The Patronage of the Cult of St Thomas Becket by Henry II’s Daughters | Matilda of Saxony, Leonor of England, Joan of England
«The Anglo-Castilian connection in this period is also represented by the queen’s efforts to cleanse her father’s memory after the murder of Thomas Becket. Leonor had married Alfonso [VIII of Castile] only a few months before the murder of the archbishop of Canterbury in his own cathedral, events that left Christian Europe in shock. News of his brutal assassination caused immediate reaction all over Europe and must have soon reached the Castilian court and Leonor’s ears. Her father was blamed for the prelate’s murder and the mighty king of the English was brought to his knees through public repentance and expiation. But soon after Becket’s horrid death, Henry II’s expiation turned into veneration and so the martyr of Canterbury – canonised in 1173 – having been a victim of Plantagenet wrath was then becoming an object of Plantagenet piety and devotion.
Kay Brainerd Slocum has studied the spread of the cult in Europe due to the patronage of Henry’s daughters and has suggested that the queen of Castile «departing from the usual practice, wished to establish her own very close connection, and that of her natal family, to the Canterbury martyr». The wonderfully coloured prayerbook of Henry of Saxony and Bavaria, married to Matilda of England, and the stunning mosaics of Monreale in Sicily, commissioned during the queenship of her youngest sister, Joan, bear witness to the agency of Henry II’s daughters in the promotion of Becket’s cult across the continent.
Leonor paid her dues in Castile and her contribution to the cult was manifest and resolute. The queen joined her father’s cry for divine forgiveness in the dedication of altars at the cathedrals of Sigüenza and Toledo and perhaps in the commission of wall paintings at a church in Soria».
Cerda, José Manuel: The Marriage of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Leonor Plantagenet: the first bond between Spain and England in the Middle Ages, in: Aurell, Martin (ed.): Les Stratégies matrimoniales (IXe-XIIIe siècle), Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, pp. 143-153, pp. 146-147.
Or: my favourite sisterly alliance.