My genealogical researches have uncovered dozens of devout ancestors. This is the eighth installment of a series of posts titled “Doing God’s Work: Our Families’ Faithful”, documenting the lives of those who served God.
In the previous post of this series, I discussed the life of Ela of Salisbury (my 24th and my 25th great-grandmother), an abbess. In this post, I will introduce Marie of Brabant (my 23rd great-grandmother), who entered monastic life after the death of her husband.
On this day, 12 January 1322, Marie of Brabant passed away.
Born on 13 May 1254, in Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium, Marie was the youngest child and only daughter of Henry III, Duke of Brabant, and Adelaide of Burgundy. She joined brothers Henry (born circa 1251), John (born 1253), and Godfrey (birthdate unknown).
Little is known of Marie’s early childhood. What is known is that when Marie was just seven years old, tragedy struck. On 28 February 28, 1261, her father Henry III, Duke of Brabant, died at the age of 31. Marie’s eldest brother Henry, who was only 10 years old at the time, was too young to assume his father’s dukedom, so their mother Adelaide assumed the regency on behalf of her son.
Henry remained the Duke of Brabant in name only for the next six years. Unfortunately, because Henry was both physically and mentally disabled, he was deemed incapable of effectively ruling the Duchy. Consequently, in 1267, the title was stripped from Henry and passed onto brother John. Henry then became a novice at Abbaye Saint-Bénigne de Dijon. Then, in 1268, Adelaide relinquished control of the estate to John.
On 5 September 1270, Marie’s brother John wed Margaret of France, daughter of Louis IX of France and Margaret of Provence. That left just Marie and her mother (and possibly brother Godfrey) in the household. For three years, all was well.
Sadly, that tranquility would be shattered when on 23 October 1273, Marie’s mother, Adelaide of Burgundy, died at the age of 40.
The next year, on 27 August 1274, Marie of Brabant married newly crowned widower Philip III of France, another child of Louis IX of France and Margaret of Provence.
With their marriage, Marie not only became queen but also stepmother to three boys: Louis, Philip IV (my 22nd great-grandfather), and Charles of Valois (my 22nd great-grandfather).
In May 1276, Philip III and Marie of Brabant welcomed their first child, Louis of Évreux.
That same month, Philip III’s eldest son Louis, who was 12 years old, was poisoned. Whispered allegations, made by those who disliked having a non-French queen, abounded, claiming that Marie de Brabant, in an effort to improve her newborn son’s fortunes, was behind the elder Louis’ death. However, since neither of Marie’s other stepsons would suffer an early demise, it is doubtful that these accusations were based in fact.
Two years passed. Then, in 1278, Marie and her husband welcomed a daughter, Blanche of France.
The couple’s final child, Margaret of France (my 22nd great-grandmother) was born in 1282.
Soon thereafter, Marie’s husband Philip III, along with his elder sons, embarked on the Aragonese Crusade, fighting the armies of Peter III of Aragon, who was in conflict with Philip’s uncle, Charles I of Anjou.
Marie’s husband Philip III successfully survived several skirmishes, only to be laid low by dysentery in the fall of 1285. Then, on 5 October 1285, Philip III of France perished; the cause of death was dysentery and/or fever.
With her husband’s death, Marie of Brabant became the dowager queen. Her stepson, Philip IV, was crowned king of France on 6 January 1286.
No longer a part of the intrigue of the French court, Marie devoted her energies to raising her three children.
This is not to say that Marie stayed completely out of politics. In 1294, she, along with Jeanne of Navarre and Blanche of Artois (Jeanne’s mother), engaged in negotiations with Edmund Crouchback (my 22nd great-grandfather, husband to Blanche and stepfather to Jeanne). Peace between France and England was established.
On 10 September 1299, Marie’s daughter Margaret of France married Edward I of England.
The next year, on 25 May 1300, daughter Blanche of France wed Rudolf III of Austria.
Sometime after her daughters’ nuptials but prior to 1303, son Louis of Évreux married Margaret of Artois.
While Marie’s daughter Margaret and son Louis were busy starting their families, daughter Blanche was struggling to have a child. She bore a stillborn daughter in 1303. Then, on 1 March 1305, Blanche of France miscarried another child before dying from complications.
A few weeks later, on 2 April 1305, daughter-in-law Jeanne of Navarre, with whom Marie had a close relationship, died in childbirth.
For the next few years, Marie’s surviving son and daughter continued to present her with grandchildren. Then, around early November 1314, Marie’s stepson, Philip IV of France, suffered a cerebral stroke while hunting in the Forêt d’Halatte in Pont-Sainte-Maxence, France. He died a few weeks later on 29 November 1314, at Château de Fontainebleau, and was buried in the Basilica of St Denis.
Sometime in 1316, Marie of Brabant decided to go into the service of God and entered a monastery in Les Mureaux, France.
Two years after Marie took up the veil, her daughter Margaret of France died on 14 February 1318, in Malborough, England. She was only 38 years old.
Sadly, grief would come again to Marie of Brabant, when son Louis of Évreux passed away on 19 May 1319, in Paris, France. He was only 43 years old.
No parent should have to deal with losing a child. Losing all her children must have been devastating to Marie de Brabant, who only lived a few more years after her children’s deaths. She passed away on 12 January 1322, at the monastery at Les Mureaux; she was 67 years old. Marie chose not to be buried next to her husband in the ornate Basilica of Saint-Denis, but instead was laid to rest near her daughter-in-law, Jeanne of Navarre, in the more modest Cordeliers Convent in Paris.