Richard had been betrothed many years earlier to Princess Alys, sister of King Philip II of France. Alys, however, became the mistress of Richard's own father, King Henry II, and allegedly the mother of Henry's illegitimate child; a marriage between Richard and Alys was therefore technically impossible for religious reasons of affinity. Richard terminated his betrothal to Alys in 1190 while at Messina.
He had Berengaria brought to him by his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Since Richard was already on the Third Crusade, having wasted no time in setting off after his coronation, the two women had a long and difficult journey to catch up with him. They arrived in Sicily during Lent (when the marriage could not take place) in 1191 and were joined by Richard's sister Joan, the widowed Queen of Sicily. En route to the Holy Land, the ship carrying Berengaria and Joan went aground off the coast of Cyprus, and they were threatened by the island's ruler, Isaac Comnenus. Richard came to their rescue, captured the island, overthrew Comnenus, and married Berengaria in the Chapel of St. George at Limassol.
When Richard returned to England, he had to regain all the territory that had either been lost by his brother John or taken by King Philip of France. His focus was on his kingdom, not his queen. Richard was ordered by Pope Celestine III to reunite with Berengaria and to show fidelity to her in future. The word the Pope used as reason of forgiveness was Richard's forced claim of sodomy. Richard did follow the Pope's word and took Berengaria to church every week thereafter. Nevertheless, when he died in 1199, she was greatly distressed, perhaps more so at being deliberately overlooked as Queen of England and Cyprus. Some historians believe that Berengaria honestly loved her husband, while Richard's feelings for her were merely formal, as the marriage was a political rather than a romantic union.
Berengaria never visited England during King Richard's lifetime; during the entirety of their marriage, Richard spent just three months in England. There is evidence, however, that she may have done so in the years following his death. The traditional description of her as "the only English queen never to set foot in the country" would still be literally true, as she did not visit England during the time she was Richard's consort. However, she certainly sent envoys to England several times, mainly to inquire about the pension she was due as Dowager Queen and Richard's widow, which King John was not paying her. Although Queen Eleanor intervened, and Pope Innocent III threatened him with an interdict if he did not pay Berengaria what was due, King John still owed her more than £4000 when he died. However, during the reign of his son Henry III of England, her payments were made as they were supposed to be.
Berengaria eventually settled in Le Mans, one of her dower properties. She was a benefactress of the abbey of L'Epau, entered the conventual life, and was buried in the abbey. A skeleton thought to be hers was discovered in 1960 during the restoration of the abbey.
Novels featuring Berengaria include: