The Wild Life of English Queen Isabella, She-Wolf of France aka the Rebel Queen Who Killed the King of England

The Wild Life of English Queen Isabella, She-Wolf of France aka the Rebel Queen Who Killed the King of England

Fourteenth century English Queen Isabella, the She-Wolf of France aka the Rebel Queen, was a complex, violent person who drank heavily but who was charitable to the poor and well-liked by her people. She killed her husband, King Edward II, the only English queen known to have killed an English king. Later in life she became a nun.

Isabelle of France was a Descendant of William the Conqueror

Isabella was born in France in the royal family in 1295. She was not a new money type royal. Isabella of France’s family tree is full of royals going way back. She was a descendant of William the Conqueror .

Philip IV of France and his family: l-r: his sons, Charles IV of France and Philip V of France, his daughter Isabella of France (wife of Edward II of England), himself, his eldest son and heir the King of Navarre, Louis X of France, and his brother, Charles of Valois. (Michaelsanders / Public Domain )

When she was 14 Isabella’s father, French King Philip IV , married Isabella off to her second cousin once removed, England’s King Edward II, in 1308. Edward was 23 years old. The young couple were both reportedly beautiful physically.

Edward was Homosexual – Gave Wedding Jewels to His Lover Instead of His Wife

Edward was involved in an affair with the Gascon knight Piers Gaveston. Edward’s father, King Edward I, had earlier banned Gaveston. But when the elder king died, the new King Edward II recalled Gaveston, married him to his niece and bestowed the earldom of Cornwall on him.
At his wedding to Isabella, Edward sat and spoke with Gaveston not his new bride. He gave Isabella’s jewels to Gaveston which his lover wore in public. And tapestry makers were ordered to include Gaveston’s and Edward’s coat of arms.
This was not exactly a romantic situation for the young Isabella to say the least. Keep in mind she was a young teen. She complained to her father, the king of France.

King Edward II, by an unknown artist ( National Portrait Gallery / Public Domain )

Gaveston was exiled to Ireland for a while but returned. Edward went to war against Scotland, a disastrous misadventure that prompted the barons to rise up against him in civil war. They captured Gaveston at Scarborough Castle and executed him. They marched his headless body around town on a ladder. The king found new lovers in the two Hugh Despensers, both the father and son.

Isabella Gives Birth

Isabella must have either been with Edward or someone else because she gave birth to her first child, whom they named Edward, at Windsor Castle in 1312. He would become King Edward III. The couple (whoever the father was) had two daughters and another son, too.

Isabella In Danger But Edward Ignores Her

There was much intrigue, dissatisfaction among the nobles and more disastrous wars with Scotland, after which Edward had to flee back to England by boat with the Scots hot on his heels. Twice Isabella was nearly captured by the Scottish in two different wars. The second time she sent word to her husband for help, but he fled. The Scottish killed two of her ladies in waiting that time, but Isabella was able to get on a boat and escape.
Her feelings for her husband were even harder now. Edward did not appear to care because when she refused to pledge loyalty to the Despensers Edward confiscated her lands, took their youngest children from her and put them in the Despensers’ custody.

Isabella landing in England with her son, the future Edward III in 1326. (Gallica / Public Domain )

Isabella Raises an Army to Kill Her Husband, King of England

She went to France with her son Edward to pay homage to her brother, now King Charles IV. While there, she raised an army, including many English nobles who were dissatisfied with Edward II, and returned to personally kill her husband and retake the throne.
She did do that, having Edward II put to death with a red-hot poker up his rear end legend says. So as not to leave any marks on him, the poker was introduced into his body through a horn. There is an alternative story that he was strangled or suffocated. This was in the year 1327.
The Despensers both met with grisly deaths, the father hacked apart by a mob of noblemen and his remains fed to dogs; the son dragged, hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Hugh Despenser the younger and Edmund Fitzalan brought before Isabella for trial in 1326; the pair were gruesomely executed. (visualiseur.bnf.fr / Public Domain )

Edward III Becomes King but Under Isabella’s Control

Though Edward III was officially king, Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, ruled England jointly for four years. She had met and rescued Mortimer from the Tower of London earlier when the nobles had gone to war, some on her side some on the side of her husband. Mortimer had been sentenced to die by starvation, but she fed him and took him under her wing. She had taken refuge in the tower because it was the most secure place in London.

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Isabella meets Roger Mortimer, who became her lover and co-ruler after she killed her husband the king. ( British Library / Public Domain )

Edward III Arrests His Mother, Executes Mortimer

After four years, Edward III led a coup to depose Mortimer in 1331, took over and put his mother under house arrest for the remainder of her life, 27 years. Edward III tried Mortimer for treason, convicted him and sentenced him. Isabella pleaded with her son to spare Mortimer, but Edward had him beheaded.
Before her death, she asked that the heart of her lover, which she had kept in a casket for many years, be placed in her coffin.
Isabella found religion and became a nun with the Poor Clares. She died in 1358.

Who was Queen Isabella of England?

A story from 1321 says something about Isabella. She was denied entrance to Leeds Castle on a pretext. She ordered her men to force their way in, but they failed. She insisted her husband take the castle by storm. He did and then she had 13 men of the garrison hanged.
Isabella the She-Wolf of France had much to repent for in her convent. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols says the she-wolf is synonymous with the depraved in everyday France.

Beautiful Isabella of France, queen of England . ( Alex Shadrin / Adobe)

By Mark Miller


Robert the Bruce

Robert I (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), popularly known as Robert the Bruce (Medieval Gaelic: Roibert a Briuis Modern Scottish Gaelic: Raibeart Brus Norman French: Robert de Brus or Robert de Bruys Early Scots: Robert Brus Latin: Robertus Brussius), was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation and eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland's place as an independent country and is now revered in Scotland as a national hero.

His paternal fourth great-grandfather was King David I. Robert's grandfather, Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale, was one of the claimants to the Scottish throne during the "Great Cause". As Earl of Carrick, Robert the Bruce supported his family's claim to the Scottish throne and took part in William Wallace's revolt against Edward I of England. Appointed in 1298 as a Guardian of Scotland alongside his chief rival for the throne, John Comyn of Badenoch, and William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews, Robert resigned in 1300 because of his quarrels with Comyn and the apparently imminent restoration of John Balliol to the Scottish throne. After submitting to Edward I in 1302 and returning to "the king's peace," Robert inherited his family's claim to the Scottish throne upon his father's death.

Bruce's involvement in John Comyn's murder in February 1306 led to him being excommunicated by Pope Clement V (although he received absolution from Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow). Bruce moved quickly to seize the throne, and was crowned king of Scots on 25 March 1306. Edward I's forces defeated Robert in the battle of Methven, forcing him to flee into hiding before re-emerging in 1307 to defeat an English army at Loudoun Hill and wage a highly successful guerrilla war against the English. Bruce defeated his other opponents, destroying their strongholds and devastating their lands, and in 1309 held his first parliament. A series of military victories between 1310 and 1314 won him control of much of Scotland, and at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Robert defeated a much larger English army under Edward II of England, confirming the re-establishment of an independent Scottish kingdom. The battle marked a significant turning point, with Robert's armies now free to launch devastating raids throughout northern England, while also extending his war against the English to Ireland by sending an army to invade there and by appealing to the Irish to rise against Edward II's rule.

Despite Bannockburn and the capture of the final English stronghold at Berwick in 1318, Edward II refused to renounce his claim to the overlordship of Scotland. In 1320, the Scottish nobility submitted the Declaration of Arbroath to Pope John XXII, declaring Robert as their rightful monarch and asserting Scotland's status as an independent kingdom. In 1324, the Pope recognised Robert I as king of an independent Scotland, and in 1326, the Franco-Scottish alliance was renewed in the Treaty of Corbeil. In 1327, the English deposed Edward II in favour of his son, Edward III, and peace was concluded between Scotland and England with the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton in 1328, by which Edward III renounced all claims to sovereignty over Scotland.

Robert died in June 1329. His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart was interred in Melrose Abbey and his internal organs embalmed and placed in St Serf's Chapel, Dumbarton, site of the medieval Cardross Parish church.


Clare, Eleanor de (1292–1337)

English noblewoman. Name variations: Alienor or Eleanor Despenser Eleanor Zouche. Born in 1292 died in 1337 daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 7th earl of Hertford, 3rd of Gloucester, and Joan of Acre (1272–1307) married Hugh Despenser the Younger, in 1306 (executed, November 24,1326) married William Zouche, in 1327 children (first marriage) Isabel Despenser Edward Despenser (d. 1352).

Isabella quickly showed that she was a remarkably effective negotiator. Acting as mediator between her brother and her husband, she brought the two sides together in agreement. According to the terms of her settlement, Edward II's French possessions were to be returned to him as soon as he had performed his homage. A French steward would take custody of the duchy until Edward II made his oath. Hugh Despenser, though, feared he might lose his control over the king should Edward be separated from him and go to France to take the oath personally. He persuaded Edward II to invest his heir, Edward of Windsor, with the French lands and send him to France to make the oath in his father's place. Charles IV found this alternative acceptable, and, on September 21, 13-year-old Prince Edward sailed to France to meet with his mother and make the oath of homage to his uncle.

Despenser had erred, and it would cost him his life and the life of his king. He had been able to keep the king in England but had misjudged the queen and her abilities, and Isabella quickly took full advantage of Despenser's mistake. In France, a circle of English nobles disaffected with Hugh Despenser's influence and power had collected around the queen. When Prince Edward arrived in France, this group took control of the heir to the throne and refused to return him to England. When the queen and her son did not return, Edward II began to worry. He sent letters to his wife pleading with her, but she responded openly that she would not return to England as long as her enemy Hugh Despenser was there. Isabella had made a decision. She told Charles IV that her marriage with Edward II had been broken and that she would live as a widow until Despenser had been removed.

News of Isabella's response spread, accompanied by rumors of impending invasion. Edward II and Despenser finally realized their exposed position and began to react. Isabella, however, found herself faced with a daunting task. Despenser was widely hated in England, and she would have little trouble raising support to unseat him, but she had created difficulties for herself in France. Among the circle of disaffected English nobles who joined her at the French court was an erstwhile rebel, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore. At some point, Mortimer and Isabella became lovers—the origins and timing of the affair are unclear. Rumors of the affair between Mortimer and the queen, though, spread quickly throughout Europe. Charles IV received complaints about the scandalous behavior of his sister from no less than the pope. Incensed at her adultery, he withdrew his support from her and made it clear that she should leave his court.

In fear of being returned to England, the conspirators left France and traveled to Hainault, where they were received by William II, count of Holland, Hainault, and Zeeland. At William's court, Isabella and her followers gained a sympathetic ear—for a price. Isabella, always the intriguer and negotiator, persuaded the count of Hainault to give her military support for her invasion. In return, William II obtained the marriage of his daughter Philippa of Hainault (1314–1369) to the young Prince Edward. With the agreement concluded, the rebels set sail for England from Dordrecht on September 23, 1326.

The queen, Mortimer, and their small band of followers landed at Orwell, Suffolk, the next day and began their advance. Opposition to the rebels melted as Isabella's forces marched towards London. As the rebels approached, Hugh Despenser and the king panicked and their own support in London evaporated. They fled west, where the bulk of Despenser's land lay and where Edward's support was strongest. Mortimer and the queen followed. They captured Despenser's father, the earl of Winchester, at Bristol and executed him. They captured the king and the younger Despenser at Neath Abbey shortly afterwards. On November 24, Despenser was "tried" and executed. Though Isabella and her followers had removed Despenser from the scene, they refused to return power to Edward II. They turned rebellion into revolution by de posing a lawfully crowned king, an action that had never before been taken in England. Isabella had her husband imprisoned and, on January 25, 1327, forced him to abdicate his throne in favor of his son, Edward of Windsor, who succeeded to the throne as Edward III. Because the new king was only 14 years of age, his mother and her lover assumed control of the government as regents and ruled England in his name until he should come of age.

Isabella and Mortimer had capitalized on the English nobility's hatred of Edward II's mismanagement and Despenser's tyranny to take control of the government. Much of the nobility's hatred of Despenser had been spurred by his domination of the king and the greed he had shown in his drive to accumulate ever more land and wealth. The new government meted out some rewards to its adherents, but Isabella and Mortimer quickly showed themselves to be just as grasping and ambitious as Despenser had been. They confiscated the lands of their enemies and, instead of redistributing them to their associates and allies, began to accumulate huge blocks of wealth that easily rivaled Despenser's at his height. Isabella's dower of 4,500 li. was not only restored to her, it was increased significantly by seizing confiscated lands until her income was a staggering 13,333 li. a year. Mortimer regained his family estates and added a huge block of lands that had belonged to Despenser and other rebels until he was the most powerful man in Wales. In 1328, he created and assumed the title earl of March, a presumption of nobility which further aggravated his relations with English magnates.

