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4 - Elionor of Sicily: A Mediterranean Queen’s Two Lives of Family, Administration, Diplomacy, and War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2021

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Summary

This article reviews the colorful life of Elionor of Sicily (1325–75), the third wife of King Pere III of Aragon (r. 1336–87). As an extremely talented administrator, the queen managed her own private property and dowry holdings in a way that continually supported the fiscal well-being of her husband. Her skill in this regard was especially apparent in Pere’s war with his younger rival, Pedro I of Castile (r. 1350–66/69) which lasted from 1356 to 1366. In this desperate struggle the queen repeatedly supplied money and ships for her husband while acting as his representative in Catalonia. As the mother of two princes who grew to manhood (Joan and Marti) she helped guarantee the Barcelona dynasty's survival until 1410.

The registers of Barcelona's Archivo de la Corona de Aragón have long provided great archival historians such as Robert I. Burns and Teresa-Maria Vinyoles with evidentiary material for the study of eastern Spanish women of all classes during the later Middle Ages. Unsurprisingly, this massive depository has also provided scholars – myself included – with a great deal of evidence about royal women of the same region and era, including Elionor (r. 1349–75), the third wife of Pere III (r. 1336–87), who well served her husband's realms, the Crown of Aragon, and the land of her birth, the island of Sicily. To follow Father Burns’ plan aired over twenty years ago, I will briefly explore the many roles of a “single woman” as they affected both eastern Spain and Sicily by assessing “random charters … to construct a narrative of her [family, administrative, diplomatic, and political] life.”

This linked archival information will allow the assessment of the Aragonese queen as a faithful wife and mother who, with her “most beloved husband and lord,” had three sons and a daughter, three of whom advanced to royal life for themselves. We will also see her as an important administrative figure in Pere III's government, who, exercising the offices of governor of Catalonia and royal lieutenant, served as a critically important figure in conflicts against Sardinia (1354––55) and Castile (1356––66). Elionor will also be seen as an important player in her husband's military endeavors who often kept his captains in line, contributed money from her official revenues and private funds to pay troops and naval crews while even having ships armed, and maintained communication lines between the king, his officials, and captains.

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Journal of Medieval Military History
Volume XVII
, pp. 81 - 102
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2019

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