The account of Berengaria's life ends here, but the few known facts about her raise more questions than answers. An unanswered question relates to her marriage, which gives no evidence that her husband ever had any deeper attachment for her than total indifference.
The simple fact is that Berengaria was chosen by Eleanor of Aquitaine to be the wife of her son Richard the Lionheart. Berengaria married Richard in 1191, when he was 36 and she was in around 22-25 years of age. Judged against custom of the time, their marriage came surprisingly late in life for both of them. Royal and noble first weddings usually occurred in one’s middle teens to assure production of several heirs (preferably ...view middle of the document...
However, that fog of gay gossip conflicts with Richard having at least one, and possibly two, illegitimate offspring; also, Richard’s hectic military life always took precedence over domesticity, so a reasonable conclusion is that Richard probably was of bisexual orientation.
The most obvious explanation for Richard’s persistent neglect of a husband’s marital duties, however, is never mentioned, namely, that Richard and Berengaria were totally incompatible. Many maxims refer to mysteries underlying personal choice in mates: there is no accounting for taste; love sees imperfect as perfect; one never understands what he/she sees in her/him—et ad infinitum. Richard and Berengaria’s marriage was arranged; it was not a union of personal choice. It is neither a stretch of imagination to imagine that Richard may simply have reacted strongly against Berengaria’s manners and appearance. History gives us Richard—a six-foot tall blond blue-eyed charmer, who is presented with Berengaria—a small bride of Mediterranean coloring, with black hair and eyes. Contrary to notoriously flawed popular wisdom, opposites do not always attract one another; more often, like attracts like. How many times does the simple statement, “Sorry, she/he is just not my type!” frustrate matchmakers?
Therefore, the lack of cohabitation by Richard and Berengaria might be attributed to the lack of attraction of one to the other. However, a dislike for his wife would have to be exceedingly strong (an aversion bordering on revulsion) for Richard to forgo all prospect of having a legitimate heir of his own to inherit his crown and titles. The desire for an heir or heirs compels men of any sexual persuasion, gay or straight, to marry and have children of their own. Thus, all speculation about causes for the estrangement between Richard and Berengaria will continue to challenge imagination and remain uncertain.
As an historical personality, Berengaria of Navarre is one of the least clearly visualized queens in English history, and one who left little mark on colorful events of her time. She lived among individuals who unquestionably were among England’s best-remembered personalities. She was witness to events that have been thoroughly documented; yet she played one of the least recorded roles in history. Where facts are few, speculation abounds. That certainly applies to Queen Berengaria. Berengaria’s main claim to fame at present is in occasional questions in crossword puzzles and television quiz shows that ask, ‘Who was the only English queen that never set foot on English soil?“
THE KINGDOM OF NAVARRE
A few concluding words are added about Berengaria’s historic Kingdom of Navarre. Navarre was an independent kingdom, bordered to the west by the Bay of Biscay. Its borders inland to the east, both north and south was bounded the Pyrenees Mountains that lie between what is now Spain and France. The capital of Navarre is Pamplona, famous for ‘the running of the bulls’. Its...