping to hold them for ransom. They ordered their captain to set out to sea and, just in the nick of time, Richard's ships appeared. Enraged at Isaac's behavior, the king attacked the Cypriots and drove them into the hills. He might have pursued them and completed the conquest of the island, but was persuaded that now the wedding could be delayed no longer, "if only out of regard for the bride's reputation," says the chronicler Richard of Devizes. Besides, there was now a goodly crowd of Cader knights recently arrived from Syria to add luster to the ceremony. So Richard postponed his pursuit of Isaac long enough to celebrate his marriage. After the service, two bishops and an archbishop crowned Richard king of Cyp and Berengaria queen of England and Cyp. Richard's dazzling raiment is described by the chroniclers in grand detail, down to the last silken tunic. But not Berengaria's. Her effigy at Le Mans may give a clue, because it shows her with loose, unbound hair--as would befit a bride but not a wife or widow. Her veil is caught with a jeweled crown, and her flowing tunic is confined with a jeweled girdle. The face of this effigy is not that of a beauty, but of a "prudent and elegant" woman. Feasting followed the ceremonies, and the conquest of Cyp and capture of Isaac followed the feasting. Then it was time to pursue the real purpose of the expedition: the defeat of the infidels who held the Holy City of Jerusalem. The entire party set sail for St-Jean d'Acre in Palestine where Philip of France and Leopold of Austria impatiently awaited Richard and his aid in their assault on St-Jean. Victory crowned their efforts and Berengaria and Joanna were installed in the city's royal palace where they remained for most of the following year. We are told that they spent their time on embroidery and other fancy work, though at least once they were permitted to join Richard on a march to Jaffa. Observers noted Richard's growing coolness toward Berengaria during this period, and there is no evidence that they spent any time together as man and wife. Some later writers suggested that he had lost his heart to another. But all the chroniclers say is that he was far too busy with his battles to devote himself to his queen. For more than a year the Caders marched about Palestine, battling the Saracens and their able leader Saladin, but never getting close enough to Jerusalem to launch an assault. Philip lost enthusiasm and returned to France. Eventually Richard signed a truce with Saladin in the autumn of 1192 and the inclusive Third Cade petered out.

The Deserted Queen

Richard dispatched his wife and his sister to France on September 29, 1192. It was to be three years before Berengaria saw him again. His adventures during this period are well known--hers, a matter of conjecture. We do know that she and Joanna made their way to Rome and sheltered for a time under the protection of the Pope; were conducted to Marseilles; from there, accompanied by Alfonso II of Aragon, traveled through Provence; and for the final leg of the journey, were conducted to Poitou by Raymond of St. Gilles, don of the count of Toulouse--whom Joanna subsequently married. One wonders how the two women, who spent some three years together under sometimes trying circumstances, got along. And one is reassured by the words of the chronicler: "They held each other dear, and lived as doves in a cage." So Berengaria had at least one friend among her Angevin in-laws. Back in France Berengaria sinks out of sight, probably spending several years at the Angevin castle of Chinon, in the valley of the Loire. Meanwhile, all Europe's attention was riveted on the fate of the king of England. Richard, on his way back from the Holy Land, had been imprisoned by his erstwhile ally, Leopold of Austria, and then by Leopold's lord, Henry VI of Germany. A huge ransom was demanded. His devoted mother managed to raise it, and Richard, freed, returned in triumph to England to be recrowned at Winchester Cathedral on April 16, 1194. Eleanor occupied the place of honor opposite him and his queen was pointedly not invited. Richard soon returned to France to reassert his authority, which had been eroded by Philip's aggressions. But he made no effort to see Berengaria. In fact, he devoted himself instead to evil companions, to the extent that he was reprimanded by the Church. A holy hermit warned him that his end was near unless he mended his ways and returned to his queen. Finally, frightened when a severe illness nearly cost him his life, Richard publicly repented and rejoined Berengaria for Christmas at Poitiers in 1195. But the reconciliation did not last long,

* * *

Back To Section     Comments

© Idea and design by Galina Rossi

All materials from this site are permitted for non commersial use unless otherwise indicated. If you reduplicate documents from here you have to indicate Monsalvat as a source and place link to us.