by Susan Flantzer
Margaret of France was the second wife of King Edward I of England. Probably born in Paris, France in 1279, Margaret was the youngest child of King Philippe III of France and his second wife Marie of Brabant.
Margaret had two siblings:
- Louis, Count of Évreux (1276 – 1319), married Margaret of Artois, had issue
- Blanche of France (1278 – 1305), married Rudolf, Duke of Austria, after her death, King Rudolf I of Bohemia and Poland, no surviving issue
Margaret had four half-siblings from her father’s first marriage to Isabella of Aragon:
- Louis (1264 – 1276), heir to the French throne, probably poisoned by his stepmother Marie of Brabant
- King Philippe IV of France (1268 – 1314), married Queen Joan I of Navarre, had issue including three Kings of France and Navarre, and Isabella who married King Edward II of England
- Robert (1269–1271)
- Charles, Count of Valois (1270 – 1325), married (1) Margaret, Countess of Anjou, had issue including King Philippe VI of France, the first Valois king (2) Catherine I of Courtenay, had issue (3) Mahaut of Chatillon, had issue
King Edward I had a loving marriage with his first wife Eleanor of Castile, and they were inseparable throughout their married life. Edward I is one of the few English kings of the time period to apparently be faithful to his wife. Eleanor accompanied her husband on Crusade and on other military campaigns. She died in 1390 at the age of 49, and King Edward I was devastated. He had been married to Eleanor for 36 years, and she had given birth to 14-16 children. However, only six children, five daughters and one son, were still living when Eleanor died in 1290. The son was the youngest child and only six years old. Edward I had to be worried about the succession, and a second marriage with sons would ensure the succession.
Edward I was also anxious for an alliance with France. In 1291, he arranged for the betrothal of his seven-year-old son Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward II) to Blanche of France, the half-sister of King Philippe IV of France and the sister of Margaret of France. However, in 1293, after hearing of Blanche’s beauty, Edward I broke off his son’s betrothal to Blanche and sent emissaries to negotiate a marriage between himself and Blanche. King Philippe IV of France agreed to the marriage providing that a truce would be concluded between the two countries and that Edward would cede the province of Gascony to France. Edward agreed, but when his brother Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster went to fetch Blanche, he discovered that Blanche was already betrothed to Rudolf, Duke of Austria. King Philippe IV instead offered Edward Blanche’s younger sister Margaret, who was only eleven years old. Edward I refused, and instead declared war on France. Five years later, King Edward, I of England and King Philippe IV of France declared a truce under which Edward would marry Margaret, now a more mature 16 years old.
On September 10, 1299 in Canterbury, 60-year-old King Edward I and 17-year-old Margaret of France were married. This was followed by a four-day wedding festivities. Margaret was never crowned, making her the first queen since the Norman Conquest in 1066 not to be crowned.
Edward and Margaret had three children:
- Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk (1300 – 1338), married (1) Alice de Hales, had issue (2) Mary de Brewes, no surviving issue
- Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent (1301 – 1330), married Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell, had issue including Joan of Kent (The Fair Maid of Kent) who married King Edward III‘s eldest son Edward, Prince of Wales (The Black Prince) and was the mother of King Richard II of England
- Eleanor of England (1306 – 1311), died young
As King Edward I’s first wife did, Margaret accompanied him on military campaigns. Margaret got along well with her stepson Edward, Prince of Wales, who was two years younger than her, and Margaret often reconciled the prince with his father when the two disagreed. In the summer of 1307, Margaret accompanied Edward I on a military campaign in Scotland. On the way to Scotland, the 68-year-old king died on July 7, 1307 at Burgh by Sands in Cumbria, England.
Although the widowed Margaret was still in her 20s, she never remarried saying, “When Edward died, all men died for me.” In January of 1308, Margaret accompanied her stepson King Edward II of England to Boulogne, France where he married Margaret’s half-niece Isabella of France, daughter of King Philippe IV. Margaret then retired to her dower house, Marlborough Castle, in Wilshire, England, where she lived the rest of her life. She died there on February 14, 1318, not yet 40 years old, and was she was buried at Christ Church Greyfriars in London, which she had co-founded. Her beautifully carved tomb was destroyed during the English Reformation, sold for its marble and other valuable materials.