When the nobility realized that they had not rid themselves of tyranny but only changed the tyrants, Isabella and Mortimer quickly began to lose their base of popular support. The suspicious death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle in late 1327, an unpopular peace treaty which recognized the independence of Scotland, and the scandal and unchecked greed of the queen and her lover cast ominous shadows over the ruling partnership. Influential nobles such as Henry of Lancaster and Thomas Wake, who had supported the invasion in 1326, began to distance themselves from the regents, who reacted brutally to any hint of disloyalty or disaffection.

One of those most disaffected with the actions and ambitions of the queen and her lover was the young king himself, Edward III. In March 1330, Mortimer designed a trap to catch Edward III's uncle, Edmund, earl of Kent, in a treasonous plot. Mortimer circulated rumors that Edward II was still alive, and Kent, filled with guilt at his role in his half-brother's deposition, took the bait Mortimer's agents dangled before him and made arrangements to free Edward II. At a parliament held at Winchester, Isabella and Mortimer presented the evidence of Kent's actions and had him convicted of treason. The earl was sentenced to death and executed without any regard for the royal blood that coursed through his veins.

After the Winchester Parliament, Edward III decided the situation had deteriorated far enough, and he quite rightly judged himself to be in personal danger. A small circle of intimate friends gathered around the tall, charismatic young king to plot the overthrow of his mother and her paramour. In June 1330, Edward III's position was strengthened immeasurably when his queen, Philippa, gave birth to their first son, Edward of Woodstock (the future Edward, the Black Prince), and thereby secured the succession. Isabella and Mortimer clearly fretted about these developments and moved to neutralize any erosion of their position.

In late summer 1330, the regents moved the court to Nottingham and called for a parliament to meet there in October. Edward III and his friends, led by a cleric named Richard de Bury and William Montague, a young knight who had been raised with Edward III, began to work for the overthrow of the regency and the personal assumption of government by the young king. Through intrigues that would have made Isabella proud, Edward III gained the blessing of the pope for his intended coup. When Parliament met at Nottingham in October, the small group of conspirators was ready to act.

Late on the night of Friday, October 19, William Montague and a handful of his men entered a secret passage into Nottingham castle. They emerged into the keep and joined the king, who was waiting for them there. The conspirators then burst into Mortimer's chamber and, after a short melee in which two of Mortimer's bodyguards were killed, arrested him, trundled him out of the castle through the secret passageway, and sent him to London to be imprisoned in the Tower. The queen, hearing the fight, realized what was happening and cried out to her son in fear from her chamber, "Have pity on gentle Mortimer!" Her pleas fell on unsympathetic ears.

The next morning, Edward III assumed complete control of the government. He declared that his mother and Mortimer had been guilty of maladministration, that the regency was ended, and that he would govern for himself in the future. The reign of Isabella and Mortimer had ended Mortimer was executed for treason a month later. The king was more lenient with his mother, however, and forbade any mention of her role in the events of 1327–30 in the charges brought against Mortimer. Nonetheless, he knew his mother too well to allow her to continue to play a prominent part in political life. He placed her in honorable confinement at Castle Rising and forced her to surrender much of what she had taken while in power, reducing her income to 3,000 li.

Isabella lived for another 28 years after her defeat in the palace coup d'etat of 1330. She still seems to have been given to extravagance, for her presence at Castle Rising proved to be a steady burden on the citizens of Lynn, who complained that they were being ruined by demands of the queen mother's lifestyle. Despite her earlier behavior, throughout her life Edward III continued to visit her—at least twice a year—and often sent her letters and presents. She amused herself with hawking, reading romances, and collecting religious relics. Eventually, she was allowed to travel more freely, appear at court, and was even considered for diplomatic missions to France. In 1348, it was proposed that she mediate a peace between England and France and in May 1354, the pope asked her to intercede with her son for the release of the duke of Brittany. Shortly before her death, she became a nun and entered the Order of the Poor Clares. She died at Hertford castle, in 1358, and was buried in the Franciscan church at Newgate.


Tamar of Georgia proved women can be king

Tamar of Georgia was the nation's only female king. In 1178, her father, King George III, crowned an 18-year-old Tamar his co-ruler. When he died in 1184, she was declared Georgia's sole ruler, even though, as The Culture Trip pointed out, some critics saw her age and gender as weak spots in her dominion. The country's nobles shoved Tamar into a marriage with Rus Prince Yuri, whose father was killed. According to The Culture Trip, while Yuri was a "skilled soldier," he made "not a good husband."

Despite the old ball and chain, Tamar became more self-assured over time, thanks to her ability to rule, the power she accrued, and her status in the court, boosted by the death of one of her most vocal critics. According to Asian Geographic, the empowered Tamar then "accused [Prince Yuri] publicly of drunkenness and sodomy." The outlet added that the royals agreed "to approve of her divorce, and exiled the disgraced Yuri to Constantinople." Tamar chose her second husband herself: a prince and military commander named David Soslan. He was so in her corner that when a rebellion bubbled up against King Tamar, he flat-out shut it down. Tres romantique.


Isabella of France

1 Seriously, I had to cut out… a lot for this entry, and it’s still probably too long. Isabella deserves her own graphic novel, but you’ll have to settle for these 35 pages for now.

2 An anonymous Parisian writer from 1393 summed up the cultural attitude: “Cherish your husband’s person, give him plenty of attention, and the cheer of other delights, privy frolics, lovings, and secret matters. Do not be quarrelsome, but sweet, gentle, and amiable. And if you do all this he will keep his heart for you, and he will care nothing for other women.” The writer made no mention of caring for other men, however.

3 This may be a slight embellishment on my part – there’s records of Edward I (E2’s dad) having people size up Isabella’s mother to figure out how Isabella would turn out, but not as much survives for Isabella. Nevertheless, I maintain the spirit is intact.

4 There’s still some die-hard historians who assert they weren’t lovers, but… given the preponderance of talk about them, and the way they behaved with each other, I find that incredibly unlikely.

5 Among the insults Gaveston slung at the barons: “Burstbelly,” “Churl,” “old Hog,” “the Player,” “the Fiddler,” and “the Black Dog of Arden.” This became such a problem that Gaveston was actually exiled for a while, but came back.

6 As she was still pretty young at this point, it is more likely Philip IV, her dad, arranged most of this through her. Still, it dipped her toes into politics. At the time, Edward was not providing for her much at all – giving her almost no money, confiscating her jewelry, and redirecting her rents. He stopped a lot of that after Philip IV came on board.

7 When Gaveston was captured, the plan was originally to have been treated well – but the “black dog of Arden” he’d earlier insulted kidnapped him, put him through a sham trial, and executed him. He was stabbed twice and left for dead on a hill. Several people tried getting him buried, but various churches refused to perform the rites. The guy was a real asshole.

8 The main family opposing Edward throughout this was the Lancasters. His main opponent at this time was Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who was Isabella’s uncle. She helped smooth things over with Lancaster several times, but as she threw her lot in more with Edward, the two became enemies.

9 To be fair to Edward, he actually rescued her from the burning tent, carrying her out. The two were completely naked at the time.

10 There were actually two Hugh Despensers – older and younger – who allied with Edward. I’m talking about the younger one here, as he was more of an influence (the older was just a political ally, not a lover).

11 This was Leeds Castle in Kent, where a political enemy named Badlesmere was holed up. Isabella was out traveling, and made a detour to visit the castle. She was met by Badlesmere’s wife, who was holding the fort. She refused to let Isabella in, and after some tense words, the Badlesmere archers opened fire on Isabella’s forces, killing six. Isabella retaliated shortly thereafter and overran the castle. 12 The reign of terror is brushed over here, but it was an extensive and brutal campaign of violence. The Earl of Lancaster was killed in brutal fashion. 118, mostly knights and barons, were either killed, imprisoned, exiled, or fined into poverty. It was a horrific rearrangement of the political landscape. 13 It was also around this time that Roger Mortimer turned on Edward, and was imprisoned. He then escaped and fled to France, making him the first person in over 200 years to escape the Tower of London.

14 Let’s be clear: Isabella was not, by our standards, a model mother. She didn’t spend a ton of time with them initially, but she was fond of them, and only grew more so, especially towards the end of her life. 15 According to later testimony, Edward actually began carrying around a knife and threatened to kill Isabella at this point. That may have been propaganda, or at least embellishment, that Isabella came up with later – but their relationship was in dire straits. She was afraid for her life. Historian Alison Weir found a passage that may even implicate Despenser in sexual violence towards Isabella, but that would be reading a lot into it. Bottom line: things were not good. 16 He also abandoned her again during this round of wars against the barony (the Despenser Wars, historians call them), and she had to escape on a ship, dodging hostile Flemish vessels.

17 One of Isabella’s last big attempts to placate, or at least distract, Edward (and the angry nobles) was to bring forward the idea that she was heir to the throne of France. Due to a quick succession of other claimants, she actually had a strong case – one that France summarily dismissed. Edward began warring against France to reclaim the lands of Gascony, ancestral holdings of Isabella’s. These wars would continue under Edward III and become known as the Hundred Years War – which would bring us the stories of Joan of Arc, Jeanne de Clisson, and many more.

18 This is figurative, based off her following actions. She didn’t actually go burning tapestries.

19 Okay, so. Philippa of Hainault is the subject of some hot debate, as some historians think she was black. There is evidence to this – a contemporary account describes her as brown-skinned all over, like her father. However, ideas of race have shifted remarkably over the years. I find it more likely that what we think of as black (an African person) would have been described by terms that are, ah, impolitic in modern discourse. To be clear: I don’t know! I’m not an expert in this. But she was hardly pale and white, so I tried to hit upon an ambiguous skin tone here. I hope she was black, that would have been rad. But hell if I know. 20 Edward II had originally put forward the idea of Philippa marrying Edward III, but Isabella put it into action. Edward II was furious, writing endless letters demanding return with Edward III. He cut off Isabella’s funds, and started blaming all their troubles on her. 21 At the same time, Isabella was talking with the Scots. She’d arranged for Robert the Bruce to not invade after she toppled Edward II. Smart lady.

22 I can’t stress how big a deal this was. Most of her retinue left in disgust. At this time, adultery was basically sanctioned for men, but one of the gravest sins imaginable for a woman. Hard to tell if it was hated more or less than homosexuality.

23 When Edward was caught, he had eight men with him. He may have surrendered.

24 Despenser was first dressed in a tabard with his family crest and paraded through town on the shittiest horse they could find. Then he was given a crown of nettles, had his skin roughly tattooed with biblical verses on arrogance and retribution, and dragged in a chest around town. Then he was stripped naked, half-hanged, and had his penis and testicles cut off – which were then thrown into a large fire they’d built underneath him. He asked forgiveness of the bystanders, then let out a “ghastly, inhuman howl” and died. They split open his belly, cut out his heart and entrails, and tossed them in the fire. His head was cut off and sent to London, and his body sawn into quarters, each sent to the four next largest cities in England. He was not a popular man.

25 First off, just deposing him was an unheard-of feat. It had never been done before. She arranged a vote with all major social organizations on board for his removal – so nobody could be directly blamed. She got many clergy to speak out against him. She got the people on her side and they almost unanimously wanted him out. She was a master at PR. 26 The narrative that holds that Edward was murdered usually mentions that he had a red-hot poker rammed up his anus. This is almost certainly false. 27 Historians Alison Weir and Ian Mortimer both put forward an argument that Edward II was helped to escape by some of his supporters, that he hopped from hideout to hideout for a bit, and eventually reestablished himself as a man named William the Welshman. As evidence to this, they cite a letter from a priest who took confession with him that provides specifics on his capture and imprisonment that were not public knowledge at the time. Furthermore, there were rumors he was still alive for decades thereafter, and some even plotted to overthrow Isabella and Mortimer and reinstate Edward II, despite possibly not knowing his whereabouts. If it was true, Edward III actually met his dad in his Welshmen guise near the end of Edward II’s life, and reinterred his body to be in the correct grave.

28 The peace with Scotland was a huge problem, as it declared Robert the Bruce king of Scotland, a concession far beyond what any English king had been willing to make. Moreover, Isabella married her daughter Joan to the Scottish heir, David II, who was a real shitweasel. Not only was this an unpopular move with the English, it was even somewhat with the Scots as well – they derisively referred to Joan as “Joan Make-peace.”

29 There were a lot of things they did to outrage people. Mortimer started gathering titles like they were going out of style. They spent crazy amounts of money and seized even more. There’s also evidence that Isabella got pregnant, possibly twice, from Mortimer, although neither were carried to term. None of these were popular moves.

