||Isabelle (Capet) Plantagenet was a member of aristocracy in Europe.|
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Isabella of France (1295 – 22 August 1358), was Queen consort of England as the wife of Edward II of England. She was the youngest surviving child and only surviving daughter of Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre. Queen Isabella was notable at the time for her beauty, diplomatic skills, and intelligence.
Her name. She has received various names - Douglas Richardson in Royal Ancestry names her 'Isabel (or Isabelle)'; Ian Mortimer in The Greatest Traitor names her 'Isabella'; and Mark Duffy in Royal Tombs of Medieval England names her 'Isabelle de Valois' , which is probably the most appropriate as she was not a Capet as such, but from the House of Valois, which was a cadet house of the Capet Dynasty.
Isabella arrived in England at the age of twelve 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.
(Royal Ancestry) Mortimer's alliance with the Marcher lords and the Lancastrian faction in the Despenser wars of 1321-2 led to the seizure of his property in Jan. 1322, and his imprisonment in the Tower of London. On 1 August 1323 he escaped from the Tower (with Isabelle's help) and rode to Dover, where he embarked on a ship which was waiting to take him to France, where he was welcomed by King Charles IV, brother of Isabelle. In the spring of 1325 Isabelle crossed over to France, followed by her son, Prince Edward, who used a ruse to leave his father's observation of his activities. Roger subsequently became the Queen's advisor as well as her paramour. At the end of 1325, he and the Queen went to Flanders, where Prince Edward was affianced to Philippa of Hainault, and men and money were obtained for an attack on England. On 24 Sept. 1326 the Queen with Mortimer and their forces landed near Ipswich, and were joined by Henry, Earl of Lancaster, and other opponents of the Despensers. The king was captured and on 7 Jan. 1326/7 Parliament deposed Edward II and made his son Prince Edward the king.
(The Greatest Traitor) After the death of Edward II, Mortimer lived quite openly with Queen Isabelle, often residing in the same castle such as Wigmore, with Mortimer's wife Joan de Geneville. Mortimer also had masses said for his family and Queen Isabelle and Edward II at the church of St. Mary Magdalene in Leintwardine in Herefordshire, where there is still a Mortimer chapel, now called the Lady Chapel.
In April 2008, an e-mail dated the 16th was received from John Williams, Chairman, The Leintwardine History Society (firstname.lastname@example.org), which provided detailed information from a 1920 document regarding the history of Leintwardine church and the Mortimer chapel.
(The Greatest Traitor) In 1328 Mortimer obtained license from Edward III, to maintain nine chaplains who were to celebrate mass every day in the church of St. Mary of Leintwardine for the souls of King Edward II, Edward III's wife Queen Philippa, Queen Isabelle, and himself, his wife Joan, his children and their ancestors and successors. Mortimer had a strange extended family - a king, two queens, a wife (Joan), a mistress (Isabelle), the living and the dead - but these were the people for whom Roger cared most, and he wanted them to be together in peace, if only in the prayers of the chaplains of St. Mary's Leintwardine.
In 1330, Isabella’s son Edward III deposed Mortimer in turn, taking back his authority and executing Isabella’s lover. The Queen was not punished, however, and lived for many years in considerable style—although not at Edward III’s court—until her death in 1358. Isabella became a popular "femme fatale" figure in plays and literature over the years, usually portrayed as a beautiful but cruel, manipulative figure.
As an interim measure, Edward II was held in the custody of Henry of Lancaster, who surrendered Edward's Great Seal to Isabella. The situation remained tense, however; Isabella was clearly concerned about Edward's supporters staging a counter-coup, and in November she seized the Tower of London, appointed one of her supporters as mayor and convened a council of nobles and churchmen in Wallingford to discuss the fate of Edward. The council concluded that Edward would be legally deposed and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. This was then confirmed at the Parliament of England, dominated by Isabella and Mortimer's followers. The session was held in January 1327, with Isabella's case being led by her supporter Adam Orleton, Bishop of Hereford. Isabella's son, Prince Edward, was confirmed as Edward III, with his mother appointed regent. Isabella's position was still precarious, as the legal basis for deposing Edward was minimal[clarification needed] and many lawyers of the day maintained that Edward was still the rightful king, regardless of the declaration of the Parliament. The situation could be reversed at any moment and Edward was known to be a vengeful ruler. Edward II's subsequent fate, and Isabella's role in it, remains hotly contested by historians. The minimally agreed version of events is that Isabella and Mortimer had Edward moved from Kenilworth Castle in the Midlands to the safer location of Berkeley Castle in the Welsh borders, where he was put into the custody of Lord Berkeley. On 23 September, Isabella and Edward III were informed by messenger that Edward had died whilst imprisoned at the castle, because of a "fatal accident". Edward's body was apparently buried at Gloucester Cathedral, with his heart being given in a casket to Isabella. After the funeral, there were rumours for many years that Edward had survived and was really alive somewhere in Europe, some of which were captured in the famous Fieschi Letter written in the 1340s, although no concrete evidence ever emerged to support the allegations. There are, however, various historical interpretations of the events surrounding this basic sequence of events.
