Fabulous New Release | Her Castilian Heart | Anna Belfrage

Her Castilian Heart
Anna Belfrage
Blood is not always thicker than water…
At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.
A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge.  He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away.
Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate. Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe?
Anna, thanks so much for stopping by – and writing this wonderfully clear guide to the background of your latest. You have SUCH a brilliant way of simplifying the most complex of historical situations!

Edward I

A father must do what a father can do to safeguard his daughter’s wedding.
In my recent release, Her Castilian Heart, the adventures and misfortunes that beset my fictional protagonists, Robert FitzStephan and his wife Noor, are set against the backdrop of Edward I’s attempts to broker peace between the pope, the king of France and the king of Aragon.
Leaving aside that it is rather unusual to think of Edward as some sort of peace dove—he comes down to us through history as a harsh man more given to martial pursuits than faffing about with an olive branch—one wonders why he would expend so much time and money on what would, ultimately, prove a futile effort.
Maybe we should start with some background: In 1282, the Sicilians rose in rebellion against Charles d’Anjou, sick and tired of his oppressive taxation. To their rescue came Pedro of Aragon, who, through his wife, Constanza, had a claim on the kingdom of Sicily. In fact, Charles d’Anjou had brutally ripped Sicily out of Constanza’s father’s hand fifteen years or so earlier.
The papacy backed Charles d’Anjou in 1266 and was amply rewarded with annual tribute. Having this source of income ripped away did not please the pope. Accordingly, King Pedro was excommunicated.
In France, Charles d’Anjou’s nephew, Philippe III was furious on behalf of his uncle.  Plus, he didn’t like, how Pedro of Aragon effectively controlled the western part of the Mediterranean. Which is why, cheered on by the pope, Philippe organised a crusade and invaded Aragon.
Anyway: the French suffered a humiliating defeat in Aragon. Some weeks later, both Philippe III and Pedro II were dead.
We’re now in 1286, and Edward is given the task to somehow negotiate a treaty between the aggrieved pope, Philippe IV and the young Aragonese king, Alfonso.
Not an easy task, let me tell you. The pope wanted Sicily back under his indirect control, i.e. returned to the Angevins. Philippe wanted restitution for the loss of the crown of Aragon—rather odd, seeing as Aragon wasn’t his to begin with. Young Alfonso wanted peace—but not at the expense of relinquishing Sicily.

Eleanor of England, Countess of Bar

And then, of course, there was the matter of Eleanor, Edward’s daughter who was contracted to Alfonso. Eleanor was Edward and his wife’s eldest surviving child and she’d been contracted to marry Alfonso of Aragon for years. Pedro had requested repeatedly that she be sent down to Aragon to be raised at their court, but with the escalating conflict between the pope and the king of Aragon, Edward had found it wise to keep Eleanor at home. But now his daughter was seventeen, and Papa wanted to see his daughter safely wed.
This was Edward’s personal reason for sticking his foot into what effectively was a political hornet’s nest. He really wanted his daughter to become queen, but the pope had made it very clear he’d bring down the wrath of God on Edward, his wife and daughter if she wed that perfidious whelp before Sicily was returned to its rightful lord.
Edward spent three years negotiating. His expenses were huge—so huge he had to coerce “his” Gascon Jews to pay up 20 000 marks—and he returned to England in late 1289 heavily in debt. And without having managed to marry his daughter, as neither of the two treaties he managed to negotiate between France, the Angevins and Aragon actually called for the return of Sicily to Charles d’Anjou (By this time, Charles was dead, his heir was Alfonso’s prisoner which made the Angevin position vulnerable)
It took until 1290 until Edward finally began preparations for his daughter’s trip to Barcelona. In August of 1290, Eleanor wed Alfonso by proxy, and I imagine Edward was pleased: finally, his baby girl was on her way to become queen.  But late in 1290, Edward’s beloved wife, Eleanor of Castile died. That obviously delayed things. And then, in 1291, Alfonso died. Eleanor, princess of England would never set foot in Barcelona, never speak her vows to Alfonso in person or become reigning queen, no matter how much time and silver her dear Papa had invested in trying to make it happen.

Marriage of Bohemond I and Constance – Chronique d’Ernoul et de Bernard le Trésorier (late 15th C), f.170-BL Royal MS15EI

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