Alais of France (1160–?)

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Alais of France (1160–?)

Princess of France. Name variations: Alix or Alice. Born on October 4, 1160; death date unknown; daughter of Constance of Castile (d. 1160) and Louis VII, king of France (r. 1137–1180); half sister of Philip II Augustus (1165–1223), king of France; betrothed to Richard the Lionheart; possibly married William II of Ponthieu, count of Ponthieu, around 1195; children: possibly Joanna of Ponthieu , countess of Aumale (d. 1251).

Alais was a French princess, the daughter of King Louis VII and his second wife, Constance of Castile . In an arrangement made to secure peace between her family and the family of Louis' first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine , and her new husband, England's King Henry II, Alais was betrothed to Eleanor and Henry's son Richard the Lionheart and sent to the English royal court for her upbringing. Despite the marriage arrangement, Louis still held a grudge against Eleanor for divorcing him, and he agreed to the betrothal only on condition that Eleanor not be allowed to supervise Alais' upbringing.

Unfortunately for Alais, the serious conflicts that arose between the English princes and their father Henry kept her marriage from occurring as planned. There was a popular rumor that Alais became the mistress of Henry, although this is not fully substantiated. One chronicler even wrote that Henry planned to have his marriage to Eleanor annulled and then marry Alais himself. At any rate, Richard refused to marry the French princess after he succeeded Henry in 1189, supposedly because she was not chaste, but possibly because she was his estranged father's choice; he later married Berengaria of Navarre .

After Henry's death Alais became the virtual prisoner of Eleanor and Richard, as the new king and his mother did not want to lose her dower lands of the county of Berry by returning her to the French king. They installed her at the fortress of Rouen under guard. At age 33, Alais was released as part of a truce in the war that had erupted between Richard and Philip II Augustus, Alais' younger half brother and now king of France. After a 24-year absence, she returned to Paris. With few options open to her, Alais might have entered a convent, but Philip arranged a marriage for her in 1195 to one of his supporters, Count William of Ponthieu. Little is known of her life after this.

Laura York , Anza, California