30 Roger stabbed a guy to death before he was taken down. Another guy who was in the tower with them was caught while trying to escape down the privy chute. Bad way to go.

31 Mortimer was paraded around in a tunic that said “quid glorians”: “where is your glory?” before being hanged.

32 She spent a lot of time hunting and training hawks, which I think is awesome.

33 So let’s qualify “happy” here – they were by all accounts quite happy, but Edward did cheat on her, seemingly in secret, towards the end of her life. Given that the standards of the time said that men were basically genetically predisposed to cheat on their wives, it’s about the best she could have hoped for, I guess? 34 And replaced it with the Hundred Years War, to be fair. Edward III excelled at war, and delivered one of the most crushing military defeats in history at the Battle of Crecy. The humiliation suffered there (and in other battles) sank the French king into such deep depression that it would take the fulfillment of a legend to pull him out of it and defend the country. Thankfully, Joan of Arc came along to do just that.

35 She spent a lot of time with her grandson Edward, the Black Prince, as well as Roger Mortimer’s descendants (one of whom was also named Roger Mortimer). She helped Joan get out of her terrible marriage with David II, and she instilled some real fire into her other daughter, Eleanor. Also trapped in a shitty marriage, Eleanor was accused of having leprosy by her husband, so he could get rid of her. In response, she showed up to court in practically nothing, displaying she did not have leprosy. She had some real chutzpah. 36 It’s also worth noting that she was buried with Edward II’s heart, a practice which, as described in the primary book I read on the subject, was not entirely uncommon, and not as big a deal them as it would be now. Said book mostly focused on the possibility that Edward II survived his ordeal and became an itinerant wanderer, though, so the mentions of his heart was mostly in the context of constructing a timeline for its re-burial. According to the claims made, the initial heart would have been for the fake body swapped out for Edward II’s, and once the real Edward was found (and he died), his remains were reinterred. Regardless, from my understanding as the book laid it out, her burial with his heart and her burial with her wedding cloak hit the same emotional story-beat, and the cloak required less explanation, so it stands in for both in this telling.

37 Seriously, fuck Braveheart. That movie said that William Wallace – who died when Isabella was nine – had an affair with her and was the father of Edward III. That movie could have been so much better. 38 I’m serious, fuck Braveheart. I hate it. Again, tons of book info right here! And you still have til Friday to enter the Table of Contents contest!

↑ 1 Seriously, I had to cut out… a lot for this entry, and it’s still probably too long. Isabella deserves her own graphic novel, but you’ll have to settle for these 35 pages for now.
↑ 2 An anonymous Parisian writer from 1393 summed up the cultural attitude: “Cherish your husband’s person, give him plenty of attention, and the cheer of other delights, privy frolics, lovings, and secret matters. Do not be quarrelsome, but sweet, gentle, and amiable. And if you do all this he will keep his heart for you, and he will care nothing for other women.” The writer made no mention of caring for other men, however.
↑ 3 This may be a slight embellishment on my part – there’s records of Edward I (E2’s dad) having people size up Isabella’s mother to figure out how Isabella would turn out, but not as much survives for Isabella. Nevertheless, I maintain the spirit is intact.
↑ 4 There’s still some die-hard historians who assert they weren’t lovers, but… given the preponderance of talk about them, and the way they behaved with each other, I find that incredibly unlikely.
↑ 5 Among the insults Gaveston slung at the barons: “Burstbelly,” “Churl,” “old Hog,” “the Player,” “the Fiddler,” and “the Black Dog of Arden.” This became such a problem that Gaveston was actually exiled for a while, but came back.
↑ 6 As she was still pretty young at this point, it is more likely Philip IV, her dad, arranged most of this through her. Still, it dipped her toes into politics. At the time, Edward was not providing for her much at all – giving her almost no money, confiscating her jewelry, and redirecting her rents. He stopped a lot of that after Philip IV came on board.
↑ 7 When Gaveston was captured, the plan was originally to have been treated well – but the “black dog of Arden” he’d earlier insulted kidnapped him, put him through a sham trial, and executed him. He was stabbed twice and left for dead on a hill. Several people tried getting him buried, but various churches refused to perform the rites. The guy was a real asshole.
↑ 8 The main family opposing Edward throughout this was the Lancasters. His main opponent at this time was Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who was Isabella’s uncle. She helped smooth things over with Lancaster several times, but as she threw her lot in more with Edward, the two became enemies.
↑ 9 To be fair to Edward, he actually rescued her from the burning tent, carrying her out. The two were completely naked at the time.
↑ 10 There were actually two Hugh Despensers – older and younger – who allied with Edward. I’m talking about the younger one here, as he was more of an influence (the older was just a political ally, not a lover).
↑ 11 This was Leeds Castle in Kent, where a political enemy named Badlesmere was holed up. Isabella was out traveling, and made a detour to visit the castle. She was met by Badlesmere’s wife, who was holding the fort. She refused to let Isabella in, and after some tense words, the Badlesmere archers opened fire on Isabella’s forces, killing six. Isabella retaliated shortly thereafter and overran the castle.
↑ 12 The reign of terror is brushed over here, but it was an extensive and brutal campaign of violence. The Earl of Lancaster was killed in brutal fashion. 118, mostly knights and barons, were either killed, imprisoned, exiled, or fined into poverty. It was a horrific rearrangement of the political landscape.
↑ 13 It was also around this time that Roger Mortimer turned on Edward, and was imprisoned. He then escaped and fled to France, making him the first person in over 200 years to escape the Tower of London.
↑ 14 Let’s be clear: Isabella was not, by our standards, a model mother. She didn’t spend a ton of time with them initially, but she was fond of them, and only grew more so, especially towards the end of her life.
↑ 15 According to later testimony, Edward actually began carrying around a knife and threatened to kill Isabella at this point. That may have been propaganda, or at least embellishment, that Isabella came up with later – but their relationship was in dire straits. She was afraid for her life. Historian Alison Weir found a passage that may even implicate Despenser in sexual violence towards Isabella, but that would be reading a lot into it. Bottom line: things were not good.
↑ 16 He also abandoned her again during this round of wars against the barony (the Despenser Wars, historians call them), and she had to escape on a ship, dodging hostile Flemish vessels.
↑ 17 One of Isabella’s last big attempts to placate, or at least distract, Edward (and the angry nobles) was to bring forward the idea that she was heir to the throne of France. Due to a quick succession of other claimants, she actually had a strong case – one that France summarily dismissed. Edward began warring against France to reclaim the lands of Gascony, ancestral holdings of Isabella’s. These wars would continue under Edward III and become known as the Hundred Years War – which would bring us the stories of Joan of Arc, Jeanne de Clisson, and many more.
↑ 18 This is figurative, based off her following actions. She didn’t actually go burning tapestries.
↑ 19 Okay, so. Philippa of Hainault is the subject of some hot debate, as some historians think she was black. There is evidence to this – a contemporary account describes her as brown-skinned all over, like her father. However, ideas of race have shifted remarkably over the years. I find it more likely that what we think of as black (an African person) would have been described by terms that are, ah, impolitic in modern discourse. To be clear: I don’t know! I’m not an expert in this. But she was hardly pale and white, so I tried to hit upon an ambiguous skin tone here. I hope she was black, that would have been rad. But hell if I know.
↑ 20 Edward II had originally put forward the idea of Philippa marrying Edward III, but Isabella put it into action. Edward II was furious, writing endless letters demanding return with Edward III. He cut off Isabella’s funds, and started blaming all their troubles on her.
↑ 21 At the same time, Isabella was talking with the Scots. She’d arranged for Robert the Bruce to not invade after she toppled Edward II. Smart lady.
↑ 22 I can’t stress how big a deal this was. Most of her retinue left in disgust. At this time, adultery was basically sanctioned for men, but one of the gravest sins imaginable for a woman. Hard to tell if it was hated more or less than homosexuality.
↑ 23 When Edward was caught, he had eight men with him. He may have surrendered.
↑ 24 Despenser was first dressed in a tabard with his family crest and paraded through town on the shittiest horse they could find. Then he was given a crown of nettles, had his skin roughly tattooed with biblical verses on arrogance and retribution, and dragged in a chest around town. Then he was stripped naked, half-hanged, and had his penis and testicles cut off – which were then thrown into a large fire they’d built underneath him. He asked forgiveness of the bystanders, then let out a “ghastly, inhuman howl” and died. They split open his belly, cut out his heart and entrails, and tossed them in the fire. His head was cut off and sent to London, and his body sawn into quarters, each sent to the four next largest cities in England. He was not a popular man.
↑ 25 First off, just deposing him was an unheard-of feat. It had never been done before. She arranged a vote with all major social organizations on board for his removal – so nobody could be directly blamed. She got many clergy to speak out against him. She got the people on her side and they almost unanimously wanted him out. She was a master at PR.
↑ 26 The narrative that holds that Edward was murdered usually mentions that he had a red-hot poker rammed up his anus. This is almost certainly false.
↑ 27 Historians Alison Weir and Ian Mortimer both put forward an argument that Edward II was helped to escape by some of his supporters, that he hopped from hideout to hideout for a bit, and eventually reestablished himself as a man named William the Welshman. As evidence to this, they cite a letter from a priest who took confession with him that provides specifics on his capture and imprisonment that were not public knowledge at the time. Furthermore, there were rumors he was still alive for decades thereafter, and some even plotted to overthrow Isabella and Mortimer and reinstate Edward II, despite possibly not knowing his whereabouts. If it was true, Edward III actually met his dad in his Welshmen guise near the end of Edward II’s life, and reinterred his body to be in the correct grave.
↑ 28 The peace with Scotland was a huge problem, as it declared Robert the Bruce king of Scotland, a concession far beyond what any English king had been willing to make. Moreover, Isabella married her daughter Joan to the Scottish heir, David II, who was a real shitweasel. Not only was this an unpopular move with the English, it was even somewhat with the Scots as well – they derisively referred to Joan as “Joan Make-peace.”
↑ 29 There were a lot of things they did to outrage people. Mortimer started gathering titles like they were going out of style. They spent crazy amounts of money and seized even more. There’s also evidence that Isabella got pregnant, possibly twice, from Mortimer, although neither were carried to term. None of these were popular moves.
↑ 30 Roger stabbed a guy to death before he was taken down. Another guy who was in the tower with them was caught while trying to escape down the privy chute. Bad way to go.
↑ 31 Mortimer was paraded around in a tunic that said “quid glorians”: “where is your glory?” before being hanged.
↑ 32 She spent a lot of time hunting and training hawks, which I think is awesome.
↑ 33 So let’s qualify “happy” here – they were by all accounts quite happy, but Edward did cheat on her, seemingly in secret, towards the end of her life. Given that the standards of the time said that men were basically genetically predisposed to cheat on their wives, it’s about the best she could have hoped for, I guess?
↑ 34 And replaced it with the Hundred Years War, to be fair. Edward III excelled at war, and delivered one of the most crushing military defeats in history at the Battle of Crecy. The humiliation suffered there (and in other battles) sank the French king into such deep depression that it would take the fulfillment of a legend to pull him out of it and defend the country. Thankfully, Joan of Arc came along to do just that.
↑ 35 She spent a lot of time with her grandson Edward, the Black Prince, as well as Roger Mortimer’s descendants (one of whom was also named Roger Mortimer). She helped Joan get out of her terrible marriage with David II, and she instilled some real fire into her other daughter, Eleanor. Also trapped in a shitty marriage, Eleanor was accused of having leprosy by her husband, so he could get rid of her. In response, she showed up to court in practically nothing, displaying she did not have leprosy. She had some real chutzpah.
↑ 36 It’s also worth noting that she was buried with Edward II’s heart, a practice which, as described in the primary book I read on the subject, was not entirely uncommon, and not as big a deal them as it would be now. Said book mostly focused on the possibility that Edward II survived his ordeal and became an itinerant wanderer, though, so the mentions of his heart was mostly in the context of constructing a timeline for its re-burial. According to the claims made, the initial heart would have been for the fake body swapped out for Edward II’s, and once the real Edward was found (and he died), his remains were reinterred. Regardless, from my understanding as the book laid it out, her burial with his heart and her burial with her wedding cloak hit the same emotional story-beat, and the cloak required less explanation, so it stands in for both in this telling.
↑ 37 Seriously, fuck Braveheart. That movie said that William Wallace – who died when Isabella was nine – had an affair with her and was the father of Edward III. That movie could have been so much better.
↑ 38 I’m serious, fuck Braveheart. I hate it.

Art Notes

This is going to require an entire other post to get into – which I’ll have to do early next week, most likely. Things to look out for:


Haunted by a Queen’s Broken Heart

Most people get into paranormal investigation for their love and interest in the supernatural. For me, that was not the case. Although my family and I shared several unexplainable experiences, it was my love of history that pulled me in.

