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Eleanor of Austria (November 15, 1498 – February 25, 1558), also called Eleanor of Castile, was born an Archduchess of Austria and Infanta of Castile from the House of Habsburg, and subsequently became Queen consort of Portugal (1518–1521) and Queen Consort of France (1530–1547).

Eleanor was born in 1498 at Leuven, the eldest child of Philipp of Austria (King Felipe I of Castile) and Joanna of Castile, who would later become co-sovereigns of Castile. Her father was also the son of the reigning Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and his deceased consort Mary of Burgundy, while her mother was the daughter of the Catholic Monarchs; namely Fernando II-V of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.

Her siblings were Holy Roman Emperor Karl V (King Carlos I of Spain), Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, Queen Isabella of Denmark (wife of King Christian II of Denmark and Norway), Queen Mary of Hungary (wife of King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia), and Queen Catherine of Portugal (wife of King João III of Portugal). She was named after her paternal great-grandmother, Eleanor of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress (the consort of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich III and the mother of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I).

Eleanore of Austria, Queen Consort of Portugal and France

When she was a child, Eleanor’s relatives tried to marry her to the future King of England, Henry VIII, to whom she was betrothed. However, when Henry’s father died and he became King, Henry decided to marry Eleanor’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon, who was the widow of King Henry’s older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales. Her relatives also tried to marry her to the French Kings Louis XII or King François I, or to the Polish King Sigismund I, but nothing came of these plans. Eleanor was also proposed as a marriage candidate for Antoine, Duke of Lorraine, in 1510.

In 1517 Eleanor may have had a love affair with Friedrich II, Elector Palatine. Her brother King Carlos I of Spain (Holy Roman Emperor Karl V) who had succeeded their elderly grandfather King Fernando II-V of Castile and Aragon as King of a United Spain the year before, once discovered her reading a love letter from Friedrich. Carlos forced Eleanor and Friedrich to swear in front of an attorney that they were not secretly married, after which he expelled Friedrich from court. She then followed her brother to Spain in 1517.

Holy Roman Emperor Karl V (King Carlos I of Spain).

Eleanor married her uncle by marriage, King Manuel I of Portugal, on July 16, 1518 after a proposed marriage with her cousin, the future King João III of Portugal did not occur. Her brother Carlos arranged the marriage between Eleanor and the King of Portugal to avoid the possibility of Portuguese assistance for any rebellion in Castile. Manuel had previously been married to two of Eleanor’s maternal aunts, Isabella of Aragon and Maria of Aragon.

Manuel and Eleanor had two children: the Infante Carlos (born February 18, 1520 – died April 15, 1521) and the Infanta Maria (born June 8, 1521, and who was later one of the richest princesses of Europe). She became a widow on December 13, 1521 when Manuel died of the plague. As Queen Dowager of Portugal, Eleanor returned to the court of Carlos in Spain. Eleanor’s sister Catherine later married Eleanor’s stepson, King João III of Portugal.

King François I of France

In July 1523, Eleanor was engaged to Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, in an alliance between Charles and Bourbon against France, but the marriage never took place. In 1526, Eleanor was engaged to King François I of France during his captivity in Spain.

In 1529, by the treaty called “La Paz de las Damas” (The Ladies’ Peace), it was stipulated that the marriage should take place. She was married to François on July 4, 1530. They had no children.

Eleanor left Spain in the company of her future stepsons, who were now to be released having been held hostage by her brother. The group met François at the border, where Eleanor and François were married, and then departed for an official entrance to Bordeaux. Eleanor was crowned Queen of France in Saint-Denis on May 31, 1531. She was dressed in purple velvet at her coronation. Eleanor was ignored by Francis, who seldom performed his marital obligations and preferred his lover Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly.

At the official entrance of Eleanor to Paris, François displayed himself openly to the public in a window with his lover Anne for a period of two hours.

Queen Eleanor performed as the queen of France at official occasions, such as at the wedding between her stepson Henri and Catherine de’ Medici in 1533. She also performed charity and was praised for this. She also took her stepdaughters, Madeleine and Margaret, into her household to raise them further.

As the French queen, Eleanor did not have any political power; however, she was used as a contact between France and the Holy Roman Empire. Queen Eleanor was present at the peace negotiations between and Carlos in Aigues-Mortes in 1538. In 1544, she was given the task of entering peace negotiations with Charles and their sister Mary. In November 1544, she visited Carlos in Brussels.

Later life

François died at the Château de Rambouillet on March 15, 1547, on his son and successor’s 28th birthday. It is said that “he died complaining about the weight of a crown that he had first perceived as a gift from God.” He was interred with his first wife, Claude, Duchess of Brittany, in Saint Denis Basilica. He was succeeded by his son, Henri II.

As a queen dowager, Eleanor left France for Brussels in 1548. She witnessed the abdication of Carlos I of Spain in October 1555 and left for Spain with him and their sister Mary in August 1556. She lived with her sister in Jarandilla de la Vera, where they often visited their brother, who retired to a monastery nearby. In 1558, she met her daughter Maria in Badajoz for the first time in 28 years. Eleanor died in 1558 on the return trip from Badajoz. Her brother Carlos, former Holy Roman Emperor Emperor and King of Spain, died in September of the same year.