A lady should never allow a dispute to descend into a shouting match, though she may elevate one into an international crisis if necessary.

Eleanor of Leicester, sister of King Henry III of England and daughter of the late King John, was one of the greatest ladies of the thirteenth century. She was even honored in a ballad that praised her fair skin, her golden locks and her many feminine virtues, though oddly it left out her litigiousness.

In 1231 Eleanor was sixteen, in the full flower of her youth and newly widowed. Her late husband, William Marshal, had owned lands across the British Isles, and as his widow Eleanor was entitled to one-third of them for her lifetime. But William’s eldest brother Richard was also entitled to inherit, and in the ensuing legal tussle he tried to waltz off with her dowry lands as well as the furniture William had left her.

To end the spat, King Henry finally accepted payment for the lands on Eleanor’s behalf, but Eleanor felt the amount offered was far too low. She wasn’t finished yet.

Fast-forward to 1257 — King Henry sought a treaty with France, whereby he would accept payment in exchange for giving up historical claims to French lands (Seems there were a lot of real estate deals trending among the nobility at the time. Like fancy pointed cone hats, or dysentery). Eleanor, as his sibling and fellow claimant, would need to agree to the exchange. And she didn’t miss her chance.

Eleanor suddenly recalled that other long-buried real estate deal she was never happy with, and flatly refused to sign.

The treaty negotiations continued for two years.

Finally, King Henry dangled a bribe of ten manors in front of Eleanor and pleaded, “Now will you sign?”

Eleanor graciously acquiesced.

And then insisted that 15,000 marks of the French payment to Henry be held in escrow, until the Marshal case was resolved to her satisfaction.

(The Marshal case wasn’t concluded until after the king’s death in 1272, when Eleanor was in her fifties. Must have made an excellent pension plan.)

Thus, it is worth remembering that in every dispute, a lady should always maintain a pleasant and courteous demeanor. Even while stonewalling an international treaty to get what she wants.

Further Reading

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