Paranormal investigation has brought me to historic locations across the United States and around the world. These locations opened my eyes to places and people I never knew existed. Many of their stories, which are stranger than any fiction, have left me amazed, horrified and even inspired. One of the stories that still comes to mind is a famous 12 th century English castle, believed to be haunted by a queen’s broken heart.

Castle Rising Castle, built in 1140 AD, is located in the English countryside. This beautiful, old stone structure stands surrounded by a wall of dirt carpeted with grass and wild flowers. Inside its walls lay a labyrinth of rooms connected by narrow passageways and spiral staircases. It is within these passageways, staircases and rooms that people claim to see unexplainable shadow figures, and hear the sounds of footsteps and inconsolable sobbing. To get a better understanding of this supposed haunt, let’s take a look at the life of a previous resident who locals believe is responsible for the activity.

Queen Isabella of France was born to King Philip IV of France and Queen Joan I of Navarre in Paris around 1295. From the time Isabella was an infant, her father had promised her in marriage to King Edward II of England to resolve territorial conflicts between France and England.

As a child, following the death of her mother, Isabella was raised by the family’s nurse. Growing up in palaces around Paris, she was given a good education and developed a strong love for books covering topics such as history, astrology, geometry and romance. She grew to be known for her high level of intelligence, charm, diplomatic ways and beauty. However it was a rare talent she developed of rallying people to follow her that would eventually lead to the fall of her husband.

At the age of 12, on January 25, 1308, Isabella married King Edward II of England at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Their marriage was hardly a story of “happily ever after.” From the beginning of their marriage her husband King Edward was rumored to have questionable relationships with other men he had taken a particular liking to. In many ways he was known to have held these men in higher regard than he did Isabella. It was then up to this child bride to use her intelligence and diplomatic nature to find her place within the marriage and political arena.

Piers Gaveston — a soldier described as arrogant, reckless and headstrong — was the first of her husband’s favorites that Isabella was forced to contend with. Although Edward held Gaveston in his good graces, he was strongly disliked by the English barons and Isabella’s father King Philip IV of France. This led to his brief exile to Ireland. After his return to England, the baron’s dislike for Gaveston caused his execution in 1311 following Edward’s failed campaign against Scotland.

Having narrowly escaped capture by the Scots, and despite the civil war that broke out in England against Edward and Gaveston, Isabella stood by her husband. Turning to her family back in France, she wrote asking her uncles for their support of her husband while she worked to make allies of her own.

During this time of turmoil in England, Isabella gave birth to the future king Edward III and soon found herself once again second in her husband’s eyes.

While Edward looked to get revenge for Gaveston’s death, he found a new favorite and confidant in Hugh Despenser the younger. Being the same age as Edward, Hugh Despenser also shared common enemies. As England struggled through famine, financial problems, continuous failed campaigns against Scotland led by Edward and his power struggle with the barons, Isabella tried, unsuccessfully, to work with Hugh Despenser. The barons who also disliked Hugh, reached out to Isabella asking her to publicly request that Edward exile him to prevent a war.

The Despenser’s exile was short lived. It wasn’t long before Edward formed a plan to bring back Hugh while defeating the barons. Together Edward and Hugh ruled and imposed a harsh revenge confiscating land, and imprisoning or executing their enemies along with punishing their enemies’ extended family members. They eventually turned their sights on Isabella, leaving her behind to fend for herself during one of Edward’s campaigns against the Scottish. They stripped her of her land and household, arrested and imprisoned her French staff. The custody of her children were given to the Despensers after she refused to take an oath of loyalty to them. Isabella, betrayed by her husband, now looked to take radical actions against him and Hugh Despenser the younger.

As tensions between England and France continued to rise, Isabella saw a chance to act. When Edward refused to pay homage to her brother, King Charles IV of France, her uncle began attacking and taking land under English control. Afraid to leave England — because he thought the barons would use the opportunity to rebel against him and the Despensers — he sent Isabella to France as an ambassador. To mend the tension created by Edward’s disrespect, Isabella agreed to a truce promising her son Edward III would come to France to pay homage in his father’s behalf.

With her son’s arrival, Isabella’s plan was put into action when she refused to return to England. Edward II began sending urgent messages to King Charles for the return of Isabella and his son Edward III, to which Charles responded that the “queen has come of her own will and may freely return if she wishes. But if she prefers to remain here, she is my sister and I refuse to expel her.”

Isabella and Edward’s marriage was clearly over. Dressing as a widow she publicly claimed that it was Hugh Despenser that destroyed their marriage. She then fell in love with Roger Mortimer.

Roger Mortimer was an English lord, husband and father of 12 who had been arrested and imprisoned at the Tower of London by Edward II. Following his escape from the Tower, he fled to France for safety where he was eventually introduced to Isabella. As Isabella worked to assemble a court she also promised her son in marriage to Philippa, daughter of count William I of Hainault, in exchange for a large dowry. With the dowry and a loan from her brother Charles, Isabella and Roger raised an army to defeat their common enemies, Edward II and the Despensers.

After setting sail from France with their army, Isabella and Roger landed in England with little resistance. As their army swept inland, it only continued to grow in size as others opposed to Edward II’s regime joined her forces. As word of Isabella’s success and advance reached Edward, he managed to flee to Wales. After recovering her children from the Despensers, Edward and Hugh were finally captured.

As punishment, Hugh Despenser was dragged by a horse and presented to Isabella and Roger in front of a large crowd. He was then hanged, castrated and drawn and quartered, while his father Hugh Despenser the elder was captured, killed and fed to the local dogs. Most of Edward and Hugh’s major supporters were executed while those with a smaller role were pardoned. As for Edward II, he was deposed and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life only to die a sudden and mysterious death in which the possibility of Isabella and Roger’s involvement is still debated.

Following the arrest of Edward II, Prince Edward was confirmed as Edward III. Being far too young to lead the country, Isabella was appointed regent. Together, Isabella and Roger Mortimer ruled over England for four years. In those four years the pair became obsessed with accumulating wealth and land, while their former supporters began to question Isabella’s rule and Roger’s behavior.

Isabella’s son Edward III then married and became increasingly annoyed by Roger’s display of power. After working quietly to gather support, Edward III followed through with his plot to take control of England. Surprising Isabella and Roger at Nottingham Castle with 23 armed men, Edward III arrested Roger. Isabella begged her son to have mercy on her lover, and while she avoided execution, Roger was not so lucky. Though Edward III did show him some mercy — by not having him disemboweled or quartered.

After spending a short time under house arrest at Windsor Castle, Isabella moved into her own castle, Castle Rising. It is here that Isabella was reported to have suffered from fits of madness over the death of her love Roger Mortimer.

Isabella was promised in marriage to Edward II as an infant. She was a young woman who had a love for romance novels only to become a queen that was unloved and betrayed by her king. She then gave birth to a son who would grow to execute the only man she ever loved.

Could Queen Isabella be haunting the halls of Rising Castle, still mourning the death of Roger Mortimer? No one could really say for sure, but this is what some locals believe. Learning her story breathed life into what was otherwise just a beautiful stone shell, known as Rising Castle.

Despite Isabella’s flaws and the fact that history has dubbed her as the She-wolf of France, it was hard not to be impressed by her determination and accomplishments. It is also upsetting to think of her still roaming the halls of Rising Castle grieving, hundreds of years after Roger Mortimer’s death.


12. Talk About BFFs

As a child, one of Edward’s closest companions was his cousin, Henry of Almain. They grew up together, and when the Second Barons’ War broke out, Almain sided with Edward against Simon de Montfort (who was technically their uncle by marriage by that point). Sadly, as Almain would eventually learn, being close with Edward Longshanks was a dangerous position to be in.

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Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England

Is this primarily a book of history or biography? History is the answer. There is not enough reliable information to draw conclusions about Isabella&aposs personality. Diaries and many personal letters do not exist. We can learn about what Isabella has done, but we can only make reasonably good guesses regarding her motivations, wishes and feelings. Her thoughts can only be guessed at. There exist widely divergent views of Isabella. What you will be told depends upon whom you ask and when they were Is this primarily a book of history or biography? History is the answer. There is not enough reliable information to draw conclusions about Isabella's personality. Diaries and many personal letters do not exist. We can learn about what Isabella has done, but we can only make reasonably good guesses regarding her motivations, wishes and feelings. Her thoughts can only be guessed at. There exist widely divergent views of Isabella. What you will be told depends upon whom you ask and when they were asked. Clearly, the author is knowledgeable and her research is thorough, but on closing the book I am dissatisfied after reading all these pages I still don't really have a grip on what made this woman tick. I have learned a lot, so I’ll have to be satisfied with that. My three-star rating is not a criticism of the author, it is merely my personal reaction to the book.

Isabella (1295 – 1358) was born in France. Her father was King Philip IV, her mother Joan I of Navarre. She arrived in England at the age of twelve, only to discover that her husband, Edward II, was homosexual and infatuated not with her but with Piers Gaveston. That was just the beginning of her troubles. The Despensers, the Elder and particularly the Younger, followed. In 1325 her marriage with Edward was crumbling, as were the relations between France and England. She travelled to France to mediate. Once there, she began a relationship with Roger Mortimer, and the two planned to depose Edward and the Despensers. Well, she was mad and she was jealous, but there were also sound reasons for why Edward should be deposed. There is no denying her actions were traitorous! Isabella has come to be known as the “She-Wolf” of France. Is this warranted?

In the book’s introduction, Alison Weir states that her intention of the book is to rehabilitate Isabella. She feels how we have come to see her is unwarranted. Such an attitude doesn’t promote a balanced exposition of the facts. She does reveal both positive and negative attributes, but her overall premise is too dominant. Sometimes I found myself questioning the conclusions drawn.

The author refers to previous sources, claiming that their views had been wrong. Too often, too little explanation is given. Not being an expert myself, I was left unconvinced and unsure of whose version to believe.

I see Isabella as both intelligent and manipulative. Skilled in the art off diplomacy and covetous of wealth and power. That she was considered shamelessly adulterous is both true and a judgment of her time. Today we are much more lenient on such matters. Whether it is correct to denounce her for murder and regicide is hard to determine from today’s vantage point and with 100% accuracy.

There are so many details in this book. For an ordinary reader it gets a bit heavy. The author goes on and on and on for pages and pages to make her point clear…….and even then I still was not always convinced. One example is her strong belief that Edward II was not murdered, that he instead escaped from prison. That with tine, even his son seemed to draw this conclusion is only somewhat convincing. I remain unsure.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Lisette Lecat. I have given the narration four stars. She reads clearly and slowly, giving you time to absorb the immense amount of information provided and time to jot down notes. She pronounces English and French accurately.

As pointed out, this is basically a book of history. The people referred to are many. Beside Isabella, the following are the most important. I have put the links here for easy reference:

This is not my favorite by Alison Weir. I do not recommend the author’s books of fiction, but I do recommend these:

The first is my favorite because I really got to know Elizabeth as a person, not just as a queen. . more

This is undoubtedly well-researched but in typical fashion, Weir sets out to recuperate her subject and to read her through sympathetic modern eyes. I agree that Isabella is fascinating, but to whitewash her as an innocent victim of first a &aposgay&apos husband who didn&apost love her, and second a dominant, rash, greedy and self-serving lover doesn&apost do her any favours. Mortimer might well have been all these things and more, but Isabella, daughter and sister to three kings of France, queen of England and This is undoubtedly well-researched but in typical fashion, Weir sets out to recuperate her subject and to read her through sympathetic modern eyes. I agree that Isabella is fascinating, but to whitewash her as an innocent victim of first a 'gay' husband who didn't love her, and second a dominant, rash, greedy and self-serving lover doesn't do her any favours. Mortimer might well have been all these things and more, but Isabella, daughter and sister to three kings of France, queen of England and Regent to her son, Edward III, was no easy pushover - to say that everything bad that happened to her can be written off as the responsibility of the men in her life makes her horribly passive, something not borne out by the sources.

Ah, the sources: it's hard to write this kind of biography with confidence when the sources themselves are unstable. Weir rightly points out that they're fictionalized, dramatized, politically biased, written after the events on hearsay and rumour, and perpetuate ideological views. Despite that, too often this book reads them as 'straight' especially when they support the author's own vision.

I was troubled throughout by the homophobic slant which dismisses Edward II as immoral and a corrupt ruler: firstly, there's no firm evidence that he had sexual relationships with his male favourites secondly, slurs of sexual immorality are often coded ways of representing failures in other spheres in classical and other pre-modern texts. It's especially disheartening to see the author herself use anti-gay rhetoric: in describing Isabella's lover she says "he appears to have been everything that Edward II was not: strong, manly, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, courageous, audacious and decisive", implying the opposite qualities adhere to anyone not 'unequivocally heterosexual'. It's not just off-putting but also bad history.

