Thursday, August 28, 2014

Philippa of Hainault

Philippa of Hainault,
finally becoming Queen of England
Philippa of Hainault has been mentioned as a minor part of the story of the Battle of Cassel, and as the person who introduced the herb rosemary to England. She was born on 24 June 1314, the daughter of Count William I of Hainault and Joan of Valois.

When she was only 12 years old, she was promised in marriage to Edward, Duke of Guyenne. This was an important betrothal, because Edward would one day become King Edward III of England. The marriage took place in 1327—sort of—when Edward sent the Bishop of Coventry to marry her by proxy and cement the relationship. Edward became king on 1 February 1327, and the second ("actual") marriage was celebrated on 24 January 1328. She was not crowned a Queen right away, however. The country was still in the hands of Edward III's regents, his mother Queen Dowager Isabella and Roger Mortimer, the lover she had taken. Isabella was not keen to have another queen in England, so Philippa's coronation did not take place until March 1330 when she was already six months pregnant with Edward, the Black Prince.

Philippa's gentle ways were much loved by the English citizenry; rather than bring a retinue of servants, she maintained only a few of her countrymen and embraced the English in the palace. She urged Edward to focus on England's commercial opportunities, especially the textile industry (which she knew something about because of Hainault's success in this area).

She also fulfilled one of the main functions of a queen admirably: she bore Edward 14 children, nine of whom died before she did, including her eldest, Edward the Black Prince. The descendants of her children would ultimately contest the throne in generations to come, creating the 30-year period of hostility known as the Wars of the Roses.

She and Edward were married for 40 years and held up as an exemplary couple as well as exemplary individuals. (True, Edward had an affair with one of Philippa's ladies-in-waiting, but this seems to have caused no public difficulty between him and his queen.) She died on 15 August 1369

Philippa is especially known for an episode involving problems between Edward and the Burghers of Calais. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

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