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Queen Blanche of Castile and the Rosary

Elaine M. Jordan

Queen Blanche of Castille (1187-1251), the spouse of King Louis VIII, was deeply grieved because she was still childless after 12 years of marriage. When St. Dominic of Guzman went to see her, he counseled her to say the Rosary every day to ask God for the grace of motherhood. She faithfully carried out his advice. In 1213 she gave birth to her eldest child, Philip, but the child died in infancy.

The Queen's fervor was nowise dulled by this disappointment. On the contrary, she sought Our Lady's help more than ever before. She had a large number of Rosaries given out to all members of the court and also to people in several cities of the Kingdom, asking them to join in her entreating God for a blessing that this time would be complete.

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Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile - 1223

In 1215, she gave birth to St. Louis, the prince who was to become the glory of France and the model of all Catholic Kings. He wore his earthly crown without reproach, and thereby gained a heavenly crown whose glory will never fade.

This story was related in a book of Marian exempla, the Ulm Rosary Handbook, written by Alanus de Rupe in 1483. Later, St. Louis de Montfort would repeat the story in his book The Secret of the Rosary to encourage the praying of the Rosary.

If King Louis was an exemplary Catholic King, his mother Blanche of Castile was the model of the pious, strong Catholic Queen. In the book Married Saints (pp. 110-128), we read that she combined a genius for statesmanship with the best qualities of motherhood:

"At the untimely death of Louis VIII, the kingdom faced a crisis since Louis was only a boy of 12. Queen Blanche ruled the kingdom as regent for eight years – from 1226 to 1234 - with wisdom and vigor until he could be crowned as Louis IX. She repeatedly frustrated the plots of the barons against her son, and went to war against the nobles when necessary to preserve the unity of the kingdom. She was more than a match for them and finally succeeded in making them respect her authority.

“Blanche took Louis with her on her military campaigns, and had him sit beside her in the councils of State. This gave him training in the art of ruling, for he learned not only through precept, but through ocular demonstration. Blanche was not content to train her son to be a king ; she schooled him also in the ways of sanctity. She taught him the Catholic Faith and devotion, and drilled him in the custom of praying which he never abandoned.

“From his earliest years she strove to impress upon his sensitive mind the value of holiness. She often said to him: 'I would rather see you dead than know that you should live to commit a mortal sin.'”

The trust St. Louis IX had in his mother is obvious: when he took up arms in the holy war against the Saracens in Egypt, he made Queen Blanche regent of France. On his departure, he told his mother: “I leave my three children to you as your wards. I leave this realm of France to you to govern it. Truly I know that my children will be well guarded and the realm well governed.”

Queen Blanche did in fact suppress rebellions and actually extended the power of the French dynasty. In 1249, while her son was in the Crusade, she completed the absorption of southern France into the Kingdom and made advantageous alliances. As a result, the Kingdom of France more closely assumed the shape and appearance it has today.

Posted May 2, 2009

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