Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Isabella of France

Isabella of France
(1292-1358)
Queen of England

Queen to Edward II of England. She was known as Isabella the Fair, and later as the She-Wolf of France. Isabella was the daughter of King Philip IV of France (d.1314) and Joanna of Navarre. She was the sister of three French Kings: Louis X (d.1316), Philip V (d.1322), and Charles IV(d.1328). Her aunt Marguerite (her father's sister) was married to Edward I, King of England, and she had been promised as the bride of Edward's son - Edward II.

She was married in Boulogne (1308) to King Edward II of England. Isabella then left France for her new life in England. When she landed at Dover she was met by Piers Gaveston, to whom Edward had entrusted the "care" of England. It was here that she first noticed the unnatural relations between Edward and Gaveston.

Isabella immediately wrote to her father but there was really nothing he could do - she just had to put up with it. Edward increasingly antagonised the English nobles over his choice of "friends" and at such times Isabella acted as a mediator between Edward and the barons. Isabella also accompanied Edward when he went warring with Scotland - she was almost captured. Her near escape and her mediation skills made her extremely popular. Isabella very soon gave birth to a son, Edward III (1312) at Windsor; another son (1314) and a daughter (1316). However, Edward was becoming unpopular. Gaveston was banished to his native Guyenne in an attempt to free Edward from his grasp, but he was soon recalled. Edward by now had abandoned him, and Gaveston was tried and hanged. Replacing Gaveston were the Despensers (father and son) who were only after wealth and power. Isabella by now had had enough. It was during the civil war, while awaiting the birth of her child in the Tower of London that she encountered Roger Mortimer, Lord of Chirk and his nephew Roger Mortimer - both imprisoned in Tower under sentance of death. The older Roger died, but the death sentanced was postponed on younger Roger, who then escaped (aided by Isabella?) to France.

Isabella's second brother Philip V was now King of France, her father and older brother had dies (1314 and 1316 respectively): he acted against Edward, confiscating Edward's French possessions. Isabella ostensibley went to France to act as a mediator between her brother and her husband. Once there, she requested that her 15yo son Edward be sent to France to do allegiance to her brother the King. When young Edward arrived in France Isabella announced that neither would be returning to England till Despensers were banished. Edward wrote letters, referring to Isabella's evil behaviour with Mortimer. On reading these letters the King of France refused to support support his sister - she had apparently convinced him she was an innocent victim in this matter.

Isabella landed in England (1326) with her son, her lover Roger Mortimer, Lord William of Hainault (father of Philippa of Hainault, future wife of her son Edward) and almost 3000 men. Many flocked to her cause. Edward tried to escape, but was captured and sent to Kenilworth Castle. The Despensers were duly executed. Edward II was formally deposed and her son was acknowledge as Edward III. Mortimer and Isabella became Regents of England. Then followed the mysterious death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle.

With her husband out of the way, Isabella arranged the marriage of Edward III to Philippa of Hainault. But by now her popularity waning - especially after the death of Edward. Edward III became of age and was now in command (1327). He had Mortimer arrested and hanged. Isabella's wealth was confiscated and her income limited, and she was confined to Castle Rising (Norfolk) - no visitors were permitted. Here at Castle Rising Isabella was to remain for 31 years. It was during this confimnment that she was said to have become derranged (lammenting the loss of the power that she once held). Here Isabella died. Her body taken to Grey Friars and buried beside Mortimer.

Soon after Edward III ascended to the throne of England (1327), Charles IV, King of France died, leaving no direct heir. Edward III claimed throne of France through his mother Isabella (as dead King's sister) - and so began what is known as the Hundred Years' War.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 - Women of History)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

i just wanna say hi

Anonymous said...

What a woman...

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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