Queen Blanche II of Navarre is yet another Queen who was locked up and then murdered. But she’s probably the one we talk about less; she has literally zero books written about her, and every article I could find was so short, so there’s not much out there about Blanche. But I’m going to at least attempt to tell the story of one of history’s most forgotten queens.
Blanche II of Navarre was born on June 9th, 1424, in Olite, Navarre, which is now Spain, but then was an independent kingdom. Blanche wasn’t the daughter of the King of Navarre, she was the daughter of the Queen of Navarre, so of course, we’re going to talk about her really cool mother now.
Blanche’s mother was another Blanche: Queen Blanche I of Navarre. To try and stop ourselves from getting too confused, let’s call her Queen Blanche, and let’s call the Blanche this article is about just “Blanche”. So, Queen Blanche was the daughter of King Charles III of Navarre, who had a real Henry VIII situation going on. His first six children were daughters: Joanna, Maria, Queen Blanche, Margaret, Beatrice, and Isabella. Then, he had some really good luck and somehow had two sons. But then, he didn’t have good luck, and those two sons both died more than twenty years before he did. And they didn’t even live long enough to have their own children: one died at five, and the other died at only a few months old.
And that’s how Queen Blanche became queen. By the time Charles III was dead, Blanche was his oldest surviving daughter, so she got to be queen, yay for her. Before becoming Queen, Queen Blanche had been Queen of another country. She had married King Martin I of Sicily and became Queen of Sicily. When Martin was away from Sicily trying to conquer Sardinia, because Italy was also made of a bunch of tiny kingdoms at the time, Blanche got to be his regent, because, for some reason, people were totally okay with a woman being regent, but not exactly happy if a woman becomes a ruler in her own right. I don’t understand their logic.
After Martin’s death, there’s a really weird situation, because Queen Blanche and Martin had had a son who’d died in infancy, so Martin was succeeded by—and this is such a crazy scenario that I’ve never seen happen before in history—his father. I’m not even joking. So, the way I understand it, Martin’s father, another Martin, was King of Aragon, but also in line for the throne of the kingdom of Sicily. He couldn’t have taken the throne of Sicily because he was already King of Aragon, so that throne went to his son. But because Martin didn’t have any heirs, the throne went to Martin’s father, the King of Aragon, but that’s just the way I understand it.
Queen Blanche was allowed to stay as regent for a little longer, but eventually lost the job and had to return to Navarre. Then, a little while later, Queen Blanche was sworn in as heir to Navarre, and, now that she wasn’t being her former father-in-law’s regent, she was free to get married again, and this time, she married a total piece of crap named John. I hate him because he’s today’s villain and because I just do not like or trust this guy. You probably know John for being the father of a famous guy named Fernando II of Aragon, the wife of Queen Isabella I of Castile (the lady who started the Spanish Inquisition and sent Columbus to the Americas), and the father of Queen Juana the Mad of Castile and Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England. Queen Blanche wasn’t Fernando’s mother, though, he was John’s son by the woman he’ll marry after Blanche dies.
Blanche, unlike her father, had a son. She did end up having a son named Charles, who lived until forty, and he did have a very long, twenty-year reign, but he wasn’t really ruling during that time. Charles’s father, the disgusting John who doesn’t like his kids and only wants their power, kept control of Navarre, even though poor Charles was a grown man. I hate John, and I think we’ll all hate John as the story progresses.
So, why are there so many tiny little kingdoms in Spain? Well, they were all different kingdoms for like, a really long time. On the Iberian Peninsula, there was Portugal, which still exists and was always its own kingdom, even though it was ruled by the monarchs of Spain for a time, then there was Castile and Leon, whose ruler (Juana the Mad’s son) ended up becoming the monarch of all Spain. Then there was Aragon, and because Fernando II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile, they ended up having their ruler become monarch of all Spain, too. Then there was Navarre, which we’ll talk about today.
So, while this was all going on, while everyone was fighting, killing, conquering, and stealing the throne from each other, Blanche was growing up. Blanche had an older brother, Charles, whom we mentioned, as well as an older sister, Joan, who died in infancy, and a younger sister, Eleanor.
At 15, Blanche was married to her cousin, Enrique, the future king of Castile, whom she’d been betrothed to since she was about ten years old. One thing I didn’t understand for a while is that Enrique in English is “Henry”, and not knowing that really confused me. The marriage was obviously arranged for alliance reasons, and this whole thing was not going to work out well for Blanche at all.