According to legend, Isabella and Mortimer famously plotted to murder Edward in such a way as not to draw blame on themselves, sending a famous order (in Latin: Eduardum occidere nolite timere bonum est) which, depending on where the comma was inserted, could mean either "Do not be afraid to kill Edward; it is good" or "Do not kill Edward; it is good to fear". In actuality, there is little evidence of anyone deciding to have Edward assassinated, and none whatsoever of the note having been written. Similarly, accounts of Edward being killed with a red-hot poker have no strong contemporary sources to support them. The conventional 20th-century view has been that Edward did die at Berkeley Castle, either murdered on Isabella's orders or of ill-health brought on by his captivity, and that subsequent accounts of his survival were simply rumours, similar to those that surrounded Joan of Arc and other near contemporaries after their deaths.
Three recent historians, however, have offered an alternative interpretation of events. Paul Doherty, drawing extensively on the Fieschi Letter of the 1340s, has argued that Edward in fact escaped from Berkeley Castle with the help of William Ockle, a knight whom Doherty argues subsequently pretended to be Edward in disguise around Europe, using the name "William the Welshman" to draw attention away from the real Edward himself. In this interpretation, a look-alike was buried at Gloucester. Ian Mortimer, focusing more on contemporary documents from 1327 itself, argues that Roger de Mortimer engineered a fake "escape" for Edward from Berkeley Castle; after this Edward was kept in Ireland, believing he was really evading Mortimer, before finally finding himself free, but politically unwelcome, after the fall of Isabella and Mortimer. In this version, Edward makes his way to Europe, before subsequently being buried at Gloucester. Finally, Alison Weir, again drawing on the Fieschi Letter, has recently argued that Edward II escaped his captors, killing one in the process, and lived as a hermit for many years; in this interpretation, the body in Gloucester Cathedral is of Edward's dead captor. In all of these versions, it is argued that it suited Isabella and Mortimer to publicly claim that Edward was dead, even if they were aware of the truth. Other historians, however, including David Carpenter, have criticised the methodology behind this revisionist approach and disagree with the conclusions.
Isabella's reign as regent lasted only four years, before the fragile political alliance that had brought her and Mortimer to power disintegrated. 1328 saw the marriage of Isabella's son, Edward III to Philippa of Hainault, as agreed before the invasion of 1326; the lavish ceremony was held in London to popular acclaim. Isabella and Mortimer had already begun a trend that continued over the next few years, in starting to accumulate huge wealth. With her lands restored to her, Isabella was already exceptionally rich, but she began to accumulate yet more. Within the first few weeks, Isabella had granted herself almost £12,000; finding that Edward's royal treasury contained £60,000, a rapid period of celebratory spending then ensued. Isabella soon awarded herself another £20,000, allegedly to pay off foreign debts. At Prince Edward's coronation, Isabella then extended her land holdings from a value of £4,400 each year to the huge sum of £13,333, making her one of the largest landowners in the kingdom. Isabella also refused to hand over her dower lands to Philippa after her marriage to Edward III, in contravention of usual custom. Isabella's lavish lifestyle matched her new incomes. Mortimer, as her lover and effective first minister, after a restrained beginning, also began to accumulate lands and titles at a tremendous rate, particularly in the Marcher territories.
The new regime also faced some key foreign policy dilemmas, which Isabella approached from a realist perspective. The first of these was the situation in Scotland, where Edward II's unsuccessful policies had left an unfinished, tremendously expensive war. Isabella was committed to bringing this issue to a conclusion by diplomatic means. Edward III initially opposed this policy, before eventually relenting, leading to the Treaty of Northampton. Under this treaty, Isabella's daughter Joan would marry David Bruce (heir apparent to the Scottish throne) and Edward III would renounce any claims on Scottish lands, in exchange for the promise of Scottish military aid against any enemy except the French, and £20,000 in compensation for the raids across northern England. No compensation would be given to those earls who had lost their Scottish estates, and the compensation would be taken by Isabella. Although strategically successful and, historically at least, "a successful piece of policy making", Isabella's Scottish policy was by no means popular and contributed to the general sense of discontent with the regime. Secondly, the Gascon situation, still unresolved from Edward II's reign, also posed an issue. Isabella reopened negotiations in Paris, resulting in a peace treaty under which the bulk of Gascony, minus the Agenais, would be returned to England in exchange for a 50,000 mark penalty. The treaty was not popular in England because of the Agenais clause.
