Margaret of France was born around 1279 as the youngest child of Philip III of France and his second wife, Marie of Brabant. She was thus the half-sister of Philip IV of France. Margaret was still only around six years old when her father died in 1285, and her half-brother Philip became her guardian, and she grew up at court under the guidance of her mother and her sister-in-law, Queen Joan I of Navarre.
Meanwhile, her future husband King Edward I of England was fighting a war in Scotland when Margaret’s half-brother invaded Gascony. Eager to retain Gascony, he was open to a marriage between himself and one of Philip’s sisters and between his surviving son Edward and Philip’s daughter Isabella. Margaret’s elder sister Blanche was considered first, but soon Margaret became the focus of the negotiations. Margaret was around 20 years old when she married the 60-year-old Edward. He had previously been married to Eleanor of Castile.
Margaret arrived at Dover in September 1299, and she travelled on to Canterbury where she and Edward were married in person on 10 September 1299. As her marriage meant an ending to the conflict in Gascony, her arrival was popular, and a contemporary Song of the Scottish Wars commented, “ext the king returns, that he may marry Queen Margaret, the flower of the French; through her, the kingdoms receive a more complete peace. Anger begets slaughter, concord nourishes love – when love buds between great princes, it drives away bitter sobs from their subjects.” Despite their age difference, it seems to have been a happy marriage.
Margaret did not receive a coronation after her wedding as her husband had to return to Scotland. However, as Margaret often accompanied her husband on campaigns, she fell pregnant quickly. She apparently continued to hunt until late in her pregnancy. Their first son Thomas of Brotherton was born on 1 June 1300 while she was still on the road. She named her son Thomas in honour of Thomas à Becket, to whom she had prayed during the delivery. A second son named Edmund of Woodstock was born on 5 August 1301. A daughter named Eleanor died young. Margaret, who was fond of music, hired musicians to entertain her sons with various instruments.
Like most royal mothers, Margaret was often away from her sons, but she remained in close contact. She was kept informed of their wellbeing and diet. The close relationship between Margaret and Edward shows itself in the intercessions she made, like between her husband and his heir – the future Edward II. The younger Edward wrote to her frequently, asking her to intercede with his father. Margaret’s only apparent vice appears to have been her extravagance.
She was not with her husband when he died on 7 July 1307 at Burgh-by-Sands on his way to Scotland. She never considered remarrying, even though she was still quite young. She also remained in the public eye and on 22 January 1308, she joined her stepson King Edward II during his trip to France to marry her niece Isabella. They were married on 25 January at Boulogne, and Margaret finally saw her brother and mother again. They returned to England for the joint coronation of Isabella and Edward on 25 February. Margaret decided to retire to Marlborough Castle after the coronation, possibly as a sign of disapproval of Edward showing too much favour towards his favourite Piers Gaveston. She may have even sent money to the Earls of Lincoln and Pembroke to fund his deposition. She must have been horrified by her niece’s treatment.
Margaret’s last public appearance was at the birth of the future King Edward III at Windsor on 13 November 1312. She had arrived two months before the birth and stayed until after the christening.
She died on 14 February 1318 at Marlborough Castle of an unspecified illness. She was still only in her late 30s. She was buried at Christ Church Greyfriars in London, but nothing remains of her tomb.1