Enrique’s title was “Prince of Asturias”, so Blanche became Princess of Asturias, and would definitely be Queen of Castile someday. Enrique, like John, was, guess what, an absolute piece of crap, which we’ll find out soon enough. Talking about Enrique would really be useless, so let’s talk about Blanche and Enrique, and how much of an amazing couple they were. But first: Blanche’s mother, Queen Blanche, died about a year after Enrique and Blanche got married, and John kept control of the government, and all that stuff happened.
Anyways, Blanche was married to Enrique for thirteen years, and, quite famously, they never consummated the marriage. Enrique was like, “it’s totally Blanche’s fault, is there any way she’s not using witchcraft on me to make me impotent?” and everyone else, who also didn’t like Enrique were like, “hmm, no”, and for once, left the woman who wasn’t having hundreds of kids alone.
So, it actually was Enrique’s problem, but he kept blaming Blanche, and Blanche’s amazingness kept getting everyone to blame him, and they just didn’t consummate their marriage for the whole thirteen years that they were married. And because everyone blamed Enrique for not having kids, they gave him the nickname El Impotente. And everyone thought he was impotent for the rest of his life, so, when he remarried and had a daughter, Juana, everyone called her la Beltraneja, whom we’ll talk about briefly in a moment.
Anyway, Enrique started attempting to annul his marriage to Blanche because he’s a total piece of crap. He was like, “look, I’m not El Impotente, Blanche has turned me into El Impotente, so annul my marriage, thank you.” Blanche had to be examined to see if she was still a virgin, and guess what? she was. Enrique was really desperate to get his marriage annulled, and, having his wife be examined and all that was the only thing that would really work, but it was really not good for their reputations.
Enrique could’ve said that he and Blanche were cousins, and so they were too closely related to marry, but because literally everyone was everyone’s cousin, he’d have a hard time finding a wife after Blanche if he did. In 1453, after thirteen years of being married to not good Enrique, Blanche’s marriage was annulled and she got to go home, where she quickly felt like she could never get a break, anywhere. Before we talk about Blanche going home, though, let’s talk about what ended up happening to Enrique. He married again, because why not, and this time it was another really cool lady named Joan of Portugal. He ended up not having a son, and so his half-sister, Isabella, became Queen of Castile.
So, basically, at the time Blanche got back to Navarre, her really disgusting and horrid father, John, was ruling Navarre and not giving any power to the actual ruler of Navarre, Blanche’s brother, Charles. Charles also liked power, and he wanted some, and legally, it’s his power anyway, so can you really blame him? Blanche supported her brother, and John was like, “hmm, I don’t think so”, and disinherited them both. I’m not sure how exactly he could do that, but he did it.
Charles’s wife had also just died, and he wanted to get married again, to Isabel of Castile, who we’ve mentioned (she became Queen of Castile and married Fernando of Aragon). John, who, by the way, had remarried, which Charles wasn’t too happy about, didn’t like that his son wanted to get married again, so he just decided to lock his son up, I guess. So, Charles got thrown in prison, but eventually, he was released. And then?
He was also probably poisoned by Juana Enriquez, his stepmother. Legally, because of their asshole father, Blanche wasn’t the heir, but her sister Eleanor, who had always agreed with their father and never gotten in his way, was heir to Navarre. But the thing is, as it is with literally every situation, different people liked different people; a lot of people wanted Blanche as Queen, while another lot of people wanted Eleanor as Queen, including John himself.
Blanche, however, was also liked, so she was seen by some as the legitimate Queen of Navarre. Her sister, Eleanor, started to get a little nervous and had her son marry the French king’s sister. Then, Blanche’s father, John, tried to make her leave Navarre to marry Charles, Duke of Berry, the brother of the French king because it totally isn’t weird that an aunt and nephew are marrying two siblings. But then, Blanche refused to leave and marry her future niece’s brother (?), and then she was abducted.
She tried to get help from her father’s enemies who wanted her to be queen, and oh my god, we’ve heard of so many horrible husbands, and we’ve got a horrid father this time. She blamed her sister, Eleanor, and brother-in-law, the Count and Countess of Foix, and they were like, “What? What did we do? Blanche? You exist? I totally didn’t know that and I’m not going to kill you, no, of course not.”
Blanche’s prison was the Castle of Orthez, where she lived for two and a half years. She was in the care of her sister, Eleanor, and brother-in-law, Gaston of Foix, who didn’t treat her too well. She didn’t get enough money to like, be royal, so that must have been not good for her. Blanche died on December 2nd, 1464, at the age of just forty, while in Eleanor’s care, and of course, a lot of people thought Eleanor killed Blanche. After Blanche, Eleanor became Queen but wisely didn’t claim any power until after John, who ended up becoming King of Aragon, died, in 1479.