Archduchess Eleanor of Austria, Duchess of Viseu, Felipe I of Spain, Friedrich II of the Palatinate of the Rhine, Infanta Maria of Portugal, Joanna of Castile, King François I of France, King Henry VIII of England and Ireland, King Manuel I of Portugal, Philipp of Austria, Queen of France, Queen of Portugal
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.
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. Archduke Philipp of Austria is counted as King Felipe I of Castile (Spain).
Eleanor’s 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 of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.
Eleanor’s siblings were Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, Queen Isabella of Denmark, Queen Mary of Hungary and Queen Catherine 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 (Eleanor’s grandfather).
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 Henry VIII of England to whom she was betrothed. However, when Henry’s father, King Henry VII, 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 of the House Wittelsbach. Her brother King Charles, who had succeeded their elderly grandfather King Fernando II as King Carlos I of Spain the year before, once discovered her reading a love letter from Friedrich.
Charles 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 Charles 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 married on July 16, 1518. They had two children: the Infante Carlos (February 18, 1520 – April 15, 1521) and the Infanta Maria, Duchess of Viseu (June 8, 1521– October 10, 1577) and who was later one of the richest princesses of Europe. Although she did not lack suitors and had several marriage proposals, Infanta Maria never married.
Eleanor became a widow on December 13, 1521, when Manuel died of the plague. As Queen Dowager of Portugal, Eleanor returned to the court of her Charles in Spain. Eleanor’s sister Archduchess 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.
The Treaty of Cambrai (1529; called La Paz de las Damas – “The Ladies’ Peace”) paused the conflict between Francois I and Emperor Charles V. 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 King François I 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 King François I on July 4, 1530.
The couple had no children. During his reign, François kept two official mistresses at court. The first was Françoise de Foix, Countess of Châteaubriant. In 1526, she was replaced by the blonde-haired, cultured Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly, Duchess of Étampes, who with the death of Queen Claude two years earlier, wielded far more political power at court than her predecessor had done. Another of his earlier mistresses was allegedly Mary Boleyn, mistress of King Henry VIII and sister of Henry’s future wife, Anne Boleyn.
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, François displayed himself openly to the public in a window with his mistress Anne for two hours.
Queen Eleanor performed as the Queen of France at official occasions, such as 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 queen, Eleanor had no political power; however, she served as a contact between France and Emperor Charles. Queen Eleanor was present at the peace negotiations between King François I and Emperor Charles V in Aigues-Mortes in 1538.
In 1544, she was given the task of entering peace negotiations with Emperor Charles V and their sister Mary of Hungary. In November 1544, she visited Emperor Charles V in Brussels.
King Francois I died at the Château de Rambouillet on March 31, 1547, and he was succeeded by his son, King Henri II. Ironically his death occurred on his son and successor’s 28th birthday. It is said that François “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.
As a queen dowager, Eleanor left France for Brussels in 1548. She witnessed the abdication of her brother Emperor Charles V 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.