But there's good stuff here, too: Weir's analysis of the sources in relation to Edward II's death is excellent as she compares the various versions and looks at where and when stories of the infamous red-hot poker emerge, giving them the kind of comparative reality check that I'd have liked to have seen more of elsewhere in the book.

So this can be a bit dry in places but with the caveats noted remains a good popular overview of Isabella. . more

I’m really not sure what to think of this book. Alison Weir attempts to tackle the subject of Isabella of France, Edward II’s French wife, and one of the more unusual queens in English history. Historically portrayed as an evil, grasping, adulterous woman who becomes a corrupt tyrant, Weir turns her subject into a feminist hero who saves England from Edward II. Weir admits early on she approached this not liking Isabella and wanted to portray her in a more sympathetic light, but by the end, she I’m really not sure what to think of this book. Alison Weir attempts to tackle the subject of Isabella of France, Edward II’s French wife, and one of the more unusual queens in English history. Historically portrayed as an evil, grasping, adulterous woman who becomes a corrupt tyrant, Weir turns her subject into a feminist hero who saves England from Edward II. Weir admits early on she approached this not liking Isabella and wanted to portray her in a more sympathetic light, but by the end, she drank her own kook-aid. The problem with all of this is the simple fact that Isabella is all of the above and more. Like most historic figures (particularly powerful queens) she had her positive and negative aspects, and instead of confronting this fact, and examining the figure in a historical context, Weir’s narrative is all over the place without ever really going anywhere. She obviously has a bias towards Saint Isabella, but she doesn’t really ever offer firm proof for that conclusion, and as often as not, she actually undermines her own not-very-clearly-stated argument. The work starts out with Isabella the victim, married to evil Edward II, and utterly helpless as he bungles his rule of the country. Unfortunately Weir manages to skim over much of that in favor of the trendy historian game called ‘Guess what? I found some household account books.’ As a result, we hear much more about every time Isabella traveled a few miles and spent the night, or every time she spent 2p on stockings, than about the actual historical events at this point during English history, which is quite silly. This is the slowest part of the story. Then the book shifts to Isabella as the avenging angel who takes back the country, in theory for her son, but mostly (in my reading) because she wanted to try ruling. What follows is a long section in which every good aspect of ruling is Isabella’s wonderful reign, but every bad aspect (ie virtually everything) is somehow the fault of every man around Isabella. Around this time, it becomes painfully clear that Weir is somehow unironically painting a picture of a ruler much worse than Edward II while trying to make it sound like everything isn’t quite so bad as it sounds. Then at the age of 35, it’s all over, and the nearly three decades remaining of Isabella’s life are mostly skipped over as Weir readily admits she only found two account books. I recall learning in a freshman history class that, when you can’t find a source that neatly does your research for you (ie most of the time) then you look to other sources to piece together a picture of what happened. I guess Weir was absent that day.

I was also a little surprised at some of the anti-gay language in this piece. Generally speaking, I’m very tolerant of this sort of thing in history and honestly can’t recall more than a few times in thousands of books that something actually made me pause, but I was particularly taken aback by the comment that when Edward consummated his marriage with Isabella, he ’finally played the man’. Really? Comments like this are sprinkled throughout this book.

It isn’t all terrible, however. In spite of Weir’s aimless wanderings through the material and clear axe to grind, the work is more interesting than one would imagine. It isn’t great by any means, but it isn’t the worst history writing I’ve encountered. Even more impressively, there is considerable confusion and controversy as to when and how Edward II died—either murdered/naturally/due to ill treatment in England when he was supposed to have died, or as a monk in Europe decades later. Weir handles the whole thing very clearly and adeptly. She argues for the monk theory (which I personally find questionable) but manages to make discussions of this complicated issue the most well written and clearly communicated aspect of this whole adventure.
. more

I have a soft spot for historical females figures whom receive negative attention. Perhaps it is my feminist qualities coming out to play. Whatever the nature of my interest, I have read several books on Queen Isabella. Being that Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors, this was a double whammy for me.

With names running through my head (Piers Gaveston, the Despensers, Roger Mortimer), I began reading to a much detailed beginning of the book. In fact, at times it was too detailed and lost my a I have a soft spot for historical females figures whom receive negative attention. Perhaps it is my feminist qualities coming out to play. Whatever the nature of my interest, I have read several books on Queen Isabella. Being that Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors, this was a double whammy for me.

With names running through my head (Piers Gaveston, the Despensers, Roger Mortimer), I began reading to a much detailed beginning of the book. In fact, at times it was too detailed and lost my attention. In the beginning, Weir stresses that that not too much is known about Isabella's early life so what does she really have to write about? Resources were limited. Weir goes on to descibe that Isabella's exact birth year is unknown but "Document X said this and Person Y said that, so her age must be Z. ". It was a bit too much in the beginning. You know what I heard in my head? The Peanuts teacher, "Wa wa wa waa wa wa". Further, this over-detail was evident when describing state rooms and palaces. I understand setting the scene but excessive descriptions on the rooms and additions to castles and manors isn't necessary and loses my attention.

Despite the early over-detail, smaller storylines were mentioned which to some may be considered tangents but to me were interesting (such as the adultery of Isabella's sisters-in-law to her brothers and the rumors that Edward II was a changeling per John of Powderham). Do I smell tpoics for historical fiction books?

The first major revealing piece of information is the false cry of historian Agnes Strickland that Isabella began an affair with Mortimer in 1321. This is false because he clearly opposed the King and Despensers while Isabella supported her husband. This claim of Strickland's is based on the false date of Princess Joan's birth. What does all this mean? That Weir successfully debates claims made by comtemporary sources which added to the negative perceptions of Isabella. Weir disputes traditional claims against Isabella citing that certain accusations against her were never brought against her during her time and thus, were a creation of biographers and propagandists. These arguments of Weir's could have been slightly stronger but were still convincing.

What people need to understand about Isabella and her actions was that due to the Despensers, Isabella's incomes were drastically cut which is an insult to her royal person and even her household was cut back merely because of Hugh's thirst for power and fear that Isabella would join forces with her brother (King of France) against Edward II. She was treated like a mere pensioner and of course wasn't going to accept that! When she was sent to France (let us stress that since Edward was the initial securer of her passage) she wasn't alone. She was surrounded by disenfranchised English lords and exiles but she is made out to be singular in rebellion like it was a personal battle with Edward, her husband. Does anyone stop to think that Edward II was merely siding with the Despensers? It doesn't matter if he didn't thing Hugh was wrong or not, significant others would always pick the wife first. People may ill-conceive Isabella but truth be told, most of England supported her and when the King would order gates to be shut to her, cities would open them. Hers was a supported and bloodless coup, aside from the 6 deaths of Despenser and some of his followers. She was not as bloodthirsty as portrayed.

Weir also debunked rumors that Isabella fled to France with Roger Mortimer because there is no proof which asserts her having any relations with him until after December 1325, at which point they were both already in France individually. The books presents many letters in whole which add to the argumentative properties. Surprisingly, the book wasn't overly biased and allowed you to make your own mind up regarding whether Isabella was driven to actions or was an evil woman.

Method claims were also disputed that Edward II's murder from sources, dates, errors in continuity, etc. For example, if a plot was believed that he was suffocated and tortured, screaming how could he scream in agony if chroniclers claim he was suffocated with heavy pillows? Plus, modern medicine says it would have taken 5 days for him to die under such duress versus immediately as claimed. Basically, Weir does a terrific job looking at the situation with a investigative eye versus just bias or rumor. She also mentioned the rumors that Edward II escaped and that Edward III later met with him.

Weir also detailed Lady Mortimer, daughter Eleanor who married Reginald II, and the creation of the Order of the Garter. These were interesting details that certainly deserve books of their own.

Overall, this was a terrific book which investigatively presents the truth behind Isabella and seeks to help rehabilitate her. It does take some time to pick up speed and at the end, you may find herself "done with it" but it is certainly a strong piece. Perhaps not as strong as Weir's "Lady in the Tower" or "Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder fo Lord Darnley" but still worth a read for royal history lovers. I think it could have been slightly stronger in Isabella's field though. Weir may have tried to too hard to be unbiased and thus lost some "oomph".

This is the best of the Alison Weir books I have read, and the others are 5 star books as well. The beginning part develops the characters, the later part is more reportorial. Weir concludes with a summary of Isabella&aposs role as a revolutionary.

Isabella clearly defied the narrow female role of her times, but her revolutionary role, in my view, was accidental. It was not the confiscation of land of the nobles, nor the suspension of habeas corpus that motivated her, it was the suspension of her rev This is the best of the Alison Weir books I have read, and the others are 5 star books as well. The beginning part develops the characters, the later part is more reportorial. Weir concludes with a summary of Isabella's role as a revolutionary.

Isabella clearly defied the narrow female role of her times, but her revolutionary role, in my view, was accidental. It was not the confiscation of land of the nobles, nor the suspension of habeas corpus that motivated her, it was the suspension of her revenues and it seems to a lesser extent, her forced separation from the crown prince.

She was clever in "networking" with the many who had grievances against Edward II, and wise in her pardoning her adversaries and paying her supporters. Weir guides us towards blaming Mortimer for the re-institution of confiscatory policies. I'm not convinced. As a woman in this time, Isabella surely needed male support and advice. Perhaps he steered in the directions she wanted to go.

Medieval England is barbarous, in many ways. The descriptions of the hangings anesthetize the reader to the ultimate burial of Isabella.

There are incisive descriptions of the relationships with Scotland, France and other continental courts, and the church. These narratives contribute to making the book more than just a good read for the lay reader. . more

Okay, so during the 14th century, this 12-year-old French queen from the most royal house in Europe marries King Edward II, a suspected homosexual and weak-willed English monarch, only to be mistreated, ignored and eventually deprived of her status, children, lands, and inheritance. What is a woman to do? Well, this bad-ass dame sneakily returns to France, begins a scandalous affair with her King&aposs mortal enemy, and then invades England and easily deposes her husband and makes her son king.

You c Okay, so during the 14th century, this 12-year-old French queen from the most royal house in Europe marries King Edward II, a suspected homosexual and weak-willed English monarch, only to be mistreated, ignored and eventually deprived of her status, children, lands, and inheritance. What is a woman to do? Well, this bad-ass dame sneakily returns to France, begins a scandalous affair with her King's mortal enemy, and then invades England and easily deposes her husband and makes her son king.

You can't make this stuff up!

This is a great piece of history that it seems has been largely ignored by the masses. Alison Weir delivers a compelling saga of Queen Isabella. Recommended to history buffs and anyone who is impressed with strong, successful and tenancious females. . more

Isabella of France was the wife and dutiful queen of Edward II who turned into a notorious rebel. At one stage, she was celebrated for ridding England of her unpopular and increasingly tyrannical husband and his favourite, Hugh Despenser. But her own rule alongside her own favourite, Roger Mortimer, was just as inept and unpopular as Edward II’s and history remembered her as a “she-wolf” and femme fatale. Alison Weir attempts to discover the woman beneath the legend in Isabella: She-Wolf of Fran Isabella of France was the wife and dutiful queen of Edward II who turned into a notorious rebel. At one stage, she was celebrated for ridding England of her unpopular and increasingly tyrannical husband and his favourite, Hugh Despenser. But her own rule alongside her own favourite, Roger Mortimer, was just as inept and unpopular as Edward II’s and history remembered her as a “she-wolf” and femme fatale. Alison Weir attempts to discover the woman beneath the legend in Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England.

Weir says in her introduction that when she set out to begin this book, she did not much like Isabella, but through her research she found a woman that could be admired and celebrated. Thus, her purpose in writing this biography is to rehabilitate Isabella’s reputation. It’s a noble goal – undoubtedly, misogyny has coloured and veiled our perception of Isabella, flattening her into a two-dimensional villain. But Weir’s approach goes too far in the opposite direction and her Isabella remains just as flat as a result. Her Isabella is a victim of her neglectful husband, Edward, and her masterful lover, Mortimer, and the narrative feels blatantly unbalanced.

Isabella is the only notable strength behind Edward II’s reign. She is more perceptive and possesses the quicker-wits. His follies are entirely his own and unsympathetically rendered. His tyranny is because he is a weak, blind man concerned with his own pleasures. In Edward III’s minority, where power is wielded by Isabella and Mortimer, Isabella is a victim of circumstance and “blinded by” her lust or love for Mortimer. Her follies are entirely the result of her being “in thrall” to and dominated by her lover, her tyranny is because of her impossible situation, and thus her responsibility for her own actions is greatly diminished. I suppose it may be true that Isabella was so lust-addled that she just happily went along with everything that Mortimer wanted, signed off on his tyranny and didn’t care when he threatened her son’s life, but I doubt there is much evidence for such an interpretation and it begs belief that the smart, rational, perceptive Isabella suddenly loses her abilities because she has, in Weir’s opinion, a decent sex life at long last.

