Queens Regnant – Blanche II of Navarre

blanche ii navarre
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Blanche was born on 9 June 1424 as the daughter of Blanche I of Navarre and John II of Aragon. She had an elder brother, Charles, so she was not initially expected to succeed. She also had an elder sister, Joan, who died at the age of just two. After Blanche came younger sister Eleanor. Blanche was married to Henry IV of Castile, nicknamed the Impotent, who was the elder half-brother of Isabel I of Castile.

The marriage was famously unconsummated for 13 years. Henry insinuated that Blanche had rendered him impotent, trying to link it to witchcraft. His impotence would haunt him for the rest of his life, as it cast doubts on the paternity of his only child Joanna (nicknamed La Beltraneja) and it would lead to the succession to the throne of Castile by his half-sister Isabel. Blanche was forced to undergo a medical examination to confirm her virginity. An annulment on such grounds was an embarrassment for both parties, but Henry could not claim the close relation between the two as the reason since his intended replacement (Joan of Portugal) was just as closely related to him. The marriage came to an end on 13 November 1453. Blanche was sent home in disgrace.

But home was not better. Her father had been in conflict with her brother Charles ever since the death of her mother, Blanche. John refused to hand of the government of Navarre to his eldest son and Blanche I’s natural heir. Blanche joined her brother against their father, and they were both promptly disinherited. John signed an agreement promoting her younger sister Eleanor to the heiress. Eleanor and her husband, Gaston, Count of Foix, were given more power in Navarre and a second agreement reconfirmed their position. However, Eleanor’s position would never be safe while her elder siblings lived.

Charles was imprisoned in December 1460 when he aspired a marriage with Isabel of Castile. He had been married before to Agnes of Cleves, but she had died childless after only eight years of marriage. The Catalans supported Charles, and his release was secured in February 1461 with a promise by his father that he would be named his universal heir. Charles’ death on 23 September 1461 was entirely too convenient for Eleanor’s cause. The cause of death was either tuberculosis or poisoning by either his stepmother (Juana Enriquez, mother to the future Ferdinand II of Aragon) or Eleanor. Though we will never know the truth, I think we can agree that the latter two definitely benefited from his death.

Blanche became the rightful Queen of Navarre upon her brother’s death, but she was strongly opposed by her father, sister and brother-in-law and most likely feared that she would suffer the same fate as her brother. Eleanor’s son and heir Gaston was married to Louis XI of France’s sister, Magdalena of Valois,  in a bid for a powerful ally. Blanche was sent north to marry her off to Magdalena’s other brother Charles, Duke of Berry. When she refused to leave Navarre, she was abducted. She wrote several appeals for help, blaming her ambitious sister and brother-in-law: ‘The said Count of Foix and his wife, my sister, are taking me to exile me and to disinherit me of my kingdom of Navarre’. Blanche was imprisoned in the castle of Orthez. Again, the situation was quite conveniently resolved. Blanche died under suspicious circumstances on 2 December 1464. She was only 40 years old, and we never managed to find out what kind of Queen Regnant she could have been. As she left no heirs, her claim was at last inherited by her sister Eleanor, who did not claim it until the death of her powerful father in 1479. 1

Recommended media

Woodacre, Elena, The Queens Regnant of Navarre, Succession, Politics, and Partnership 1274-1512 (UK & US)

  1. Woodacre, Elena, The Queens Regnant of Navarre, Succession, Politics, and Partnership 1274-1512, p.109-120

About Moniek Bloks 2744 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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