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Fontevraud Abbey and The Plantagenets

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Magna Carta

Fontevraud Abbey in France is the resting place of two Plantagenet kings and two queens

What brings them to rest in this abbey in the Loire Valley?

Fontevraud Abbey

Fontevraud Abbey

For many centuries Fontevraud Abbey and the priories attached to it were at the heart of an intense and unusual religious order. There existed here monks, nuns and priests all living under the authority of one abbess.

The connection with Fontevraud and the Plantagenets began with the Angevin dynasty whose fortunes waxed and waned over the 11th and 12th century.

In 1129, the Count of Anjou, a widower, was leaving France to marry and become King of Jerusalem. Before he left he went into retreat at Fontevraud and gathered around him his children. His daughter Matilda the widow to the heir of the English throne who was drowned when the ‘White Ship’ sank and Geoffrey, whose act of wearing a sprig of white broom in his hat led to the dynasty becoming known ad ‘Plantagenet’ and who married Maud, daughter and heir of King Henry I of England.

Fontevraud Abbey

Interior Fontevraud Abbey

 

The Count of Anjou was deeply attached to Fontevraud and desired that that connection should be continued through his children. Geoffrey was less interested than his father had been in the Abbey but when he died in 1152, Henry, who would become King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, his wife, formed close ties to it. His two youngest children Joan and John (who would become King John of England) were entrusted to the care of the Abbey, John stayed here for five years and Joan until she was a young adult.

Fontevraud Abbey

Gardens at Fontevraud Abbey

King Henry II died at Chinon and uncertainty surrounds the fact that he was buried in Fontevraud rather than Grandmont which he requested.

Queen Eleanor retired to Fontevraud and it was she who designed the necropolis for her children, her beloved King Richard I, Richard the Lionheart, who wanted to be buried at his fathers feet and his sister Joan who wished to be buried alongside her brother and it was not long until Queen Eleanor herself joined them.

Fontevraud Abbey

Queen Eleanor with book in hand. Fontevraud Abbey

So here they lay, the great Plantagenet masters, whose lives were complicated by family feuds.

King John, the brother and son with whom they had such a fractious relationship lies in Worcester Cathedral rather than with his family at Fontevraud. His second wife Isabella lies here though.

Fontevraud Abbey

King Henry II Fontevraud Abbey

Fontevraud Abbey

King Richard I Fontevraud Abbey

Fontevraud Abbey

 

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