Henry of Lancaster was amongst the first to break with Isabella and Mortimer. By 1327 Lancaster was irritated by Mortimer's behaviour and Isabella responded by beginning to sideline him from her government. Lancaster was furious over the passing of the Treaty of Northampton, and refused to attend court,] mobilising support amongst the commoners of London. Isabella responded to the problems by undertaking a wide reform of royal administration, local law enforcement. In a move guaranteed to appeal to domestic opinion, Isabella also decided to pursue Edward III's claim on the French throne, sending her advisers to France to demand official recognition of his claim. The French nobility were unimpressed and, since Isabella lacked the funds to begin any military campaign, she began to court the opinion of France's neighbours, including proposing the marriage of her son John to the Castilian royal family.
By the end of 1328 the situation had descended into near civil war once again, with Lancaster mobilising his army against Isabella and Mortimer. In January 1329 Isabella's forces under Mortimer's command took Lancaster's stronghold of Leicester, followed by Bedford; Isabella – wearing armour, and mounted on a warhorse – and Edward III marched rapidly north, resulting in Lancaster's surrender. He escaped death but was subjected to a colossal fine, effectively crippling his power. Isabella was merciful to those who had aligned themselves with him, although some – such as her old supporter Henry de Beaumont, whose family had split from Isabella over the peace with Scotland, which had lost them huge land holdings in Scotland – fled to France.
Despite Lancaster's defeat, however, discontent continued to grow. Edmund of Kent had sided with Isabella in 1326, but had since begun to question his decision and was edging back towards Edward II, his half-brother. Edmund of Kent was in conversations with other senior nobles questioning Isabella's rule, including Henry de Beaumont and Isabella de Vesci. Edmund was finally involved in a conspiracy in 1330, allegedly to restore Edward II, whom he claimed was still alive: Isabella and Mortimer broke up the conspiracy, arresting Edmund and other supporters – including Simon Mepeham, Archbishop of Canterbury. Edmund may have expected a pardon, possibly from Edward III, but Isabella was insistent on his execution. The execution itself was a fiasco after the executioner refused to attend and Edmund of Kent had to be killed by a local dung-collector, who had been himself sentenced to death and was pardoned as a bribe to undertake the beheading. Isabella de Vesci escaped punishment, despite have been closely involved in the plot.
Edward and Isabella did manage to produce four children, and she suffered at least one miscarriage. Their itineraries demonstrate that they were together 9 months prior to the births of all four surviving offspring. Their children were:
(Royal Tombs of Medieval England) Isabelle died on 22 August 1358 but it was not until 20 November that instructions were given for the streets of the city of London to be cleaned in preparation for the arrival of the queen's body, which appears to have lodged for some time with the king's household at a private house in Mile End. Isabelle was buried in the (Grey Friars) Franciscan church at Newgate (London) on 27 November, apparently in her wedding dress, together with a silver casket containing Edward II's heart. According to John of Reading, Isabelle had originally instructed for her burial at Westminster, but had been persuaded otherwise by the Franciscans. The Newgate church had been refounded by another French queen of England, Margaret of France (d.1317), whose tomb stood before the high altar. Isabelle was a leading patron of the friary, being a popular mausoleum for female aristocrats. Isabelle's tomb stood in the middle of the choir to the west of Margaret of France and had an alabaster effigy. Arrangements for the monument were made during Isabelle's lifetime. The monument was largely completed by 1359 with the painted canopy completed by about 1364. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the Franciscan church was given up by 1546, with its tombs being dismantled the following year. The chapel survived as a parish church, but was destroyed by the Great London Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren's Christ Church now stands on the site of the former choir.
Additional burial note from The Greatest Traitor p. 242: Beneath her grave was buried the heart of Edward II. The grave was destroyed in the Great Fire, and although the church was rebuilt by Wren, this too was almost completely destroyed in the Second World War. A busy road now runs across the site.
(Royal Tombs of Medieval England) At Castle Rising, one of Isabelle's residences, the parish church has a stone slab inscribed: ISABELLA REGINA. This led to a local tradition that the queen was buried there, but the slab most likely marked her heart burial. Isabelle had received papal indulgence for divided burial in 1323 and 1345.
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