Edward I of England, Edward the Confessor, Eleanore of Provence, Fontevraud Abbey, Henry III of England, Louis IX of France, Sicily, St. Louis of France, The Eighth Crusade at Tunis, Westminster Abbey
The future King Edward I of England was born at the Palace of Westminster on the night of June, 17–18 1239, to King Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence, the second daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence (1198–1245) and Beatrice of Savoy (1198–1267), the daughter of Thomas I of Savoy and his wife Margaret of Geneva.
Edward took the crusader’s cross in an elaborate ceremony on June 24, 1268, with his brother Edmund Crouchback and cousin Henry of Almain. Among others who committed themselves to the Ninth Crusade were Edward’s former adversaries – like the Earl of Gloucester, though de Clare did not ultimately participate. With the country pacified, the greatest impediment to the project was providing sufficient finances. King Louis IX of France, who was the leader of the crusade, provided a loan of about £17,500.
Edward formally left for the Eighth Crusade, led by Louis of France, in 1270, but his father, King Henry III, became increasingly ill; concerns about a fresh rebellion grew and the next year the King wrote to his son asking him to return to England, but Edward did not turn back.
Henry III recovered slightly and announced his renewed intention to join the crusades himself, but he never regained his full health and on the evening of November 16, 1272, he died in Westminster, probably with Eleanor in attendance.
At his request, Henry III was buried in Westminster Abbey in front of the church’s high altar, in the former resting place of Edward the Confessor. A few years later, work began on a grander tomb for Henry and in 1290 Edward moved his father’s body to its current location in Westminster Abbey. His gilt-brass funeral effigy was designed and forged within the abbey grounds by William Torell; unlike other effigies of the period, it is particularly naturalistic in style, but it is probably not a close likeness of Henry himself.
Eleanor probably hoped that Henry would be recognised as a saint, as his contemporary Louis IX of France had been; indeed, Henry’s final tomb resembled the shrine of a saint, complete with niches possibly intended to hold relics.
When the King’s body was exhumed in 1290, contemporaries noted that the body was in perfect condition and that Henry’s long beard remained well preserved, which at the time was considered to be an indication of saintly purity. Miracles began to be reported at the tomb, but Edward was sceptical about these stories. The reports ceased, and Henry was never canonised. In 1292, his heart was removed from his tomb and reburied at Fontevraud Abbey with the bodies of his Angevin family.
In June 1272 an assassination attempt on Edward by a Syrian Nizari (Assassin) supposedly sent by Baibars forced him to abandon any further campaigning. Edward was initially defiant, and although he managed to kill the assassin, he was struck in the arm by a dagger feared to be poisoned, and became severely weakened over the following months.
It was not until September 24, 1272 that Edward left Acre. Arriving in Sicily, he was met with the news that his father had died on November 16, 1272. Edward was deeply saddened by this news, but rather than hurrying home at once, he made a leisurely journey northwards. This was due partly to his still-poor health, but also to a lack of urgency.
The political situation in England was stable after the mid-century upheavals, and Edward was proclaimed king after his father’s death, rather than at his own coronation, as had until then been customary. In Edward’s absence, the country was governed by a royal council, led by Robert Burnell. The new king embarked on an overland journey through Italy and France, where among other things he visited Pope Gregory X. Only on August 2, 1274 did he return to England, and he was crowned on August, 19.