Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Isabella of France

Isabella of France (sometimes known as 'She wolf) was born around 1295 and died 1358. Isabella was betrothed to Edward II of England as an infant. She was brought to England at about twelve and married then, though the marriage probably was not consummated for 2 or 3 years. In a time when most women, even royalty were not educated, she was literate and intelligent. She also possessed formidable diplomatic skills and was known as a great beauty.

Edward was not interested in governing and eventually turned that over to his advisor and almost certainly, lover, Piers Gaveston. Isabella tolerated this and eventually gave birth to four children. Gaveston was eventually put to death by the barons and Edward took another lover/advisor Hugh leDespenser. Despenser’s rule was cruel and avaricious. England’s treasury was plundered and anyone who dared complain was put to death and their property confiscated.

Despenser also worked to take away any power the Queen possessed. At one time the King listened to her and followed her advice. But once under the spell of Despenser, put Isabella aside. Initially, the Edward and Despenser began taking away her properties and titles. They isolated her and even took her children away from her. Unlike some royalty, she was reported to be a devoted loving mother, so this was an especially cruel blow. They took all of her trusted advisors and left her all but imprisoned.

At this time, relations between England and France reached one of their many disputes and war was threatened. Isabella’s brother Charles was King of France and they had a close relationship. Edward was convinced(against Despenser’s wishes) to send Isabella to France without their children to broker a peace. At the last minute she was able to take their son Edward III with her. Once in France she met with her brother and war was averted. She extended her stay and met up with Roger Mortimer, who became her lover.

They soon began plotting an overthrow of King Edward. England was suffering under his rule and otherwise this would not have been possible. She and Mortimer raised funds and an army with the cooperation of France’s king. They successfully invaded England and deposed the king, and put Despenser to death. Her son Edward III was crowned and is remembered as one of England’s best monarchs.

She was responsible for the loss of lives, and like most powerful people was far from perfect - her revenge on her husband was cruel (he died in prison by unknown means). However in a time when women were chattel, by any standard she accomplished an amazing feat. It was the only time England was successfully invaded since the Norman Invasion in 1066, and hasn’t happened since. She was a good and loving mother, and by most reports a good queen.

AWU post and comments at