Austin Hernon is the author of The Wars of the Magna Carta series — military historical sagas — and the Berengaria of Navarre Medieval Trilogy: early Plantagenet novels set during the Third Crusade and the reign of Richard the Lionheart.

For the second instalment of my Berengaria of Navarre trilogy, The Abandoned Queen, I wanted to provide a little historical background. Why did England have a Basque queen between 1191 and 1199? Queen Berengaria didn’t chase or lobby for that crown. She was fully occupied managing her widowed father’s court.

Her father, King Sancho VI of Navarre was an enlightened man and ensured that all his children received the same comprehensive education. Therefore, by the time she was in her twenties, Berengaria was educated, multilingual, intelligent, and a keen observer of European politics and diplomacy of the time. The person who invited her to become Queen of England was none other than Richard the Lionheart’s mother: the dowager Queen of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine. She, the matriarch of the Plantagenet dynasty, was anxious to preserve the royal bloodline. With Richard already bound for Palestine, there was no guarantee he would return, and she was also determined to keep the runt Prince John off the throne.

But why was Richard bound for the Holy Land? The answer to that lies in the Third Crusade. Pope Gregory VIII called for the Crusade, which was intended to conquer the Holy Land and bring it under Christian control. Three kings responded to his call: King Phillip II of France; Frederick I, the Holy Roman Emperor; and Richard I of England.

A glance at a map of the time reveals that the kingdom of Navarre abutted Eleanor’s duchy of Aquitaine. In proposing that Berengaria marry Richard, Eleanor was able to satisfy her desire for a daughter-in-law and secure a useful ally on her southern border. And what princess would refuse the opportunity to be made a queen?

Once Berengaria had agreed to the plan, she and Eleanor set off together in hot pursuit of the war-bound king. And what an unexpected adventure the brave princess had volunteered for.

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