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Beatrice of Savoy

Title social-status: 
Countess and Marquise of Provence and Countess of Forcalquier and Gap
Biography: 

Beatrice of Savoy was the daughter of Count Thomas of Savoy, Marguis in Italy, and Margaret of Geneva. She was one of ten known children, two girls and eight boys; six of her brothers lived long enough to become deeply involved in the politics of Europe. Amadeus succeeded his father as Count of Savoy, William was bishop of Valence, Boniface became archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas was count of Flanders during his marriage to Joan of Flanders and then count in Piedmont, Peter became count of Savoy after the death of his nephew, and Philip I, who had been bishop of Valence and archbishop-elect of Lyon, succeeded his brother Peter as count of Savoy.(!1)
They were skilled leaders and diplomats, but their scope was greatly increased by the connections made for the family by the marriages of Beatrice's daughters.
With Raymond Berengar V, count of Provence, whom she married in 1219,(!2)Beatrice had four daughters, all destined to become queens, a phenomenon noted by Dante (Par. 6.133-35). Matthew Paris called Beatrice a second Niobe (Chronica Majora, 3.335). The oldest daughter, Marguerite, was married to Louis IX of France in 1234; the second, Eleanor, married Henry III of England in 1236; Sanchia married Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III, in 1243, and became Queen of the Romans when he was elected emperor in 1256; and the youngest daughter, Beatrice, her father's designated heir to Provence, married Charles of Anjou in 1246 and became Queen of Sicily and Naples in 1266.
Beatrice of Savoy was herself a skilled diplomat. While she was in England for the marriage of her daughter Sanchia to Richard of Cornwall, she persuaded her son-in-law Henry III to grant his sister's husband, Simon de Montfort, a yearly stipend (500 marks) since there had been no marriage portion. Henry also endowed Beatrice with an annual stipend of 400 pounds and agreed to loan her husband, for whom she was acting, 4000 marks on the security of five castles in Provence (Howell, 39, Cox, 120), which she would refuse to surrender to her son-in-law Charles until Henry released them in 1257.
But Beatrice was not only a diplomat; when the occasion demanded she was also a forceful ruler. When various suitors tried to seize her daughter, the heir to Provence, Beatrice placed her in a safe fortress, secured the support of its people, and went to the pope for his protection. When the pope turned to the Capetians to counter the moves of the Hohenstaufen, Beatrice agreed to the marriage of her daughter Beatrice with Charles of Anjou, brother of the king of France. But he failed to respect her claims in Provence — her husband had left her the usufruct of the county for her lifetime — so Beatrice of Savoy (like her elder daughters) would be at odds with him for much of her life. From her seat in Forcalquier and Gap, her mother-in-law's lands, which she inherited from her husband and ruled from 1245 to 1256, she formed "the nucleus of a powerful anti-Angevin party" (Cox, 160). In 1255, when her brother Thomas was captured by citizens of Asti, she closed the Piedmont routes through her territory and arrested the "Lombards" who came through (Cox, 257). When a family member was not threatened, however, Beatrice was concerned about improving travel conditions in the Alps in lands left to her by her mother, and like her brother Boniface, left money in her will for bridge and road construction and repair (Viard, document 17).
The problems with Charles were resolved in stages. In 1248, in return for one-third the normal revenues of the comital treasury, Beatrice agreed to forego her claims on both usufruct of the county and on payment of arrears, and Charles promised to oblige his officers to swear to honor the commitments. All county officers were to render their accounts to her and to auditors to be selected by her and Charles (Cox, 162, Viard, documents 6,7). But Beatrice did not think Charles' officers respected the treaty. It was only after she had spent some time in the French court that she agreed to a large payment in return for surrendering her territories in Provence, but not trusting Charles, she insisted the money be paid through his brother king Louis (Cox, 281). At the same time, she promised to free the "Lombards" she still held, and Charles promised to pardon her supporters. The two swore to the stipulations in 1257.
In 1258, Beatrice's mother Margaret of Geneva died, leaving her daughter all her possessions in the Alps and Beatrice took up residence in Menuet with a large entourage. She founded a hospital at Les Echelles for the knights of St. John of Jerusalem to care for the poor and left money to almshouses and hospitals and for the repair of roads and bridges as well as to retainers and relatives.
Beatrice commissioned a text, the Régime du corps from Aldobrandino of Siena in 1256, which includes two chapters on pediatrics (Howell, 3). Aimeric de Belenoi, Sordello, Giraut de Borneil, and Elias de Barjols wrote lyrics for her. Cox describes her as "a handsome and strong-willed woman" who attained an international position "that was the fruit of energy and intelligence," not just the result of her daughters' brilliant marriages (454).

Biographical notes: 

(!1)For information about the family in Europe, see Eugene L. Cox, The Eagles of Savoy (Princeton: Princeton University, 1974). For information about the family in England, see Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence Queenship in 13th century England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998). For some of the documents from Beatrice's life, see Francisque Viard, Beatrice de Savoye (Lyon: L'Echo de Savoie, 1942).
(!2)For the dowry agreement between her father and her husband, see Viard, document #1.