This was entirely disappointing for me. I’m fascinated by Isabella, not because of the narrative that Weir perpetuates – that she was the victim of a neglectful husband who found love, or at least good sex and revenge, with her saviour, Mortimer, who then takes the rap for all her bad decisions – but because it is obvious that she and Edward II once deeply cared about each other before everything went downhill into disaster land. I don’t believe in “innocent victim” Isabella. I believe in a complicated Isabella who was likely both victim and villain.

Even leaving aside the question of the narrative, Weir’s grasp of history seems fairly weak. A number of her statements are simply ludicrous. Her suggestion that Hugh Despenser raped Isabella is complete and utter speculation built on the flimsiest of evidence (that is, Despenser wished to dishonour her “by every possible means”) and one of the two works she cites as backing up her argument is a literal work of fiction!

The discussion of Isabella’s affair with Mortimer and how much of it was public knowledge is extremely convoluted. When Weir discusses their affair beginning in France, she gives the impression that everyone knew, including the English involved in their rebellion. But later, Weir claims that they were so discrete in England, that no one knew. Even, presumably, the English that had travelled with them from France. Weir then has the Earl of Kent’s discovery of their affair be a deciding factor in the Earl of Lancaster’s actions of rebellion against Isabella and Mortimer, even though, Weir says, Lancaster never used it against them because he didn’t want to damage Edward III’s conflict with France. And, honestly, I was just lost. I couldn’t keep track with how it was open knowledge in France, but not England, how Lancaster knew but didn’t want to use it against them because it would jeopardise their conflict with France – but then French knew but didn’t use it against Edward III!

I also absolutely failed to understand what Weir claimed happened to Edward II in 1327 and beyond. It has been theorised by some historians that Edward II did not die in 1327, murdered on the orders of Roger Mortimer and possibly Isabella, as was traditionally believed, but instead his death was faked and he eventually ended his life as a hermit in Italy. Ian Mortimer is probably the most notable historian who has advanced this theory and believes that Edward’s escape was engineered by Roger Mortimer, who then held him in captivity. Weir argues that Edward did indeed escape, but Mortimer (and therefore Isabella) was not involved. This is fair enough, but she doesn’t present an argument for why Mortimer was not involved and fails to explain what Edward was doing after his escape in any satisfactory manner, leaving me to guess why he didn’t try to reclaim his throne or make contact with anyone, before he went and lived in Italy.

The way Weir discussed Edward II’s sexuality left me deeply uncomfortable. I will be generous and assume that Weir was not aiming to be blatantly homophobic and wrote, instead, from a place of ignorance. Yet her discussion often stunk of homophobia. Edward II and Piers Gaveston are said to be capable of “normal” sexual intercourse because they fathered children, thus implying that homosexual sex is abnormal. Edward II is said to have “at last played the man” when he consummated his marriage to Isabella, thus implying that masculinity and manhood are inherently linked to heterosexual sex – an attitude that is also found when Weir describes Mortimer as everything Edward II wasn’t, including “manly” and “virile”. Furthermore, Weir suggests Edward II’s sexuality and romantic/sexual relationships with men as an “insult” to Isabella’s femininity. It may well be that Isabella, in a historical context that saw sexual relations between men as a sin against God and nature, believed Edward’s intense, likely sexual relationships with Gaveston and Despenser were deeply unnatural and insults to her, but there is no reason for Weir to parrot such views without challenging them.

To round off the homophobia, Weir seems to espouse that view that Edward II not having sex with Isabella was a grave insult to her and that, regardless of his personal feelings on the matter, he should just “act the man” and have sex with her as a sop to her feelings. Because, apparently, Isabella’s desire for sex should always trump Edward’s right not to have sex in Alison Weir’s world.

To be positive, I found Weir’s actual prose-writing quite good. It was engaging and readable and never too heavy – I definitely found Isabella to be a quicker, easier read than Weir’s Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess. Weir also provides plenty of rich detail for the historical novelist, such as descriptions and inventories of Isabella’s clothes and residences. But this little compensation overall for such a shoddy work of historical biography. . more



Contents

Isabeau's parents were Duke Stephen III of Bavaria-Ingolstadt and Taddea Visconti, who he married for a 100,000 ducat dowry. She was most likely born in Munich, where she was baptized as Elisabeth [note 1] at the Church of Our Lady. [2] She was great-granddaughter to the Wittelsbach Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV. [3] [note 2] During this period, Bavaria was counted among the most powerful German states and was divided between members of the House of Wittelsbach. [2]

Isabeau's uncle, Duke Frederick of Bavaria-Landshut, suggested in 1383 that she be considered as a bride to King Charles VI of France. The match was proposed again at the lavish Burgundian double wedding in Cambrai in April 1385—John the Fearless and his sister Margaret of Burgundy married Margaret and William of Bavaria-Straubing, respectively. Charles, then 17, rode in the tourneys at the wedding. He was an attractive, physically fit young man, who enjoyed jousting and hunting and was excited to be married. [4]

Charles VI's uncle, Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, thought the proposed marriage ideal to build an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire and against the English. [5] Isabeau's father agreed reluctantly and sent her to France with his brother, her uncle, on the pretext of taking a pilgrimage to Amiens. [3] He was adamant that she was not to know she was being sent to France to be examined as a prospective bride for Charles [5] and refused permission for her to be examined in the nude, customary at the time. [2] According to the contemporary chronicler Jean Froissart, Isabeau was 13 or 14 when the match was proposed and about 16 at the time of the marriage in 1385, suggesting a birth date of around 1370. [3]

Before her presentation to Charles, Isabeau visited Hainaut for about a month, staying with her granduncle Duke Albert I, Count of Holland and ruler of some of Bavaria-Straubing. Albert's wife, Margaret of Brieg, replaced Isabeau's Bavarian style of dress, deemed unsuitable as French courtly attire, and taught her etiquette suitable to the French court. She learned quickly, suggestive of an intelligent and quick-witted character. [6] On 13 July 1385, she traveled to Amiens to be presented to Charles. [7]

Froissart writes of the meeting in his Chronicles, saying that Isabeau stood motionless while being inspected, exhibiting perfect behavior by the standards of her time. Arrangements were made for the two to be married in Arras, but on the first meeting Charles felt "happiness and love enter his heart, for he saw that she was beautiful and young, and thus he greatly desired to gaze at her and possess her". [8] She did not yet speak French and may not have reflected the idealized beauty of the period, perhaps inheriting her mother's dark Italian features, then unfashionable, but Charles most certainly approved of her because the couple were married three days later. [7] Froissart documented the royal wedding, joking about the lascivious guests at the feast and the "hot young couple". [9]

Charles seemingly loved his young wife, lavishing gifts on her. On the occasion of their first New Year in 1386, he gave her a red velvet palfrey saddle, trimmed with copper and decorated with an intertwined K and E (for Karol and Elisabeth), and he continued to give her gifts of rings, tableware and clothing. [7] The uncles too, apparently, were pleased with the match, which contemporary chroniclers, notably Froissart and Michel Pintoin (the Monk of St. Denis), describe similarly as a match rooted in desire and based on her beauty. The day after the wedding, Charles went on a military campaign against the English, and Isabeau went to Creil to live with his step great-grandmother Queen Dowager Blanche, who taught her courtly traditions. In September she took up residence at the Château de Vincennes, where in the early years of their marriage Charles frequently joined her, and which became her favorite home. [6]

Isabeau's coronation was celebrated on 23 August 1389 with a lavish ceremonial entry into Paris. Her second cousin and sister-in-law Valentina Visconti, who had married her own cousin Louis of Orléans (Charles' younger brother) two years earlier by proxy and papal dispensation, arrived in style, escorted across the Alps from Milan by 1,300 knights carrying personal luxuries such as books and a harp. [10] The noblewomen in the coronation procession were dressed in lavish costumes with thread-of-gold embroidery, and rode in litters escorted by knights. Philip the Bold wore a doublet embroidered with 40 sheep and 40 swans, each decorated with a bell made of pearls. [10]

The procession lasted from morning to night. The streets were lined with tableaux vivants displaying scenes from the Crusades, Deësis and the Gates of Paradise. More than a thousand burghers stood along the route those on one side were dressed in green facing, those on the opposite in red. The procession began at the Porte de St. Denis and passed under a canopy of sky-blue cloth beneath which children dressed as angels sang, winding into the Rue Saint-Denis before arriving at the Notre Dame for the coronation ceremony. [10] As Tuchman describes the event, "So many wonders were to be seen and admired that it was evening before the procession crossed the bridge leading to Notre Dame and the climactic display." [11]

As Isabeau crossed the Grand Pont to Notre Dame, a person dressed as an angel descended from the church by mechanical means and "passed through an opening of the hangings of blue taffeta with golden fleurs-des-lis, which covered the bridge, and put a crown on her head." The angel was then pulled back up into the church. [12] An acrobat carrying two candles walked along a rope suspended from the spires of the cathedral to the tallest house in the city. [10]

After Isabeau's crowning, the procession made its way back from the cathedral along a route lit by 500 candles. They were greeted by a royal feast and a progression of narrative pageants, complete with a depiction of the Fall of Troy. Isabeau, seven months pregnant, nearly fainted from heat on the first of the five days of festivities. To pay for the extravagant event, taxes were raised in Paris two months later. [10]

Charles suffered the first of what was to become a lifelong series of bouts of insanity in 1392 when, on a hot August day outside Le Mans, he attacked his household knights, including his brother Orléans, killing four men. [13] After the attack he fell into a coma that lasted four days. Few believed he would recover his uncles, the dukes of Burgundy and Berry, took advantage of his illness and quickly seized power, re-establishing themselves as regents and dissolving the Marmouset council. [14]

The King's sudden onset of insanity was seen by some as a sign of divine anger and punishment, and by others as the result of magic. [14] Modern historians speculate that he may have suffered from the onset of paranoid schizophrenia. [15] The comatose king was returned to Le Mans, where Guillaume de Harsigny—a venerated and well-educated 92-year-old physician—was summoned to treat him. Charles regained consciousness and his fever subsided he was gradually returned to Paris in September. [14]

The physician recommended a program of amusements. A member of the court suggested that Charles surprise Isabeau and the other ladies by joining a group of courtiers who would disguise themselves as wild men and invade the masquerade celebrating the remarriage of Isabeau's lady-in-waiting, Catherine de Fastaverin. This came to be known as the Bal des Ardents. Charles was almost killed and four of the dancers burned to death, when a spark from a torch brought by Orléans lit one of the dancer's costumes. The disaster undermined confidence in Charles' capacity to rule. Parisians considered it proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility. The public's outrage forced the King and Orléans, whom a contemporary chronicler accused of attempted regicide and sorcery, into offering penance for the event. [16]

Charles suffered a second and more prolonged attack of insanity the following June it removed him for about six months and set a pattern that would hold for the next three decades as his condition deteriorated. [17] Froissart described the bouts of illness as so severe that the King was "far out of the way no medicine could help him", [18] although he had recovered from the first attack within months. [19] For the first 20 years of his illness he sustained periods of lucidity, enough that he continued to rule. Suggestions were made to replace him with a regent, although there was uncertainty and debate as to whether a regency could assume the full role of a living monarch. [19] When he was incapable of ruling, his brother Orléans, and their cousin John the Fearless, the new Duke of Burgundy, were chief among those who sought to take control of the government. [17]

When Charles became ill in the 1390s, Isabeau was 22 she had three children and had already lost two infants. [20] During the worst of his illness Charles was unable to recognize her and caused her great distress by demanding her removal when she entered his chamber. [7] The Monk of St Denis wrote in his chronicle, "What distressed her above all was to see how on all occasions . the king repulsed her, whispering to his people, 'Who is this woman obstructing my view? Find out what she wants and stop her from annoying and bothering me. ' " [21] As his illness worsened at the turn of the century, she was accused of abandoning him, particularly when she moved her residence to the Hôtel Barbette. Historian Rachel Gibbons speculates that Isabeau wanted to distance herself from her husband and his illness, writing, "it would be unjust to blame her if she did not want to live with a madman." [22]

Since the King often did not recognize her during his psychotic episodes and was upset by her presence, it was eventually deemed advisable to provide him with a mistress, Odette de Champdivers, the daughter of a horse-dealer according to Tuchman, Odette is said to have resembled Isabeau and was called "the little Queen". [23] She had probably assumed this role by 1405 with Isabeau's consent, [24] but during his remissions the King still had sexual relations with his wife, whose last pregnancy occurred in 1407. Records show that Isabeau was in the King's chamber on 23 November 1407, the night of Orléans' assassination, and again in 1408. [25]

