SUPPORT OUR JOURNALISM: Please considering donating to keep our website running and free for all - thank you!

FeaturesHistoryPalaces & Buildings

Rescue plan for tomb of the English queen who never set foot in her realm

berengaria navarre
By MOSSOT - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

For a Queen of England who never set foot on English soil, her tomb has not been able to find a home either.

Berengaria of Navarre was the wife of King Richard the Lionheart for eight years until his death in 1199. Berengaria and Richard had had no children together, and she settled in Le Mans in France. She died there in 1230, and she was buried near Le Mans at the l’Épau Abbey. The monks there created a stone figure for her tomb, which shows her wearing a crown and holding a prayer book.

The tomb was moved by French revolutionaries to a barn in order to turn the Abbey into a laundry, and it was rediscovered under a pile of hay in 1817 with considerable damage. To save it from being damaged further, the tomb was placed in the cathedral in Le Mans. However, her remains appear to have been left behind at the Abbey as the skeleton of a woman was found 16 years ago when the local authorities purchased the Abbey. The tomb was then returned to the Abbey and placed in an outside chapter house where it continued to crumble.

A new public appeal for donations has been made to be able to move her tomb and remains inside the abbey, and local authorities hope to raise at least €42,000 of the needed €142,000 from the public. 

“The aim is to restore the statue as well as the [sculpted] panels to return it to being a medieval tomb,” Bertrand Sechet told the newspaper, Le Figaro. “The return of the effigy to its original place will mark a new period in the long history of the abbey.”