A Corfe Castle story
We have all read the fairy tales about the princess in the tower waiting for her saviour, right? Here is the real life version…without the happy ending
Her name was Eleanor, but you could also call her “The Pearl of Brittany” (and she would respond). She was the granddaughter of King Henry II from his third son Geoffrey. During the medieval days, princesses like Eleanor were a high commodity. Her uncle, King Richard “The Lionheart” tried to marry her to the brother of the Sultan when she was only five, the deal was that the brother would be able to marry her if he converted to Christianity, so Eleanor and the brother would become the King and Queen of Jerusalem. When the brother refused to convert, uncle Richard tried to offer her to three more kings until he died when she was 15.
After the king died, the next in line to the throne was Arthur, the brother of Eleanor, but there was someone else who wanted to be king. This was Richard’s youngest brother John (The bad guy from all the Robin Hood stories).
Arthur was only 14, but with the support of some barons he went into battle against John. It did not end well for him, and he died in captivity in a “suspicious and mysterious” way. The next in line was Eleanor…even she had a better claim to the throne, but John had other plans for her as well. She was sent to Corfe Castle. A place so fortified and secure, that the king even held there is crown jewels.
To be fair, King John was not much different than his brothers, his dad or his grandfather. All these kings were not focusing on anything but their own interests, and in order to achieve their desire, they would practically do anything. Take for example Richard, who we know today as “The Lionheart”: when he tried to raise money to fund his precious crusade, everything in England was on sale… castles, villages, titles. Richard even said that he would sell London if someone would offer him what the city was worth…
John was the youngest of Henry’s four brothers, and when his father divided his empire, which also included Normandy and most of France, John was the only one who did not get a kingdom, but when 2 of his brothers died, and finally King Richard died, and after so many years of being the joke of the royal family, (they used to call him “John No Land, and John Sweetsword) it was his time to shine, so what would you do if you were in his medieval shoes?
So Eleanor became the perfect candidate to be cast as the princess in the tower, the damsel in distress waiting for a prince to save her. Unfortunately, her life were not a disney movie, and nobody came for her rescue (and believe me she was screaming for help). In her time in Corfe, she even witnessed John sending prisoners to starve to death in the castle, so I’m sure she did not feel safe. In 1219, King John finally died. By that time, Eleanor had been imprisoned for 20 years. She hoped that now she would be able to taste freedom, but King John’s son Henry III, continued his father legacy in several ways, including keeping Eleanor imprisoned. She lasted 19 more years before dying in her prison, spending a total of 39 years in captivity, when her only crime was her royal blood. It’s important to mention though that Eleanor was treated in Corfe Castle like a real princess. She received an allowance from the King and was even presented to the public every year to show that she was not injured…
After her death, King Henry III appointed a priest to pray daily for Eleanor. Well, I’m sure she appreciated that.
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