Charles' bouts of illness continued unabated until his death. The two may have still felt mutual affection, and Isabeau exchanged gifts and letters with him during his periods of lucidity, but distanced herself during the prolonged attacks of insanity. Historian Tracy Adams writes that Isabeau's attachment and loyalty is evident in the great efforts she made to retain the crown for his heirs in the ensuing decades. [26]

Isabeau's life is well documented, most likely because Charles' illness placed her in an unusual position of power. Nevertheless, not much is known about her personal characteristics, and historians even disagree about her appearance. She is variously described as "small and brunette" or "tall and blonde". The contemporaneous evidence is contradictory: chroniclers said of her either that she was "beautiful and hypnotic, or so obese through dropsy that she was crippled." [20] [note 3] Despite living in France after her marriage, she spoke with a heavy German accent that never diminished, which Tuchman describes as giving her an "alien" cast at the French court. [23]

Adams describes Isabeau as a talented diplomat who navigated court politics with ease, grace and charisma. [27] Charles had been crowned in 1387, aged 20, attaining sole control of the monarchy. His first acts included the dismissal of his uncles and the reinstatement of the so-called Marmousets—a group of councilors to his father, Charles V—and he gave Orléans more responsibility. Some years later, after Charles' first attack of illness, tensions mounted between Orléans and the royal uncles—Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy John, Duke of Berry and Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. Forced to assume a greater role in maintaining peace amidst the growing power struggle, which was to persist for many years, Isabeau succeeded in her role as peacekeeper among the various court factions. [27]

As early as the late 1380s and early 1390s, Isabeau demonstrated that she possessed diplomatic influence when the Florentine delegation requested her political intervention in the Gian Galeazzo Visconti affair. [note 4] Orléans and the Duke of Burgundy were in the pro-Visconti faction while the anti-Visconti faction included Isabeau, her brother, Louis VII, Duke of Bavaria, and John III, Count of Armagnac. At that time Isabeau lacked the political power to effect change. Some years later, however, at the 1396 wedding of her seven-year-old daughter, Isabella, to Richard II of England (an event at which Charles attacked a herald for wearing Galeazzo's livery), Isabeau successfully negotiated an alliance between France and Florence with Florentine ambassador Buonaccorso Pitti. [note 5] [28]

In the 1390s Jean Gerson of the University of Paris formed a council to eliminate the Western Schism, and in recognition of her negotiating skills he placed Isabeau on the council. The French wanted both the Avignon and Roman popes to abdicate in favor of a single papacy in Rome Clement VII in Avignon welcomed Isabeau's presence given her record as an effective mediator. However, the effort faded when Clement VII died. [27]

During his short-lived recovery in the 1390s, Charles made arrangements for Isabeau to be "principal guardian of the Dauphin", their son, until he reached 13 years of age, giving her additional political power on the regency council. [20] Charles appointed Isabeau co-guardian of their children in 1393, a position shared with the royal dukes and her brother, Louis of Bavaria, while he gave Orléans full power of the regency. [29] In appointing Isabeau, Charles acted under laws enacted by his father, Charles V, which gave the Queen full power to protect and educate the heir to the throne. [30] These appointments separated power between Orléans and the royal uncles, increasing ill-will among the factions. [29] The following year, as Charles' bouts of illness became more severe and prolonged, Isabeau became the leader of the regency council, giving her power over the royal dukes and the Constable of France, while at the same time making her vulnerable to attack from various court factions. [20]

During Charles' illness, Orléans became financially powerful as the official tax collector, [31] and in the following decade Isabeau and Orléans agreed to raise the level of taxation. [25] In 1401, during one of the King's absences, Orléans installed his own men to collect royal revenues, angering Philip the Bold who in retaliation raised an army, threatening to enter Paris with 600 men-at-arms and 60 knights. At that time Isabeau intervened between Orléans and Burgundy, preventing bloodshed and the outbreak of civil war. [31]

Charles trusted Isabeau enough by 1402 to allow her to arbitrate the growing dispute between the Orléanists and Burgundians, and he turned control of the treasury over to her. [20] [32] After Philip the Bold died in 1404 and his son John the Fearless became Duke of Burgundy, the new duke continued the political strife in an attempt to gain access to the royal treasury for Burgundian interests. Orléans and the royal dukes thought John was usurping power for his own interests and Isabeau, at that time, aligned herself with Orléans to protect the interests of the crown and her children. Furthermore, she distrusted John the Fearless who she thought overstepped himself in rank—he was cousin to the King, whereas Orléans was Charles' brother. [32]

Rumors that Isabeau and Orléans were lovers began to circulate, a relationship that was considered incestuous. Whether the two were intimate has been questioned by contemporary historians, including Gibbons who believes the rumor may have been planted as propaganda against Isabeau as retaliation against tax increases she and Orléans ordered in 1405. [7] [25] An Augustinian friar, Jacques Legrand, preached a long sermon to the court denouncing excess and depravity, in particular mentioning Isabeau and her fashions—with exposed necks, shoulders and décolletage. [33] The monk presented his sermon as allegory so as not to offend Isabeau overtly, but he cast her and her ladies-in-waiting as "furious, vengeful characters". He said to Isabeau, "If you don't believe me, go out into the city disguised as a poor woman, and you will hear what everyone is saying." Thus he accused Isabeau as having lost touch with the commoners and the court with its subjects. [34] At about the same time, a satirical political pamphlet called Songe Veritable, now considered by historians to be pro-Burgundian propaganda, was released and widely distributed in Paris. The pamphlet hinted at the Queen's relations with Orléans. [33]

John the Fearless accused Isabeau and Orléans of fiscal mismanagement and again demanded money for himself, in recompense for the loss of royal revenues after his father's death [35] an estimated half of Philip the Bold's revenues had come from the French treasury. [17] John raised a force of 1,000 knights and entered Paris in 1405. Orléans hastily retreated with Isabeau to the fortified castle of Melun, with her household and children a day or so behind. John immediately left in pursuit, intercepting the party of chaperones and royal children. He took possession of the Dauphin, and returned him to Paris under control of Burgundian forces however, the boy's uncle, the duke of Berry, quickly took control of the child at the orders of the Royal Council. At that time, Charles was lucid for about a month and able to help with the crisis. [35] The incident, that came to be known as the enlèvement of the dauphin, almost caused full-scale war, but it was averted. [36] Orléans quickly raised an army while John encouraged Parisians to revolt. They refused, claiming loyalty to the King and his son Berry was made captain general of Paris and the city's gates were locked. In October, Isabeau became active in mediating the dispute in response to a letter from Christine de Pizan and an ordinance from the Royal Council. [37]

In 1407, John the Fearless ordered Orléans' assassination. [38] On 23 November, [39] hired killers attacked the duke as he returned to his Paris residence, cut off his hand holding the horse's reins, and "hacked [him] to death with swords, axes, and wooden clubs". His body was left in a gutter. [40] John first denied involvement in the assassination, [38] but quickly admitted that the act was done for the Queen's honor, claiming he acted to "avenge" the monarchy of the alleged adultery between Isabeau and Orléans. [41] His royal uncles, shocked at his confession, forced him to leave Paris while the Royal Council attempted a reconciliation between the Houses of Burgundy and Orléans. [38]

In March 1408, Jean Petit presented a lengthy and well-attended justification at the royal palace before a large courtly audience. [42] Petit argued convincingly that in the King's absence Orléans became a tyrant, [43] practiced sorcery and necromancy, was driven by greed, and had planned to commit fratricide at the Bal des Ardents. John should be exonerated, Petit argued, because he had defended the King and monarchy by assassinating Orléans. [44] Charles, "insane during the oration", was convinced by Petit's argument and pardoned John the Fearless, only to rescind the pardon in September. [42]

Violence again broke out after the assassination Isabeau had troops patrol Paris and, to protect the Dauphin Louis, Duke of Guyenne, she again left the city for Melun. In August she staged an entry to Paris for the Dauphin, and early in the new year, Charles signed an ordinance giving the 13-year-old the power to rule in the Queen's absence. During these years, Isabeau's greatest concern was the Dauphin's safety as she prepared him to take up the duties of the King she formed alliances to further those aims. [42] At this point, the Queen and her influence were still crucial to the power struggle. Physical control of Isabeau and her children became important to both parties and she was frequently forced to change sides, for which she was criticized and called unstable. [20] She joined the Burgundians from 1409 to 1413, then switched sides to form an alliance with the Orléanists from 1413 to 1415. [42]

At the Peace of Chartres in March 1409, John the Fearless was reinstated to the Royal Council after a public reconciliation with Orléans' son, Charles, Duke of Orléans, at Chartres Cathedral, although the feuding continued. In December that year, Isabeau bestowed the tutelle (guardianship of the Dauphin) [38] upon John the Fearless, made him the master of Paris, and allowed him to mentor the Dauphin, [45] after he had Jehan de Montagu, Grand Master of the King's household, executed. At that point, the Duke essentially controlled the Dauphin and Paris and was popular in the city because of his opposition to taxes levied by Isabeau and Orléans. [46] Isabeau's actions with respect to John the Fearless angered the Armagnacs, who in the fall of 1410 marched to Paris to "rescue" the Dauphin from the Duke's influence. At that time, members of the University of Paris, Jean Gerson in particular, proposed that all feuding members of the Royal Council step down and be immediately removed from power. [45]

To defuse tension with the Burgundians, a second double marriage was arranged in 1409. Isabeau's daughter Michelle married Philip the Good, son of John the Fearless Isabeau's son, the Dauphin Louis, married John's daughter Margaret. Before the wedding, Isabeau negotiated a treaty with John the Fearless in which she clearly defined family hierarchy and her position in relation to the throne. [32] [note 6]

Despite Isabeau's efforts to keep the peace, the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War broke out in 1411. John gained the upper hand during the first year, but the Dauphin began to build a power base Christine de Pizan wrote of him that he was the savior of France. Still only 15, he lacked the power or backing to defeat John, who fomented revolt in Paris. In retaliation against the actions of John the Fearless, Charles of Orléans denied funds from the royal treasury to all members of the royal family. In 1414, instead of allowing her son, then 17, to lead, Isabeau allied herself with Charles of Orléans. The Dauphin, in return, changed allegiance and joined John, which Isabeau considered unwise and dangerous. The result was continued civil war in Paris. [42] Parisian commoners joined forces with John the Fearless in the Cabochien Revolt, and at the height of the revolt, a group of butchers entered Isabeau's home in search of traitors, arresting and taking away up to 15 of her ladies-in-waiting. [47] In his chronicles, Pintoin wrote that Isabeau was firmly allied with the Orléanists and the 60,000 Armagnacs who invaded Paris and Picardy. [48]

King Henry V of England took advantage of the internal strife in France, invading the northwest coast, and in 1415, he delivered a crushing defeat to the French at Agincourt. [49] Nearly an entire generation of military leaders died or were taken prisoner in a single day. John, still feuding with the royal family and the Armagnacs, remained neutral as Henry V went on to conquer towns in northern France. [49]

In December 1415, Dauphin Louis died suddenly at age 18 of illness, leaving Isabeau's political status unclear. Her 17-year-old fourth-born son, John of Touraine, now the Dauphin, had been raised since childhood in the household of Duke William II of Bavaria in Hainaut. Married to Countess Jacqueline of Hainaut, Dauphin John was a Burgundian sympathizer. William of Bavaria refused to send him to Paris during a period of upheaval as Burgundians plundered the city and Parisians revolted against another wave of tax increases initiated by Count Bernard VII of Armagnac in a period of lucidity, Charles had raised the Count to be the Constable of France. Isabeau attempted to intervene by arranging a meeting with Jacqueline in 1416, but Armagnac refused to allow Isabeau to reconcile with the House of Burgundy, while William II continued to prevent the young Dauphin from entering Paris. [50]

In 1417, Henry V invaded Normandy with 40,000 men. Later that year, in April, Dauphin John died and another shift in power occurred when Isabeau's sixth and last son, Charles, age 14, became Dauphin. He was betrothed to Armagnac's daughter Marie of Anjou and favored the Armagnacs. At that time, Armagnac imprisoned Isabeau in Tours, confiscating her personal property (clothing, jewels and money), dismantling her household, and separating her from the younger children as well as her ladies-in-waiting. She secured her freedom in November with the help of the Duke of Burgundy. Accounts of her release vary: Monstrelet writes that Burgundy "delivered" her to Troyes, and Pintoin that the Duke negotiated Isabeau's release to gain control of her authority. [50] Isabeau maintained her alliance with Burgundy from that period until the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. [20]

Isabeau at first assumed the role of sole regent but in January 1418 yielded her position to John the Fearless. Together Isabeau and John abolished parliament (Chambre des comptes) and turned to securing control of Paris and the King. John took control of Paris by force on 28 May 1418, slaughtering Armagnacs. The Dauphin fled the city. According to Pintoin's chronicle, the Dauphin refused Isabeau's invitation to join her in an entry to Paris. She entered the city with John on 14 July. [51]

