Berengaria of Navarre was the Queen of England who never set foot in the country while she was queen. She was probably born in the 1160s and was the eldest daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre and his wife, Sanchia of Castile. In England, the heir to the throne, Prince Richard, known as Richard the Lionheart, had been betrothed to Alys of France, but that was doomed once Alys became Richard’s father’s mistress. After Richard’s father died, he became King of England, and his mother, Eleanor, Duchess-Regnant of Aquitaine, loved the idea of a marriage between Berengaria and her son, Richard.
In 1185, Berengaria was gifted the fief of Montreal, probably because everyone knew a betrothal to Richard was coming. Richard sent his mother to fetch Berengaria, and Eleanor of Aquitaine met Berengaria and her father, after which they celebrated the betrothal with a banquet. All this time, they were trying to keep this new betrothal from Alys of France’s brother, the King of France. The king of France tried to make Richard marry Alys, but Richard refused, because Alys may have been his father’s mistress. If Alys of France had really had an affair with Richard’s father—and there were even rumors that she’d had a child with him—it’d be impossible for Richard and Alys to marry, so the betrothal to Alys was over, leaving Berengaria as the next best bride for Richard. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, already supported the match, so there was no way they couldn’t get married now.
Berengaria and Eleanor of Aquitaine had their own crossing of the Alps and arrived in Sicily. Berengaria was left in Richard’s widowed sister Joan’s care, and they set off for the Holy Land to meet Richard because of course, Richard was crusading. Berengaria and Joan’s ship accidentally landed in Cyprus, where the island’s ruler was not quite friendly to them. Richard had to run to Cyprus, overthrow the Emperor of Cyprus, and, while he was there, he and Berengaria married on May 12th, 1191. She was immediately crowned Queen of England, although she was in Cyprus at the time.
Richard took his new wife with him to Acre while he was on the Third Crusade, and they were accompanied by his sister, Joan. It was quite dangerous for them to stay in the Holy Land, and after a few months, they left for Europe. While Richard was on his way back to Europe, though, he was captured, and, along with her mother-in-law, Berengaria helped raise money for Richard’s very high ransom, while traveling Europe at the same time. Eventually, Richard was released and returned to England, but even though Berengaria was Queen of England, she didn’t go to England with her husband. Neither of them spent a lot of time in England while they ruled it—Berengaria never set foot in the country, while Richard only spent six months there.
Richard spent so much time away from his wife that the Pope ordered him to spend some more time with Berengaria. Richard couldn’t disobey the Pope’s orders, so he and Berengaria went to church together every week. A few years later, in 1199, Richard died. He’d been shot by an arrow and died in his mother’s arms. Berengaria was very saddened by the loss of her husband, but her life went on.
Even though she never visited England during her husband’s reign, she may have visited after her husband’s death, in the 1220s. She was supposed to be paid a pension, as she was the dowager queen, but Richard’s brother, the new king, never paid. Berengaria’s nephew finally ended up paying her.
After traveling around Europe for so many years, Berengaria finally settled in Le Mans, France, where she lived the next few years quietly. She was called “a most praiseworthy widow”, but because her husband’s brother barely paid her anything, she also lived quite poorly, but did what she wanted to do and founded a monastery, and was buried in the abbey. She did not get to see the abbey completed and died on December 23rd, 1230.