Eleanor of Navarre (1425–1479)

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Eleanor of Navarre (1425–1479)

Queen of Navarre. Name variations: Leonor; Eleanor Trastamara; Eleanor de Foix. Born on February 2, 1425 (some sources cite 1426), in Aragon; died on February 12, 1479, in Tudela, Navarre, Spain; daughter of Juan II also known as John II, king of Aragon (r. 1458–1479), and Blanche of Navarre (1385–1441); sister of Blanche of Navarre (1424–1464), queen of Castile and Leon; half-sister of Ferdinand of Aragon (who married Isabella I [1451–1504]); married Gaston de Foix also known as Gaston IV, count of Foix, on July 30, 1436 (died 1470 or 1472); children: (in order of birth) Maria de Foix ; Gaston, prince of Viane or Viana; Jeanne de Foix ; Jean; Pierre; Margareta de Foix ; Catherine de Foix ; Eleanor de Foix ; Jaime; Anne de Foix .

Eleanor, a princess of Navarre, was the daughter of King John II of Aragon and Blanche of Navarre (1385–1441). As a young woman, she married the French count Gaston de Foix. On her mother's death in 1441, Eleanor's brother Charles (or Carlos), prince of Viana, inherited the small but prosperous kingdom of Navarre, although their father John took over as regent. Eleanor moved to France to reside on her husband's estates in Foix, and she gave birth to ten children, four sons and six daughters. John, who despised his son Charles, soon disinherited Eleanor's brother in favor of Eleanor and her husband Gaston, which greatly pleased Eleanor.

Blanche of Navarre (1424–1464)

Queen of Castile and Leon. Name variations: (Spanish) Blanca de Navarra; Bianca. Born on June 9, 1424, in Olite; died on December 2, 1464, in Orthez; daughter of Juan also known as John II, king of Aragon (r. 1458–1479), and Blanche of Navarre (1385–1441); sister of Charles (Carlos), prince of Viana, and Eleanor of Navarre (1425–1479); became first wife of Enrique also known as Henry IV (b. 1425), king of Castile and Leon (r. 1454–1474), on September 15, 1440 (divorced 1453); children: none.

However, though she was queen in name, Eleanor of Navarre was unable to exert the authority of a ruler because her father refused to allow her to govern. Her deposed brother and her elder sister Blanche of Navarre (1424–1464) rebelled against their father and demanded Charles' reinstatement as the rightful heir to Navarre. John refused, and Eleanor therefore found herself struggling for power against her father as well as her brother, sister, and most of the political and religious leaders on the Spanish peninsula, who supported Charles. Her only ally was her husband Gaston, who led the armed struggle for his wife's inheritance. Her efforts to secure the throne led to years of warfare and civil strife, while her father retained control of Navarre. She spent much of her time trying to rid herself of her sister Blanche, whom Charles had named as his heir. In 1464, Blanche was kidnapped and imprisoned; soon she was murdered, probably on Eleanor's orders.

Eventually, the aged King John agreed to let his daughter Eleanor take over the rule of Navarre but only under his authority, and she became more of a puppet than a true ruler. Though Eleanor's husband Gaston was killed in 1472 during one of his battles against his wife's many enemies, Eleanor refused to give up hope that she would succeed as queen regnant. At last, she achieved her dream in 1479, when her 80-year-old father died. The 53-year-old Eleanor was proclaimed queen of Navarre and no doubt looked forward to years of ruling on her own authority after so many years of struggle. But Eleanor died suddenly only 15 days after her coronation. She left her kingdom to her grandson, Francisco Febo.


Echols, Anne, and Marty Williams. An Annotated Index of Medieval Women. NY: Markus Wiener, 1992.

Opfell, Olga. Queens, Empresses, Grand Duchesses, and Regents: Women Rulers of Europe, 1328–1989. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1989.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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Eleanor of Navarre (1425–1479)