The Marriage of Eleanor – Daughter of Edward II

(public domain)

Eleanor, the eldest daughter of Edward II, was betrothed to Reginald, Count (later Duke) of Guelders in March of 1332, at the age of thirteen.  By May later that year, she departed England, and her wedding took place at Nijmegen on 22nd May 1332, just before her fourteenth birthday.[1] Reginald had visited England in 1331 during the early years of Edward III’s reign while he was re-establishing England’s political stability after the years of his mother’s regency and his father’s overthrow. Although Reginald did not hold as much land as other states in the Low Countries, he was well-known for his military skill and prowess. His position in the Low Countries would be integral in Edward’s future plans for domination of France and a foreign alliance at this point of Edward’s rule would demonstrate his strong hold on the crown to the continent. As a result of Reginald’s marriage to Eleanor, he became an important ally for Edward not only in his conflicts with France, but he also delivered military aid to Edward in his wars with Scotland.[2] Furthermore, the marriage of his younger sister Joan to David King of Scots was immensely unpopular with the English people, so the success of his other sister’s marriage was vital to his own popularity in England.

The gifts that Eleanor was given to take to her new court highlight the wealth of the English crown and their ability to display it to the court. Eleanor’s carriage that she journeyed across the continent in had a canopy of purple velvet, embroidered with stars and crescents in gold thread.[3] At the centre of each star was a set stone.[4] The outside of the carriage was covered in red and green cloth.[5] The importance of the choice of these colours should not be overlooked either. Not only were they a representation of the immense wealth and power of the crown, but they also had symbolic meaning. The colour red was an embodiment of royalty, and the colour green was thought to encourage and epitomise fertility. The choice of these colours together to decorate Eleanor’s carriage was a display of Eleanor’s power as a potential royal mother. The carriage also had various royal arms carved into the structure, again to emphasise her legitimacy as a royal daughter and her role to play in the succession of the dynasty.[6] Even the horse’s saddles, which were made of red leather, had the arms of both Guelders and England painted on them.[7] As Eleanor journeyed across France to her new husband, she displayed a powerful message about the wealth of the English kingdom to all who saw her. Also, one of Eleanor’s gifts was a bed hung with green silk curtains.[8] The bed was also made of green velvet and had the arms of England and Guelders engraved together. Again, the importance of the colour green was an indication of the hope of Eleanor’s fruitful marriage and to encourage her ability to bear healthy children for her new husband. The constant repetition of the arms of the two houses joined together continued to reinforce the new alliance. The bed had curtains made of silk from Tripoli and a coverlet depicting hunting scenes.[9] Eleanor also took with her rare spices, a signal to the new court of the far-reaching influence of the English kingdom.[10] As a gift, Reginald received two palfreys, six pack horses and six carthorses as a gift from the English royal household.[11] Various officials at Eleanor’s new court were given a gold brooch with precious stones, a belt garnished with pearls and a decorated silver gilt, and an ell of silk embroidered with gold wire and large oriental pearls.[12] The expenses of Eleanor’s wardrobe were so exorbitant that Edward had to request further financial help from various religious houses in England. He wrote to them,

‘Since, for the marriage of our very dear sister, Eleanora, with the nobleman, Reginald, Earl of Gueldres, we have incurred very great expense, as indeed it behoved us to do, for the preserving of our royal honour; and since we are, on this account, in debt to divers merchants, we beseech you that you will grant us on this occasion, such a subsidy that we may be more specially obligated to favour you in any petitions you may henceforth have to make to us.’[13]

The sumptuous objects in Eleanor’s new wardrobe served a distinct purpose in the new alliance, of demonstrating England’s political might, and the significant value of the marriage can be seen through the summation of wealth spent to achieve this.

[1] Alison Weir, Isabella: She -Wolf France: Queen of England, London, 2005, p.356.

[2] Green, Vol 3, p.81.

[3] PRO E/101/386/7, as cited in E. W. Safford, ‘An Account of the Expenses of Eleanor, sister of Edward III, on the Occasion of her Marriage to Reynald, Count of Guelders’, Archaelogia or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, Issue 77, 1927, p.114.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid., p.115.

[6]ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] Green, Vol 3, pp. 75-76.

[9] ibid.

[10] ibid.

[11] ibid., p.119.

[12] ibid., p.118.

[13] Foedera, vol. ii, pp. 840, 858, 859, 861, 864, 869, as cited in Green, Vol 3, p.79.



About Hannah 2 Articles
My name is Hannah and I'm from New Zealand but I now live in London. I did my Masters in History at the University of Auckland where my research concerned English medieval princesses. I love all things medieval and have also conducted research on the history of queenship. My first love was the Tudors when I was a teenager inspired by reading historical fiction novels but in my academic career I have slowly moved further back in time and now the majority of my work concerns the fourteenth century, where things are just as dramatic in my opinion!

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