Shortly after he assumed the title of Dauphin, Charles negotiated a truce with John in Pouilly. Charles then requested a private meeting with John, on 10 September 1419 at a bridge in Montereau, promising his personal guarantee of protection. The meeting, however, was a ploy to assassinate John, whom Charles "hacked to death" on the bridge. His father, King Charles, immediately disinherited his son. The civil war ended after John's death. [52] The Dauphin's actions fueled more rumor about his legitimacy, and his disinheritance set the stage for the Treaty of Troyes. [20]

By 1419, Henry V had occupied much of Normandy and demanded an oath of allegiance from the residents. The new Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, allied with the English, putting enormous pressure on France and Isabeau, who remained loyal to the King. In 1420, Henry sent an emissary to confer with the Queen, after which, according to Adams, Isabeau "ceded to what must have been a persuasively posed argument by Henry V's messenger". [53] France had effectively been left without an heir to the throne, even before the Treaty of Troyes. Charles VI had disinherited the Dauphin, whom he considered responsible for "breaking the peace for his involvement in the assassination of the duke of Burgundy" he wrote in 1420 of the Dauphin that he had "rendered himself unworthy to succeed to the throne or any other title". [54] Charles of Orléans, next in line as heir under Salic law, had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt and was kept in captivity in London. [49] [55]

In the absence of an official heir to the throne, Isabeau accompanied King Charles to sign the Treaty of Troyes in May 1420 Gibbons writes that the treaty "only confirmed [the Dauphin's] outlaw status". [54] The King's malady prevented him from appearing at the signing of the treaty, forcing Isabeau to stand in for him, which according to Gibbons gave her "perpetual responsibility in having sworn away France". [54] For many centuries, Isabeau stood accused of relinquishing the crown because of the Treaty. [20] Under the terms of the Treaty, Charles remained as King of France but Henry V, who married Charles' and Isabeau's daughter, Catherine, kept control of the territories he conquered in Normandy, would govern France with the Duke of Burgundy, and was to be Charles' successor. [56] Isabeau was to live in English-controlled Paris. [53]

Charles VI died in October 1422. As Henry V had died earlier the same year, his infant son by Catherine, Henry VI, was proclaimed King of France, according to the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, with the Duke of Bedford acting as regent. [56] Rumors circulated about Isabeau again some chronicles describe her living in a "degraded state". [53] According to Tuchman, Isabeau had a farmhouse built in St. Ouen where she looked after livestock, and in her later years, during a lucid episode, Charles arrested one of her lovers whom he tortured, then drowned in the Seine. [57] Desmond Seward writes it was the disinherited Dauphin who had the man killed. Described as a former lover of Isabeau as well as a "poisoner and wife-murderer", Charles kept him as a favorite at his court until ordering his drowning. [58]

Rumors about Isabeau's promiscuity flourished, which Adams attributes to English propaganda intended to secure England's grasp on the throne. An allegorical pamphlet, called Pastorelet, was published in the mid-1420s painting Isabeau and Orleans as lovers. [59] During the same period, Isabeau was contrasted with Joan of Arc, considered virginally pure, in the allegedly popular saying "Even as France had been lost by a woman it would be saved by a woman". Adams writes that Joan of Arc has been attributed with the words "France, having been lost by a woman, would be restored by a virgin", but neither saying can be substantiated by contemporary documentation or chronicles. [60]

In 1429, when Isabeau lived in English-occupied Paris, the accusation was again put forth that Charles VII was not the son of Charles VI. At that time, with two contenders for the French throne—the young Henry VI and disinherited Charles—this could have been propaganda to prop up the English claim. Furthermore, gossip spread that Joan of Arc was Isabeau and Orleans' illegitimate daughter—a rumor Gibbons finds improbable because Joan of Arc almost certainly was not born for some years after Orléans' assassination. Stories circulated that the dauphins were murdered, and attempts were made to poison the other children, all of which added to Isabeau's reputation of one of history's great villains. [55]

Isabeau was removed from political influence and retired to live in the Hôtel Saint-Pol with her brother's second wife, Catherine of Alençon. She was accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting Amelie von Orthenburg and Madame de Moy, the latter of whom had traveled from Germany and had stayed with her as dame d'honneur since 1409. Isabeau possibly died there in late September 1435. [53] Her death and funeral were documented by Jean Chartier (member of St Denis Abbey), who may well have been an eyewitness. [55]

Isabeau was dismissed by historians in the past as a wanton, weak and indecisive leader. Modern historians now see her as taking an unusually active leadership role for a queen of her period, forced to take responsibility as a direct result of Charles' illness. Her critics accepted skewed interpretations of her role in the negotiations with England, resulting in the Treaty of Troyes, and in the rumors of her marital infidelity with Orléans. [61] Gibbons writes that a queen's duty was to secure the succession to the crown and look after her husband historians described Isabeau as having failed in both respects. [7] Gibbons goes on to say that even her physical appearance is uncertain depictions of her vary depending on whether she was to be portrayed as good or evil. [62]

Rumored to be a bad mother, she was accused of "incest, moral corruption, treason, avarice and profligacy . political aspirations and involvements". [63] Adams writes that historians reassessed her reputation in the late 20th century, exonerating her of many of the accusations, seen particularly in Gibbons' scholarship. Furthermore, Adams admits she believed the allegations against Isabeau until she delved into contemporary chronicles: there she found little evidence against the Queen except that many of the rumors came from only a few passages, and in particular from Pintoin's pro-Burgundian writing. [64]

After the onset of the King's illness, a common belief was that Charles' mental illness and inability to rule were due to Isabeau's witchcraft as early as the 1380s, rumors spread that the court was steeped in sorcery. In 1397 Orléans' wife, Valentina Visconti, was forced to leave Paris because she was accused of using magic. [65] The court of the "mad king" attracted magicians with promises of cures who were often used as political tools by the various factions. Lists of people accused of bewitching Charles were compiled, with Isabeau and Orléans both listed. [66]

The accusations of adultery were rampant. According to Pintoin's chronicle, "[Orléans] clung a bit too closely to his sister-in-law, the young and pretty Isabeau of Bavaria, the queen. This ardent brunette was twenty-two her husband was insane and her seductive brother-in-law loved to dance, beyond that we can imagine all sorts of things". [67] Pintoin said of the Queen and Orléans that they neglected Charles, behaved scandalously and "lived on the delights of the flesh", [68] spending large amounts of money on court entertainment. [25] The alleged affair, however, is based on a single paragraph from Pintoin's chronicles, according to Adams, and is no longer considered proof. [69]

Isabeau was accused of indulging in extravagant and expensive fashions, jewel-laden dresses and elaborate braided hairstyles coiled into tall shells, covered with wide double hennins that, reportedly, required widened doorways to pass through. [70] In 1406, a pro-Burgundian satirical pamphlet in verse allegory listed Isabeau's supposed lovers. [33] She was accused of leading France into a civil war because of her inability to support a single faction she was described as an "empty headed" German of her children, it was said that she "took pleasure in a new pregnancy only insofar as it offered her new gifts" and her political mistakes were attributed to her being fat. [67]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, historians characterized Isabeau as "an adulterous, luxurious, meddlesome, scheming, and spendthrift queen", overlooking her political achievements and influence. A popular book written by Louise de Karalio (1758–1822) about the "bad" French queens prior to Marie Antoinette is, according to Adams, where "Isabeau's black legend attains its full expression in a violent attack on the French royalty in general and queens in particular." [71] Karalio wrote: "Isabeau was raised by the furies to bring about the ruin of the state and to sell it to its enemies Isabeau of Bavaria appeared, and her marriage, celebrated in Amiens on 17 July 1385, would be regarded as the most horrifying moment in our history". [72] Isabeau was painted as Orléans' passionate lover, and the inspiration for the Marquis de Sade's unpublished 1813 novel Histoire secrète d'Isabelle de Bavière, reine de France, about which Adams writes, "submitting the queen to his ideology of gallantry, [the Marquis de Sade] gives her rapaciousness a cold and calculating violence . a woman who carefully manages her greed for maximum gratification." [73] She goes on to say that de Sade admitted to "being perfectly aware that the charges against the queen are without ground." [74]

Like many of the Valois, Isabeau was an appreciative art collector. She loved jewels and was responsible for the commissions of particularly lavish pieces of ronde-bosse — a newly developed technique of making enamel-covered gold pieces. Documentation suggests she commissioned several fine pieces of tableaux d'or from Parisian goldsmiths. [76]

In 1404, Isabeau gave Charles a spectacular ronde-bosse, known as the Little Golden Horse Shrine, (or Goldenes Rössl), now held in a convent church in Altötting, Bavaria. [note 7] Contemporary documents identify the statuette as a New Year's gift—an étrennes—a Roman custom Charles revived to establish rank and alliances during the period of factionalism and war. With the exception of manuscripts, the Little Golden Horse is the single surviving documented étrennes of the period. Weighing 26 pounds (12 kg), the gold piece is encrusted with rubies, sapphires and pearls. It depicts Charles kneeling on a platform above a double set of stairs, presenting himself to the Virgin Mary and child Jesus, who are attended by John the Evangelist and John the Baptist. A jewel encrusted trellis or bower is above beneath stands a squire holding the golden horse. [77] [78] Isabeau also exchanged New Year's gifts with the Duke of Berry one extant piece is the ronde-bosse statuette Saint Catherine. [76]

Medieval author Christine de Pizan solicited the Queen's patronage at least three times. In 1402, she sent a compilation of her literary argument Querelle du Roman de la Rose—in which she questions the concept of courtly love—with a letter exclaiming "I am firmly convinced the feminine cause is worthy of defense. This I do here and have done with my other works." In 1410 and again in 1411, Pizan solicited the Queen, presenting her in 1414 an illuminated copy of her works. [79] In The Book of the City of Ladies, Pizan praised Isabeau lavishly, and again in the illuminated collection, The Letter of Othea, which scholar Karen Green believes for de Pizan is "the culmination of fifteen years of service during which Christine formulated an ideology that supported Isabeau's right to rule as regent in this time of crisis." [80]

Isabeau showed great piety, essential for a queen of her period. During her lifetime, and in her will, she bequeathed property and personal possessions to Notre Dame, St. Denis, and the convent in Poissy. [81]

The birth of each of Isabeau's 12 children is well chronicled [20] even the decoration schemes of the rooms in which she gave birth are described. [81] She had six sons and six daughters. The first son, born in 1386, died as an infant and the last, Philip, born in 1407, lived a single day. Three others died young with only her youngest son, Charles VII, living to adulthood. Five of the six daughters survived four were married and one, Marie (1393–1438), was sent at age four to be raised in a convent, where she became prioress. [81]

Her first son, Charles (b. 1386), the first Dauphin, died in infancy. A daughter, Joan, born two years later, lived until 1390. The second daughter, Isabella (1389-1409) was married at age seven to Richard II of England and after his death to Charles, Duke of Orléans. The third daughter, another Joan (1391–1433), who lived to age 42, married John VI, Duke of Brittany. The fourth daughter, Michelle (1395–1422), first wife to Philip the Good, died childless at age 27. Catherine of Valois, Queen of England (1401–1438), married Henry V of England on his death she took Sir Owen Tudor as her second husband. [81]

Of her remaining sons, the second Dauphin was another Charles (1392–1401), who died at age eight of a "wasting illness". Louis, Duke of Guyenne (1397-1415), was the third Dauphin, married to Margaret of Nevers, who died at age 18. John, Duke of Touraine (1398-1417), the fourth Dauphin, the first husband of Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, died without issue, also at the age of 18. The fifth Dauphin, yet another Charles (1403-1461), became King Charles VII of France after his father's death. He was married to Marie of Anjou. [81] Her last son, Philip, died in infancy in the year 1407.

According to modern historians, Isabeau stayed in close proximity to the children during their childhood, had them travel with her, bought them gifts, wrote letters, bought devotional texts, and arranged for her daughters to be educated. She resisted separation and reacted against having her sons sent to other households to live (as was the custom at the time). Pintoin records that she was dismayed at the marriage contract that stipulated her third surviving son, John, be sent to live in Hainaut. She maintained relationships with her daughters after their marriages, writing letters to them frequently. [81] She sent them out of Paris during an outbreak of plague, staying behind herself with the youngest infant, John, too young to travel. The Celestines allowed "whenever and as often as she liked, she and her children could enter the monastery and church . their vineyards and gardens, both for devotion and for entertainment and pleasure of herself and her children." [82]

Miniature from a late 15th-century manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles showing Isabella's marriage to Richard II of England


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