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Episode 167 of 414

Episode 167 - Queen Isabella - Treachery, Adultery and Murder in Medieval England - Part 08

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Isabella of France (1295 – 22 August 1358), sometimes described as the She-Wolf of France, was Queen of England as the wife of Edward II, and regent of England from 1327 until 1330. She was the youngest surviving child and only surviving daughter of Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre. Isabella was notable in her lifetime for her diplomatic skills, intelligence, and beauty. She became a "femme fatale" figure in plays and literature over the years, usually portrayed as a beautiful but cruel and manipulative figure.

Isabella arrived in England at the age of 12 during a period of growing conflict between the king and the powerful baronial factions. Her new husband was notorious for the patronage he lavished on his favourite, Piers Gaveston, but the queen supported Edward during these early years, forming a working relationship with Piers and using her relationship with the French monarchy to bolster her own authority and power. After the death of Gaveston at the hands of the barons in 1312, however, Edward later turned to a new favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger, and attempted to take revenge on the barons, resulting in the Despenser War and a period of internal repression across England. Isabella could not tolerate Hugh Despenser and by 1325 her marriage to Edward was at a breaking point.

Travelling to France on a diplomatic mission, Isabella may have begun an affair with Roger Mortimer, and the two may possibly have agreed at this point to depose Edward and oust the Despenser family. The Queen returned to England with a small mercenary army in 1326, moving rapidly across England. The King's forces deserted him. Isabella deposed Edward, becoming regent on behalf of her son, Edward III. Some believe that Isabella then arranged the murder of Edward II. Isabella and Mortimer's regime began to crumble, partly because of her lavish spending, but also because the Queen successfully, but unpopularly, resolved long-running problems such as the wars with Scotland.

In 1330, Isabella's son Edward III deposed Mortimer in turn, taking back his authority and executing Mortimer. The Queen was not punished, however, and lived for many years in considerable style—although not at Edward III's court, though she often visited to dote on her grandchildren and was marginally involved in peace talks—until her death in 1358.

Isabella was born in Paris on an uncertain date – on the basis of the chroniclers and the eventual date of her marriage, she was probably born between May and November 1295. She is described as born in 1292 in the Annals of Wigmore, and Piers Langtoft agrees, claiming that she was 7 years old in 1299. The French chronicler Guillaume de Nangis and English chronicler Thomas Walsingham describe her as 12 years old at the time of her marriage in January 1308, placing her birth between January 1295 and of 1296. A papal dispensation by Clement V in November 1305 permitted her immediate marriage by proxy, despite the fact that she was probably only 10 years old. Since she had to reach the canonical age of 7 before her betrothal in May 1303, and that of 12 before her marriage in January 1308, the evidence suggests that she was born between May and November 1295. Her parents were King Philip IV of France and Queen Joan I of Navarre; her brothers Louis, Philip and Charles became kings of France.

Isabella was born into a royal family that ruled the most powerful state in Western Europe. Her father, King Philip, known as "le Bel" (the Fair) because of his good looks, was a strangely unemotional man; contemporaries described him as "neither a man nor a beast, but a statue"; modern historians have noted that he "cultivated a reputation for Christian kingship and showed few weaknesses of the flesh". Philip built up centralised royal power in France, engaging in a sequence of conflicts to expand or consolidate French authority across the region, but remained chronically short of money throughout his reign. Indeed, he appeared almost

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