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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 of France (1530–1547). She also held the Duchy of Touraine (1547–1558) in dower. She is called “Leonor” in Spanish and Portuguese and “Eléonore” or “Aliénor” in French.

Life

Eleanor was born in 1498 at Leuven, the eldest child of Archduke Philipp of Austria and Infanta Joanna of Castile, who would later become co-sovereigns of Castile. Her father is considered King Felipe I of Castile (Spain) and he 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 of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.

Eleanor’s siblings were Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Carlos I of Spain), Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, Queen Isabella of Denmark (wife of King Christian II), Queen Mary of Hungary (wife of King Louis II), and Queen Catherine of Portugal (wife of King João III).

Eleanor was named after her paternal great-grandmother, Eleanor of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress. Eleanor of Portugal was the daughter of King Duarte of Portugal and his wife Eleanor of Aragon, she was the consort of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich III and the mother of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.

After the death of her father in September 1506 Eleanor was educated at her aunt’s court in Mechelen.

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 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 of the Rhine. Her brother King Carlos I, who had succeeded their elderly grandfather King Fernando as King of 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 followed her brother to Spain in 1517.

Queen of Portugal

Eleanor married her uncle by marriage, King Manuel I of Portugal, 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 Manuel I of Portugal to avoid the possibility of Portuguese assistance for any rebellion in Castile.

King Manuel I had previously been married to two of Eleanor’s maternal aunts, Isabella of Aragon and Maria of Aragon.

Manuel and Eleanor married on July 16, 1518. They had two children: the Infante Carlos (born February 18, 1520 – 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.

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.

Queen of France

The Treaty of Cambrai (1529; called La Paz de las Damas – “The Ladies’ Peace”) paused the conflict between François and Charles. It included the stipulation that the previously-agreed marriage of Eleanor and François would take place.

Eleanor left Spain in the company of her future stepsons, who had been held hostage by her brother. The group met Francis at the border, 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. She was married to François on July 4, 1530. They had no children.

Eleanor was ignored by François, who seldom performed his marital obligations and preferred his lover Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly. At the official entrance of Eleanor to Paris, Francis displayed himself openly to the public in a window with Anne for two hours.

Queen Eleanor performed as the Queen of France at official occasions, such as the wedding between her stepson Henry 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 queen, Eleanor had no political power; however, she served as a contact between France and her brother Emperor Charles V. Queen Eleanor was present at the peace negotiations between Francis and Charles in Aigues-Mortes in 1538. In 1544, she was given the task of entering peace negotiations with Charles and their sister Mary of Hungary. In November 1544, she visited Charles in Brussels.

Later life

As a queen dowager, Eleanor left France for Brussels in 1548. She witnessed the abdication of her brother Charles 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.

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