Margaret of France (c. 1279 – February 14, 1318) was Queen of England as the second wife of King Edward I. She was a daughter of King Philippe III of France and Princess Maria of Brabant, daughter of Henry III, Duke of Brabant, and Princess Adelaide of Burgundy.
King Philippe III of France died when Margaret was six years old and she grew up under guidance of her mother and Queen Joan I of Navarre, the wife of her half-brother King Philippe IV of France.
The death of his beloved first wife, Infanta Eleanor of Castile, in 1290, left King Edward I of England reeling in grief. He was at the time at war with France and Scotland. He and Eleanor had only one surviving son, Edward, and so the king was anxious to have more sons.
In summer of 1291, Edward betrothed his son to Blanche, half-sister to Margaret and Philippe IV, in order to achieve peace with France. However, hearing of her renowned beauty, King Edward decided to have his son’s bride for his own and sent emissaries to France.
Philippe IV agreed to have Blanche marry King Edward on the conditions that a truce would be concluded between the two countries, and that Edward would give up the province of Gascony.
King Edward agreed, and sent his brother Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster, to fetch the new bride.
King Edward believed he had been deceived, for Blanche was instead to be married to Rudolph I of Habsburg*, the eldest son of King Albrecht I of Germany. Instead, Philippe IV offered her younger sister Margaret to marry Edward (then 55).
Upon hearing this, Edward declared war on France, refusing to marry Margaret. After five years, a truce was agreed upon under the influence of Pope Boniface VIII. A series of treaties in the first half of 1299 provided terms for a double marriage: Edward I would marry Margaret and his son would marry Isabella, Philippe IV’s only surviving daughter.
Additionally, the English monarchy would regain the key territory of Guyenne and receive £15,000 owed to Margaret as well as the return of Eleanor of Castile’s lands in Ponthieu and Montreuil as a dower first for Margaret and then Isabella.
Edward was then 60 years old, at least 40 years older than his bride. Since the exact date of her birth is unknown she was probably about 19-20 years of age.
The wedding took place at Canterbury on September 10, 1299. Margaret was never crowned due to financial constraints, being the first uncrowned queen since the Conquest. This in no way lessened her dignity as the king’s wife, however, for she used the royal title in her letters and documents, and appeared publicly wearing a crown even though she had not received one during a formal rite of investiture.
Edward soon returned to the Scottish border to continue his campaigns and left Margaret in London, but she had become pregnant quickly after the wedding.
By Margaret of France, Edward had two sons, both of whom lived to adulthood, and a daughter who died as a child. The Hailes Abbey chronicle indicates that John Botetourt may have been Edward’s illegitimate son; however, the claim is unsubstantiated. His progeny by Margaret of France were:
1. Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk (1300 – 1338), buried in Bury St Edmunds Abbey. Married (1) Alice Hales, with issue; (2) Mary Brewes, no issue.
2. Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent (1301 – 1330), married Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell, with issue.
3. Eleanor (1306 – 1311).
Margaret never remarried after Edward’s death in 1307, despite being only 26 when widowed. She was alleged to have stated that “when Edward died, all men died for me”.
Margaret was not pleased when Edward II elevated Piers Gaveston to become Earl of Cornwall upon his father’s death, since the title had been meant for one of her own sons. She attended the new king’s wedding to her half-niece Isabella, and a silver casket was made with both their arms. After Isabella’s coronation, Margaret retired to Marlborough Castle (which was by this time a dower house), but she stayed in touch with the new queen and with her half-brother Philip IV by letter during the confusing times leading up to Gaveston’s death in 1312.
Margaret, too, was a victim of Gaveston’s influence over her stepson. Edward II gave several of her dower lands to the favourite, including Berkhamsted Castle. In May 1308, an anonymous informer reported that Margaret had provided £40,000 along with Philip IV to support the English barons against Gaveston. Due to this action, Gaveston was briefly exiled and Margaret remained fairly unmolested by the upstart until his death in June 1312.
She was present at the birth of Edward III in November 1312.
On February 14, 1318 she died in her castle at Marlborough. Dressed in a Franciscan habit, she was buried at Christ Church Greyfriars in London, a church she had generously endowed. Her tomb was destroyed during the Reformation.
* Rudolph I of Habsburg, was a member of the House of Habsburg, the King of Bohemia and titular King of Poland from 1306 until his death. He was also Duke of Austria and Styria from 1298.